During product development, considering market and UX research to be interconnected and bringing efforts together into a collaboration – rather than siloing them – highly benefits the quality of the customer journey and user experience of the product from start to finish. This article will take you through what is market research, UX research and the why and how we should combine them for a successful product strategy.
Why should you have a product strategy?
The crux of a product strategy lies in defining the problem that the product is aiming to solve for the targeted buyer persona/s. It also outlines the product’s qualities, its strengths and weaknesses, its relevance to competitors and how its offering differentiates from theirs, and – last but not least – how it will evolve over time. A company whose product is not meeting any consumer needs or does not add value would not last long on the market. By building a product strategy founded on the necessary research, a company can save on resource misplacement or wastage during development and remove any uncertainties regarding the product.
Market research in product strategy and development
Innovation is hard work: every year, 80% – 95% of new products fail. The four pillars of marketing – product, price, placement and promotion – should be centric to product strategy in order for the business to succeed. Knowledge in those four segments is collected via market research, which should provide you with the following insights:
- Your target audience segments and your buyer persona/s;
- Their decision-making process and their buying habits
- Where and how your target audience would look into your product offering, and which competitors are considered as part of their search
- The current level of customer satisfaction when using existing products
- Awareness and need for your product: gaps and pain points not covered by existing products and that needs customers might be voicing
- What trends and patterns influence purchases and converts customers
Market research for product development, much like UX research, also uses customer knowledge to inform the entire process of creating or improving a product and – as the list below shows – it is an ongoing process:
Discovery: At product or feature conception, market research can find market opportunities and provide insights into customer challenges, and ask questions aimed at solving a suspected problem through primary research so that the team can find a way to fill the gap. Carrying out secondary research to collect data about competitors from both external and internal sources is essential throughout all phases, but especially at this phase in order to perceive the product’s standing in the market.
Development: At the development stage, the role of market researchers is to help solidify the product strategy by polishing the pricing strategy, testing advertising and packaging, create innovative messaging based on the brand’s and product’s goals and monitoring ongoing conversations within the targeted audience segments. At this point it would be ideal to create a buzz and curiosity for the product, maybe with pre-order options or a flagship campaign.
Launch Stage: Many times, unexpected surprises are part of the launch, however market research can help gauge better the attitudes towards the product, and continuously measure them once it is launched. Quick adaptation through collection and analysis of data helps ensure a smoother launch and avoid setbacks. Launching the product is only the first part of an ongoing process. Spurring innovation by keeping up with your competition’s product updates shapes the evolution of the product and the marketing efforts for it. Quick, confident decision making in your positioning or messaging while keeping track of your team’s required tasks is essential.
Iteration: At this stage, it is important to gauge business performance based on customer satisfaction, leading to what features are liked, disliked, or need improvement. Monitoring the product’s lifecycle and implementing the necessary changes is what separates successful products from those which failed and were forgotten. Iteration is not intended only for the actual product itself; it might be needed to provide faster service, better reliability, more accessible product knowledge, more value for money and to increase your product’s role in society. These are all ways to add potential customer loyalty by promoting delight among clients and building a community around your product.
Carrying out secondary research to collect data about competitors from both external and internal sources is essential at Discovery phase in order to perceive the product’s standing in the market.Tweet
UX research for product strategy and development
User research analyses and understands user behaviours, needs, and motivations by using observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. It helps identify mental models and patterns across the product’s target audience and prevents basing decisions on assumptions or designing for one user: ourselves. The type of product being designed and developed, the timeline and the available resources and the budget determine the type of UX research methods that should be used.
There are numerous types of UX research methods, such as Card Sorting, interviews, A/B Testing and Usability Testing – to mention a few – however they are all based on the three key methodologies: observation, understanding and analysis.
Observation: Observation is more than just looking at a person carrying out a task; we all have unconscious biases and it is very hard to control their influence what we are seeing. Observing with an unbiased mindset is in fact the strength of UX researchers, as they take notes to later be able to identify patterns across seemingly diverse groups.
Understanding: Mental models are constructs that users build in their minds as to how they interact with different objects in different scenarios, after numerous experiences. A very simple example of a mental model is how we expect a downward facing arrow to produce a drop-down menu of options upon clicking, or expect a football to bounce back when dropped. Being aware of and able to understand these mental models both for real life and for the digital landscape is essential for UX researchers so that they are able to identify them during interviews and testing and see that they are applied to the design.
Like market research, UX research is an ongoing process, wherein you learn more and more as you go along: when possible, do it consistently, iteratively and at all stages:
Analysis: Research is not of much use if a researcher does not extract insights and patterns through analysis in order to inform decision making and propose possible solutions. Analysing the target audience results in personas and behaviours; analysing data results in statistical charts and graphs.
