Take your research to the next level with advanced research methods

For brands to keep understanding customers, they will likely also want to evolve the research methods used. In other words, how do we move from our current methods to the next level of advanced research methods? I’ll discuss this topic in this article, including the following:

What are advanced research methods?

Laura Eddy, vice president of research and insights at Realtor.com, explained that advanced research methods are a bit of an open term, and the exact interpretation can depend on how a team currently operates. For example, they can include:

  • Advanced analytics
  • Modeling and other data science techniques
  • Tieing all the available data together for a more comprehensive overview
  • Making sense of unstructured data
  • New ways to interact with consumers

“One of the things we listen to quite frequently at Realtor.com are comments that consumers push to us organically through social media, a call center, and feedback,” Laura said. “How do we tie that all together? And they are all very disparate. It’s become a little bit of an art form.”

Figuring out a way to tie all these different pieces and using them for an overarching understanding of the customer and decision-making is complicated but can drive results when done successfully.

Read next: Perspective on the Human Experience Through Holistic Insights

Why use them?

New techniques and new technology come out all the time, and it can be helpful to stay up on what should be added to the mix, what can replace an existing strategy, and what can be disregarded for the time being.

Technology advancements – which certainly are part of advanced research methods – can make our lives as researchers easier and keep evolving.

“AI and text analysis has been around,” Laura said. “It’s not the fact that they are necessarily new, but that we refine the process and get better. That’s kind of the threshold that we are at right now. How do we distill this into something that’s a little bit more useable.”

Read next: What is Natural Language Processing?

The trick is to look at how new methods and tools can help teams reach their goals of understanding customers and do that more efficiently. And, just because something is interesting, that doesn’t mean it will also be useful or even necessary.

"Now, these AI tools have gotten so much more useful."

What research method and the depth of them to use can also depend on the specific project and its potential impact. For example, Laura mentioned two approaches:

Two-way door

This is a project where yes, we want to get the right insights, but if it’s not working out in the field, we can just come back through the same door and make an update. No foul. No harm.

One-way door

This is where changes, once a product has been launched in the field, are harder, so being crystal clear before launch is even more important, Laura explained.

“It’s going to be really disruptive,” Laura said. “That’s something where you really want to take that time.”

"I try to work with our stakeholders when they come to us with a question."

And to know which door a project is going through, it’s important to collaborate strategically on the goal of the project. That includes understanding how comfortable everyone is with the level of knowledge that needs to be acquired.

“What’s the decision being made? What is the impact of this?” Laura said. “Can you make a decision if you have 80 percent of the picture, or do I really need to be sure of what’s going on before we move forward?”

Read next: What is survey fatigue and how can we encourage survey responses?

How to integrate advanced research methods

The simple – but not easy – answer is integrating different research methods when they make sense. But of course, that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, teams might be stuck on the status quo of how the process runs. Or it takes a while to implement change because of legacy workflows and thinking.

Some of the skills needed to implement and use advanced research methods might be spread across an organization. Analytics could be located in one department, while insights are housed elsewhere. And certainly, other related skills are sprinkled across other teams as well. So building those relationships across the organization is essential.

“You also want to work with your other research partners,” Laura said. “Being able to marshal all these resources and bring them together into one story.”

Also keep in mind that sometimes teams are hesitant when it comes to implementing new workflows or technology.

“There’s been a lot of attempts with AI,” Laura said. “And sometimes the promises may have been a bit ahead of the actual ability to deliver. I think people really want to sit and ask what does this mean and is it going to give us true results?”

"There's going to be that adoption curve. And then there's that inflection point where it'll take off."

Knowledge management

With all this research being done, it’s also important to keep it in a place that can be referred back to for future projects.

“I can’t tell you how many studies I’ve lost because a researcher has moved on,” Laura said. “And they didn’t have the work they’ve done in a team drive, and it was on their laptop.”

Read next: Revolutionize Your Brand for More Customer Centricity with Centralized Data

Ongoing consumer conversations

To truly make these research methods a success, it’s essential to continuously talk to consumers – a topic that we discussed in our continuous discovery article.

What the exact interval is depends on the specific projects, but the important part is that there’s an interval.

The right speed

Some projects certainly can take longer than others, but the right speed still matters. And that means that many times projects need to move forward in an agile manner.  One way to speed up things is to ensure that learnings from each step are considered for the next steps.

“Being able to learn from each step and adjust as you’re moving through that process, that gives you that agility,” said Jeff Jones, author of “Three Wise Monkeys How a Culture of Clarity Creates Transformative Success” on “Reel Talk.” “Agility is about being able to change direction, not just moving fast. I mean, it’s more of a road rally than it is a drag race.”

Read next: What does it mean when companies are democratizing research?

Advanced methods make an impact

Advanced research methods don’t end with the collection or analysis of the research. They also include ways to make a bigger impact with how we tell the story of the research findings.

“It’s really hard to get buy-in from charts and graphs because they’re largely abstract,” said Jamin Brazil, managing director of HubUX at conversational insights leader Voxopme. “And so when you’re thinking about like how you can create a story that is retold, a story from your data that is retold at the water cooler with impact. That’s really the measure of good data, of good insights.”

How to do that often involves soundbites from customers and consumers – after all, people relate to people.

"Let's build something that addresses the underlying need."

Using advanced research methods that help your team can make the process of understanding the customer easier, more efficient while using the best workflows and new technologies to their fullest. And, at the end of the day, if it drives positive business change, everyone wins – the researcher, the company, and the consumer.

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