Nichola Quail | Insights Exchange


Nichola Quail, Insights Exchange

What's your 30-second elevator pitch? I run a global market research platform that connects business with expert research, data and insights specialists. We solve global issues and commercial challenges through the exchange of collective human intelligence, experience and connection.

Who inspires you the most to be the best you can be as a person? It is hard to pick just one person so I have gone with a theme instead – Rebel Girls. I draw inspiration from women who have done it their own way, are comfortable in their own skin and just ‘Get Sh*t Done’. Think Michelle Obama, Pink, Naomi Simson, Nancy Pelosi, Mary Meeker and of course my beloved Oprah



When did you start your business Insights Exchange and what does it involve? I launched Insights Exchange mid-lockdown in April 2020, but it has been in development for 2 years. I have been in market research for 20 years and an independent consultant for 12 years (running Fresh Focus Research). I wanted to find a way to scale myself and the category.

Insights Exchange is a global network of independent research, data and insights specialists that we pre-qualify and onboard onto the platform. We then connect businesses and brands with the research specialist or team that best meets their research needs, budget, or business problem. It is like the Airtasker or Fiverr of Market Research.

What was your biggest hurdle during COVID-19? I’d love to hear your insight on what you think the most significant challenges business are facing in this pandemic are?
Our biggest hurdle was also one of our biggest opportunities…as some budgets/departments were being cut or downsized, this opened up doors for Insights Exchange to offer a smarter and more cost-effective solution. It has also created interest in what we are doing as more people are looking for professional gig opportunities.

Well we just completed a project for Xero on this so it is close to my heart. The main challenges are:

1. Lack of forecasting by small business and a key understanding of their numbers. Whilst you can’t predict a global pandemic, you should have some scenarios for when unpredictable things happen. I think more businesses could take some lessons from farmers here!

2. Permanent shifts in consumer behaviour, particularly the move to online. Many businesses were taken completely offguard by this and despite ECommerce being a mature category, there were still a lot of small businesses that lost precious time and revenue as they had to pivot and rebuild for an online channel.
3. Cashflow. It’s hard to run a business with no revenue, even with subsidies. Hopefully for some business owners they have enough gas in the tank to rebuild or start fresh post-Covid.

How should businesses use research intelligence to adapt their business to meet the needs of their clients?
Great question

Research intelligence is important to help you navigate a new market, target audience, or deliver a new product/service offering with confidence. Here are 3 ways business can use research:

1.       Understand a new target audience to grow your market and identify how best to reach them and what to say
2.       Size and segment your target market so you know which segments will give you best ‘bang for buck’
3.       Benchmark brand awareness, consideration and purchase to understand the impact of marketing/media campaigns on brand and sales uplift


You have been fortunate to present at some leading conferences and events in your career. You recently participated as a Key Note Presenter on a webcast series “iMedia Online Retail Summit Australia & New Zealand." What are the biggest challenges in presenting via ZOOM?  What is your point of difference in engaging viewers using digital "event" technology?
Good question. With Zoom the main challenge is not being able to use body language to emphasise your points. I try to use a lot of facial expressions. Also, when you are not speaking, you have to keep a neutral expression but also not get caught out with looking bored!

I use a lot of facial expressions, smile a lot and agree with the other speakers so that there is energy coming through the call.

JB Hi-Fi, the electronics retailer, reported a record set of full-year results last Monday, which were significantly buoyed by the pandemic. Sales rose by 11.6 percent. In some retail sectors, they are booming in the Australian economy despite the coronavirus pandemic. In your opinion, what do you think the mood of retail is right now?
Good question. As you mentioned, in some sectors they are having a great run. If you didn’t pivot in time to online or were not prepared, then it is probably not that rosy.
But for those that were either in the right category i.e. home office, grocery, electronics, or changed up their business model, then they will be fortunate enough to leverage this permanent shift in consumer behaviour for the next 10 years of growth from September 2021.

What does life looking outside your business profile? What do you like doing for fun?
I have the nuclear family of hubby Ryf, 2 kids (Izzy 10yrs and Seb 5yrs) and 2 rabbits (Jackie and Ninja). We moved back to Sydney after 10 years in my home town of Auckland. Ryf is Australian and the kids are still Kiwis, but job opportunities brought us back. We are based in a beautiful part of Sydney – Newport where Ryf can surf to his heart’s content. I wish I could say I had a range of amazing hobbies but outside of running a business and a family, there is not much room left over



I walk a lot and catch up on business/motivational podcasts (Glenn Carlson, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Guy Roz – NPR), you will find a lot of personal development books on my bedside table, a cold Chardonnay always in the fridge and when we complete our renovation – the home entertaining will begin again. We ski once a year in Wanaka, NZ, and split the rest of our holiday time between Mangawhai (1.5hrs north of Auckland) with my parents and Anglesea (Great Ocean Rd) with Ryf’s family. So not a bad life I have to say



Is there anything you would like to share? Or anything you’d like to offer help with? I’m so excited to have found my new home at Motive. Before moving in, my temporary office was in my sister’s caravan that we were looking after during COVID. I moved out of Fishburners (Sydney Startup Hub) in the city as wanted to be closer to home.

CUSTOMER/MARKET RESEARCH: I have worked with a range of businesses from start ups to Entestartups would be happy to sit down and help you identify what info gaps you currently have about your market, customers or new product/service offering and how to ask the right questions to get the right answers. Investing in research can provide you with confidence, peace of mind or stop you from making poor or expensive decisions.

Bonus Question: If you were a sandwich, what sort of sandwich would you be? My husband will laugh as I am quite predictable and find comfort in routine. My latest fave is the Chicken Ceaser Wrap from Café Ponderosa. It’s a crowd favourite, likeable, not too adventurous but delicious!


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