During the recent Quirk’s Virtual Global event, Kandice Coltrain, aytm’s Vice President of Global Sales sat down with Keri Hughes, Market Research Manager, Consumer Insights and Research at Voya Financial, and Deborah A. Mendez Campos Reales, Shopper and Consumer Insights Manager at Pharmavite to discuss how they made the leap to agile market research.
Deborah Mendez works within the innovation team at Pharmavite, the company behind Nature Made, the brand leader in vitamins and supplements.
And Keri Hughes serves on the consumer insights and research team at Voya Financial, which serves the financial needs of approximately 13.8 million individual and institutional customers in the United States.
Let’s dive into the discussion.
Why adopt agile methodologies into your research process?
Nature Made was competing with a lot of entrepreneurial brands who were starting to challenge Pharmavite’s leadership in the market and that drove the need to be more agile in their innovation processes.
“Also, when it comes to the way that we did research internally,” said Deborah. “There were some challenges where the insights team wanted to focus on doing more foundational research, which meant the innovation team needed to handle its own research. The innovation team at Pharmavite is currently made up of two consumer researchers, and about 12 marketers, so it meant that the marketers suddenly needed to take ownership in the process as well.”
The idea of agile research isn’t new. Like many research and insights teams, Voya had a few agile tools available within its toolbox, but over the last year they saw how quickly things were changing because of COVID-19.
“We really needed a tool that we could use to get some generalizable, detailed quantitative feedback faster than ever before,” explained Keri. “We were regularly receiving requests from our stakeholders. But our capacity in our resources had not changed as a team of four insights professionals. And a lot of the external vendors that we'd been working with needed a four to six-week turnaround time or longer. And this was no longer ideal for the situation, given how fast everything was changing.”
P.S. See how aytm stacks up against traditional market research firms.
“The state of the market was also changing every day. There was a lot of volatility there, and the data that we had collected a month prior, for example, quickly became outdated so we really needed a tool to get us to fresh insights quickly,” said Keri.
What should you look for in an agile research vendor?
Because Pharmavite’s innovation team was absorbing a lot of the work that they used to be supported by the core Insights Team, they needed a tool that was going to be really intuitive for marketers. “While there are a lot of platforms out there that are designed for agile insights, not all of them offer an intuitive user interface,” Deborah noted.
“Also the platform needed to get marketers excited about having to absorb this work, and put more on their plates,” Deborah continued.
With aytm, the platform is really playful, and while there was some initial resistance from a couple of team members, now they've embraced the tool fully and they actually enjoy that part of their work.
“Lastly, we needed to ensure we’d get accurate data, that we could trust the panel composition and that the data would be similar to what we’ve gotten in the past, and will lead us to make the same business decisions that we made with less agile tools. So we needed that balance of being agile, while also being rigorous enough to give us confidence in the business decisions,” explained Deborah.
As for Voya, “We needed a tool that was flexible, fast and budget friendly, something that provided us with a fast turnaround on data,” said Keri. “One of the things you always hear is ‘Good, fast, affordable – pick two.’ But with aytm, you really can get all three.”
“The more advanced techniques and data analysis tools that aytm has available also allow us to save time on the back end, especially when it comes to reporting and cross tabs. We love that we can do our own Maxdiffs or run different monadic design tests on our own. And we're able to turn around our reports so much more quickly than with other research vendors,” Keri explained.
“I was really pleasantly surprised at how user-friendly the platform is, even when you're using it for these more difficult and advanced techniques like stat testing, which is definitely a plus.”
“We're such a small team and we're constantly being tasked with doing more with less, especially with everything going on with COVID, so saving time for us is definitely critical. We have a lot of requests and ongoing research needs that just keep going on in the background while the rest of the world is moving forward so anything that we can do to simplify the process is very much appreciated,” said Keri.
What types of research work well with agile methodologies?
There are certainly some types of research that lend well to agile technology compared to others. Pharmavite started using aytm mainly for idea screeners and concept testing. “Since then we've also added TURF analysis and Conjoint. Price sensitivity analysis is also something I can definitely see us using in the future,” said Deborah.
“I'm really grateful for the partnership with aytm because we've been able to provide them with the data that came out of our segmentation study, so we can recruit for our core and desired targets and be able to understand whether our new product concepts are not only going to have mass appeal with the general population, but if they are going to disproportionately attract the consumer segments that we're most interested in, so we have that ability to really customize it to our needs,” Deborah explained.
On the other hand, Voya has been doing a lot of research around publicity recently. These surveys are often in support of new products the brand is developing or services or other offerings that they want to get some data on to support the launch of or provide some communications around.
“We’re aiming to uncover the news angle directly from the perspective of our customers and what they are looking for,” Keri explained.
The tool itself is powerful and it enables us to go out and get large, nationally representative samples within days, which is necessary for this type of research, and the turnaround time is just faster than most quick turn omnibuses even are.
Do increases in speed mean you must compromise on quality?
Many insights teams want to adopt agile methods but are afraid that increases in speed mean they’ll have to skimp on data quality. Some may even have been burned by the quick turn DIY research of the past. So, we asked these researchers point blank, “Have you noticed any difference with regard to the quality of data when you're using agile technologies compared to some of the more traditional routes of research?”
“My short answer is no,” Keri responded. “ For us, there are definitely some specific target groups that are more low incidence or more specialized that we would still lean on an expert recruiter in that particular area. But when it comes to our more broad consumer target groups, we have definitely had no issues.”
“Another thing that I really love about the tool is that you're totally hands on as far as you can go in there and set up your targets ahead of time. Make sure all of the quotas are set up correctly and work with aytm’s support staff to make sure that you’re going after all of the right individuals.”
“And obviously you can test the survey yourself ahead of time, so I feel very confident in the data and the fact that we're involved along the way, and we can see who we're targeting and track it real time so that way if you do need to make adjustments, there's time to do so. And along with aytm’s support, you've got multiple checks and balances going on throughout the process,” Keri explained.
“At the end of the day, you need good quality data and initially, aytm is an unproven tool,” said Deborah. “So when implementing agile, start small. Begin asking questions that are low risk and start seeing the results.”
“Then think about how they line up with your existing research and understand that how the results vary by gender or by age group or by concept. Consider all those things that you know to be true about your business and your consumer. By making those checks, you start trusting the tool more and more,” she explained.
“And then there is a point where you know you can leverage this tool when you need quick results, or when you have low resources internally, and you can make more informed decisions that start educating the stakeholders. So, in the long-term you need less research because you continue collecting data points that educate you as an insights person,” Deborah elaborated.
How does adopting aytm help increase the influence of your insights team?
“Our business partners have been very excited about the tool in general,” said Keri. “Since we've started introducing it as a capability within our team, we have had more people come to us for research than before. And since this tool is accessible, it really encourages our stakeholders to take more advantage of having it as a capability. It also allows us to do research, where we maybe otherwise would not have been able to, due to either cost or timing restraints.”
“I also believe that this tool has allowed those who maybe are less familiar with working with quantitative data to better understand and recognize the power of having these insights and becoming more empowered to include research in their work as well,” she explained. “And that's across the organization, in marketing, communications, PR, product, etc.”
“In a way, this tool has really helped us as a research and insights team, be more seen across the organization and show how we are here to help,” said Keri. “It's been great in terms of connecting with our stakeholders and partners.”
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