Defining Agile Sensory and Consumer Research

Pre-Covid lock-down there had been a lot of excitement around building the philosophy of agile research into sensory and consumer research. As product development projects took a more iterative, test and learn approach so the demand for agencies to support this process by providing developers with supportive research services grew. These approaches have gained names such as ‘Sprints’, which enhance the idea that this research is fast.

But agile research is more than fast – in fact sometimes it is not that fast at all. Focusing on fast really undermines the value of the approach because fast is so often associated with cheap, and low quality.

In reality, agile research requires higher, not lower quality. Decisions are made earlier, and these decisions influence the next steps. It follows then that the decisions must be reliable and so can only come from good, well designed, and robust research.

So what does agile really mean? Agile research involves getting early feedback from consumers and feeding this into the next steps. It is iterative and the amount of learning and the scale of the research tends to increase as you go along. Each step can be considered as a de-risking stage – the results of which feed into next development actions – sometimes changing the course 90 degrees.

Sensory Dimensions is well placed to support your agile product development projects. Our extensive Consumer Community means that we can access your target consumers quickly and can convene sub-communities that are live for qual and quant research for short periods or for several weeks depending on the life of your project. Our qualitative researchers have extensive experience of iterative approaches and employ a range of on and off-line tools to give you the insight required at each step of your project. This is supported by our extensive quantitative product and pack testing expertise, both in-home and in our fantastic facilities.

Agile demands interactive and collaborative reporting and we encourage interactive debriefs immediately post fieldwork, discussing top lines and next steps. Adding video and showreel of consumers interacting with products and packs is a powerful tool.

Essential to any successful agile approach is full collaboration between client and agency – interaction and trust are critical if a truly agile approach is to be successful.

Talk to us about how we can help you implement an efficient agile research strategy that is valid and risk-free enough to enable you to make the decisions that will shape a successful product.


A full version of this article was presented to the IFST’s Sensory Science Group, 23rd September 2021