Many organisations like to conduct market research studies at the beginning of an innovation process to understand probabilities of growth rates, trends, customer desires and to have a more solid take on the future.
Statistical analysis and surveys involving a large sample size are much liked weapons in this process. Often those techniques are used deliberate to avoid own decisions for the direction in which an innovation needs to be developed and to have somebody else to blame if the prognosis are not coming true.
What do we actually learn from studies resulting in vague prognosis or asking customers question that they are not able to answer? Customers can often not predict what they want or what they are going to buy in the future. In many cases this depends on context and doesn’t result only out of purposive-rational considerations.
Most market research studies are little or not helpful at all at the beginning of an innovation process that should result in something truly new.
We would not learn anything meaningful to back up the potential success of an idea.
This is actually what we have to learn in innovation processes – we will not know what works and what doesn’t work before we try it out.
So is there any market research that makes sense at the beginning of an innovation process? How can we make sure that the views of customers and users can still be incorporated?
Our experience shows that market research at the beginning of an innovation process only makes sense in two scenarios. It can be useful to observe current market trends that might influence an idea in a positive or negative way. Additional market research in form of a field study, personal questioning or observing users in context can be a good starting point for Innovations, as described in our last edition of this newsletter.
It is not the intention to achieve a complete projection of the consumer behavior. We are not interested at this stage in statistical relevant data. We desire to get indications that can guide us to further develop our ideas based on usage scenarios that solve real pains or create benefits that are not always obvious.
In later stages of the innovation process a quantitative market research approach can be helpful. When your idea has been developed to the stage of a minimal viable product (MVP) and you need to systematically test your hypothesis then the time is right to apply the typical methods of market research.