The following Insights post is contributed by Kelly Goto – CEO, Founder at gotoresearch and expert JPK Group Presenter.
In a world of smart devices, smart homes, smart cars, and the looming Internet of Things, our ability to understand our customer is becoming ever more challenging. How do we measure both context and usage in this rapidly changing market?
Customers are getting smarter while their behaviors are becoming more complex. Companies today are now faced with a very harsh reality: now more than ever, their products and services must deliver real value. Creating real value requires companies to satisfy customer needs at a deeper, more meaningful level. In the past, it was enough just to understand the what; now we must get to the why in order to discover customer’s needs, perceptions, and actions.
Traditional demographics and market research use focus groups and surveys to uncover broad trends and patterns. This data is a fantastic starting place, and provides background on market segmentation and broad patterns to confirm that specific groups of people actually exist. However, this only tells part of the story. This doesn’t get to the why.
In helping our clients develop products and go-to-market strategies, we’re finding it is not the demographic patterns we end up aiming for. Instead, breaking the customer behavior down into spectrums of activities helps us understand the variances between types of people. We can then develop a better understanding of their pain points, and discover the gaps between needs and solutions.
I’ve been a proponent of one-on-one usability testing for years. But now we’re getting past just usable, because today’s products and services need to deliver more than a usable experience. They need to deliver an experience that truly integrates into the customer’s life. One that brings delight and a sense of mastery—one that is emotional.
There is a Japanese method that is a framework to identify the “wow factor” that an experience must deliver in order to succeed. One example that is often cited is a cup. When a cup doesn’t leak, that is not a wow factor. It is an expectation. The Contigo coffee thermos, on the other hand, is exceptional. It’s a non-leaking mug, and you can throw it into your purse with confidence that it will not spill. That’s quite a different—and fabulous experience.
Many companies are scrambling to discover new ways of finding the answer to “what’s next?” This is a larger strategic question that can’t be answered by running big data clusters or a sentiment analysis. Consequently, we’ve begun to integrate rapid UX research cycles into product strategy as a way to get at the answers to that important question.
The way it works is simple. A question or a hypothesis is framed, and through five or six weeks of rigorous research and analysis, you are able to answer that question. This enables companies to move quickly through business decisions and the information collected allows them to pave it from the direction they were going, or dive deeper into a second cycle to learn more.
The basics of a rapid UX research cycle is as follows:
• Start with a question or hypothesis around a very specific segment of customers or prospects.
• Recruit a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 18 targeted, real, participants in this segment.
• Conduct and record remote or in-person interviews using a well-honed discussion guide that combines open-ended as well as more specific questions.
• Stage interpretation or whiteboarding sessions with your client’s product or marketing teams to understand not just what was being said but what it meant.
• Transcribe the interviews in preparation for in-depth synthesis and analysis. Use an open coding system of cross comparison and group clusters of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs.
Short cycles like this work best when the audience is clearly defined, so the recruiting must be done very carefully. We concentrate our efforts on locking down detailed criteria around a dozen people who we think are using (or might use) a product or service. We then recruit participants and use remote interviews to dive into the questions.
By following this quick cycle of recruiting, interviewing and synthesis, we are then able to determine if a higher level deliverable is needed, if there is enough data to pivot, or if a deeper dive is required. If the hypothesis statement was found to be true and the questions posed were answered, you can create a mental model, journey map or persona clusters.
The trick here is rigor. The process of analysis is tedious and in-depth, and the results are not instantaneous. Yet it’s indisputably faster than traditional research methods. With discipline, what used to take months of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars can be shaved into just weeks, at a significantly lower cost.
Rapid UX research is becoming a quick complement and sometimes a standalone replacement for traditional market research for these reasons and more. Most importantly, it is a powerful tool for discovering the why.
Kelly Goto is the CEO and founder of gotoresearch, the global leader in research-driven strategy and solutions for digital products and connected experiences. Kelly’s 20 years on the digital frontier includes working with Samsung, Hyundai, Sony, Target, Verizon, and Pearson Education. As a motivational and educational speaker, Kelly’s contagious enthusiasm and keen insights have galvanized audiences around the world.