At the Insights Association’s Corporate Researchers Conference in Orlando (October 8-11, 2018), Rick Kelly of Fuel Cycle discussed CoRe (Continuous Research). Fuel Cycle is a market-research cloud known for its community platform, with integrations with SurveyGizmo, ProtoBrand, Conjointly, and other systems.

“We need to change the way we manage research,” Rick said. (All quotes are paraphrases.) “There is some level of frustration with how the insights team operates—a lot more time pressure, rote surveys aren’t working, and everything is disconnected from the rest of the business. Sales data for the worldwide market-research industry is flat, which puts it in relative decline when adjusting for inflation. That says to me that something is not working, and people are finding alternative ways to get data and insights that research departments aren’t providing.”

“We live in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous). Volatility is the new normal – trade deals get messed up with a tweet! In the business environment, VUCA is caused by ubiquitous computing, providing access to transparent information (such as product reviews while standing in a store), film and photography available anywhere all the time. Interest rates had been historically low, and all these financiers are looking for more ways to make money, by investing in riskier investments, in venture capital, private equity, and non-traditional sources.”

“I read this blog post that has been haunting me,” Rick said. Steve Blank, best known for The Lean Startup, now wonders Is The Lean Startup Dead? Blank wrote:

Well-funded startups often have more capital for R&D than the incumbent companies they’re disrupting. Companies struggle to compete while reconfiguring legacy distribution channels, pricing models and supply chains. And government agencies find themselves being disrupted by adversaries unencumbered by legacy systems, policies and history. Both companies and government agencies struggle with how to deliver innovation at speed.

“The way businesses compete has changed,” Rick said. “Product cycles are accelerating rapidly. The face of loyalty is shifting; think of choosing a bank based on the reviews in an app store: Bank of America gets compared to a new startup based on the quality of their mobile app.”

“Insights as usual will not cut it. It’s too slow, too constrained, and too disconnected from operational data. Insights get put in PowerPoint and then go to SharePoint to die. Surveys are disconnected from CRM, from operational data, and from purchase data. The insights team is cutting data by demographics rather than by behavioral segments.”

“So what do we do next? Here is how we are thinking about the future at Fuel Cycle. Insights must move from episodic, discrete research to a rapid, iterative and connected research environment. Software developers moved from waterfall development to agile development, to react to a world that was online and to push changes to users quickly, with a focus on shorter release cycles and faster feedback. Researchers need to do likewise.”

“How can we make insights work better than it does today? CoRe is Continuous Research and should be a practice in the insights industry.” Key characteristics of CoRe:

  • “Fast: Quick, iterative research cycles. Get insights back to stakeholders faster than we can today. What’s the latency between a business question and a business answer? We’ve seen on Fuel Cycle the average project time in field has declined by 76% over 4 years. Surveys are getting shorter, faster, with higher completion rates, higher fidelity data, and broader representations.”
  • “Flexible: Deliver insights for any business need. If a question can’t be answered, that decreases the ROI on insights. Video can bring data home and make an impact with stakeholders. We’re primarily a qualitative group but the research tools at hand shouldn’t determine the questions you’re asking. The questions you’re asking should determine the research tools that you have.”
  • “Unified: Puts data in context. Segment the data by behavioral data not just demographic crosstabs. By purchase behavior, by loyalty status, by churn threat, by segmentation. Most aren’t able to do that because data isn’t connected. Or when it is, it is a laborious time-consuming process.”

“What does CoRe get you?” Rick asked. “It gets you…

  • The ability to respond to any business question.
  • The ability to go as deep or shallow as needed.
  • Integrated operational data that makes more sense than demographics alone.
  • Higher ROI insights than any other method.