NEWS28 February 2020

Are UX and market research merging?

Europe News Technology UK

With user experience (UX) research and market research working more closely within organisations, insights and UX professionals from Sky and WeTransfer, along with others, discussed the issue of whether the two teams should be combined, during a panel discussion at IIeX Europe.

While there are a number of similarities between UX research and market research, there are also some differences. 

Speaking at IIeX Europe in Amsterdam this week, Sarah Jousiffe, head of qualitative research at Sky, said UX research tends to sit with the product teams at the company but that it takes a hybrid approach. She said: “There are a lot of similarities between UX and qualitative but there are nuances in terms of reporting – UX would report back with tests on five or 10 people.”

However, the disciplines are blending, and Jousiffe said the insight department has a role to play in terms of maintaining a close relationship with product teams.

“You can never do all of the testing the organisation wants you to do. It’s down to us having close relationships with the business so they know they can work with a trusted supplier and advisor. Our insight specialists are so closely linked with the product teams themselves, so the insight manager is really critical and helps determine whether it’s UX testing, or qualitative exploration to determine why people do what they do.”

As to whether UX and market research teams will merge more in future, Jousiffe said it depends on individual company cultures. “Knowledge is power and there is a bit of a fight over who owns that power and what version of the truth is more powerful. I think it will stay siloed, but it’s about individuals leading that [relationship]”.

While market researchers are perhaps less comfortable with smaller numbers, UX researchers become more uncomfortable when sample size increases, said Hélène van den Dries, who leads the UX team at WeTransfer.

The company has four or five UX researchers but no dedicated market research team, only a marketing team. “There is definitely a gap, and we currently solve it by outsourcing it (market research) to agencies.”

However, she added: “There is also a lot of overlap between the disciplines – more so than five years ago.” She pointed to the increasing prevalence of ‘quantitative UX researcher’ job titles on LinkedIn as a sign that the two are merging, and predicted the functions will join together more in future.

Discussing the differences between the two, van Dries said: “UX research is often not there to find the ‘truth’ – it’s there to find the thing that will move you forward, and make everyday improvements. Market research is more focused on foundations.”

D’Arcy Rossiter, managing director at Red Isle Consultancy, agreed that the aims of the two disciplines are different – while market researchers tend to focus on the bigger picture, UX research is more about iteration. He said: “We don’t do enough testing and learning, we tend to focus on the ‘big bang’ – having 10 or 15 focus groups across the country and a quant study. UX is smaller, iterative and about development.”

He added: “It just works better if those two teams work more closely.”

Rossiter was previously head of insight at Hive, and said in the beginning, the brand’s approach was to recruit research participants to use the app from the pub. Introducing more rigour and professionalism, including working with a qualitative recruitment agency and paying participants, reduced the pressure on product managers, he said.

Youp van Veen, UX/design researcher at Randstad, said it can be easy for designers to see their own views reflected in user behaviour. “I see the value of getting product managers more involved in research – it makes so much more impact if they see people struggle with the product themselves.”

1 Comment

4 weeks ago

This is the article I wish I'd written! I've been searching for jobs after being a market researcher for many years, but having been a user researcher before that (when it didn't have a name). Thank you so much for balancing up the pros and cons of each and for being so eloquent. You've made my day. I've shared it, hope you don't mind.

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