Insight driven innovation for B2B markets

Published on: 31st January 2020

Uncovering insights in business-to-business (B2B) markets has many challenges. Recently, we have seen momentum increase towards using more qualitative, stakeholder-led research methodologies to drive innovation. DCA are strong advocates of this approach, which we have used to great effect on a number of complex B2B projects. We attended The Future of B2B Research Conference hosted by the Market Research Society (MRS) to hear more about the latest insight methodologies for tackling new business conundrums. The following are six key observations we made at this event:

1. Meaning, not measurement

B2B companies are used to using big data as a way to understand their customers. However, they are starting to realise that data alone does not necessarily deliver insight. Whilst a wealth of data may be available, interpreting and understanding what the data really means in relation to the customer and product can be tricky. For this reason, there is a greater adoption of qualitative methods to develop richer understanding.


2. Integration of quantitative and qualitative research

In the search for meaning, the integration of quantitative and qualitative methods is becoming a powerful tool. This combination of methods offers a fuller picture of the stakeholder experience through understanding high volume data generated by sources such as mobile phones and devices connected to the Internet of Things (IOT) alongside users’ subjective opinions and observed unmet needs. These two methodologies can be used together in many ways. For example, quantitative data can be used to provide focus for qualitative work, qualitative research can add context to quantitative work, or quantitative research can test hypotheses from qualitative work on a larger scale.


3. Researching like a consumer brand

We are seeing new entrants to B2B markets promoting themselves more like a consumer brand. This is influencing established companies to become more emotive and consumer-centred. Research techniques more commonly seen in consumer research are being increasingly employed in B2B markets because of their ability to accommodate empathy and really understand what people think and feel.



4. Getting a fresh perspective

A key challenge with B2B research is often bringing all the internal and external stakeholders together with their diverse agendas to share and understand the various opinions. To facilitate this process effectively, companies are increasingly utilising external research partners. This can provide a fresh perspective and an independent voice to ease communication and question longstanding views.


5. Continual research through communities

Another interesting change in methodology is the investment B2B companies are making in continual research programmes. Communities and panels are being set up to learn about customers, shifting from a supplier relationship to a partnered model. Communities and panels work particularly well in B2B markets, as they keep hard to reach stakeholders engaged by making them feel listened to, and the continual aspect means research actions can be measured for impact.


6. Find insight in niche places

Companies naturally tend to focus on the customers that bring in their biggest business. However, we are seeing examples where companies are investing in research into the more niche areas of their market. This can help drive more specialist, higher value applications that can disrupt the market.


A final thought

The use of qualitative research methods in B2B is gaining acceptance and growing quickly. Those companies embracing these approaches to gain a detailed understanding of their stakeholders have the potential to develop products and services that address previously unmet needs, allowing for clear points of differentiation that can provide a competitive advantage.


Article written by Dr Charlotte Pyatt-Downes, Design Researcher and James May, Sector Manager – Commercial and Industrial products.