person Guy Potter access_time December 23, 2019

Agile Research in the Future

Once a survey method that caused a stir throughout the industry over concerns around legitimacy and data validity, agile research is now widely accepted as a key data collection channel.

So much so, it is very much part of the marketing mix. In fact, 100% of Fortune 500 companies are now using self-serve research in some form or another.

Deep and meaningful

It is this ‘form’ that is changing the future of agile research, and why it is now going through a transformative process.

As the technology continues to develop and advance, we are seeing agile surveys evolving from ‘quick hit’ research to a method of gaining a deeper understanding of customer or client behaviour.


Agile research enables businesses to create more interactive experiences for respondents as you can add video and images to help drive engagement, which enables organisations to connect and interact with people more effectively.

As a result, there are different ways to reach out in a survey, which offers even more scope to explore and, consequently, have deeper connections with respondents.

‘If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.’

W. Edward Deming

This – and we’re starting to see this already – will drive marketers to using agile research for more iterative or hypothesis-based research.


By iterative research, we mean testing and analysing a set of questions over a period of time.

For example, you send out a set of five questions on a topic and gauge response. From there, you send out another round of questions to gain deeper understanding of the first set of questions.

This approach enables you to change or adjust growth or marketing plans or strategies accordingly. It is a particularly effective route for innovators or startups who are looking to gain product feedback or get a better handle on consumer behaviours.

It’s also a more cost-effective route than endless rounds of focus groups right at the beginning, which can be costly.

However, it is fair to say that agile research will only take you so far in your customer analysis journey, but it does mean you can use your spend more wisely when you do need to start getting into targeted qualitative analysis.

With marketing spend showing no signs of an upturn in the near future, this iterative approach is set to become even more popular.


Trend analysis has never been more important and this is not likely to change in the future. What is changing, however, are the way trends emerge and are communicated.

For example, the rise of the influencer as the new ‘celebrity’, who set trends and promote brands. Instagram and YouTube are the top two channels for influencers. Social media platform TikTok is expected to explode in 2020 as an influencer channel, especially for the under-12s. Twitter has also been key for a number of years.

We’re starting to see influencers cross over from social media into mainstream TV and press. This brings challenges to advertising authorities as the rules struggle to regulate less-than-obvious paid-for plugs from influencers.

92% of marketers think influencer engagement is an effective form of marketing, with 63% intending to increase their influencer budget over the next year, so this approach is set to grow.

‘Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.’
Albert Einstein

So, what does this mean for research? It means the more comms channels there are, the more depth and analysis to research projects there is. Social media channels attract different demographics and, combine this with different age groups viewing different media, opinion has now become more diverse. Surveys will need to react to this diversity.

Once where there would have been focus groups from the beginning of a campaign or project, or an opinion poll on trend analysis, businesses are now turning to quick surveys as an alternative jumping-off point. It’s why we’re seeing more of this and why we think this will become standard practice in the future. In today’s fail-fast culture, Agile research is the best way to explore ideas quickly and at cost effectively.

We know that budgets are tight for everybody right now, and marketing departments have to respond accordingly. Even though research is a valuable tool, organisations still need to make their money work harder, which is why agile research allows marketers to achieve this, not just now but for the foreseeable future.

Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.
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