|12th May 2016
Clients and non-user experience consultants often ask us, “What is the difference between market research and customer (user) research?” To the uninitiated, the two types of research can look very similar. The process, methodology and skill are usually very aligned. To the market research or user experience expert, however, the objective for each, the resulting data (i.e. market intelligence or design intelligence), and most importantly the insights we seek to gain and how they are used, are very different.
In this article, Head of Customer Experience Elisa del Galdo talks us through how the two types of research differ, and in which situations you would use one over the other.
The intelligence we collect from market research usually has a broad focus, collecting data that identifies customer behaviour in a market. It also identifies demographics, categorising customers into a distinct set of segments so we can more effectively sell to them.
Customer research, based on user experience principles, is more in-depth, collecting data on customers’ experiences and the ‘why’; motivations, triggers, drivers, barriers, and pain points that influence their behaviour. Market intelligence effectively identifies the symptoms that indicate there may be an underlying problem driving customers’ reported behaviour and resulting analytics.
Market intelligence data is very valuable to both marketing and user experience consultants. It indicates where there may be opportunities to further investigate behaviour and needs, using user research to gain insight into where a service, tool, app, or piece of content could be created to solve a problem.
Customer research (sometimes referred to as user experience research) provides the insights that are required to design a solution – design intelligence. This type of research is focused on either:
Both scenarios have the objective of understanding the underlying problems that customers experience; problems that are driving their behaviour, and degrading their experience. This type of research also generates the kind of information needed for the creation of personas and other design artefacts.
A persona is a vivid representation of a customer that encompasses the description of not just their demographic data, but their behaviours, (and what drives those behaviours), their goals and challenges. Personas are used to represent a multitude of customers and their characteristics, in a limited number, so that they can be more easily used as filters to validate design ideas.
They’re often confused with segments, which are primarily used for marketing purposes. Segments represent a statistically significant grouping of real customers who share some characteristics and their relative size in the market. A segment is used to optimise use of marketing resources to ensure they are deployed where they will have the most impact.
User experience experts dig deeper into understanding the behaviours that customers exhibit; determining motivation, triggers, drivers, barriers, pain points, and their goals, challenges, and context. They add value by understanding the actual problems driving customer behaviour (symptoms) and using that understanding to create a solution.
The questions asked during research interviews are specifically designed to elicit meaningful qualitative information from customers. The knowledge gained from research leads to insights that spark innovation, and the creation of solutions that address actual problems and not just the symptoms that customers display.
Only when we have a clear and deeper understanding of a problem can user experience designers have the knowledge and insight required to design effective solutions that are driven by innovation.
Both types of intelligence are essential to the discovery of opportunities and the subsequent further defining of them. They provide an understanding of the customer from both the business and user experience perspective – something that every design in the commercial world must address.
Market intelligence is best placed to drive marketing strategy, which is imperative for the business. Design intelligence is best placed to deliver insights that inform design and foster innovation in the defining of solutions. Together, they make very powerful partners.
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