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How insight leaders can deliver faster, cheaper and more impactful research

I spend a lot of time speaking to insight leaders and brand owners. Almost every one of them is battling with the change in contract between their brand and the consumer (potential customers). The marketing function is transforming from one of control to collaboration as a result of this shift. This means that the way you go about doing research and gathering insights has to change as well.  

Strategies, skills and tools to increase the speed, value and quality of research 

 
The rise of analytical tools and dashboards, AI, the ability to capture and analyse video at scale and automated visual reporting are all mantras of this brave new research world where agile (or 'just enough') research is key. Here are some of the most compelling trends that are driving 'how' research is being conducted and how organisations are engaging with and acting on it. 
 
1) Keeping up with consumers. How to increase the velocity and veracity of your research
 
Brands and organisations now have an enormous appetite for speed, driven by the insatiable demand from consumers for 'new' and 'now!' But here’s the real challenge: brands want and need insight quicker and cheaper.
 
The new world of research has to support agile project management and product development methods, design thinking and ultra-fast decision-making. It has to deliver against the backdrop of many more milestones and stakeholders with titles that didn’t exist 15-years ago. Think of scrums and sprints and how research sits within them and you start to see how the new world of research is evolving.
 
Sweat what you already have and know
 
Most brands are sitting on mountains of data - including transactional, customer experience (CX) and satisfaction, social and web analytics. If it’s well structured then it can be brought together and analysed in a meaningful way that generates efficiencies and new value.
 
Much of the research that brands do, such as using trackers and campaign evaluations is siloed. By centralising the research, valuable new insights can be surfaced and used to drive forward decision-making across all parts of the business. Combining this information into one dashboard should be a business aim, making this as accessible as possible through digital channels. This can be achieved using simple tools such as Evernote, as has been done by design and research teams in the UK’s government.
 
Standardisation
 
Simply put, by standardising your approach, and the KPIs and benchmarks that you use, you can automate and speed up your insight gathering and research ten-fold. With clear agreement and commitment among your team on things like sampling, research design and reporting you can conduct research in a moment and rely on benchmarks from your partners and tool providers. 
 
Use digital tools optimally
 
There are a great many DIY research tools on the market now, ranging from survey tools, recruitment platforms, communities and access panels. They provide easy to use and cheap ways to get your data, but there are associated risks. If you don’t ask the right question of the right people, you risk getting the wrong answers and going down the wrong track. Research design and interpretation are skills that people train years for, so pay attention to this and get the right advice. It’s often said that the majority of startups fail because they develop a product or service that people don’t want. This is often the fault of poor research and working on hunches and assumptions that aren’t fleshed out by good quality research.
 
Accelerate the feedback loop
 
Agile businesses, or teams using agile methods such as design and product development, need insight during most stages and to achieve credible milestones. The agile methodology is about Learning, Building and then Measuring, so it figures that each of these stages will benefit from interactions with the intended audience. If you designed and implemented a ‘project’ at each of these steps, then its likely to be slow and costly. Instead, think about research sprints that are done using standardised tools that reach large audiences quickly, or dive deep into smaller groups over shorter time periods. Qualitative research is perfect for this as it brings the human story to the table and enables the design teams to colour individuals problems and difficulties.
 
Research communities are another way to gather feedback from your intended audience or customers in quick time. They also provide the added benefit of being able to engage audiences around the world without the need to leave your desktop. You could enrich your feedback with one-to-one video interviews and immerse your teams with the every day lives of consumers via mobile ethnography. The possibilities are limitless. 
 
Report in new ways
 
You’ve gathered your data, done some analysis, now you just need to share your findings and convince others of the right way to go next. Not so easy when they are time-poor, located in different continents and moving at a speed different to yours. Thankfully, there are a host of new options and methods to support better reporting. Automated reports can focus on key insight for brand and insight managers, leaving them and others free to create their strategies. Data visualisation and storytelling is another way to focus on that one thing that is going to drive the decision and plant it firmly in the minds eye of the stakeholder of user. Here's some great tips on how to handle those 'inconvenient insights'.
 
2) Getting started
 
Generating the right insights at speed has never been easier, but there are risks and it requires a culture change and potentially a range of new suppliers and tools. Working what data you already have is a challenge, especially among larger organisations. Data science is something that smaller brands don’t have access to, or experts in social sciences, for example. 
 
If you want to make not just better decisions, but take more decisions over a shorter space of time then it takes commitment and clear agreement on the goals. Only then can you design and organise the right partners and start automating proceedings. Faster, cheaper research only benefits those brands and organisations that can develop products and solutions faster, so don’t just go for fast and cheap if your processes don’t require it or can’t support it on the delivery side.
 
Want our help? Further’s team of research and design thinking experts can guide and deliver your research using a range of tools and methods to fit your needs. 
 
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