Supporting Agile New Product Development Requires a Seismic Shift to Agile, Automated Solutions

Susan Vidler, Managing Director, Harris Interactive, UK

To coincide with the launch of Toluna Start — the industry’s first and only end-to-end real-time consumer insights platform — we assembled leading consumer insights professionals from major brands like Facebook, CVS, eBay, Colgate-Palmolive, and many more over the course of three days, to share their critical business needs in the areas of New Product Development, Collaboration, and Brand and Communications Research.  We’re delivering our findings with you in this blog post series.

Consumers have changed this year. But getting a handle on what your target audience wanted and needed a few months ago is not enough to make safe assumptions for new product development today.

Why? Because they’re constantly changing in the face of unprecedented circumstances. And product launch success depends on your ability to keep up. During the first session of Toluna’s Digital Launch Event, we spoke with a panel of insights leaders from brands around the globe. If we could all agree on one thing, it is how crucial agile insights are to making quick decisions to move businesses forward.

  • Mondelez: “I applaud Toluna for taking a more rigorous approach in this space. Some people are saying two weeks is agile and that’s not for me — 12-24 hours is agile.”
  • Premier Foods: “…old methodologies are not able to answer today’s business questions. The shock of the year demanded this of us…to ask different business questions and created the space for agile solutions.”
  • JTI: “Using the Toluna platform (which is very easy to use) we have put agile insights into the heart of the business…because it is very quick, very flexible, and very easy. The business comes to me with a question and 20 hours later they have what they need.
  • Facebook: “One of the most successful things we did in COVID-19 was to set up a community with Toluna focused on small businesses. We made it accessible to all teams so we were able to get over a dozen teams and more than 50 projects covered and we were up and running in two weeks. It was a really strong ROI with a hard to reach audience…we will be repeating this approach.”

Why is agile new product development so important?

During the new product development cycle, critical stops are required to ensure quality decisions are made. Toluna Start’s automated solutions guide you through the cycle at each of these stages:

  • Identifying needs
  • Idea screening
  • Concept testing
  • Product optimization
  • Product testing
  • Post launch

The majority of new product launches fail (you read that right).

If you believe in a product and see NPD through, it’s hard to imagine your new offering failing. It happens when companies mistakenly believe they inherently understand their audience’s needs, preferences, and behaviors.

Inferences or outdated facts are setups for failure. It’s frustrating, costly, and time-consuming. During a year of so much uncertainty, launching a new product without thorough research could be detrimental.

So, what concept will resonate best? Which claims can increase uptake? It takes up-to-date, meaningful data to answer these questions and more.

Here’s why putting data on your side is more important than ever.

COVID-19 has been and continues to be a driver of change. Our personal and professional lives are in flux, and so are consumers’ patterns and preferences. Globally, consumers expect to spend more on products and services such as household cleaning, personal care, healthcare, and beyond.  Conversely, consumers are cutting back in areas as there is a great deal of economic uncertainty and people are consuming products and services in different ways now.

Being able to adapt quickly has also proven critical for brands over the last few months. There’s power in real-world examples, so here’s how clients use insights to make key NPD decisions, fast:

  • Household cleaning providers are testing new claims on existing products to ensure they resonate.
  • Beauty brands are following trends for in-home treatments.
  • Gaming companies are testing new products to meet the increased, at-home demand.
  • Subscription service providers are testing new content as demand increases.
  • There’s also a need for more effective communication around safety measures in many categories. Finding the right balance boosts consumer confidence.

But previous NPD challenges still exist.

Yes, this year has presented business with an unmatched need for agility. But NPD challenges have always existed — and still do. Here are challenges clients often meet across the board, and how we answer them.

  1. Speed: In NPD, it’s almost always crunch time. Templated questionnaires are a major time-saver. One client recently tested 100+ ideas overnight across two markets as part of an agile sprint.
  2. Quality: Thanks to technology, there’s no need to sacrifice quality for the sake of time.  Technology has enabled best practice methodology to be embedded into the solutions.
  3. Ease of use: Again, thanks to intuitive, user-friendly tech, brands are free to spend more time on the project, and less time navigating cumbersome interfaces to access data.
  4. Flexibility: NPD is not a one-size-fits-all process, and neither are our solutions. From additional questions to monadic or sequential monadic design and beyond, flexibility is a built-in service.
  5. Value for money: Businesses are always expected to do more with less, and that’s something we inherently understand. Automation helps control costs, empower businesses, and solve business needs with consistency.
  6. Technology: Cutting-edge tech powers the products and solutions that connect brands with invaluable consumer insights. Like consumer needs, it’s ever evolving and being optimized.

At one point, a key speaker mentioned that we’ve seen 3 years of change happen over the course of 3 months.  The need to bring new products to market quicker remains, but as the speed of consumer change continues to evolve, agility is more necessary than ever.

If you weren’t able to attend Toluna’s Digital Launch Event, you can watch the day one session on-demand here. Stay agile. Stay ahead.


  • agile
  • new products