At a recent SF American Marketing Association Meeting I participated in a panel on Market research trends and was asked what recent trend had changed research the most. And while I think the questioner was looking for a technology answer my answer to the question was the trend towards speed- where a fast answer is better than a precise answer or an answer derived from perfect methodology. I see this both in our client-facing product and in our development environment.
At Quri we collect high quality data for customers on the performance of their products at retail. We also collect data to improve our product development activities. In this blog post, I will look at speed through these two lenses.
Speed in research has its yin and yang. Its one thing to collect data quickly, its useless though unless you can do something with it. Technology enablement allows for the collection of data at lower costs and faster turns. It also allows though for faster use of the data. In the case of retail execution for example we can instantly notify field forces of problem conditions so they can take action. In the case of product development a modern software development organization is iterating and deploying constantly and can absorb and act on new data within hours.
Enablement of Speed For Quri, the creation of a crowdsourced labor force that can perform measurements over vast geographies is enabled by the ability to utilize the camera, computer and transmission device (or otherwise known as a smart phone). Recruiting a workforce is also made easier through the use of app store recruitment and mobile and online acquisition methods. We can recruit users to do thousands of shifts in seconds, and get answers back in hours. Companies like Quri, Usamp, Shopkick are all benefiting from the ability to produce data faster and at a lower cost. In an industry where surveys would take weeks to launch and 30 days or more to field this is truly revolutionary.
In product development we also see a trend to lower cost and faster research methods. Whether these methods are pop up quizzes by forsee and survey monkey, measurement tools like google analytics and mixpanel or in experience surveys like Qualaroo (formerly kiss insights) provides, the intention is to gather data quickly. In addition to those tools we use “anywhere” shifts which a shifter can do anywhere (I know the naming is genius). These surveys allow us to ask our shifters questions about how they like to work, what new features they want or who they are. We get answers from thousands of shifters within a day and often within hours. We debate in the morning and we have answers in the afternoon. Our community forums also provides us feedback instantly on issues we ask about or developing trends they see.
So what is the benefit of all this speed?
The initial benefits are:
Shorten debate: We see this in both our client conversations and in product development. A brands sales force will have one opinion of execution and a broker another. This debate can range for months and data collected infrequently over long periods of time confuse the data even more. But data collected in the days of a new product or promotion launch, or the day before a sales meeting provides immediate unequivocal data as to whether something is on or off track. In the case of product development knowing which direction to head in it isn’t always obvious but getting immediate user feedback and shortening debate reduces time to market and doesn’t waste engineering resources building the wrong thing.
Correct: Fast feedback allows for immediate correction. At retail that means the difference between selling lots of ice cream on July 4th or missing that key promotion day. In product development, that means catching issues that impact users quickly reducing churn or customer support costs.
Longer term benefits:
More iterations Speed and low cost allows for more iterations. A simple analogy is how a tank battle is fought. It’s not ready aim fire. Tanks fight in a fire, measure, correct, fire, measure, correct sequence. These small rapid corrections allow for a small course corrections that proceed in the right direction. In the case of retail this allows execution managers to try different methods for improving execution and improving the execution from promotion to promotion. In the case of product development, the same is true. The risk of being wrong goes down as fast feedback allows you learn quickly and build on your learnings. To leverage this you have to have the development process wired correctly but most modern SaaS firms are moving in that direction.
Exposure of systemic issues More iterations also means there is more frequency of measurement and more data. Having a richer data set across long time periods that is composed of a number of short measurements allows for analysis to gather systemic insights. In retail for example we see certain stores, distribution channels methods and organizations that have recurring issues. These systemic issues once addressed can bring much bigger gains than short-term corrections. In the case of product development systemic issues ranging from cohort behavior, system improvement or degradation, scale issues, seasonality are all more clearly seen with more frequent data.
Prediction Faster and lower cost data collection increases predictive capabilities. In retail that means execution plans can be developed more reliably predicting future performance. A chain that has historically not demonstrated the ability to execute well may not be the best candidate for a future promotion. For product development
The Need for Speed∗
Once your organization gets used to getting research results back in days vs. months, it will never be the same. Speed is a mindset change where initially people have a hard time grasping what they would do with data that comes in quickly but that changes to an addiction. We see the migration in clients who become quickly dissatisfied with slower methods and vendors. When you can have data in days, months are a lifetime. When the answer can come tomorrow why would you wait?
∗ You can’t do a post on speed and not use that quote