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    • 11/12/15
    • Technology
    • United Kingdom
    • English

    UX and market research: The future of innovation research

    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 operates 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.

    • 11/12/15
    • Technology
    • United States
    • English

    UX and market research: The future of innovation research

    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 operates 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.

    • 09/28/15
    • Technology
    • Global
    • English

    ROI and UX: the ‘piñata effect’

    Let’s start by stating the obvious: no organization sets out to create a bad user experience (UX). Yet, poor user experiences frequently happen. Enter the Piñata Effect.

    As many of us know about piñatas, they are filled with candy – and everyone wants the candy. Each boy or girl is blindfolded and given a baton, spun in a circle and told to strike the piñata. Sometimes we get a satisfying swing of the bat, hit a leg, and a few candies tumble to the floor. Sometimes the child gets really lucky and busts the belly and all the candy tumbles out. More often than not, the blindfold leads to a big whiff.

    Imagine that the candy is the return on investment (ROI) we are expecting from the product, and the boys and girls swinging the bats are the product/service development team. If we remove the blindfold, our chances increase drastically. We need to remove the blindfold to hit the piñata. As little as possible should be left to chance. How do we do that in delivering great user experiences? We understand the users, their needs, and tasks through user research.

    If we don’t set out to create poor experiences, why do poor experiences happen? Organizations that produce poor user experiences often deliver those experiences without deliberate attention to customers’ needs. Organizations that produce exceptional user experiences deliver those because of their hyper-focus on customers’ needs.

    But why do teams keep the blindfold on? Well, there’s the obvious: arrogance that ‘we already know the users’, unwillingness to commit sufficient resources, lack of executive commitment, and the list goes on. In the context of creating user experiences, we know that user interface design is an intentional act. By that I mean that someone had to decide the features and functions and someone had to decide how to put them all together. These decisions are where there is often a breakdown; the breakdown is often a function of the organization and not the individual. If you’re not actively engaged in a systematic program of user research – reducing the risk and raising the probability of a direct hit, then you’re swinging blindfolded at the piñata. Sure, occasionally, you’ll hit it, but more often than not you’ll just whiff, wondering why you’re not getting the full ROI you’re expecting.

    True customer- or user-focused organizations take off the blindfold. They will have long-term success with products in the market because they have an organization that values the user research needed to ensure successful product and service introduction and integration.

    Robert Schumacher is Executive Vice President of User Experience at GfK.

    • 09/24/15
    • Financial Services
    • Media and Entertainment
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Automotive
    • Consumer Goods
    • Consumer Panels
    • Shopper
    • United States
    • English

    GfK Announces Management Board Changes

    GfK SE announced that Debbie Pruent will retire and be replaced by David Krajicek as Chief Commercial Officer for the Consumer Experiences Sector.

    • 09/23/15
    • Technology
    • Global
    • English

    Who controls the smart home? part 2: The (attempts at the) solution

    In my last blog post, I discussed some of the challenges facing the smart home industry as a whole; specifically the problem of fragmentation among device manufacturers leading a myriad of devices and apps, each controlling a tiny aspect of the smart home. So what are some of the industry’s solutions to this fragmentation?

    Given that a homeowner can buy most of the smart home accoutrement from local home improvement stores, these stores are in a good position to create their own smart home ecosystem. While noble efforts have been made by some of the larger home improvement chain stores to create demo versions of smart homes, the overall execution has been lacking. The user experience (UX) of these apps is typically an afterthought – generally providing a long, unsorted list of devices that it can control.

    Home security firms are also in a unique position to dive head first into the smart home arena, as they already have a connected device in your home with a slick control panel by the front door. Similarly, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), especially those that are now beginning to dabble in home security themselves, already have a foot in the door and could expand their current presence in the home to facilitate the communication of smart home and IoT devices.

    The arena of the smart home is ripe for an enterprising company to develop a solution for centralized control of many devices from a variety of manufacturers in a friendly, intuitive package. Already, companies like SmartThings are developing these kinds of solutions, allowing multiple devices to connect to a single app that is available on a variety of mobile devices.

    In the end, the success of the smart home is going to be decided by the users and their willingness to buy IoT products for their homes. Users need to be involved in the design and development phases so that the manufacturers of smart home products know what users expect the smart home to be and can fulfill those expectations and needs. The smart home is supposed to ideally make home life easier and more efficient, and with the right user input at the right time, adjusting your thermostat and home lighting from halfway around the world can be as easy as, well, flipping a light switch.

    Ryan Carney is a Senior Lead UX Specialist at GfK and can be contacted ryan.carney@gfk.com.

