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When is Agile Research Appropriate to Use vs Traditional Research?

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In the past few years, we have found there is not a “one-size-fits-all” style when it comes to research.  Choosing agile research versus traditional research can be difficult when you consider all the factors involved in the decision.  However, there is a role for both types.  The tussle between which one to use comes down to the advantages and disadvantages of each. To start, here is a quick overview of agile research vs traditional research.

Agile Research – Quick, Cheap, Iterative

Agile research has the benefit of speed and being an iterative process, which allows researchers to conduct multiple micro-surveys in a shorter time period. Clients who need to explore options or act quickly upon feedback from previous responses can benefit from agile research. In a qualitative setting such as an online bulletin board, it can provide ongoing interaction between respondents and test stimuli. In quantitative studies that use agile processes, the survey can be automated by inserting new concepts or questions on the fly.

Traditional Research – Thorough, Robust, Costly

On the other hand, traditional research is known for having greater rigor and more robust sample sizes. It can also be costly and time-consuming. It provides clients with more respondents and data points, which in turn allows for more analysis and projectability. The overall time commitment for traditional research varies depending on which methodology is being used to gather findings. Traditional research can encompass many different methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative.

Should I use Agile Research or Traditional Research?

Both agile and traditional styles can use similar research methods. In that case, the question becomes, “which style is best used at this time for this client?” Whether agile or traditional, the outcome and objectives a client needs to reach will determine which style to pursue.

Let’s take a look at a few examples where each style is more appropriate:

1) Concepts or Reward/Benefit Statements

When developing concepts or reward/benefit statements, agile research is useful in narrowing down a large list of options developed in ideation sessions or other types of brainstorming.  Once top options are identified, they can then be taken to more traditional and detailed concept testing to determine the “winner” with which to move forward.

2) Ad Testing/Tracking

Similarly, the iterative process employed by agile research can be used to test what resonates with consumers to quickly update advertising messaging and brand communication. Traditional research can then further test the efficacy of new advertising by tracking awareness and recall of new advertisements or branding initiatives. Both methodologies work hand in hand to provide the necessary data for clients.

3) Focus Groups

In agile research, a focus group can be an interactive online chat room or bulletin board to get immediate feedback and collaboration on designs and innovation. In a traditional setting, focus groups are ideal for hands-on experience during product testing and development in order to get a deeper understanding of consumers’ usage of the product.

4) Piloting Survey Questions

Agile research is the best approach to test and check the appropriateness of questions being asked to a target population before launching a full-scale survey. It may also help refine a set of questions to help identify efficiencies on survey length and consumer engagement. Another key element of using agile research is to test the instructions being asked of the respondent to see if they are clear and concise. Having vetted these issues will help ensure the success of the project.

5) Segmentation Study

While there are many types of studies that require the larger sample size of traditional research, segmentation is a key example.  Identifying and sizing the different consumer segments for your brand or category needs to be founded on a robust methodology. Since this type of research is often used for targeting key consumers, the projectability of traditional research is necessary.

Both Agile and Traditional Research are key to your research process

Overall, both agile and traditional research are important tools in your toolkit. The main consideration should be which style is most appropriate for the type of information your client needs. As some examples show, using traditional and agile research styles in conjunction with one another provides even deeper insights than using just one style. What is most important is to provide your client with both options, and thoroughly explain their pros and cons. Helping your client choose the appropriate style will strengthen your relationship and help build a more solid partnership.

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TraQline's Dave Stevenson, PH.D President & CEO
Dave Stevenson, PH.D
President & CEO

Before launching The Stevenson Company in 1995, President and CEO Dave Stevenson managed worldwide research for product development, distribution, advertising, and customer satisfaction. His roles, first as head of the marketing section of General Motors’ worldwide product planning group, and later as director of GE Appliances’ global economics and market research team, give him extensive experience in consumer as well as business to business marketing solutions. Mr. Stevenson holds a Ph.D. in statistics from Southern Methodist University.