Three Ways to Test and Learn Rapidly – and Remotely

It’s never been more important – and challenging – for businesses to embrace a culture of rapid testing and learning. 2020 taught us just how quickly consumer behavior can change. Covid-19 accelerated a shift away from shopping in physical locations to online by five years. And in 2021, consumers say they want more than fast and efficient service: they want a great experience, whether they are banking online or setting up a virtual healthcare appointment. Now, here’s the kicker: not only do businesses need to test and learn from customers in a rapidly changing environment, they need to do so from afar at a time of rapid social distancing.

What’s a business to do?

Here’s what we suggest, based on our own experiences helping businesses succeed during this time of rapid change:

1. Uncover Customers’ Needs the Agile Way

Many brands were in for a shock in 2020 when they realized the research they’d stockpiled on consumer preferences did not work very well in 2020. The solution to not having to rely on old data? Anticipate customer behaviors before they happen. That means tapping into their unstated emotional wants and needs before those inner motivations become purchase decisions. At Isobar, we use a tool called MindSight to study how emotion drives behavior. 

With MindSight, our marketing intelligence team uses a person’s visceral responses to a series of images to identify emotionally-based motivations that influence someone’s impressions and decision making processes. We call this process “rapid response” image selection, which creates direct access to the emotional experience, before someone can edit the response with rational thought. From there, our specialized team analyzes the data and develops key emotional insights and recommendations. Finally, we set up a virtual meeting to workshop customized action plans based on our findings.

The entire process is managed virtually – ranging from the testing of visceral impressions to the analysis. For example, we helped a retailer flag a hitch in a campaign rollout: its audience was responding negatively to a series of ads. Using MindSight, we identified that the brand colors were turning off the target audience and offered guidance to improve the experience. Conceivably, a bank could use MindSight to assess and address customers’ needs ahead of building a loyalty program or online mortgage lending application. There is no limit to the applications.

2. Use Test-and-Learn Tools to Develop New Product Prototypes

The emergence of design sprints in recent years has made it possible for businesses to rapidly test new product ideas with minimal cost and effort. With design sprints, product developers agree on a specific business problem or customer need they’re trying to solve for. To that end, a business could use MindSight to identify a customer need that the business wants to meet. From there, they perform a series of rapid exercises over a period of four-to-five days to refine the idea into a workable product that they test with customers. The outcome is a prototype of a “minimum lovable product,” or the product version that will achieve the most customer love with the least amount of effort. 

Here’s the good news: you can perform design sprints remotely. The old ways of people sitting around a desk and sharing ideas with Post-It notes are gone. 

3. Plan for the Next Business Pivot

As you’re testing and learning along with rapidly changing consumer behavior, you also need to be ready for future waves of change – and trust us, they are coming. We believe businesses everywhere need a new playbook to prepare themselves for those moments when a business needs to pivot. We call this playbook Pivot Planning, which is about developing a readiness for action for when pivotal moments occur, even when you may not know what the ultimate action may be.

Pivot Planning entails, among other things, rethinking the annual plan as a series of smaller pulse checks to ensure that strategies and budgets are course-corrected in response to an unexpected need to pivot. Businesses are using Pivot Planning and realizing benefits from it now. A report from Forrester Research discusses a travel company that worked with Isobar to pivot when the pandemic rocked the travel industry in March 2020. Isobar helped the client in a number of ways, such as adopting a contact-free customer experience and being more nimble with media and customer experience investments. 

Wrapping It Up

The tools exist now to help businesses rapidly test and learn remotely – by uncovering customer needs before those needs turn to action, testing new products and services that meet those needs, and planning for major business pivots with Pivot Planning. We recommend you first identify a problem you’re trying to solve right now and do a pilot test. Don’t wait for change to happen to you. Get out in front of it with these three tools.

Contact Us

To learn how to improve your approach to testing and learning with new customer experiences, contact Asher Wren 

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