OPINION24 May 2022

A good experience: the importance of UX

Data analytics Features Trends

Businesses are investing in user experience (UX) research because they recognise that data is critical to building a successful brand, as Tetra Insights’ Michael Bamberger explains.


When pandemic lockdowns hit the economy, I thought UX research would be one of the first items companies cut from their budgets. But I was wrong – so wrong, in fact, that a year and a half later Forbes has listed UX researcher as one of the 25 hottest and fastest-growing jobs on LinkedIn. Research jobs in this space are expected to continue to be in high demand for years to come.

What I didn’t anticipate was digital business strategy undergoing 10 years’ worth of change in less than two years. During lockdown businesses in every industry quickly realised that to survive through public health measures, and throttled in-person activity, they needed to reorient their solutions to prioritise digital customer experiences, as well as adapting to the abrupt shift in behaviour patterns. Millions of dollars began pouring into generative digital user research.

Why research is critical for all types of business
Many firms are beefing up their UX departments: paint company Sherman Williams has a huge user experience research team. Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar also has a large in-house research department. Those companies that have fallen behind in consumer research have inevitably fallen behind in market competition. In some industries, UX research has become so standard that every company in the market is employing its own team of researchers.

Back in the day, product teams would build, learn and then rebuild. That model represents massive cost liability and lost time – which is why it is quickly becoming obsolete. But through generative and evaluative research, companies are taking the learning and rebuilding phases and baking them right into the initial building process, innovating their products multiple times before they ever go live.

Implementing UX research helps brands quickly identify problems their end-users and employees experience when interacting with a digital product. The data gleaned from this research gives developers a deep understanding of their consumer base and helps them quickly implement solutions and smoothe their users’ experience.

Companies can’t afford blind development
The incentives for this kind of research investment are no secret. Firms are eliminating unnecessary risks and generating millions in long-term savings. A new product development initiative for a sizable company can cost upwards of $20 million. That’s a high price to pay for a product that could end up underperforming. Instead, these companies can spend $1 million in UX research on the front end to learn before building.

As a recent example, the CNN+ app took a $300m investment to build and launch, but it only lasted 30 days. This  failure could likely have been identified much earlier through rigorous research and could have perhaps reoriented the offering to be viable.

Your teams will spend less time building the wrong things and instead build on validation, exponentially increasing the probability your solutions are solving the right problems the right way. It’s cheaper to invest in and learn from research than to invest in risky product development.

Onboarding UX research teams
A big fundamental change in research is that most companies are now onboarding their own user researcher teams instead of outsourcing to agencies. This fact is reflected in the high demand for user experience researchers right now. Creating these departments will save money on premiums that agencies charge and also produce better analyses in the long run.

A good researcher can cost a company around $200,000, and with three to five researchers, tooling, incentives, and resources, companies will be investing seven to eight figures for adequate data. A central research organisation within a company can build its own modern agile team (product manager, researcher, developer), something that is a new development over the last five years.

Constantly onboarding agencies is expensive and redundant. It also takes a lot of time for each of them to learn the ethos and workflow of your company. Three research firms starting from scratch have no continuity and hinder your company from building internal institutional knowledge. Quality development, product management work and product marketing are all rooted and nourished through research. With in-house teams, the research never stops and work can build off of existing knowledge and span for decades.

Changing the way we create solutions
Digital products are no longer a secondary initiative or an afterthought. The recent pandemic has made them the primary focus for companies. And customers haven’t lowered their expectations when it comes to getting a smooth and painless business experience.

As such, every digital touchpoint a customer has with a business needs to be reviewed and cultivated. Sources of friction and churn need to be identified and solved. The experience our employees have of managing these products needs to be reviewed as well to ensure quality work environments and lower turnover. UX researchers are making all of this possible and are saving companies millions of dollars.

Michael Bamberger is the founder and chief executive of Tetra Insights