Companies with foresight stay ahead of the curve
Remaining relevant and competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace is no mean feat. Whilst innovation methodologies and speed-to-market are fundamental business tactics, how do we ensure we’re solving the right kind of problems? Foresight and trend analysis provide us with the necessary tools to do so.

By Francois Botha & Bijan Farsijani
Published on Simple October 4, 2020

With the global marketplace evolving at an ever-increasing pace, companies are constantly needing to reassess their product and service offerings to stay abreast of the latest consumer trends and preferences. Remaining relevant and competitive in a modern world driven by innovation and speed requires fresh thinking and new ideas and the ability to act quickly and decisively. Having access to the right market data and insights therefore becomes critical to the success of any modern business. W. Edwards Deming once said: “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”

Five Key Challenges

  1. The digital age has provided easier access to data but has also exponentially expanded the amount of data available, making it difficult for companies to isolate the right metrics to track and respond to. With so much information at their fingertips, many companies just don’t know how to ask the right questions.
  2. Most companies, including family offices, consider swift decision-making a priority focus but many businesses do not put the necessary structures, processes and governance in place to support strategic planning and decision-making at the right levels.
  3. Having the necessary insights and foresight to remain competitive into the future requires a deeper understanding of the consumer journey as well as consumer purchase patterns and drivers. Often, the emphasis on internal company data results in there being too little focus on understanding the evolving needs and dynamics of the consumer.
  4. Cost-conscious businesses are quick to reduce their spend on research which can prove costly in competitive playing fields where market share can quickly be lost. Consumer-centric companies who stay connected to the needs of their customer-base and who are willing to invest in insight-generation are more likely to remain leaders in their industry.
  5. Consumer research often takes the form of an ad-hoc project with an external agency. Although there is a strong case for employing specialist agencies to support research and strategic planning, often these agencies are kept at a distance and not embraced as business partners. Without an intimate knowledge of the business, products, consumers and competitor landscape, insights can be compromised.

With the global marketplace evolving at an ever-increasing pace, companies are constantly needing to reassess their product and service offerings to stay abreast of the latest consumer trends and preferences. Remaining relevant and competitive in a modern world driven by innovation and speed requires fresh thinking and new ideas and the ability to act quickly and decisively. Having access to the right market data and insights therefore becomes critical to the success of any modern business. W. Edwards Deming once said: “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”

Five Key Challenges

  1. The digital age has provided easier access to data but has also exponentially expanded the amount of data available, making it difficult for companies to isolate the right metrics to track and respond to. With so much information at their fingertips, many companies just don’t know how to ask the right questions.
  2. Most companies, including family offices, consider swift decision-making a priority focus but many businesses do not put the necessary structures, processes and governance in place to support strategic planning and decision-making at the right levels.
  3. Having the necessary insights and foresight to remain competitive into the future requires a deeper understanding of the consumer journey as well as consumer purchase patterns and drivers. Often, the emphasis on internal company data results in there being too little focus on understanding the evolving needs and dynamics of the consumer.
  4. Cost-conscious businesses are quick to reduce their spend on research which can prove costly in competitive playing fields where market share can quickly be lost. Consumer-centric companies who stay connected to the needs of their customer-base and who are willing to invest in insight-generation are more likely to remain leaders in their industry.
  5. Consumer research often takes the form of an ad-hoc project with an external agency. Although there is a strong case for employing specialist agencies to support research and strategic planning, often these agencies are kept at a distance and not embraced as business partners. Without an intimate knowledge of the business, products, consumers and competitor landscape, insights can be compromised.

Understanding The Different Types Of Research

There are two main research categories: Primary and Secondary Research. Primary research is self-initiated research that is conducted by your business (or through an agency), designed to obtain new information and insights on current or potential consumers. Focus groups and surveys would be common examples of Primary Research. This form of research gathers two kinds of information: Exploratory and Specific. Exploratory research is open-ended and qualitative, helping businesses to identify trends and opportunities that they were not aware of. Specific research is more precise, focused and solution orientated and often used to tackle a particular problem or test a new idea. Often this form of research is conducted to drill deeper into an outcome of the exploratory research or to assess the most appropriate intervention. Secondary research is information that has already been published by others, typical examples being reports compiled by the government, trade associations and other businesses.

Key Considerations When Initiating Research

  • Establish clear objectives for the research. Research results need to answer a question that is posed upfront. Be specific about what it is that you want to know, and how this information will drive decision-making. Basic examples of questions that may be asked include: Who are your customers? What do they buy now? Why do they buy? What will make them buy your product?
  • Prioritize the research. You cannot research everything, so ensure that critical questions relating to high-priority commercial decisions are prioritized first.
  • Use information readily available. Research can be expensive so it makes sense to leverage your internal resources and information. Often, a lot of insights can be generated in-house by engaging consumers telephonically, analyzing numbers through published sources, and utilizing social media, like Facebook, to research consumer likes, dislikes and preferences. It is also a good idea to connect with Trade Associations to access research that already exists.
  • Embrace your external agency. If you are going to employ an external agency, make sure that they are given enough information, context and background to understand your business and are able to work closely with your decision-makers

Turn Insights Into Strategy

When companies effectively combine Primary and Secondary research with internal data and industry performance statistics, decision-makers are better able to analyze and understand current and past performance and trends, prioritize focus areas and shape their plans. However, effective decision-making requires there to be a robust planning process and framework in place which ensures a regular cycle of cross-functional collaboration with specific inputs and outputs aimed at identifying burning business platforms and driving decisive action. An effective insight-orientated planning process has clearly defined metrics that are tracked and reported on an ongoing basis and will ensure the right analysis and insights are provided by the right people to the right people and answer the right questions. Such a framework should also provide guidelines for insight generation to support both short-term and long-term strategic planning, as well as ensure that decisions are being made at the right level.

Build A Strong Relationship With Your Insights Partner

Whether exploring consumer trends to uncover opportunities, testing innovative ideas or building a marketing strategy, research is going to play a significant role. The trick is to define how and when to integrate research into your workstreams, and to ensure that there are useful tools and processes in place to support knowledge sharing. If an external agency is employed to assist with insight generation, focus on establishing an open, transparent relationship with the agency to foster a good understanding of the business challenges and capabilities. By doing this, research becomes a collaborative effort with a higher likelihood of actionable insights as an outcome.

Insight Is Foresight

With access to an overwhelming abundance of data, companies need to prioritise the right metrics and trends to track. For this reason, insights which help companies understand what is happening now, and why, are becoming increasingly important. Accurate insights are in turn essential for companies to have the necessary foresight to predict future trends and make winning decisions.

About the Authors

Francois Botha

Simple Founder. Strategy Advisor

Francois believes that the next generation of family leaders need new, simple tools and trusted experts with a fresh outlook.

Connect with Francois Botha View Francois Botha Profile

Bijan Farsijani

Research & Insights

Bijan’s motivation for his work is helping the next generation of wealth to manage assets more sustainably.

Connect with Bijan Farsijani View Bijan Farsijani Profile

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