Agile Market Research

A couple months ago, I saw a presentation about agile research by Zach Simmons of Discuss.IO. He comes at it from the qualitative side, with a great platform for on-demand remote interviews, but it reminded me of some survey ideas I’d been mulling.

Most market research mirrors classic product development (waterfall model), with a steady progression through needs analysis, research & development, and delivery. It assumes big releases which stay stable for an extended period, which is a good fit to physical projects like manufacturing and construction.

Agile development works in smaller chunks, with products continuously evolving. The idea is to release a good start and keep improving it, rather than a giant push to create the end all be all specification. You may have noticed many of your smart phone apps update frequently, sometimes as often as every two weeks—this is a reflection of agile methodology.

So if you’re in an agile product environment, why shouldn’t your market research join in?

Imagine your app has a weekly question, which it pops up for users to answer. Don’t make it difficult, just something like this:

How is our application handling your image needs?

More tools, please

The current features are fine

I can add images?

Depending on the app, you may be able to provide micro payments for participating in the polls, such as extending subscription periods or gems to spend in a game. Even if it’s miniscule or your users are engaged enough to answer without, it’s a nice “Thank you.”

What do you gain?
  • Quick feedback on an issue which may be in your next development cycle.
What does it cost?
  • You lose the big picture, comparing a dozen feature priorities at once.
  • It’s harder to tease out multiple facets of a function, unless you increase the survey length.
  • One of our favorite tools, slicing and dicing based on demographics or other factors, will require collecting that information and tracking a user’s data over time.
  • User goodwill may take a hit (bugging them) a boost (being heard). I’m generally a fan of opt-in, but you may want to try a split test on that.

So as usual, there are trade-offs you’ll have to weigh. But given how many iTunes Store reviews I’ve seen where the user is clearly “speaking” to the publisher about problems and improvements, it’s pretty clear we need some more channels.

Need a Hand?

A little help can add a lot of polish—or just save hours and headaches:

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Ann has been a great resource for us. She responds timely, has good suggestions, and really knows her craft. Ann is our primary resource when it comes to major surveys and reports.

Barry L. Brown
President
Effective Resources