    • 09/18/15
    • Technology
    • Global
    • English

    Who controls the smart home? Part 1: The Problem

    The phrase “smart home” often conjures up mental images of the Jetsons or EPCOT Center where every device easily, seamlessly, and flawlessly talks to every other device in the home. The home owner is then able to sit back and admire how all of their little gadgets complete tasks, share data, and in general make life easier.

    In reality, this is not always the case, especially in the current smart home landscape. Fragmentation of smart home devices and services has become a challenge for the industry. Many believe that this fragmentation is slowing adoption of in-home connected devices.

    For example, in a single connected kitchen, you could have a connected refrigerator from one manufacturer, specialized connected outlets from another manufacturer, and a third manufacturer for your connected light bulbs. To take full advantage of these devices, you would of course need to have apps so that you can control them. In just this one example, you’d have three apps on your phone for just the devices in your kitchen.

    Add to that, your connected thermostat in the living room, connected fire detector in the hallway, connected locks on your front door, and the connected moisture sensor in your basement, and you can easily see how your smartphone now has pages of apps to control your home. This is an issue looming on the horizon for the smart home and Internet of Things (IoT) in general, and could be a major issue in the not-too-distant future for manufacturers if they are not proactively involving users in the design and development phases of new IoT products.

    For those that are savvy enough with their bleeding-edge tech, a DIY approach can fix this. A colleague of mine has a combination of WeMo outlet adaptors, Amazon Echo, and IFTTT rules to automatically control the fans in her home if the outside temperature rises above a specified threshold.

    The DIY approach is not for everyone, however, as it requires the latest knowledge of what is possible with the myriad of services that are out there. Additionally, as one dives deeper into the rabbit hole of smart homes, it can quickly require an understanding of wiring, basic carpentry, and IT.

    So is there a solution out there? In part 2 of this blog, I’ll discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of some of the proposed solutions.

    Ryan Carney is a Senior Lead UX Specialist at GfK. You can reach him at ryan.carney@gfk.com.

    • 09/16/15
    • Technology
    • Global
    • English

    Best practices for using digital ethnographic tools

    As experience experts, ethnographic projects are some of our favorite opportunities to explore everything from the American mediascape to journey mapping patient experiences. For many of these projects, we have leveraged traditional in-home ethnography to gain an authentic look into the lives of our participants. We have worked to splice this established methodology with a dynamic field of research: digital ethnography. To establish this hybrid ethnography, we have paired conventional ethnographic methods with remote digital methods, including a newly minted tool: the GfK Participant Toolkit (PTK). As in any exploratory venture, we have had the opportunity to learn about which methods and tools work well, which work better, and develop best practices in this brand of research. Along the way, we have also learned about the challenges of conducting this type of long-term ethnographic research, and how to overcome them.

    Challenge: Develop a data collection tool that integrates seamlessly into participants’ lives

    For any long-term ethnographic project, we would have to employ innovative data collection methods to retain invested and motivated participants. Our response was to design the PTK, a mobile device loaded with a curated suite of apps, uniquely combined to facilitate engagement and foster stimulating data collection for both researcher and participant. The PTK has become a pivotal factor in our ability to foster enduring participant interest. It has offered valuable opportunity to allow ongoing learning; because of the myriad capabilities baked into today’s mobile devices, the PTK has inspired us to constantly challenge the methods and techniques we typically use in obtaining data.

    Best practices for designing and employing digital ethnographic tools

       

    1. Remote and in-person methods must work in tandem. We learned that the PTK’s remote, asynchronous ethnographic capabilities were also important to pair with more traditional, face-to-face ethnographic methods. While the PTK has been an invaluable tool in helping us rise to meet the roadblocks inherent to both longitudinal and remote ethnographic research, ultimately, there is still no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Engaged participants provide the most valuable data; in order to create and sustain these relationships, researchers need to invest in participants by being with them. Since longitudinal work is difficult to do entirely in-person, the PTK provides a useful surrogate for researchers by allowing continued contact with participants. Furthermore, the PTK, by allowing us to connect to our participants remotely, helps us save on costly travel expenses, while remaining a mere click away.
    2. Video chat is a great way to foster trust between participants and researchers. Despite the need for in-person research, the PTK is an important development in facilitating face-to-face contact and bridging the gap between in-person and remote ethnography. The PTK’s video chat functionalities allow us to meet our participants on multiple occasions, crossing thousands of miles in an instant to be with them. By layering these live sessions into our toolbox, we have been able to become recognizable faces in our participants’ households, thereby gaining an even stronger foothold into the experiences of our participants. Investing in these remote face-to-face interactions works to engage participants on a deeper level, motivating them to provide richer and more thoughtful data. Inspiring participants in this way also reduces participant turnover, and therefore costs to clients.
    3. Long-term projects require flexible technology. Apart from being a digital proxy, the PTK likewise allows us flexibility in innovating data-collection techniques. We have learned that some parts of our suite of research apps were stickier than others; certain apps simply sparked more energized responses from our participants. Because of the remote access allowed by this digital tool, we are able to take a real-time iterative approach to customizing this suite as we explored the new wave of app technology. This has allowed us to remain on the crest of both potential tools and participant interest over the two years we have spent together. Being able to stay on our toes in this way allows flexibility not only in how we engage participants, but how we approach our research goals; the PTK helps us “pivot” in crucial moments, and make strategic reassessments with ease.
    4.  

