Does this sound familiar? Your team asks for a research study to evaluate some new products, features, services, ad campaigns, and the like. The research results weren’t what the team expected, and you even uncovered some new issues or maybe some opportunities. When you present the results back to the team they seem interested in the findings. But ultimately the research isn’t acted upon.
This situation may be happening more often than you think. A recent report by Quirks, for example, indicated the biggest problem facing researchers today is getting their organizations to act upon their research; nearly half of researchers say this is often or always a challenge.
(Source: Quirks Corporate Report)
Moving from research to effective action can be impacted by both the research methods utilized and the growing complexities of decision making. The same Quirks report showed that the most actionable new research method is online qualitative. In fact, Digsite recently published an in-depth examination of how qualitative research is changing. You can find that here:
In order to increase the chances you get actionable decision making from the research you conduct, you first need to understand the reasons why research doesn't get acted upon in the first place.
(Source: Quirks Corporate Report)
Consider these common reasons that organizations discount research results:
1. Industry Factors Outside of Research Override the Results
Organizations are consistently forced to balance consumer ideals with the realities of their business. They have to consider operational strengths/weaknesses, production capabilities, financial capital, brand equity, company vision, and more. So when research indicates a particular problem or opportunity exists, there can be significant consequences to making a decision based on that data.
I recently spoke with someone who had just completed market research to test a dozen or so new concept ideas. However, the ideas that rose to the top turned out to be very difficult to implement.
Unfortunately, the research didn’t provide information that would help revise those concepts in such a way that would make implementation feasible. So the company was faced with developing low-performing concepts, taking a shot in the dark on a revised concept, or conducting research again.
2. Perceived External Benefit of Acting on the Research Isn't Strong Enough
The purpose of research is often to identify problems or opportunities. Companies need to determine both the cost of making a change based on the research results as well as the potential marketplace benefits.
There is often a gray area between the level of effort required to make a change and the marketplace benefits of acting on the research. With major opportunities, research can address this gap by providing a volume forecast or benchmark data based on past efforts. But without overwhelming data to suggest companies should act, any obstacles related to iterating from the initial research results may not feel worth the effort.
3. Internal Risk Involved in Making a Change is Too Great
Marketing directors are compensated and promoted based on making real contributions to the business. Therefore, in addition to looking at whether acting on the research is worth the effort, they need to understand the opportunity costs associated with pursuing other issues for their brands.
For example, if you choose to delay a product launch in order to address some satisfaction issues that arose in product testing, you have to weigh that not only against the potential impact that has on in-market success, but also against the fact that your team won’t be able to use that time to pursue the next initiative.
If there isn’t consensus among the team about research results, it drives up uncertainty— which may be enough to derail action.
4. Other Internal Experts or Data Discount the Results
We’ve all heard that Steve Jobs wasn’t a believer in market research. He believed consumers weren’t good at imagining a future different from today. While he thought customers were good at saying what they liked and disliked, they weren’t good at coming up with new ideas.
Today, new organizational roles—like those focused on the user experience or customer experience—are generating data that seem to prove Jobs right. It turns out that consumers have different things to say when they’re actually using a product in the real world than when they are simply asked about their beliefs in the abstract.
For example, consumers might say they want cordless headphones. But once they realize that—without the cord—all they have is two small earbuds that they can easily misplace, they might decide it wasn’t such a great idea after all. One might even wonder what were they thinking in the first place.
With usability research in particular, marketers need to understand what part of a consumer’s reaction stems from the wonder of doing something for the first time versus how they might view that same thing when they have to do it regularly. It might be cool to listen to music with wireless earbuds once, for example. But over time, that excitement might wear off as searching your house for a missing earbud becomes a common experience.
5. Lack of Time or Budget To Act on the Findings
There is generally budget to support research in order to validate a decision. But there's not always budget to change direction if results don’t validate that you are moving in the right direction.
"I don't think anything went wrong with the research. But nothing is being done with what we learned." - Quirks Report
For example, if you set out to get feedback on two ideas and they both are received poorly, there isn’t always time or budget to start over. This forces the team to tweak what they have and, depending on the research approach they took which may have very little diagnostic information, to assess if making a change is in their best interest.
In order for market researchers to be more effective, they need to look beyond the research to processes that drive organizational action. While the tried and true linear research process might yield valid results, it is not improving organizational effectiveness.
The good news is that newer iterative approaches to research make it possible for researchers to work more collaboratively with teams—to focus beyond insights and become more outcome oriented in their research approach. As a market researcher, below are three of the key principals of Iterative InsightsSM that can help you get teams to act more consistently on their research results.
Iterative Insights Helps Researchers Boost Collaboration
Iterative Insights' approach is designed to align researchers closely with marketing and R&D throughout their development process. This allows researchers to ask critical questions to understand factors outside the research that might influence decisions, and avoid testing options that have low levels of feasibility.
In fact, newer Iterative Insights approaches are showing promise at delivering better quality outcomes. For example, by injecting Iterative Insights into stage-gates, teams are able to more effectively leverage research in the development process.
Iterative Insights Allows for Multiple Customer Touchpoints
Using an Iterative Insights approach to engaging consumers enables teams to ask follow-up questions both of individuals and the group. This helps teams get unstuck when the results are different than expected. Instead of being forced to move in one direction, they can evolve and adjust the discussion within the research initiative. They can even adapt or refine marketing, brand, or product ideas based on real-time feedback.
This multiple-touchpoint approach strengthens the teams understanding and empathy for customers and reduces uncertainty both internally and externally.
Iterative Insights Enables Rapid, Context Driven Decisions
Iterative Insights provide teams with examples of actual experiences at the point of purchase or usages and combine that with feedback related to potential solutions or changes to that experience. Additionally, device-agnostic interfaces allow contextual research that designers, usability and customer experience teams find valuable in making decisions. When senior management sees the actual words and pictures of consumers while things happen, they won't be able to discount the findings.
While many researchers are comfortable with quantitative research projects that take months to complete, enabling these more qualitative decisions often means moving faster and getting research more frequently.
Newer technologies for Iterative Insights are designed to align with this rapid decision-making model as they automate many of the logistical challenges associated with traditional market research. These new features include embed tools for efficiency such as standardized templates, automated recruiting and reminders, and quick and easy analysis and reporting tools.
Quite simply, newer qualitative technologies enable teams to get farther faster by enabling collaboration, multiple customer touchpoints, and in-context learning. This is one of the fastest-growing areas of market research—an area researchers should be focused on if they want to see teams actually acting on their results.
For a deeper exploration of how, where, and why qualitative research is changing be sure to check out our whitepaper.
To learn more about the how your company can benefit from Iterative Insights, check out our Digsite Sprints fact sheet!