Customer needs will rapidly shift again in 2021.

SVP, Growth & Innovation

Developing innovative offerings requires a new kind of agile research.

 

From Quirk’s Outlook 2021: Commentaries by Industry Leaders on the Year Ahead

 

A year ago, most brands were well on their way to activating their 2020 strategies. They had a clear plan for brand growth and were capitalizing on a booming economy. Brands knew where they stood with customers, and where they needed to go. Then everything turned on March 13th with the declaration of a national emergency based on the coronavirus spread. Every brand’s 2020 playbook was either jettisoned or severely altered at that point.

The resulting work-learn from home, as well as social distancing requirements, forced brands in virtually every industry to quickly adjust their products, services, and selling strategies based on rapidly changing customer needs. Developing new offerings required a level of speed, flexibility and agility that most brand teams had never experienced before. On top of it all, most brand teams were, and are, continuing to work remotely making brainstorm sessions more challenging.

To sustain or regain growth in 2021 and beyond, brands will need to continue generating innovative offerings and experiences as it is certain customer needs and behaviors will change again. The speed of these customer changes will not slow down, which means brand teams will rely even more heavily on quick and agile research approaches to stay ahead of the innovation and new product pipeline. Technology will play a role in innovation development, but it cannot be the only driver in the agile research necessary to speed new and relevant ideas to market.

To sustain or regain growth in 2021 and beyond, brands will need to continue generating innovative offerings and experiences as it is certain customer needs and behaviors will change again.”

 

The need for innovation speed — and depth. 

Agile research is typically thought of as deploying software technology to quickly gather customer data or accelerating the process and project management in some way. As in all industries, market research has benefitted from technology tools to increase speed of data collection and project delivery.

But the investment in new product or service development is too great and the ROI too critical to brand success to rely only on “speedy” agile research. Developing new offerings requires that “creative” part of early stage development—the brainstorm sessions between internal teams and the co-creation with consumers—is allowed to flourish to identify the most compelling offerings.

What’s needed in 2021 is agile research that is the right mix of technology and talent—the people with the expertise in generating early stage ideas, leading co-creation with customers, and aligning internal stakeholders on making the right choices for brand growth. A rapid process for concept ideation, iteration, and validation should be led by innovation experts that can guide your team in identifying high-potential opportunities, as this ensures more successful outcomes from your investments.

What’s needed in 2021 is agile research that is the right mix of technology and talent—the people with the expertise in generating early stage ideas, leading co-creation with customers, and aligning internal stakeholders on making the right choices for brand growth.”

 

Innovation success requires this new kind of agile research that is both robust and holistic, combining these five elements in one solution:

1. An approach customized for your brand.
No one size fits all when it comes to agile research. You’re not choosing a software, or a DIY tool, but brand and marketing professionals who take the time to understand deeply the complexity of your brand. This includes the pain points that you are solving for, who your target audience is, as well as the guardrails of what a company can or cannot do. They also customize the approach to take into account your current practices such an existing concept testing system. Your insights partner should be willing to evaluate what you ar using to see which ones are most predictive of success, and incorporate those into the approach.

2. Ability to deliver deep insights, not just speed.
Traditional innovation development uncovers robust insights. But this approach typically takes months, which doesn’t work in this fast-changing environment. Super-rapid agile research tools don’t dig deep enough into customer behaviors and needs. A successful innovation solution uses digital tools to accelerate the ideation and collaboration, and is immersive enough to deliver the deep, strategic insights necessary for game-changing, business-building new ideas.

3. Real-time, ongoing co-creation with customers.
An online survey measures the attitudes and preferences of your customers at that moment in time, and can be limiting in allowing a customer to play with a new idea or build on it. An agile research approach for innovation development is built around real-time, on-going sessions with consumers. For example, webcam triads over a period of days to test potential concepts. Or a 3-day online bulletin board among target consumers to allow posting of thoughts throughout their day. In-home ethnographies also generate contextual understanding key to identifying the nuances that can lead to breakthrough ideas.

4. Technology and talent for productive virtual team collaboration. For innovation to be successful, you have to get many hands and feet inside a company to be moving in the same direction. However, team alignment in a remote environment can be challenging. The right insights partner plans relentlessly to ensure each session goes as is needed to be successful. You don’t want to run the risk of having team members disengaged, or the sessions result in less than stellar new ideas.

5. Seamless flow between consumer and team ideation.
A strong agile insights partner understands how to keep things moving fluidly between team alignment and consumer learnings, and from concept ideation through validation. The innovation development process should capture team decisions, customer insights, and the activation plan in a formal document to socialize the innovation plan throughout the organization.

 

Agile + Robust Innovation Development:
30 Days Or Less to Results

 

Agile + Robust can co-exist.

The traditional innovation development approaches often take months to produce concepts and ideas that a brand team can move forward within the organization. This new agile approach adopts the best of today’s technology tools with expert insights facilitation and guidance. It allows deep immersive consumer learning and team ideation to be integrated into fast, agile (even overnight) online quantitative studies and screeners. From the first team alignment through optimization and assessment can take as little as several weeks.

Now more than ever, a brand’s growth journey depends on delivering relevant products and experiences using an agile and robust development process combining the right talent and technology tools to ensure depth is not traded away for speed alone.