Fuel Cycle

Pilot Testing vs. Agile Research: Similarities and Differences

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Though market research is an excellent way to collect consumer data, it can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if things go awry. Even the best market researchers can make mistakes when designing surveys, product testing simulations, or interview questions, which is why pilot testing is crucial. With pilot testing, you gather feedback on your market research project before you dive in so that any errors or confusing elements can be ironed out. A simple way to think about pilot testing is this: it is a “test” of the “test.”

The actual tests are part of a larger segment of market research called agile research. With agile research, marketers nix formulaic and lengthy market research campaigns, instead breaking their projects into short sprints to focus on what is working for their customers and what isn’t. Because data is continuously collected, researchers can conclude real-time, leading to highly informed decision making. When appropriately implemented, new products are launched quickly, changes to existing products are made swiftly, and new ideas are vetted more efficiently.

Similarities Between Pilot Testing & Agile Research

Pilot testing and agile research are similar in that their focus is to answer specific questions. The question that pilot testing aims to answer are as follows:

Is this test feasible? 
Will participants understand the questions/tasks? 
Are there errors? 
Can the test be completed in the allotted time?

Researchers compiled a list of potential research questions to be reviewed for clarity, bias, and coherence during pilot testing. In addition, pilot tests analyze the research workflow, including the time it takes to perform tasks or answer questions. A pilot test is critical for market research technology because it can save businesses time and money before a full test is conducted.

Agile research asks questions about the customer to help guide marketing efforts and boost market share. Agile research asks questions like:

What are the needs of the market? 
Which idea does my market prefer? 
How successful will my product or campaign be? 
Which improvements will make my product even better?

With agile research, brands gather feedback continuously in real-time to better their products, messaging, and employee relations.

Differences Between Pilot Testing & Agile Research

While pilot testing and agile research both exist to answer questions, they differ in their approach. Pilot testing involves a two-phase process.

  1. In the first phase, researchers come up with a list of potential questions that are vetted and eliminated as needed.
  2. The second phase of the pilot test takes the questions from phase 1 and tests them via a simulated research project. This phase further analyzes the validity of the questions in addition to the time it takes for participants to complete specific questions.

Conversely, agile market research is conducted with four phases repeated cyclically throughout the year.

  1. Explore the needs of the market 
  2. Test with methods like templated surveys 
  3. Validate new products or campaigns 
  4. Optimize products or campaigns for your audience

Integrating Pilot Testing into Your Business

Pilot testing should be an integral part of your overall agile research plan, even if you send out a simple survey. By spending the extra time analyzing your research questions, you can ensure that you are asking the right questions, have the right audience, and validate your data. For more information about launching a successful pilot study utilizing agile market research methods, check out our post on how to conduct a pilot test.

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