The Role Researchers Play in Driving Business Transformation
Business transformation represents the path to competitiveness. It means improving service, improving efficiency and reducing costs. It can include expanding into other markets, improving capacity for innovation, diversifying or even generating new opportunities. These are all essentials that companies across the globe should be striving for.
Market research is just one of the tools that can be weaponised in the pursuit of these goals. After all, research is the collection of information that provides insight into your customers' thinking, buying behaviours and habits. In addition, research is a valuable way to keep an eye on market trends and understand shifts in the macro environment. So what role do research & insight play in driving business transformation? To spot opportunities for growth and inform the processes that support change.
Researchers should be considered an essential component of any business plan. If research does not indicate a demand for the product or service, the company's offering will not be sustainable in the long term.
But not all hope is lost. Companies carry out studies to turnaround failing (or underperforming) products and services all the time. Such research runs in paralell with other initiatives; to identify new customers and learn from existing ones, make informed decisions, understand their competitors, test new markets, determine the viability of a new business, make internal improvements and even develop whole new long term strategies.
A combination of qualitative and quantitative research is required to turn around underperforming aspects of a business, in order to offer not just a picture of what is currently happening - but why it is the case.
Quantitative information: The raw, hard facts. Provides important data on what is currently happening to your products & services, as well as insight into the macro environment you operate in.
Qualitative information: The what behind the way. Explains the beliefs and attitudes of consumers that may be shaping the quantitative picture you are seeing.
The work of a research analyst is to accurately inform all aspects of a business - includingtransformation. Starting with an analysis of the current market and shape of the company all the way to forecasting what potential forms it may take in the future.
From here, it is possible to start scoping out what questions need to be answered in order to turn a business around. Only once questions are set is it possible to begin formulating a plan around how to answer them. This plan must include the tools that will be used, the way any resulting data will be analysed and (most importantly of all) which aspects of the business it will inform.
Transforming Customer & Competitor Understanding
Companies that listen to their clients and adapt to their changing needs will be more successful than those that do not. There's nothing controversial about suggesting that. And market research is a great channel through which you can listen to your customers, to stay close to them and evolve as they do.
Everyone is doing it too! International companies use research data all the time to make strategic pland and inform decisions. Some examples of successful customer-centric companies that use market research to support their development are:
Southwestern measuring how passengers perceive their services in order to make future developments.
Ford informing the design and development of yearly car models through insight.
Starbucks employing market research to keep its marketing messagesin line with consumer sentiment.
Lego, after a study, realized that only 9% of those that played with the toy are women. This research led to the development of a whole new line, just to address the imbalance.
After the Super Size Me documentary, McDonalds conducted research into exactly what their customers thought of the brand and launched a campaign to assure consumers that the meat they use is real. They have also changed part of their menu to include healthier alternatives, such as apple slices.
Finally, Netflix are leveraging a subscription business model to discover what their customers want next. These insights are derived from behavioural techniques, but the firm also conduct forms of research in order to inform UX development.
As these examples demonstrate - transformation is constant; both for the under and over performing. Research is a constant, continuous process that affects multiple dimensions of a company - evolving naturally over time.
There are a variety of data sources that can aid with internal transformation programmes. Customers and competitors are the obvious answers. But even employees can be a pivotal source of insight . Many companies love customer feedback, but only a handful have devoted as much energy to employee feedback systems. In an interview, Troy Stevenson, the former Vice President of Customer Loyalty at eBay stated, “For every dollar spent on employee feedback, companies spend hundreds of dollars on customer feedback.”
For internal transformation to take effect, it is necessary to involve all areas of the organization equally and ensure their commitment through the development of participation and empowerment formulas, frequent communication that encourages feedback and recognition that motivates people in achieving the objective of change. Consequently, market research must also be deployed to listen to employees, giving them an active voice. In addition, utilising an internal communications platform is essential. Such platforms enable a higher level of collaboration between employees and external collaborators, increasing the rate of change.
The Role that Researchers Play
Research is important. We can all agree on that. There are hundreds of ways in which insights can drive a company and its transformation. But change is a complex and systematic process. It must be supported and accompanied by professionals who are capable of recognising and implementing processes that make a positive impact. Researchers are one such group; integral to achieving sustained competitiveness by helping to understand complex market contexts, facilitateing improved decision-making and improving the odds of growth.
Coming from a background in Law, Ruth is relentless in her pursuit of accurate insights. She uses her analytical skills to adeptly dissect participant feedback to draw out the insights most beneficial to our clients.