NEWS27 March 2024

UX and market research ‘really interlinked', hears conference


UK – User experience (UX) specialists and market researchers have many overlapping skills and there needs to be more awareness of UX in the wider research industry, a panel told the recent Market Research Society CX/UX/MR conference in London.

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Speaking on at the event, Greg Alexander, senior UX researcher at MusicMagpie, said that there are striking similarities between the two disciplines.

“There is a massive amount of overlap,” he said. “There are specialist areas that can put people off a bit. But they’re the skills you can teach most people.

“The basic skills of being a UX researcher are near identical, if not completely the same, to being a market researcher – it’s about communication, empathy, stakeholder management and understanding what clients want and what customers are telling you. At its core, you are trying to achieve the same thing.”

Alexander said that his role often saw him tackle market research problems despite being principally a UX researcher, and that market research skills were useful to have in his main role.

“A lot of research I do now blends UX and market research,” he explained. “Most of the time they are really interlinked – I look at what people are doing online, how they use the website, testing different designs, but fundamentally that is revealing something about your customer, and about their needs, behaviour and who they are.

“You might have to reframe it slightly and you may have to pose it in a different way, but what you are finding out and learning is almost identical.”

In addition, Alexander said, both disciplines faced a battle to be heard within major companies. “There’s often a big gap between how far companies say they value research, whether UX or market research, and how much they use it.”

Katie Utley, lead UX researcher at Sky Betting & Gaming, said that while some core technologies are specialised to UX, many of the same techniques are used in market research. “This is market research – it’s just a small part of it,” she said.

However, she said there was a lack of knowledge in the industry about the role UX plays. “Even in the market research world, I get people who come up to me and ask ‘what do you do’,” Utley added. “It is the same as what you are doing, except I am looking at the product whereas you’re looking at everything and everyone from a market perspective.”

Utley added she was optimistic about the future: “UX is becoming more and more listened to. Which is nice, and you see the results of your research being put into actual customer hands.”

Melissa Hamdoun, senior market researcher at Blinkist, had a perspective as a market researcher adjusting to being in a more UX-focused team, adding that her team had no market research or qual researcher function before she started in her role.

“When I came in, there was some apprehension about whether the two would work together and merge together,” Hamdoun added. “I think we were treating it as a qual/quant relationship, but I think UX researchers are becoming more like a market researcher, and I am becoming more of a UX researcher, and we are meeting in the middle.”

She added that clients often needed educating on when to use UX and when to use market research, and said a key skill is understanding where the different techniques from one discipline could assist in a project driven by the other.

“You have to find a balance between the best in class of market research and you can skim that down without losing the value of it, but make it more relevant within the product environment we’re working with,” she said.

“The stakeholder can get on board because it is closer to the UX they are familiar with.”