Combining UX Research with Market Research

Jeff Sauro, PhD

That’s not what the UX team does!

Most organizations have distinct groups for marketing and user experience research.

And not only are they separate departments, they usually have separate methods and mindsets.

The two functions are often delineated something like the following:

  • Marketing does the quantitative; UX the qualitative
  • Marketing measures branding and satisfaction; UX observes behavior
  • Marketing does segmentation; UX manages personas
  • Marketing concerns themselves with what customers say; UX is concerned with what customers do

This often results in some turf wars on who owns what method and who “owns” the customer data.

While functions need to be defined and some methods and skills make more sense in marketing rather than in UX research, the truth is that the line between market research and UX research is increasingly blurring. Both teams are ultimately responsible for collecting customer data to make better decisions. It’s something I’ll be talking about more in a webinar next week (May 25th, 2016).

The successful researcher, regardless of title, should understand how to combine traditional market research and UX research activities for the best results. The goal of any company is to create a customer. And by extension, the goal of customer (or user) research is to better understand who a customer is and deliver products and services that meet their needs—which should help keep that customer too!

This doesn’t mean that UX researchers should start planning trade-show events, marketing campaigns, or the next conjoint analysis. It also doesn’t mean the market research professional should start running usability tests and performing heuristic evaluations. But it does mean that if you’re in either role, you should understand the tools and techniques that help define what customers think and what they do—and that means blending methods and mindsets.

In principle this means:

  • It’s OK to mix quantitative and qualitative. They are complementary, not competing, methods.
  • Don’t be afraid to use surveys and observation to answer the same research questions.
  • Understand how the user experience affects brand attitudes and vice versa.
  • Measure what people think and what they do, often in the same study.

For organizations where the website represents a major touchpoint for commerce (or is the only point of commerce), it’s even more important for a researcher to mix methods and mindsets.

The following table shows how the market research and UX research activities can be blended to better understand and serve your customers’ needs.

Traditional “Owner” Outcomes Hows/Tasks/Inputs
KPIs: Future Intent, Loyalty, Branding Start with high-level measures of loyalty, future intent, and brand. Use a website intercept or survey to collect data.
Customer Segments/Personas Use surveys, in-depth interviews, contextual inquires, and observations  to understand who the customers are, what they do, how they think, and how they cluster. Personas should build from segments.
UX Quality/SUPR-Q Measure perceptions of UX quality from the same customers as the KPIs using the SUPR-Q by segment.
Top Tasks A few tasks will be the primary reason why customers use a website or product. Find out what those are in a short top-tasks survey.
Measured & Improved User Experience

With the top tasks and users defined, measure the experience with a mix of task and study-level metrics. Use a mix of moderated and unmoderated approaches.


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