The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Agile Market Research Is Hot News. But What, Exactly, Is It?

Agile is all over the news these days.  Microsoft’s end-to-end reorganization serves as acknowledgement that it was nowhere near as agile as it needs to be. But agile runs far beyond software development these days.  Agile has become the new strategic buzzword.  Nowhere is this more rampant than in the world of market research. So what, exactly, is agile market research? Well, it depends. It depends on where you go in search of the answer.  My inquiry started with the invitation to a webinar offered by a market research provider.  The group was promoting its agile credentials.  Their agile service utilized an online community (rather than a panel) to deliver qualified participants and rapid answers.  I then moved on to investigate the community provider itself and the tools it offered.  (Remarkably similar to that of a panel, would you believe?)  From there, I did a Google search and found an extremely well-written website dedicated to the subject of agile research.  The next stop took me to an eBook written by a Radian6 expert who laid out how to exploit social media for the purposes of agile market research. So the answer to the question of what agile market research really is depends on how you approach it and, it’s evident, how you aim to make money from it. The answer, therefore, differs by viewpoint, by context, and by market position.

Agile market research can be a service, a strategy, a discipline, a set of tools, whatever. No one, however, appears to define it as a capability.  Certainly, one must first need to be aware of agile as an alternative approach (since it is radically different from traditional market research in terms of cost, lead-time, collection time, and resources) but the essence of agility is speed – the ability to react quickly.  The greatest degree of agility must therefore come from a capability that provides immediate, unrestricted access to a source of available, qualified respondents. So with full disclosure that this definition of agile market research is determined by how we make money from the idea, it seems to me that a technology that transforms a brand’s website into an always-on research platform and provides the ability to target research or marketing messages based on visitor behavior provides the highest form of agile market research possible. But that’s just OnCue, of course.

-Russell Cowdrey, VP of Innovation, Usability Sciences


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