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What is UX research?

For many organizations, conducting user experience research (UX research) is something that’s completed at the beginning of a big project and left behind post-launch. For others, it’s a bit like spring cleaning. You know you should do it, and it could deliver some large benefits to the brand, but it’s something that’s put off, tentatively scheduled, and rarely executed.

But, for those who carry out UX research frequently, it is a powerful tool for ensuring you are continuously elevating your customer experience and offering value to customers that drives both loyalty and engagement. In this way, a sustained and varied UX research strategy and system framework are essential for aligning your customer experience to your business objectives across departments and workflows in your organization.

At its most basic, UX research focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. When done successfully, it can improve ROI in five key areas.

  1. Increased revenue and conversions—Removing friction from your product and user experience drives greater adoption, deeper engagement, and increased value to users.
  2. Stronger customer loyalty—Greater ease of use and responsiveness to user needs and desires helps build stronger emotional attachments to the brand and product.
  3. Lower operational costs—Well deployed UX research and implementation can help eliminate user problems, support tickets, and service bottlenecks.
  4. Lower development costs—Development efficiency and effectiveness are streamlined with a proper UX strategy. It also allows for systems to be in place to ensure effort and investment are directed to where they will have the most impact.
  5. Bigger, better launches—UX research improves your aim and accuracy in each swing you take in the market, offering a clear view of user needs and desires to guide your product roadmap.

What's the return on good UX research?

While calculating the exact ROI on UX research can be difficult—it is estimated that for every dollar invested into UX, it brings anywhere from $2-$100 in return. Many organizations have looked at the net effect that a consumer-centric research and development approach has on their overall business performance.

Forbes found in 2019 that UX and consumer-centric companies drove revenue 4-8% higher than their industry. Over time, this commitment to UX can help sustain growth.

84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in revenue.

Companies like Rover have been able to increase YOY growth by 20-40% for an entire decade by taking a UX-centric approach, and their most recent research-based beta test generated $4 million dollars in the 3-month pilot.

The level of competition and performance expectations around UX and consumer-centric strategy continues to increase as consumers have more choices that are even easier to explore.

In this competitive and evolving landscape, UX research also helps brands discover unarticulated consumer needs and fill knowledge gaps in the market such as the context of use, challenges, and opportunities.

But beyond performance improvements, customer satisfaction, and increasing revenues, as an executive, UX insights also help ensure alignment between your long-term product and business strategies, and the fundamental goals and desires of your customers. In this, the value of UX is undeniable and exponential in helping future-proof your business.

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The three essential truths of UX research: Start early, start now and request it at every turn.

UX Research Methods

Once your organization understands the importance of UX research, a system must be crafted to support the transformation lifecycle from research to implementation. From conducting research to distilling insights and creating actionable recommendations, the success of the project depends on creating alignment across departments and stakeholders in order to deliver a holistic experience and business outcomes.

When exploring how UX research methods can make the biggest impact on your business, it’s important to consider a number of factors such as time constraints, type of project, maturity of the project, and the top concerns and opportunities you are looking to uncover. Wherever you start, it is important to make sure your UX research team is employing the appropriate approaches for each project phase since different methods can be aimed at different types of insights.

UX research example project phases: concept, development, evaluation.

If implementing a strategic, multi-point UX research initiative across your organization is not immediately feasible, one of the most effective methods to quickly improve usability is to conduct qualitative (think-aloud) usability testing. In this approach, users are assigned specific tasks and goals to accomplish using your product and are observed as they work through the task or goal on a screen share. This open dialogue approach often generates valuable insights for both product and business strategies.

As you ramp up UX to reflect a strong strategy, implementation, and distillation across the organization, a system of efficiency and effectiveness will begin to form. This system is crucial to keeping the momentum behind UX research and maintaining a lean UX workflow.

This UX research system will serve as the framework for your strategy, templates for future UX work, a repository of existing research and insights that can be applied across your organization, and, most importantly, a framework for a culture of continuous improvement built around UX research and a consumer-centric approach.

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