To thrive in today’s highly competitive global landscape, brands must be willing to adapt and change to people’s shifting needs and wants. A quick glance at how Covid-19 has changed the way we work and socialise highlights the importance of understanding changing consumer behaviours in order for business to survive, let alone innovate and thrive.
Innovation can be defined as when an organisation introduces new processes, services, or products to affect positive change in their business and create new value for its customers, consumers or users. By this definition, innovation is about staying relevant and helping organisations adapt and evolve at the speed of which the consumer landscape is changing.
“The business has…two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs” — Peter Drucker
Innovation includes not just products and services, but also things like business processes and operating models. Take Uber and Amazon as examples of businesses that completely rewired retail and transportation models. But innovation doesn’t have to big and disruptive or create a new category, like these two examples, it can be small and incremental, so long as it creates new value and supports growth. Many organisations like Unilever and P&G make it their focus to combine NPD and incremental innovation at all times. The key to their success is constant, and speedy, innovation, to delight consumers and position their brands as leaders, thus commanding higher price.
Innovation market research
In almost all cases, the platform for innovation is consumer insight. There are, however, a number of high-profile brands, like Apple, that started out life as a big idea of one person that intuitively knew what the future looked like and what people would want and need. The risks of this approach are extremely high, but the rewards are great as Apple would agree.
For the majority of organisations, consumer insight is the foundation of all innovation and is the best way to test and develop new propositions. In this instance, the organisation will need to quickly move from thinking to knowing, meaning they will have to conduct consumer market research to understand in-depth what problem they are solving, and whether their target audience values the solution in the context of their business lives as much as the business leaders do.
When the research has established that there is a genuine consumer needstate, the next task of research is to establish the size of the opportunity, which will give support to the investment levels the organisation must commit to in order to bring the product or service to market. Quantitative research is deployed at this stage to derive the profile of the target market, its addressable size and the extent to which sales can be grown.
Using Research To Solve The Right Problem
Before an organisation throws significant money and invests in an individual innovation, it’s important to understand the problem that’s being solved, in great detail. Innovation market research is the tool to use reach for to understand the problem needing a solution. Good research will help you frame the challenge or the problem, and unearth the job to be done. Questions that need answering at this stage include:
Latent and unmet needs: What are the limits / frustrations in relation to the existing products and services? What are the gaps between the current and ideal experience? Does potential exist for the brand to better engage on this basis?
What is prompting behaviours: How are people engaging with the product / service / category in question? What are the problems / needs being addressed?
Patterns and the unexpected: What are the routines and behaviours? How do these routines map out and vary amongst different consumers (e.g. when taking life-stage and household composition into consideration)?
More highly engaged / extreme users: How are more extreme users/consumers engaging with the product / service / category in question (e.g. frequent users, or early adopters)? How does their behaviour compare to the mainstream?
Adaptations: Are there any examples of anyone adapting or tailoring their own solutions to address needs that are as-of-yet unresolved by the product / service.
Sources of innovation
Sources of innovation can be many and varied, but based on our experiences and the latest approaches, these five sources tend to be the most popular.
1. Knowledge Push — the possibilities that emerge as a result of innovation market research.
2. Need Pull — Necessity is the mother of invention and innovation. For example, world wars see huge developments in radar, engines, medicines, aircraft, computing, coding, and communications.
3. Inspiration — Random eureka moments of inspiration, for example, those provided by Mother Nature.
4. Regulation — The introduction of new laws and legal frameworks often result in companies having to innovate and unearthing new opportunities.
At Further, we have developed solutions for innovation market research that are constantly integrated into the process of innovation by business leaders and marketing teams. These include what is now one of the foremost research tools for innovation and NPD, research communities and online qualitative research (include links).
To find out more about how to use and implement qualitative research for innovation and NPD go to our Resources or book a call with one of our experts.