Discovery: At the start of the project, project data is gathered, such as product requirements from stakeholders and the needs and goals of the end users. Interviews are conducted, surveys are collected, and existing literature and data are analysed
Development: at this point UX happens iteratively throughout the design and development process of the product, shifting focus to usability and emotion. At this point usability tests and A/B tests are conducted, and more interviews take place to achieve deeper insight of what the user thinks about the product.
Launch: when it comes to digital products, MVP mindset works best, meaning that the launched product is not some perfect, final version (a successful product is always evolving, therefore it is never a case of reaching perfection) but rather a minimum viable (and testable) version of it. As soon as it rolls out, more interviewing, surveying and testing is carried out, and data continues to be collected and analysed to lead the product to the next stage…
Iteration: This stage is where valuable insights from the information gathered from different UX research methodologies after launch is implemented, re-tested and then the product is geared towards launching again. Every successful product has multiple versions, each one fixing the errors of the one preceding it or even uncovering new challenges to be tackled in the version following it.
Throughout all stages – and it is almost never a linear process – the product strategy the team set out with needs to hold true, but it also needs to be flexible enough to evolve in line with new research findings and the overarching needs of the targeted users
So… what is the difference between Market Research and UX Research?
Both market research and UX research share some of the aforementioned methodologies. They also have in common a wide array of stakeholders, the value of validating and testing concepts before launching to market, understanding and therefore serving the user better over time, and also – very unfortunately – being involved too late in the process the majority of the time.
The strengths of market research lies in identifying opportunities in the market, providing a clear way of how to market the brand and the product (no one will use it if no one knows about it!), building a community around it and devising creative ways on how to expand its reach based on consumer and market data and trends.
On the other hand, UX research takes a narrower, more focused route on the user, based on long hours of observation and testing. It provides reasons as to why the users’ behaviour is shaping the market the way it does, how the users are interacting with the product and their pain points, and how the product can be tailored to fit the users’ evolving needs.
Combining Market research and UX research in practice
While functions might need to be defined and some methods and skills fall more into one area than the other, the line between market research and UX research is increasingly blurring. However it also holds true that the ultimate goal for both teams is to collect customer data to inform better decisions and serve the end user better. In order to achieve successful collaboration between research teams, they must have an understanding of the best ways of combining market and UX research methodologies for the best results.
Keeping both market and UX teams aligned will ensure that your product, the way it is marketed and the experience you are promising (and offering) are truly aligned throughout the whole customer journey. Here are five tips of how to combine market research and UX research in practice:
1. Find the Overlap
Whether it is a UX research team or a market research team, both should have one overarching goal to reach; the main objective always on their mind. There will obviously also be many other secondary goals which might differ from one team to the other, and that is where the overlap can be found.
The line between market research and UX research is increasingly blurring, however it also holds true that the ultimate goal for both teams is to collect customer data to inform better decisions and serve the end user better.Tweet
2. Share your findings
Finding this overlap between the core research objective and other secondary research is done via connections; when a UX person loops in a marketing team member, they can discuss how the research from both end will inform the product strategy from both perspectives, and as they share relevant insights which cover this overlap, they are not only reducing the chance of having information gaps, but they are also saving themselves and their company hours of duplicate work and effort which could be dedicated to further research later on in the product lifecycle.
3. Rethink Generative Research
When researching opportunities, the most frequently asked question is “What problem needs solving?”; the kind of question answered via generative research. However, there are many scenarios where – after applying reverse psychology – it could provide more insights, translated into: “Does this solution have a problem?” To put this in perspective: a project management product might help manage projects perfectly, but when its users are interviewed the company might realise that the product is doing much more than project management; the users might not even use that term to describe it. Discovering the benefits that the product can offer apart from its USP is great especially when it comes to tapping into other markets, adding audience segments to your base or researching initiatives to evolve the product or point it towards a bigger goal.
4. Keep the Product Development Cycle in mind
Whether a UX researcher or a market researcher (or both) it is best practice to plan research requirements alongside the product development cycle.
When it comes to research, the best benefits are reaped only when all insights are shared.Tweet
Market research is centric to developing a successful product strategy with the aim of exceeding your business goals and gaining competitive advantage. UX research has the same weight on the scale of importance, with the key differentiator between the two types of research often being the objective or proactive insights gained by observing users, and uncovering the most impactful insights which many times the users are unable to articulate (or show the opposite of what the users say).
The product strategy and lifecycle can benefit only when the correct method – rather than discipline – is emphasised at the right time. Any kind of correctly executed research gives a voice to the user by avoiding decisions based on assumptions. Only team collaboration can lead to the right product built in the right way: not working in silos but researching and sharing consistently will uncover different perceptions on overlapping tasks and findings, solidifying the decision-making process within product strategy and development.