    These challenges and best practices invite us to not only think about resolutions to these specific hurdles, but also help us better imagine where the limits of digital ethnography might lie. As we continue to explore the possibilities and affordances of cutting-edge technology, we are eager to explore and meet the awesome potential of digital tools in the ethnographic sphere.

    What digital tools have you used in long-term research projects? In ethnography projects?

    Eve Ejsmont is a Lead UX Specialist at GfK and can be contacted at Eve.Ejsmont@gfk.com.

    • 07/22/15
    • Technology
    • Consumer Goods
    • Global
    • English

    What customers actually buy, and why it’s not your product

    Yes, the title of this post refers to your product. That isn’t to say your product isn’t selling. Indeed, customers are out there purchasing your product—but it’s not what they’re buying. What customers actually buy is the experience of using your product. Unless your product was designed for the sole purpose of sitting on a shelf, your customers will take your product home and use it. This experience of product use is what you’ve sold.

    How well have you designed that experience? Neither the product life cycle, nor the customer journey, ends at purchase. On the contrary, it is at this point that things get very interesting. It’s time to examine the quality of the user experience (UX) you have provided for your customers; it’s time to think “out-of-the-box.” Literally.

    The out-of-box experience The out-of-box experience (depicted in the graphic below) is a critical touchpoint of the customer journey, covering the unboxing, product setup, and initial use of a product.

    Creating a positive experience during unboxing involves attention to the package design, product look and feel, and the anticipation surrounding product use. What expectations do customers have as they unbox your product, and will those expectations be met or thwarted during product setup and initial use?

    Product setup typically involves instructions for use (IFU) of some kind. These instructions not only guide the customer through the assembly, installation, or initialization process, but also prepare and guide the customer in the product’s initial use. This first experience is crucial toward fostering the desired attitudes and emotions indicative of product success.

    Each aspect of the out-of-box experience should align with both product expectations and your brand. The good news is that you have a lot of control over how this experience occurs for your customers; you can see to it that the design for the out-of-box experience matches (or exceeds) your customers’ expectations.

    Improve your product’s out-of-box experience By optimizing the out-of-box experience for your customers, you are also more likely to:

    Decrease the number of product returns Reduce the number of calls into your call center (product support or complaints)

    Retain more customers Increase future purchases for other products under the same brand Influence product/brand reputation (social media reviews and word-of-mouth)

    Delight your customers!

    With so much to gain, it makes sense to consider the out-of-box experience for your product. Is it up to your standards? How do you know? If you find it lacking, which aspects of it should you address to have the greatest impact?

    UX research can uncover the answers to these questions. Testing can include in-lab or in-field research to observe users interacting with the packaging and product. An expert evaluation can also reveal pain points. It’s also possible to employ a survey tool, such as the UX Score, which can measure usability, usefulness, and aesthetics and determine the dimensions along which the out-of-box experience is the weakest and strongest, allowing you to focus strategically on the items most in need.

    How well are you able to deliver on what your customers are buying? Attention toward the out-of-box experience can help generate excitement and delight around your product and your brand.

    View our latest webinar recording, How to think “out of the box” about what your customers are actually buying. In this webinar, Flori Manning, PhD, User Experience Design Director for GfK, highlights what organizations stand to gain from optimizing this memorable experience, user experience best practices and how they are applied to product learnability, and the challenges and considerations for package design and instructions for use (IFU) design.

    You can also download our latest white paper How to design great product instructions: Five challenges to overcome. In this paper, we detail these challenges and how to overcome them.

    There are so many ways to connect with your customers with respect to instruction design that yield positive outcomes, including successful product use and how users perceive both product and brand. Read the whitepaper to see what techniques are appropriate for your product’s out-of-box experience.

    For more information, contact Flori Manning, PhD at flori.manning@gfk.com

    • 04/21/15
    • Fashion and Lifestyle
    • Retail
    • Technology
    • Point of Sales Tracking
    • United Kingdom
    • English

    The Apple smartwatch launch: it’s crunch time

    With the hotly anticipated global launch of Apple’s smartwatch only a few days away (April 24th), how do consumers feel about the device, and how many expect to be wearing one anytime soon?

General