Pharmaceutical companies face numerous obstacles when conducting primary market research in the oncology space. For one, the complex and nuanced clinical data that’s being presented to oncologists can cause decision paralysis, making it difficult for traditional market research to reliably predict future market outcomes. Second, various cognitive biases create a gap between how HCPs respond to a survey and how they actually behave in real life. Third, real-world group decision-making (tumor boards, for example) can’t be adequately mimicked in a one-on-one market research capacity. Lastly, to add to it all, overcrowded markets are creating an overload of research requests directed at the same set of HCPs, which causes survey fatigue and leads to lower-quality responses and lower response rates.


To keep pace with the rapidly evolving oncology market, primary market research needs to undergo an evolution of its own. Pharma companies need to revamp their approach to market research to address emerging challenges and enable their teams to “fast-forward” their insight generation in oncology. The key is to design a market research program that achieves the following: more robust insights, higher quality responses, and agility in delivering the insights to the business when it’s really needed. Here are four steps for companies to consider when building a market research program that physicians will be sure to engage with:

  1. Build with—not for—the customers. The strongest customer solutions are those that are designed with the customer’s input. It’s important to take a market research approach that brings the customer to the design table. Ideating and co-creating with them using interactive activities to get them involved helps generate ideas that will ultimately be used to shape their experiences with pharma. Rapid and iterative prototyping using everyday props, for example, is one fun way of bringing out amazing yet unexpected solutions from a group of customers.
  2. Create debates instead of one-on-one reactions. There’s a social/peer aspect to oncology in which HCPs are looking not just at the data but at their peers to inform decision-making. As a result, a market research approach that captures individual decisions may not be adequate. By bringing customers together, either through carefully designed interactive workshops or e-forums, you’re able to mimic the real-world group thinking environment and effectively predict their collective future behaviors.
  3. Look beyond response entry to gamification. Whether in quantitative or qualitative research, direct questions often fail to capture the appropriate nuances in decision-making. Gamification techniques and non-traditional survey designs help to overcome respondent cognitive biases while making participating in the survey or interview fun for the respondent. In turn, this approach alleviates respondent burden and helps to extract actionable insights.
  4. Integrate into the customers’ lives. The ability to understand customer decision-making is most useful when the data and insights collected is done at the moment that the decision is made. By integrating the market research process into the customers’ lives through the use of 24/7 mobile platforms or breaking a survey into a multiday reflection study, you can get closer to those key moments and gain a more accurate view of the realities of the treatment process.

These are just a few ways to take a more tailored approach to customer insights, one that considers the complexities of oncology and employs design principles to reveal meaningful and actionable insights. There’s a burning need for change, and the change needs to happen now. What are you doing to “fast-forward” your market research in oncology?