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Research Spotlight: Agile Research


If you’ve talked to anyone in the market research industry in the past couple of years about what’s new and exciting, you probably heard one of the big industry buzzwords: “Agile Research”. So what exactly is agile research, and how should you think about it in terms of what it can do for your organization?

Agile research is a concept borrowed from software development, describing a process where the work is done in less time with a singular focus in what software developers refer to as “sprints”. Agile development projects are done in an iterative manner, with multiple planned pauses to review what has been done so far and adjust the approach as needed. There is a focus on minimalism, only creating what is needed without any frills or excess.


As applied to market research, agile studies are designed to be completed more quickly than the full-blown studies of yore. Agile research focuses on a small set of objectives, and is designed to be completed in multiple smaller phases with adjustments as needed. In some cases agile research studies will make use of technologies like AI or smartphones to facilitate the work.


One example of an agile research study: A company develops a product concept and shares it with a small group of potential customers, asking them 8-10 evaluation questions. Based on customer feedback the company makes changes to the concept, then shares the revised concept with customers for a second round of feedback. If needed, this could be followed by a second round of concept changes and a third round of customer feedback, etc. At the end of the process the company will have a product concept that has been critiqued and improved multiple times using direct customer feedback as guidance.


The advantages of agile research in areas like product development, brand messaging, etc. are clear, but there are a few things to keep in mind when considering whether the approach is right for a given situation:


Agile research is not the right approach for all research needs

Projects where the goal is to develop something that will ask similar evaluation questions each time are a good fit for agile research. Research that requires more in-depth analysis, tracking studies, customer satisfaction, etc. are less likely to be a good fit for agile research.


Agile research is an approach, not a tool

There are tools and platforms that have been created to support agile research, but you don’t need to use them to do agile research. Before working with a research firm that has developed a slick-looking toolset, consider whether they are also good market researchers who understand the science behind the work. “The best hammer in the world is only as good as the carpenter swinging it.”


The results of agile research look different than traditional research

In lieu of more lengthy, detailed findings, agile research prioritizes speed and repetition over depth. Thus, reports will be more concise and surface-level. Stakeholders will need to understand that agile research results are different than full market research reports that they may have received in the past.


If agile research sounds like something that might benefit your organization, reach out to us—here at Advantage Research, we are always happy to talk through the possibilities and help people figure out the right way to move forward. Agile research: We can do that!