Use Market Research to Improve Innovation

Meeting the customers’ needs is the heart and soul of business. New product development should always keep this as its north star using market research to innovate.

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Market Research » Use Market Research to Improve Innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of businesses. Without innovation, businesses cannot grow and risk failure. Innovation is critical in all industries and understanding innovation is essential to success. Businesses often use the terms ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ interchangeably. But they are not the same. Creativity fosters unique ideas. Innovation makes sure those ideas are useful and produce viable solutions to problems.


What is Innovation?


Innovation is a product, service, business model, or strategy that is both unique and useful. Innovations do not have to be major breakthroughs or dramatic new business models. Innovation can be as simple as changes to a company’s customer service or features added to an existing product as long as they are useful to the consumer.

There are two types of Innovation in business: sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation. Sustaining innovation enhances an organization’s processes to improve its product/service line for an existing customer base. Sustaining innovation is usually used by businesses that are already successful and who want to stay that way. Disruptive innovation, on the other hand, occurs when smaller companies challenge larger, more established businesses.

The most successful companies incorporate both types of innovation into their business strategies. While maintaining an existing position in the market and pursuing growth is essential to being competitive. Protecting the business against emerging competitors is also a valuable strategy.

Innovation can help you stay ahead of the curve and grow. Here are three reasons innovation is important for all businesses:

  1. Innovation allows adaptability and it is often necessary for companies to adapt and overcome the challenges of change.
  2. Innovation fosters growth – key to staying afloat in today’s highly competitive world.
  3. Innovation creates differentiation and separates businesses from their competition.

Product innovation, therefore, is not optional. Rather, it is an integral part of every successful business today. Failure to innovate puts any organization at risk.


How does market research add value to innovation?


Meeting the customers’ needs is the heart and soul of business. New product development should always keep this as its north star. Therefore, market research is a critical tool in ensuring that innovation results in meeting a particular target audience’s needs. It bridges the knowledge gap between your team and what they think they understand about the consumer and the actual needs, pain points, problems, wants, and desires of your prospects and customers.


Research Supports the Innovation Cycle


The innovation cycle has four main stages: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. At each stage consumer market research will be required to support key decision-making;      below are some of the most common areas where market research can support a product strategy:

Innovation in concept testing


The innovation process can essentially be broken down into these stages: idea generation, concept testing, product testing, and packaging and branding. Research should be used in every one of these important stages. Here’s how:


Phase 1: Idea Generation


Exploratory research at the idea generation stage of the innovation process establishes a deep understanding of target market sentiment, needs, or problems. It gives insights into the state of the market, and where you might be able to seize an opportunity or avoid risks. Here are possible questions to ask in exploratory research:

  • What kind of customers are most interested in a new product: who are they, and where are they? How do customer preferences change between markets?
  • What choices, decisions, or paths might a potential customer take when considering buying from you?
  • Is there a need for something brand new, or could existing products be improved to serve consumers better?
  • Who knows about you and your products? Are you top-of-mind for anyone? Who is your competition?


Phase 2: Concept Testing


Assuming the ideation stage bears fruit, the next stage is to test the concept with potential customers quantitatively. This usually goes through several iterations before the final product is defined, and products with higher complexity tend to require more of these cycles. Concept testing should evaluate these areas: pricing, distribution, the priority of key features, user experience, and marketing strategy and communications.


Phase 3: Product Testing


After a winning concept is identified, product testing (also called consumer testing or comparative testing) is the process of measuring the properties or likely performance of products with a target audience. By asking for audience feedback on your products before launch, you can ensure you commit money and resources to the optimal projects.

Product testing gives you confidence in the specific features and configurations that are most useful and desirable to the target audience. Additionally, it can help you get buy-in on your product concept as testing proves which products resonate most with your target audience, so you can convince other stakeholders to get behind those choices.


Phase 3: Packaging and Branding


Once the product is finalized, packaging and branding research puts the bow on the package. Before you launch the product, make sure that the packaging, branding, marketing elements, and strategy all work together to support the launch, attract trial, and, eventually, build product adoption and loyalty.


As American businessman and author C. William Pollard said:


“Learning and Innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” The heart of any innovation’s success is the consumer, and good Innovation research gets you closer to the customer and their needs. Market research can add value to practically every aspect of the innovation lifecycle.



Joe Jordan

Joe Jordan



Joe Jordan is an MR operational and innovation expert and COO of OvationMR. He frequently contributes to The Standard Ovation and other industry blogs and speaks as a thought leader at market research industry events.

OvationMR is a global provider of first-party data for those seeking solutions that require information for informed business decisions.

OvationMR is a leader in consistently delivering insights and reliable results across various industry sectors around the globe for market research professionals and management consultants.


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