Continuous Discovery for Insights

The intersection of curiosity and insights with a company

9 min read

Continuous Discovery

Introduction (What is Continuous Discovery?) 

Insights professionals are generally tasked with predicting the future either by looking at the past or probing questions with a cohort of customers. With the rapid adoption and need of agile models for discovery and research, the Continuous Discovery model fits in naturally to help researchers. Continuous discovery is all about seeking the desired outcome by conducting research activities with customers frequently. It is a model for recruiting, maintaining and building a community of customers. The community can then be leveraged for continuous research.

Now more than ever, it’s necessary to understand customers and create great experiences for them whether you’re a product or service company. Companies that have this continuous discovery process set up really benefit by having these communities already set up and can quickly take action and find out what is on their customers mind and get the feedback they need instantly. It’s really about optimizing digital experiences and having a cross disciplinary research process within an organization. This helps to ensure companies tap into the long term relationships and beliefs of their customers regarding their product or service. 

Table of Contents

Continuous Discovery Flow

The Continuous Discovery flow can be broken down into 5 steps. While each step mentioned below is important to the process, Steps 3 – 5 are arguably the most impactful for the business. These are the steps where the research is conducted on an ongoing basis and insights are collected. Finally, the positive impact that these insights can have on a business once this feedback is implemented truly helps change the trajectory. 

Step 1 – Select key user groups

Identify key groups of users that should be in the community. This can be based on certain groups of customers, product usage, locations, etc. Any number of categories can determine the key groups of users. However, they all have something in common relating to your product or service. 

Step 2 – Recruit directly to a community

Once the key user groups have been identified, then it’s time to recruit these customers into a community. This can be done via recruitment surveys where you qualify the customer before they join the community. The source of the community members can be from CRMs, online sample, social media, website intercepts, etc. 

Step 3 – Conduct ongoing surveys and qualitative studies / Generate new questions

With this step comes executing the research plan that you have in place for the community. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, which we’ll get more into later in the paper, the curiosity of both the researcher and the stakeholders is fed. The groundwork is already in place to conduct the research which makes it agile and easy to utilize. 

Step 4 – Derive “pulse insights” on an ongoing basis

The continuous discovery process allows the researcher to derive insights continuously over time as studies are being conducted. In addition, with active listening to some of the forum and activities insights will come from questions that the researcher never even thought to ask. Furthermore, insights will of course come from the planned research that’s conducted with the community. 

Step 5 – Continuously share insights with key stakeholders

In this step, researchers will share the finds with key stakeholders and management. Here’s where the true value of the process is on display as the insights prove they have real impact on the business. During this step, the true ROI is also revealed making it an easy ongoing sell internally. Especially with companies that value cross disciplinary research. 

Continuous Discovery Benefits

Agile model for discovery and research

In agile methods we need to move quickly from question to evidence. Communities remove the need to choose a system, to select participants, to establish methods, and to organize incentives. Communities enable rapid feedback, where the focus is on delivering results at the ‘speed of business’.

High-frequency research and longitudinal tracking

Communities generate more insight value when they are used more, because a body of knowledge is created (the longitudinal aspect) and because more business decisions utilize evidence-based decision making. 

Multi-channel data collection

Different people respond to different channels, if we support mobile and computer, if we support messaging and email, and if we support keyboard and voice responses, we enable faster responses and responses that are more representative.

Co-creation with brand’s top promoters

There are more clever people outside your organization than inside it. Clever brands leverage the creative ability of their customers to co-create the future for the brand, through approaches such as crowd-sourcing.

Advisory panel to cultivate ideas

Customers are willing to invest time and ideas to improve the brands they relate to, one key way of doing this is to create an advisory or consulting group, where the community provides critical finds and a source of new thinking.

Seamless integration from surveys to communities

The community is a hub of people who want to help your brand succeed. The survey platform is a tool that enables people from all over your organization to access the community and their creativity.

Cross disciplinary research – qualitative and quantitative

No one method is going to solve all questions, the answer is to have a choice of approaches, including combining them together. For example, with a community, if your survey leads to further questions you can reach out to key sub-groups to discuss the issues further.

Embrace the entire customer lifecycle

When we conduct a traditional ad hoc survey we get a single snapshot picture of the pre-purchase, the purchase, or the use. With a community we can follow people longitudinally and gain a 360-degree picture of the whole lifecycle, from prospecting for a new product to its purchase and consumption.

