Agile, Automated Market Research Platform Accelerates Insights

May 31, 2018

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

methodify logo a delvina copmanyCan traditional market research keep up with the need for speed in today’s digital environment? Maybe not, if studies are carried out in the traditional way. A new technology platform, Methodify, is helping health systems in our neighbor to the north accelerate the traditional market research process.

Methodify enables organizations to collect feedback and insights from key patient audiences quickly and repeatedly as new concepts are tested and refined. With preset “methodologies” developed by either in-house market research professionals or by experts from respected companies such as Kantar, the platform automates the research process, shrinks the turnaround time without compromising quality, and delivers insights at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.

Steve Mast, president and chief innovation officer at Delvinia

Steve Mast, president and chief innovation officer at Delvinia

“The ability to quickly understand the patient, understand the experience they’re having, their journey to becoming healthier, a lot of the traditional methods to be able to do that are quite frankly out of date,” says Steve Mast, president and chief innovation officer at Toronto-based innovation firm Delvinia, parent company of Methodify.

With lean budgets and a mandate to demonstrate results, healthcare marketers cannot afford to waste scarce resources on the wrong campaign concept or a faulty digital patient experience. Here, we take a closer look at Methodify and see how it helped two Canadian healthcare organizations gather insights throughout the development process, and move forward confidently.

No organization wants to be featured in the media for being out of touch with consumers. Yet even companies with huge media budgets can guess wrong about what will resonate with consumers. Huffington Post called out Pepsi, Dove, Gap Kids, Sony, and others in its article “9 Shockingly Tone-Deaf Ads That Should Have Never Happened.”

When organizations want to test the waters before spending lots of money to launch a brand or develop a new ad campaign, they turn to market research, hoping to eliminate as much of the guesswork as possible. But the game has changed in today’s fast-paced, technology-oriented environment. Even market research industry insiders acknowledge the challenges. A GRIT (GreenBook Research Industry Trends) report revealed that one of the biggest obstacles market research professionals face is dealing with customer expectations:

  • Customers expect insights far too quickly
  • Customers have dwindling budgets for market research
  • Clients want market researchers to find ways to replicate the expensive, high-tech solutions in a low-cost, scalable way

Methodify, with its automated capabilities and affordability, purports to solve these challenges, enabling customers to conduct market research faster and at a lower cost. “The number-one thing that gets everybody excited about this is that we’ve taken a four- to six-week process down to 24 hours,” says Mast. “[Research] that would cost $30,000 to $40,000 we can do for $5,000.” The speed and attractive price point give customers the opportunity to conduct multiple tests and gather feedback over the course of the design process.

From the Methodify dashboard, users can:

  • Choose a research methodology, with names such as Concept Checker, Conjoint, Survey Builder, Multiple Idea Reducer
  • Choose the target audience
  • Upload creative assets if applicable
  • Launch
  • Watch results in real time; full report available in 24 hours depending on complexity
  • Export reports to PowerPoint, PDF, or CSV formats

Case Studies

Healthcare challenges in Canada are similar to those in the U.S. In the two case studies that follow, we see how healthcare organizations used Methodify to:

  • Create a consistent patient experience across a siloed organization
  • Develop tools to help patients manage a chronic illness

St. Michael’s Hospital Case Study

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in Canada, and the cost of diabetes is estimated to be up to $9 billion a year, according to a Canadian government website. [Diabetes is also the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC; the total cost of diabetes in 2017 was $327 billion.] St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto was commissioned to create a diabetes portal with the goal of positively impacting patient behavior.

Patient needs for information vary depending on where they are on their diabetic journeys, and the portal had to reflect the highly individualized nature of the diabetes experience. It also had to provide a convenient, centralized source of relevant information.

