“Remember, a dead fish can float down a stream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.” – W.C. Fields
Little Fish is part of the Ruby Cha Cha collective, focused on Innovation.
We offer a full range of innovation services backed by a strong market research and planning consultancy.
We provide agility and a customized approach towards innovation for business speed and confidence.
When it comes to Innovation Services we are ‘front end specialists’ that can help you define the innovation task and work with you to create new ideas that are consumer tested and business ready.
How to use Market Research to Build your Innovation Pipeline
Innovation is vital to positive progression for organisations, consumers and society. It is about the potential for better lives, solving human problems and creating value. Whilst many businesses think this is about creating a big idea or developing new technology, it is so much more than this.
To win with innovation is simply to understand people. What are they trying to achieve in life and how can we develop a solution to fit their needs? Every company can create lots of ideas, but they need to be founded in a need. They need to be harnessed to an insight that will help them get to market, get noticed and get purchased.
But it is not as simple as harnessing an idea to a need. Innovation needs time. Ideas need to percolate, to trial and fail perhaps, to be optimized or flipped around. This is where Market Research can help.
Building a Needs Based Innovation Pipeline
The temptation is to innovate dependent on the needs of the business, and what we can manage or do in the business, rather than understanding what the consumer needs help with. To understand the real issues at hand, the jobs to be done, observation is critical. We can ask people what they need, but observation gets to unmet and often unknown needs (until you point it out). We need to get consumers into storytelling to uncover deeper insights – and side issues that we may not be able to openly observe. The best thing in modern times is that observational research can be enabled by technology for faster and more cost-effective solutions – things like mobile ethnography and streaming platforms allow ‘in-the-moment’ observations, storytelling and person centric design thinking.
We also may be focusing on the wrong ‘data’ – correlations and patterns of behaviour might not be what we need to create great products! These days businesses have loads of data – data swamps (and lakes if you’re lucky). But data alone is not enough. Insight needs to be humanised. Problems need to be brought to life, and what we really need to focus on is the progress that customers are trying to achieve – what they hope to accomplish. This is what is known as the job to be done theory as imagined by Tony Ulwick.
Another issue with building innovation pipelines is that we are often tied to traditional processes that are stale and tired. The ‘Ideas first’ approach means we try to ideate a winning product–then produce say 20-100 product concepts, prioritise, then put them into a screener, and then perhaps more research, analyse them again, then put into development, finally, possibly put out minimal viable product (if it gets through the gate process.
Iterative learning is good, but also timely and costly and we may be no closer to really understanding what consumers want. Having said that iterative learning is much better than simply ideating, testing and launching with both fingers crossed.
The real goal for innovation should be about finding out what the winning product concept is BEFORE the product goes into development. In other words, do your research first and invite the consumer into solving the solution. Understand the group of people who need to get a job done. Understand the functional job and what steps are employed by consumers to get the job done. Where can our brand or business help with that? That is where we can have an impact, where we can find a job that needs doing, where our innovation needs to be focussed. This is an agile approach to innovation.
To get started we suggest defining the market and the context. We suggest a research phase up front to help define the market, uncover needs qualitatively (through observation, mobile ethnography and depth interviews). Then quantify or verify where rational, emotional and interactional needs are being underserved or overserved. That’s where opportunities can be discovered so that the innovation team can come up with a solution to address those unmet needs.
Have to think about …what is the consumer trying to do, not what the company wants it to do. How do they want to feel (emotion is secondary to functional) but still important in terms of checking the end benefit of an innovation. What are the job steps…are they looking for experience factors, are they buying something, setting up or installing something? The world of user experience UX is all about understanding the steps. Once we understand the main job at hand, then we can dig into related or interactional jobs – it might be driving, shopping, cleaning, cooking. One set of jobs can form many other interactional jobs and needs that are ripe for observation and innovation.
Importantly focusing research well ahead of the ideation, allows you to understand the customer, their needs, the steps where new opportunities lurk, but also from a business perspective, it allows you to think about how to re-purpose, realign or reposition existing products before the expense of creating new products. This is not only agile but can deliver a huge ROI.
Qualitative Research and Uncovering Needs
Mobile Self Ethnography – where consumers show us their behaviours and tell us about their experiences. The ability to harness modern technology in the form of Zoom or other live one on one webcam technology or streaming allows us to do the observation more quickly and without interviewer intervention (or at least less intervention). We also ask some of our consumers to create TikTok footage to help us understand feelings and moods, instead of just image collages. This works a treat with younger audiences (or the young at heart). We can also record and clip the video for insertion into PowerPoint or video reports.
In Depth Interviews – The one on one interview can allow us to interview during and after the actual behaviours we want to observe. The idea is to ensure we are stepped through the processes in great detail. The interview (following observation) allows for understanding all the rational, emotional and interactional needs. Shopping, cooking, cleaning, running, using our products or brands, using our competitors, critiquing – the method allows for lots of ways into a consumer observation.
We can also send products in a product placement exercise, for example, allowing consumers to open and evaluate new products and prototypes and ground them in real life usage occasion.
Qualitative Co Creation – Focus groups designed to allow the consumers to build on raw ideas or concepts to create the innovation that fits their need and context. Useful for winnowing down many raw ideas (if you end up with those) and optimising the best for quantitative testing.
Quantifying Needs and Trade Offs
Agile Product Screens: simple fast online surveys used to screen multiple (say 20) raw product ideas
Concept Testing: A more strategic online survey which may employ one of the following techniques:
MaxDiff is about how people make choices: respondents evaluate all possible pairs of items within the displayed set and choose the pair that reflects the maximum difference in preference or importance.
Two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) is a method for measuring the subjective experience of a person through their pattern of choices and response times. The subject is presented with two alternative options (often product features), then forced to choose which one is the preferred option.
Conjoint analysis is used to determine how people value different attributes (feature, function, benefits) that make up an individual product or service. The objective of conjoint analysis is to determine what combination of a limited number of attributes is most influential on respondent choice or decision-making
Want to know more?
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