Market Research and the Importance of User Experience
Commissioned campaigns, planning, size, review, and reporting were all part of market research in the past. You might see a project coming up in the next few weeks; there would be a design phase, a recruitment phase, and then you'd conduct the actual research (getting lost somewhere on the outskirts of Manchester trying to find a focus group facility or programming a 100-question survey that you'd later regret), drill through a massive pile of data, and then create a PowerPoint presentation to present. You'd have to hope you'd nailed the approach in the first place, because turning it around was like manoeuvring a super tanker.
User Experience Research: The SUP
In contrast, User Experience research is more akin to stand-up paddle boarding: it's simple, inexpensive, agile, empowering, and portable, but it's probably a little scarier. Furthermore, while conventional market research focuses on input from a large number of people, User Experience research focuses on users and how they communicate with products and services in order to customise and enhance the user's experience.
User Experience research is more likely to be fast turnaround, narrower in scope in terms of research goals, and iterative, in that the knowledge gained in one step of research will provide a shift in strategy that can be followed up in subsequent experiences. User experience analysis uses ethnography and real-time behaviour analytics to get close to consumers at their level. What User Experience research does not have in the same way is a strategic ‘view from the bridge' of where you're going and what lies ahead.
Turning the Tide
However, over the last few years, the tides have begun to turn, and the largest of the research efforts are dwindling away in a dry dock somewhere, making room for something a little lighter and more agile.
With an emphasis on smaller research questions and a "move quickly and break stuff" approach, research projects are becoming shorter and faster to complete. Iterative research methods are becoming more common, in which results from previous studies are used to generate new research questions that are more applicable.
Refitting the Ship
However, not only can User Experience analysis activities influence how we conduct Market Research; we must also understand the User Experience of Market Research itself. Customers provide insights into how it feels to be onboard: that is, the user experience of market research itself, in addition to offering input on the product/service/brand that the site is themed around. As a result, we should think about the experience of participating in terms of:
How are people engaging with the research (and, in a perfect future, how would they like to interact)?
Will we get feedback on goods and services more "in the moment" (without getting in the way)?
Can we make it so that participants don't have to give up an hour of their time to complete a long survey on a laptop or desktop when a shorter mobile survey will be much more palatable and applicable and provide instant feedback?
We can see that Market Research can learn a lot from User Experience research and concepts, but that it can also operate alongside UX research (albeit through different channels) to provide us with both a strategic view of markets and an in-depth view of customer engagement.