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UX and market research: The future of innovation research

by Meredith Paige , 12.11.2015

Recently, a client came to us looking for help in designing a new product to revive their languishing business. Despite offering superior technology, their products were struggling, while a key competitor had been gaining momentum.

We started with an Expert Review of products offered around the world. Our detailed examination of each product’s features returned an expected outcome – our client’s product delivered offered technically superior features than its competition. So, why was their business struggling?

Once we began to look more deeply into users’ lifestyle, needs, and pain points, we began to understand the reason for the competitor’s success – the competitor product’s features addressed a very specific pain point that others weren’t designed to solve.   When we shifted our focus to better understand user pain points, we uncovered a new set of unmet needs that offered opportunities for innovative designs.

This foundational information did not come from a user experience study in isolation– it came from the coupling of market research insight to the experience. A deeper examination of both the user and the marketplace in which the product helps user experience (UX) researchers and designers uncover a wide range of opportunities for improving existing products or designing completely new ones. Starting the design process from this foundational information ensures that we offer users the products and experiences that not only work well but truly meet their needs and fill a white space in the market.

The innovation opportunities offered by a UX plus market research partnership don’t stop there. The world around us is filled with products that were redesigned specifically to address a design failure:

  • Research revealed a popular infant cereal box couldn’t be handled easily in the most common usage situation (while mom is holding a baby). It was hard to open and allowed product to seep out while filling the cereal bowl. It was clear this product needed to be reimagined from the mom’s viewpoint. The manufacturer redesigned the product from the viewpoint of moms’ actual usage experience. An ergonomic container with a flip top and pour spout allowed mom to pour the product with one hand and funneled the product into the bowl resulting in less mess.
  • In the early days of online shopping, shopping carts were difficult to find and navigate. Users commonly left the website with items in their shopping cart. While this abandonment could be attributed to a buyer’s pause, surprisingly, loss of conversion was also due to frustrations with the shopping cart process. In one case, after we researched to understand why users were leaving their carts full, a popular e-retailer moved the purchase button’s location to the top of the mobile site so it would be more easily found. This small design change increased the business revenue additional $500 million per year.
  • Blood glucose meters were initially designed with a small font on the read-out screen and limited functionality. Feedback from diabetes patients indicated the need for additional features and functionality, such as dietary tracking and insulin dose monitoring. Adding these features to blood glucose meters was a natural first step, but targeted UX research also identified companion web and mobile applications that would be better tools for the more advanced functionality. This targeted UX research led to innovations such we mealtime insulin reminders and customizable target glucose ranges with personalized alerts.

These are great examples of successful innovation resulting from the combination of market research insight and user experience design. Ultimately, the future of product design will depend on expertly designing a framework that embeds both market research and UX. Moving out of the silos that separate these research methods and tools will spark incredible ideas and designs that will lead the market.

For more information contact Meredith Paige at meredith.paige@gfk.com.