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Forrester's Cinny Little on elevating the impact of market research through mobile-first approaches

Ben Hudson
Senior Director of Marketing at..

There's no doubt that market research delivers business value—but how can insight leaders ensure that the impact of their team is not only recognized and also amplified in the organization? To help answer this question, I recently sat down with Cinny Little, Principal Analyst, Business Insights, at Forrester, to get her take. 

A respected transformation expert, Cinny has worked with countless CX, marketing, and market research teams from brands big and small to help them get the most out of data and customer insights. 

In our wide-ranging conversation below, Cinny shares her thoughts on blended qual-quant methods, her framework for effective storytelling, and her insights on the value of a mobile-first approach to building research programs and insight communities

To understand the new normal as it coalesces, companies will emphasize a richer customer understanding by aggregating quantitative data analytics and science with qualitative research methods like ethnography. Why should researchers be broadening their approach to “qual-quant” methodologies and insight communities?

Individual research methods have limitations. Surveys, for example, provide insight into what a respondent says, but a researcher can’t know if that aligns with what the respondent actually does. Combining research techniques and practices in one agile stream provides more actionable insights about customers, faster, that drive business value.

For example, a sports equipment firm could learn more about what people value and/or seek by combining quantitative customer feedback data from surveys (what people say) with mobile ethnographic research that observes consumers using equipment in their own environment (what people do). Combining methods not only inspires actions faster but gives researchers time back for other work and may eliminate duplicative investment. 

Market researchers tend to shy away from taking credit for the business impact of their efforts. But the work they do often has a direct impact on the success of their stakeholders. How can researchers and research departments best communicate the impact they have on their business and their stakeholders?

The bottom line for any data-to-insight method — from market research to data science and from digital intelligence to ethnography — must be to provide value for the firm’s customers and for the overall business. There are no ifs, ands, or buts on that.

Market researchers must shift their thinking and approach away from a project delivery focus to a value-driving process. That requires aligning with the stakeholder(s) seeking the research. Researchers must tease out what stakeholders want to accomplish — the strategy or intent — from the research. Do the stakeholders seek a temperature check with customers about a specific product or experience to learn if there are areas for improvement? Guidance for a new product? Tweaks to a marketing campaign?

Market researchers must shift their thinking and approach away from a project delivery focus to a value-driving process.

Be patient, adopt a “we can” vs. a “we can’t” approach in speaking with stakeholders, and get to a level of actionable specifics about the ask.  

Businesses are awash in data but often “light on insight.” Researchers are certainly qualified to transform data into insights but often struggle to break through. All too often the solution has been to “tell better stories.” Easier said than done. Can you walk us through your five-step playbook for data storytelling?

Researchers’ work has value only if stakeholders apply it to decision-making they’re accountable for. Forrester’s five-step playbook for data storytelling is a framework that researchers should use for connecting their insights work to that decision-making.

The first three steps of the playbook are about preparing your story, which can take the form of a data visualization, a presentation, or a combination of those:

  • Step one is to define the business purpose — the decision-making that your story will drive.
  • Step two is to ensure that your story connects with your audience’s frame of mind: what they care about most, which must include aspects of what they are accountable for.
  • Step three is to tell the story in a classic three-part structure: Provide an overview of the decision-making the story is driving, show the evidence (insights from the data), and then close the loop.
  • Steps four and five are about preparing an important story for different situations. Those two steps should include getting colleagues to help you trim down your story and working to prepare a 45-second version of the full story — all steps — that you can use to brief an executive or for a hallway conversation.

Mobile should be part of a sophisticated market research tech stack, but all too often it’s thought of as a distribution channel or, worse, something reserved for “special projects.” Where does mobile-first insight communities fit into a mature research program, and how can it be used most effectively? 

Consumers are more connected than ever, and that means that mobile in market research is an essential, modern approach for data collection. Mobile research can, for example, tap into customization and localization as well as speed up time-to-insights.

Consumers are more connected than ever, and that means that mobile in market research is an essential, modern approach for data collection.

Mobile solutions enable data collection (e.g., data that includes survey responses, images, and videos provided by the subject); capabilities for analysis of that material (e.g., via exporting data to tools of choice for analysis, natural language processing, text sentiment analysis); and ways to share insights with stakeholders.

Thanks to Cinny for answering our questions.

At Rival, we're passionate about market research—because we're researchers, too. That's why we created a mobile-first platform designed to maximize researchers' productivity, agility and budget. We hope this conversation provided tangible ideas on how you can increase the impact of your market research team. 

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