Applying the agile method to market research

4 min read Emily Smith

When faced with market research, it can be overwhelming as you try to figure out which path to take. There are methods that work better for smaller businesses or certain industries. There are methods that are better financially or more efficient depending on the city your company is centered in. The variables are endless, but regardless of how you end up tackling your market research, applying the agile principles can have a powerful influence over your approach. 

The principles of the agile manifesto cover everything from the frequency of releasing new products to technical excellence to reflecting on your work. The principles have been used in many thorough frameworks for developing software companies and can also apply to market research methods, especially qualitative research methods, which can be less clearly defined. There are twelve basic principles of agile:

  1. Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software products & services.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. 
  3. Deliver working products & services frequently.
  4. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  5. Simplicity is essential.
  6. Technical excellence and good design enhance agility.
  7. Business people and developers must work together throughout the project.
  8. Build projects around motivated individuals, and trust them to get the job done.
  9. Promote sustainable development. 
  10. Face-to-face conversation.
  11. Self-organizing teams.
  12. The team reflects on how to become more effective, then adjusts its behavior accordingly.

These 12 principles are, on their own, a solid way to approach product development, but when examined through the lens of market research, they can be especially helpful. Approaching all 12 principles in the face of creating a market research plan could be a bit much to think about, but they can easily be summed up into three steps. These steps are: 

  1. Communication
  2. Embracing change
  3. Collaboration


Through continuous, succinct, and direct communication, you can reach the first of the agile principles. This first step is the foundation for any market research plan. To create a product that customers need and to reach those customers, a company needs to know that customer. They must know who they are, what they need and don’t need, which parts of a product may be unnecessary. It is only through communication that we can gain this knowledge, making this perhaps the most critical agile principle as it is the basis of all further market research. 

This can further be examined in how the team communicates as the team must be able to communicate well, thoroughly, and openly among themselves as well as with consumers. The collaborative team must express concerns, look at the data with an open mind, and explore solutions together. 

Embracing Uncertainty

Embracing uncertainty covers the majority of the agile principles. It isn’t just about embracing uncertainty, but about using that uncertainty to your advantage. No matter how much market research you complete before launching a product, the initial feedback (and the way you segment feedback to illuminate insights) will further influence action on that product once it’s launched. By embracing the uncertainty of those initial reactions, you can find the best ways to change a product for the future. 

Beyond that, time will inevitably alter the product further. Any number of things can change your customer’s needs, from social changes to the economy, and the product you produce must be able to roll with those changes. The best way to make sure that happens is to embrace uncertainty within your market research plan. Expanding your plan so that you can collect market research data over your product’s life  will help your company embrace this portion of the agile principles.  To sum it up, one must be willing to accept this kind of change to continue pursuing excellence and work toward a product that meets your customers’ needs.

Constant Collaboration

Collaboration is essential to product development, launching software, and maintaining customer support. A large, diverse team is the best way to develop a market research plan that will cover all of the bases. A well-organized, well-motivated plan requires a variety of personality types, backgrounds, and skill levels. 

There are pitfalls and issues in any product found by having a diverse team, working in constant collaboration, preventing them from becoming a problem. In this way, a truly collaborative team can work to develop a more comprehensive market research plan. 

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of this step is the ability to change based on collaboration. As well as looking at the ability to communicate openly, all team members need to be open to adjusting their actions (or the product) based on that communication. 

The agile principles can enhance any business, but you will see more effective results when applied directly to your market research plan, saving time and money on potential mistakes.  Not only do these principles serve to make your software company more effective, but they also reduce costs on the development of your product and the cost of troubleshooting any potential issues that arise. By the time of your next launch, you’re ready to face it with confidence and with a solid gameplan in mind. Fingers crossed!