How insight will give you the leading-edge in 2021

January 5, 2021

2020 has been the year of unprecedented change. With uncertainty in day-to-day lives and businesses, insight creates a strategic advantage – it promotes innovation, it acts as an early warning system, it supports businesses to measure successes and allows them to be nimble and make changes swiftly.

The insight uncovered by Explain has benefited some of the largest organisations in the North East – allowing them to be on the pulse of the factors affecting their customers. Research and engagement, and the insight it uncovers, will support your business to succeed in 2021.

What is research and engagement?

At its heart, market research is all about gathering information using different methodologies that can be broken down into two categories. Qualitative research is about investigating and understanding people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and quantitative research is about analysing the numbers behind those thoughts and feelings.

“It’s the combination of the two that really gives you the insights you need,” Kim Davis, managing director, explains. “Market research has become increasingly valuable in recent years as a way of informing decision- making by providing a rigorous evidence base. The role of the researcher is to be given a set of objectives, to go out and find the information relating to those objectives and then to report back on the findings.

“Many of Explain’s clients work in regulated industries where independent market research is a critical business function that must be carried out regularly. In recent years, there has been a big push for these companies
to engage with their consumers continually, and engagement is slightly different to research in the sense that it is a two-way conversation.”

Who are Explain?

Explain is a full-service qualitative and quantitative market research agency based in Newcastle – delivering projects nationally. The team at Explain, make Explain. It is testament to their innovative, intelligent, and dynamic team that 2020 has been a year, where in an incredibly difficult environment, Explain has prospered. Explain’s approach to clients is always one of collaboration, ensuring they deliver best practice solutions with added value. It is such relationships that have allowed them to continue to succeed this year.

The Explain business and team are guided by a four strong management team, led by managing director Kim Davis, with Emma Hopkins and Rebecca Crinson in the roles of research directors and Holly Shiel-Redfern as commercial director. The forward-thinking team committed to a management buyout in 2019 to ensure the continued growth of the agency.

Each member of the management team brings their own unique set of skills and valuable experience. Kim leads in the running of the business and acts as strategic lead and is a critical friend for client projects ensuring all insights lead to action.

Emma has vast research experience spanning 20 years delivering qualitative and quantitative programmes.

Emma oversees several larger client tracking projects and is responsible for Explain’s telephone research centre.

Rebecca leads the client services team providing strategic guidance to ensure that the very best value is achieved from any research budget. With fourteen years’ experience in research and engagement, Rebecca is always looking at how the business innovates and continues to be sector leading in the design of Explain’s research programmes, which led to the development of their successful online community offering.

Holly joined the already successful management team in 2017, bringing her experience of working in, and establishing growing, North East businesses. Holly is responsible for identifying growth opportunities for Explain and supports in the management of the overall business. As a management team, they didn’t expect a pandemic to overshadow their first year as new owners, that said, they’ve guided the team and their clients through a completely unknown terrain. They have designed and developed new solutions to continue to deliver research and engagement, moving all face-to- face research online, and investing in leading-edge new IT systems to support and facilitate remote working.

Emma says: “This year, like many, we faced a significant challenge. We had to ensure we innovated and evolved to continue to meet the needs of our clients, whilst moving our entire team, including our telephone research team, to home working.”

Rebecca says: “Our team is at the core of our decision making, and it was essential to Kim, Emma, Holly and
I that we continued to deliver for our clients whilst prioritising the wellbeing of our team. We think we got this balance right. We are fortunate that a number of our clients have a regulatory requirement to undertake research, and this didn’t change due to the pandemic. We did not need to furlough any of our team, we have continued to recruit, and we have all learnt a lot. We have all certainly been on a journey since March!”

The wider team at Explain all play vital roles in ensuring the business’s collective and continued success.

As an SME business, each and every member of the team has a significant role to play. Explain is made up of a skilled team of over 45 members and includes an in-house telephone research team. A large proportion of the team have grown through the business, on their own personal runways, becoming specialists in qualitative and quantitative research.

Holly says: “When I joined the business in 2017 one of the first things that was evident to me was the true sense of team. The mutual respect, genuine collaboration and sharing of success meant that the business had such a stable platform and foundation upon which to continue to grow.” A great example being the personal runways that the team have.

Bryony Iles and Jeni Lagan, who are research managers at Explain, first joined the business as graduates in 2015 and they now lead significant research programmes for clients including Northumbrian Water and Northern Powergrid.

Jeni says: “Joining Explain as a graduate, I really benefited from working directly with Kim, Rebecca and Emma, it allowed me to build a specialism in research and engagement and exposed me to a range of opportunities to progress.” Charlie Bales first joined Explain in 2014 as a telephone researcher and now fulfils the role of data & insight executive. Specialising in all things data, Charlie provides expert support in the delivery and execution of research. Charlie says: “Working across projects, it is often my role to prepare and analyse data and support the team to deliver insight for our clients. Working at Explain I’ve had the opportunity to work on a range of projects. It’s great to see the story the data tells.”

Why now?

If you currently undertake research and engagement
to support your business planning, then you will understand the benefits and the strategic advantage it allows you to gain. Putting your customers, stakeholders, or employees at the heart of your decision-making means that you are informed, agile, and can make changes that have a positive impact on your business.

If you do not currently invest in research and engagement, now is a good time to start. Most businesses, as we emerge from COVID-19 in 2021, will have a new starting point, a new line in the sand and insight will give you a commercial edge and support your business to succeed.

What next for Explain? They have weathered the COVID-19 storm. Now moving forward, the future is about getting firmly back on the path towards growth in a way that allows the company to retain everything it’s about – trust, reliability and robust market research.

Explain is a market research agency that is committed to creating insightful and dynamic partnerships that deliver powerful and intelligent results. The team is made up of industry-leading qualitative and quantitative researchers, including our 45 dedicated telephone researchers, all with cross sector experience.

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