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Democratization of Research

There’s no “i” in team, and there’s certainly no “i” in research. Market research (MR) isn’t a one-person job, and it shouldn’t be a one-department job either. The democratization of research focuses on empowering cross-departmental teams within an organization to conduct their own research, analyze the results, and make relevant decisions. 

Although research democratization may feel like a threat to job security for some researchers, it really shouldn’t, and here’s why—when all employees feel that they play an essential role in company decisions, they produce better work, think more innovatively, and make the company as a whole, a better place to be. Keep reading for more benefits of research democratization with real-world implications. 

Top Benefits of Research Democratization 

Increased Productivity

It’s not surprising that customer-centric businesses tend to be more successful. After all, when you listen to the people using your products you learn a lot about them, and what they need, want, and prefer. The insights gathered then help you improve your products. Better products equal more revenue, brand loyalty, and brand advocacy. 

However research teams are limited, even in larger companies. Based on Fuel Cycle’s 2022 State of Market Research Report, we know that although market researchers love their jobs, they don’t have enough time in the day. Over 43% of researchers emphasized that not having enough bandwidth to complete projects and managing multiple deadlines were top challenges in the past year, while 36% indicated that a lack of budget and a lack of human resources (HR) support impacted their jobs.

Democratizing research means more people are conducting more research. By educating a wide pool of the organization about the value of customer insights, you widen your research capabilities without hiring more experts or overworking your current staff. Higher research output also means that MR teams can focus on higher-impact projects.

Closer Company Culture

Another benefit of research democratization is a better, more harmonious company culture. Amazing things can happen when businesses promote a culture of innovation, curiosity, and customer-centricity. Empowering cross-functional teams to conduct research makes them feel connected to a common goal— to understand their customers better. That connection fosters friendships, rapport, and the psychological safety required to think outside of the box. 

Moreover, as employees gain more exposure to user research, they better understand what a research team does, giving them more empathy. Their firsthand experiences can transform them into allies for research at your organization, which may trickle upward to executives. This upward trickle could mean more resources and budgets for customer research. 

Better User Experiences & Customer Experiences (UX/CX)

Lastly, when research is democratized, it can lead to better user and customer experiences. When workers are laser-focused on how what they do affects the user or the customer, they will work harder to make products and services aligned to their needs. 

There is an 80% increase in revenue for businesses that focus on improving customer experience, but it all starts with research.

Getting Started 

Ultimately, democratizing research within your organization depends on the programs you put in place and the people who put them into practice. When you begin the research democratization process, it’s best to start small. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and company culture can’t shift overnight. Here’s how to get started:

Schedule Research Meetings With Key Departments 

Conducting high-quality research takes a lot of time, energy, and resources, and too many cooks in the kitchen can lead to chaos. However, while it’s tempting to keep research siloed, market researchers should invite department leaders into their world so both parties can fully understand how data is being used (or not). 

The best way to ensure that user research is valuable is by scheduling regular meetings to discuss departmental priorities, needs, wants, and the big picture. Researchers should connect research activities to priorities and deepen engagement by finding opportunities to give leaders a voice. Ask leaders about their paint points and recommend market research solutions directly tackling them. Try to keep the lines of communication open with all internal departments to ensure that they feel heard.

Advertise Research Initiatives 

Another way to make employees feel invested in research is by regularly educating them with roadshows, success stories, and training. 

There can be a disconnect between employees and market research in large companies with many departments. The human resources department may not know what the market research department is doing. They may be unaware that a market research department even exists. 

Researchers can contribute to democratization by actively sharing work. For example, by showcasing how customer data led to product improvements, a smoother launch, increased sales, better reviews, etc. employees can understand how data affects their individual job roles and the company’s success. Beyond sales data, researchers can show off non-monetary results like entering new markets, improving internal functions across departments, boosting employee engagement, and more.  

Give People The Tools They Need 

You can meet with department heads and advertise research initiatives all day long, but if you fail to give employees the tools they need to do their own research, your democratization plans will go nowhere.

Market researchers have a unique knowledge base and skills that other employees in an organization may not have. For example, Joe in IT probably doesn’t know much about running a focus group. Democratization isn’t about turning every employee into a researcher; it’s about exciting and empowering them to learn more about customers within set parameters. While we’re not going to set Joe loose during a virtual customer interview, we can provide him with templates and tools that allow him to capture information safely. 

Researcher-built templates for surveys, polls, and feedback forms are a great way to let other employees conduct research without prior training. 

Fuel Cycle’s Ignition provides out-of-the-box, expert-crafted, agile market research solutions for many needs. With Ignition’s insights platform, marketers gain massive efficiencies on testing ad campaigns, HR managers can quickly identify areas for process improvement, and product teams can forecast growth expectations for new market entrants. 

Learn more about how Ignition can help you democratize research in your organization here.

Author: Dan Marzullo