Using Methodify’s patient-insight methodology to better understand the needs and digital behavior of patients with Type 2 diabetes, St. Michael’s was able to develop appropriate patient journeys and personas. Based on insights gathered from patients, the recommended solution included:

  • Interactive sessions with a health advisor
  • Curated content and diabetes news
  • Instructional videos and quizzes
  • Education center locater where users could find a nearby site by entering their postal code

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Case Study

Several of CAMH’s divisions – public relations, clinical, research, and education – took the initiative to leverage digital channels to meet their individual departmental goals, but the result was a fragmented experience for patients, and an inconsistent experience on web, social, and mobile touchpoints. 

The Methodify platform enabled CAMH to quickly conduct interviews and test new digital experiences with patients, families, and employees, enabling the organization to develop an actionable digital strategy and identify the desired digital experience for the future.

Democratization of Market Research

Mast notes that Methodify does not have to be housed in the research or marketing department. “Sometimes it’s several departments that will own aspects of the budget,” he says. “What it’s done is it’s completely democratized the idea of doing traditional research.” Companies may also give agency partners access to the platform.

There are currently 15 public methodologies and an additional 17 client methodologies, or products, on the platform. Customers prepay for access, and use up “credits” as they conduct tests using the different research products.

Mast draws a parallel between Methodify’s iterative capabilities and agile software development. “Think of it how Silicon Valley works — big digital companies can very quickly get a version developed, put it out to their audience, and get feedback,” he says. “Now a hospital or organization’s leaders have the ability to tap into this platform to run these very traditional research methodologies in the context of a digital space, so fast-paced, agile, being able to obtain information very quickly.”

Weighing the Pros and Cons

In its white paper The Best-Kept Secret in Health Care Marketing Research, Market Street Research summarizes the benefits of conjoint analysis, a market research technique: “The power of conjoint analysis lies in its ability to find out from your consumers what trade-offs they are accepting every time they make health care decisions.” The same could be said when organizations choose a market research platform vs. a traditional market research approach: Are there trade-offs, and if so, are they acceptable?

Can a technology platform with preset methodologies replace traditional research? Market Street Research specializes in performing customized marketing research for hospitals and providers, and does not use syndicated or “canned” approaches, according to its website. It has an impressive client roster, including some of the biggest names in healthcare: Cleveland Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, Memorial Hermann, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Mass General, among others. It is likely that renowned client organizations such as these have budgets that can support custom market research.

But what if an organization can’t afford traditional research? Is a technology platform like Methodify a viable option? Methodify, for example, is developing a tool to facilitate video interviewing through a mobile device. Will it produce comparable results vs. in-person, one-on-one interviews? What are the trade-offs, if any?

Technology can be viewed as disruptive to traditional market research, or it can be welcomed as a way to enhance and accelerate it. Customer demand for speed and affordability may ultimately be the deciding factor.

Questions Conjoint Analysis Can Help to Answer:

  • We need to rebrand our healthcare services. Who should we target our messages to, and what aspects of our services will have the strongest appeal to these consumers?
  • We are designing a new marketing campaign to attract patients to our orthopedic department. What are our strategic advantages and disadvantages, compared with our biggest competitor?
  • Should we expand our cardiac care department to offer a wider range of services, or should we focus our resources on specializing in a particular area of cardiac care and building our reputation in that area?
  • What postnatal services matter most to our maternity patients? Would they rather have additional recovery time in the hospital, or shorter hospital stays followed by in-home doula services?
  • What pricing structure should we set for our complementary and alternative medicine services, such as homeopathy or acupuncture treatments?
  • We’re having difficulty attracting young people who are moving into our area. What matters most to these patients and why are they going elsewhere?
  • We have a new medical device we’re introducing to the market. What features will be most appealing to potential buyers and how much should we charge for the device?
  • What matters most to diabetic patients who are purchasing insulin and testing supplies online?
  • What kind of information do parents really want to know about our new pediatric services?

Source: The Best-Kept Secret in Health Care Marketing Research

Jane Weber Brubaker is executive editor of Plain-English Health Care, a division of Plain-English Media. She directs editorial content for eHealthcare Strategy & Trends and Strategic Health Care Marketing, and serves as chair of the eHealthcare Leadership Awards. Email her at jane@plainenglishmedia.com.