Market research. Customer insight. Customer feedback. Whatever you refer to it as, businesses small and large often perceive the process as an unnecessary cost centre, particularly where decision makers have been historically bullish.

However, when economy is suffering from Covid-19, it forces your hand to rethink your offer, pivot or move into a new market altogether. In these moments, listening to customers and prospects should be seen as an investment into your P&L, and a fairly important one too.

We decided to ask Simon Thompson, Managing Director of Relish, a specialist Insight and Innovation agency, a few questions on how market and customer insight can help your business.

Ayse, A4G:  “Anywhere between 70% – 90% of new product launches (globally) fail” – How does market research reduce that percentage?

Simon, Relish: That is an astounding figure, and one that suggests the odds are well and truly stacked against you from the get-go. To put it in context, if someone asked you to invest your emotional and financial capital in a fund that gave you a 10% – 30% chance of an improved return on investment, would you take it?

Only the foolhardy would do so without any form of due-diligence and planning. This is where the process of research (and primarily its outcome, insight) adds value, by mitigating a proportion of the risk to increase your chances – however marginal – to win. While there are no statistics to show how research delivers more effective new product launches, there are statistics (via Mark Ritson) that show how even a little research correlates more strongly with effective (and award winning) advertising campaigns.

Ayse, A4G:  So, if research and insight enhances our chance to win in business, why isn’t it done all the time?

Simon, Relish: As the Managing Director of an Agency that specialises in this space, I hear three common barriers from decision makers – regardless of business size:

“It costs too much”

Although true in some cases, it is a hangover from days gone by when analogue research was all we had. However, data is has increasingly become a commodity the costs to source it have dropped dramatically – in some cases, it’s free if you know where to look.

There are a multitude of digital research tools at your fingertips, whether it be conducting your own primary research through Google Surveys, Attest or Toluna QuickSurveys, or leveraging social media meta-data (done right) to understand successes and failures elsewhere (e.g. reviews on TripAdvisor, TrustPilot, MoneySavingExpert forums).

Chances are, if you have a specific question in mind there is likely to be some form of data to help you for very little, if no investment at all. There are even sites that dedicate themselves to listing a full range of insight platforms (with reviews on functionality) that you can use for free. The process of doing research should never be prohibited by cost.

“We don’t have enough time”

A similar point to that above, and it is definitely true that to study something properly you should give it the respect of time to reflect, review and reconvene.

However, the aforementioned digital tools provide large volumes of responses in real time, meaning unless your product or service is incredibly niche you can source primary (new) data in response to your question in 24 hours or less.

Best practice among growth businesses is to factor in time for research from the get-go, setting specific gates where it is set in stone that hypotheses continue to be validated and proved (or adjusted) iteratively.

By doing this, it means that when you’re ready to launch, your work is done and you can get to market quicker, with confidence. There is always time for research, missing out is just poor planning.

“It won’t tell me anything I don’t already know”

This. This is the biggest challenge we hear time and time again when proposing research and discussing what years of experience, hundreds of thousands of interviews and proper academic training can deliver.

Biased assumptions are often the biggest factor in determining whether research will go ahead or not. One of the biggest challenges as a business owner is to step out of your own shoes even for a moment and ask, “am I listening to what people want, or am I telling myself what I want to hear?”

There is evidence that an empathy gap exists between those in marketing or white-collar type roles vs the ‘modern mainstream’, demonstrating that what we see and believe in our perfect world isn’t always shared by others.

Although we may not see ourselves as being different to others, the reality is that what motivates us, what we value and how we navigate the world differs immensely from so many different people. Business owners and directors are the privileged few, sometimes a dose of reality by walking in customers shoes, visiting their homes or listening to them talk about what matters can go a long way.

Research, done right, can be an immensely valuable tool that identifies new opportunities, validates or challenges your business hypotheses and de-risks your strategy. It can take many different shapes and forms, and even those that claim to be against it still use the principles to shape the future of the way we eat, shop, drive, consume and spend. It should be a fundamental part of any business strategy, if only to check-in to make sure your original assumptions still hold true.

However, a final word of warning – data from research alone is not enough. To really make a difference, you need an insight. Once you master that, you’ll be well on your way to winning the battle.

Simon Thompson is Managing Director of Relish, a specialist Insight and Innovation agency with offices in London and Leeds. If you want to know more about how insight can help your business, contact

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Ayse Cooper

Inbound Marketing Manager

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