Incredible scale and speed

Communities can be scaled up, almost endlessly. Different parts of the business can be gaining insight simultaneously, and the membershop can grow to enable a wider range of sub-groups to be reached. Scaling up means no queueing for other projects to be completed before your project can run, and the agile nature of communities (e.g. very short surveys) means you do not have to combine your questions with other people’s questions.

Increase in evidence-based decision making

With the increase in scale, the creation of agile tools, and the reduction in costs, we see the use of evidence-based decision making increasing. There really is no excuse for ‘trusting your gut’ or ‘doing what we’ve always done’ when talking to your customers and users is so easy and so powerful.

Reduced costs per project

Because the system is there, because there are no extra recruitment costs, because you don’t need to use external agencies, the cost per project (what economists call the marginal cost) gets lower and lower. The more you use a community, the lower the cost per project becomes.

Continuous Discovery for Insights

A well rounded continuous discovery and community platform will have the ability to conduct the following types of research. One of the key benefits is that these customers are at your fingertips making it easy and efficient to quickly conduct research. Organizations still have their strategic and dedicated research and communities are apart that no doubt. However, communities also enhance and make the research process well rounded to enhance insights and get the continuous discovery that’s needed in organizations today. Here are some of the types of research that aid in the process. 

Market Research

  1. Market Trends 

Monitor market dynamics and stay insulated from shocks which will allow you to constantly be above the curve. 

  1. Market Segmentation

Monitor behavior across various geographies and demographics. Make informed decisions on positioning based on value.

Customer Intelligence

  1. Choice-based research 

Simulate market conditions and track and monitor preferences by using conjoint analysis, max diff analysis, card sorting, etc.

  1. Purchase behaviors 

Understand purchase intent, the perceived value of a product or service and identify optimum pricing models.

  1. Pricing sensitivity 

Understand how much the market will pay for your product or service by determining optimal pricing using methods like Gabor Granger and Van Westendorp. 

  1. User behavior and trends 

Identify purchasing behavior including various aspects such as price sensitivity and trade-offs to assign optimum pricing models.

Benchmarking

  1. Competitive benchmarking 

Identify gaps in relation to your biggest competitors and clamp down on your biggest differentiators. 

  1. Product and service research 

Listen and act on what your customers and audience want, to stay above the competition and reduce churn. 

Testing

  1. Ad Testing

Monitor how your brand’s messaging resonates with your audience and impacts your referencability.  

  1. A/B Testing 

Test everything across multiple vectors to make the most informed decisions that are representative of the larger population.

Experience

  1. CX – Customer Experience

An ongoing program to measure the experience customers have with your brands and services, alerting you to problems and opportunities.  

  1. UX – User Experience

From new ideas to optimizing existing products learn from your users to co-create things that learn from them and work for them.

Elements of a Continuous Discovery Platform

Aside from those key research features, there are important elements that a continuous discovery and community platform need to have in order for the community to thrive. A proficient continuous discovery platform is one that allows companies to create engaged customer communities, collect real-time customer insights and impact customer experience. Offering both qualitative and quantitative functionality to deliver actionable insights for better, more informed business decisions. Here are the elements that make up such a platform. 

Member portal

The member portal is a stand alone website where members can sign-up, log in, take surveys, participate in qualitative activities like Topics, Discussions, and Idea Board. In addition, members can manage their accounts and update profile information. QuestionPro supports 100% multilingual member portal setup where Arabic and English can be the primary languages. 

Topics

This is designed for members to interact and increase engagement while at the same time allow for insights to be collected. Members can post topics or a question and then other members can comment on and like those topics. Topics can be sorted and also tagged when initially posted so similar topics can easily be found. Also this feature can be used like an online bulletin board study

Discussions

A live discussion that’s essentially an online focus group. It can be either a moderated chat based discussion where users type in their responses or an online video focus group/discussion. Invite a certain group of your members to participate in a discussion. Tag responses as they come in for easy filtering and analysis. The moderator view gives special admin controls and ability like being able to push media to a whiteboard or share relevant stimuli. 

Idea Board

This is purely designed for the crowdsourcing of ideas. Members post ideas and then other members can vote these ideas up or down. Status of the idea can be relayed back to the member. In addition, the member can upload pictures and videos of the idea also with push to social features. 

