When I do talks or trainings, one of the frequent questions I get is When to do qualitative user research? In normal times, I would answer regularly but in the past four months, I have consistently answered NOW. Here’s why.
Up to date User insight should be a foundation of your business model pivot
The very first reason to do user research is that it is the foundation on which to design and build your products and services. If you want to COVID-proof your business model to address the evolving needs of your audiences during the crisis, you'd better get very clear on what they are. And you should do more than scratch the surface. Thorough user research will help you gain a deep understanding of what your users say and do, but also how they feel, what they think, how their pain points and goals have evolved during these challenging times.
Be prepared for abrupt changes that are here to last
The changing needs and behaviours that were brought by a temporary crisis are here to last. For instance, if you look at shopping habits, many people have been buying online more frequently and also shopping less with a higher basket. Consumers' intentions to continue shopping online even when brick-and-mortar stores reopen are being confirmed. According to Mc Kinsey research, "In markets that had moderate online conversion rates before the pandemic, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, e-commerce continues to grow across all product categories".
We can make a strong assumption that the pain and convenience consumers have experienced will continue shaping their behaviours for a while – if not forever. Organisations who deeply understand the shift of their users' needs and adapt quickly will get a strong first mover advantage.
Strengthen the relationship with your clients
User research – even more so when it is qualitative– is a conversation. It shows you care and are genuinely interested in listening to your audience. One of the side benefits is that it will strengthen your relationship with stakeholders. We run a lot of one to one user interviews on behalf of our clients and most people actually love sharing their opinion on their industry and give feedback to improve a service or customer experience. Interviewees can also be kindly asked to volunteer to beta test your next product version or new feature. In the B2B space, user interviews can even be an opportunity to upsell/cross sell your services or get referrals.
People are more available to talk to you
Take advantage of the fact that many of your stakeholders have more time at the moment because they work from home or have been furloughed. Chances are your teams may also have some spare time to dedicate to this activity. And since a lot of this research can be done remotely, there's no excuse not to get started ASAP.
A thought leadership opportunity
Research reports also have a powerful PR potential, positioning your brand as a thought leader and an industry player who had the wisdom to pause, listen to their customers and reflect on how to better serve them. Insight can be presented in a variety of formats – articles, white papers, infographics, events and so forth – which can attract the attention of prospects, clients and media. That's the cherry on the cake.
I hope you are now convinced of the benefits of investing in user research NOW. If you would like to know more about how to structure and run efficient user research, feel free to get in touch.