3 Reasons You Should Be Doing Iterative Research
By Molly Simpson

For today’s life sciences market researchers, actionable insights are both the number one goal and the number one challenge.

The most recent Greenbook Research Industry Trends Report (GRIT) asked survey respondents about the most important factors for a project’s success. For research buyers, it was about having a clear linkage to business objectives, delivering recommendations that drive the business, providing a focused story, and executives being able to implement action based on the results.

Graph of "Where do you focus your time and resources for project success? (research buyers)


Clearly, actionable results that lead to business impact are top of mind. It never feels good to launch an ambitious research project, only to have it sidelined by irrelevant results or unconvinced decision-makers.

One key to this dilemma is iterative research. Today’s automation tools have iteration at their heart—in large part because market research tech startups developing these tools are building flexibility and modular design into their products. Agile project management and innovation—already in the DNA of many of these startups—also help.

These new technologies have revealed a new paradigm for fast, iterative market research that lets you act on insights more quickly and make impactful decisions in real-time.

Here are three instances of when an iterative approach comes in handy:

Iterate within long-term studies

  1. Ask new or follow-up questions to supplement or complement a separate, long-term study. For example, a company doing a large tracking and awareness study might uncover additional questions that need to be answered quickly versus being folded into another longer study down the road. Or, the company discovers a mistake at the end of the study, during reporting, and then goes back to address the problem with an iterative approach to just the questions that were part of the mistake.

Iterate upon short-term studies

  1. Ask follow-up questions that arise based on previous research, without waiting for weeks or months. A shorter survey reveals new questions or debunking of assumptions that need to be further clarified in real time with a “follow-up crowd”—a crowd that can be quickly created within the platform based on their answers to any given question.
  2. Add a question or change answer choices to an existing question because of a mistake, misunderstanding, or missing information when survey was first launched. For example, if a company finds a mistake it can quickly stop and relaunch the same survey with edits.

Let’s explore the feature of “follow-up crowds” a little more. Some platforms allow you to go back with any of the above scenarios to the same group of respondents, or exclude previous respondents and create a fresh target audience.

Think of this example: you launch a quantitative survey and one-third of respondents give an answer you don’t quite understand or that doesn’t match your assumptions. You use iterative survey technology to go back to those one-third of respondents with follow-up questions (through either a qual or quant survey) to get further clarification, and you get those responses back within hours.

Iterative research like this is all about continuous learning and actionable insights. It helps convince colleagues and decision-makers about why changes to, say, a product launch message, need to be made. And it keeps you more in touch with customers and respondents as they go on their journey with your product.

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