With all due respect to the movie Field of Dreams, the days of “build it and they will come” – whether “it” is a product, service or experience, have passed. Customers, both individuals or businesses, have more power and selection than ever before. Stories of once-strong brands failing are now common occurrences because they don’t meet their customers’ needs or fell prey to disrupters who did so in a better way. The message is clear: we can no longer be prescriptive marketers and remain successful.

Instead, in order to grow and meet our goals, we have to help our customers achieve theirs. The most efficient and effective way we can do this is by understanding who they are, what they care about, what they need and do and why they do it. User research gives us these essential insights by studying user behaviours, needs and motivations. And yet, we still find organisations not making user research a must-have due to misconceptions.

Common User Research Misconceptions and Their Realities

“We know what they want.” Some leaders assume they know what their customers want. Opinion is not a viable operating strategy. If we as brands don’t offer experiences, interactions and products that are of relevance to our customers, our brand will quickly become irrelevant to the market as a whole.

“We have analytics/market research.” Sometimes organisations think they already have enough data. They point to their analytics or say, “we have market research”. While these types of data and insights are important, they aren’t enough on their own. To get the full picture, you need to understand your users goals, needs, attitudes and behaviours, the “why” as well as the “what” and “how”.

“There’s no time/budget.” One of the most common misconceptions is that there’s no time or budget for user research. It far less costly to conduct iterative research then to push something live and have to pull it back. Think of the time and monetary costs associated with building something that fails. Add in those then that occur for fixes you didn’t plan on having to make. There is also the loss of direct revenue because people can’t or won’t use it. And what about the costs associated with the damage to your brand?

“We will need too large of a sample size, and it’s going to be too hard/take too long to get that many participants.” Large sample sizes aren’t always necessary. Usability testing, for example, can be conducted with just five users. Forming customer panels can be a proactive way to have user groups available when needed. And many of the user research tools and platforms offer recruiting services to help obtain participants.

The Ultimate Reality

If you aren’t helping your users accomplish what they need to with ease or efficiency they will leave as soon as the opportunity arises.  Most of us, and the companies we work for, cannot afford to make the missteps that user research prevents. User research is essential in ensuring your company understands what your users need and expect and that what you deliver meets those needs and expectations.

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