Polls

Create and deploy polls to collect quick turnaround insights and aid with continuous discovery. Use multiple polls for quick insights management and faster insights from the community. Deploy simultaneous polls to appeal to a wider audience and use custom notifications to trigger  polls based on various profile demographics.

Document sharing

As part of the continuous discovery process, the ability to use the document and rich-media sharing module of the platform is critical in building a strong repository of information. Share documents with your community members for greater engagement and overall happiness index with your community. In addition, members can upload documents which is a semiless way to gather important materials from members. 

Customer rewards and gamification

A continuous discovery platform must have built-in gamification and rewards. Members can earn points for different tasks and activities. These points can then be redeemed using our built in rewards module. In addition to points, badges can also be used to incentive members. Incentivize your community members by offering rewards. Set up custom limits for various actions taken like sign-up, surveys answered, discussions etc. Easily set up your rewards with filters and allow members the flexibility to efficiently redeem rewards for a seamless experience. Manage your inventory better for various gift-cards like Tango, iTunes, Starbucks, Visa etc. for disbursement to community members. Pay directly into users PayPal accounts in case of cash rewards.

Communities app

The mobile app is an extension of the online community. Members can log in using the same credentials. In the app, members can make use of a number of different modules. They can take surveys, answer polls, participate in topics and discussions, update profile info and redeem rewards. Push notifications can be used to alert members in real time of new surveys, news, and discussions posted. In addition, geo-location surveys can also be used to get feedback from members in specific locations. The mobile app allows for greater engagement and sharing of insights and rich-media, real time with your community.

Quantitative and qualitative

Brands have traditionally used qualitative research as a vector to either creating or proving or disproving a research hypothesis. Not only that, but qualitative research, in conjunction with quantitative analysis, offers researchers, brands, and other stakeholders more significant control over data and mature research insights, too.

A good continuous discovery platform allows users the ability to collect a mix of qualitative and quantitative information from a group of members. With surveys, polls, there’s the ability to collect quick turnaround studies as well as longer and more complex studies that involve advanced research modeling and advanced research techniques and questions including Van Westendorp, Gabor Granger, MaxDiff, card-sorting etc. for choice-based studies, pricing analytics studies and more. The integration with the enterprise grade survey platform with easy access from within the continuous discovery platform allows the flow of information both ways. You can find the right audience and deploy studies to the right members using advanced techniques like profile cross-tabs and more.

This also allows you to use qualitative techniques as seen above including the IdeaBoard, Topics, Discussions and more. The tool however is also uniquely set up to allow brands and researchers to conduct continuous discovery studies using online focus groups from within the platform. With NLP, auto-transcribing and more, you can now put your qualitative and quantitative insights together and learn more from each interaction. Many external factors can impact the ability to conduct offline qualitative research and offline focus groups – these range from pandemics, scheduling issues, availability of panelists, geographical diversity, costs, etc. Conducting video discussions and online focus groups allow greater control to community managers to manage qualitative research. 

Use smart filters to enroll the most relevant community members and invite them to join your video discussion. As a community administrator and researcher, you can plan, schedule, and efficiently conduct this live discussion with panelists and replicate offline focus groups’ models from the comfort of your online community.

Not only that, use auto-transcription of the chat for more accessible analysis. Mark out chats to maintain a tab on what is essential. Monitor the respondent’s behavior from the comfort of wherever you choose to be based. It is a game-changer and makes conducting qualitative research even smarter and efficient. 

Summary

By now, it’s easy to see that organizations that have implemented a continuous discovery process benefit by having communities set up and running. Insights teams can quickly take action and find out what is on their customers mind and get the feedback they need instantly. Digital experiences are optimized and a cross disciplinary research process has been set up and operating well within an organization. The question is not if but when companies start the 5 step process if they haven’t already. It’s far better to start sooner rather than later. 

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  • Dan Fleetwood is President of Research and Insights at QuestionPro, one of the industry's leading providers of web-based research technologies. He has 15+ years of market research experience and is passionate about the role that software plays in helping businesses.

  • Ray has spent the last 40 years at the intersection of research, innovation, and business, having been involved in the development of CAPI, online systems, online surveys, and social media research.