Understanding The Customer Journey – Part II: User Research

Posted by Taylor Kostal-Bergmann

Most businesses know they should invest in research in order to gain deeper insights about their users. However, many do not know what kind of research will aid them in creating more powerful products and services. Businesses often make the mistake of relying too heavily on data and analytics as well as their own opinions and experiences. They break the cardinal rule of user-centric design: you are not your user.

You are not your user.

This is a concept worth repeating. While it may be a simple one, it can prove to be quite difficult to hold oneself to when designing an experience. The majority of people falsely assume that others will make decisions just as they do when approaching a given situation. This is called the false-consensus effect, and it’s the reason user experience research is essential to every design.

Many businesses start with information about their users from data and analytics obtained through broad market research. This provides quantifiable insight into generalized user segments and their digital, media and product consumption behaviors. While data is helpful, data alone does not tell the full story of a customer’s journey.

Generalized information can be misleading to someone who does not understand the difference between market and UX research. While the data and analytics of market research provide valuable information about the user audience, these big numbers can often outweigh the more specific qualitative insights found in UX research.

In real-life situations where a tight budget or short timeline may weigh on decisions, a business may choose to forego a closer look at their customers’ decision-making process and instead use data extrapolated from existing consumer research. By basing designs purely on data, good ideas can quickly become bad experiences.

Data does not tell the full story of a customer’s journey.

Market research and UX research complement each other by providing insights on specific consumer behavior through the lens of broader data regarding demographics, geographies or socio-economic trends. More and more businesses are beginning to recognize the need for both forms of research and investing in it. So what does UX research capture about the customer journey that makes it so important to a business?

UX research collects comprehensive qualitative and quantitative data that helps explain how and why users uniquely feel and perceive experiences by going directly to the source (the user).

Consider this: when you hold your phone in your hand and open an app, is it immediately useful? How many clicks does it take to find what you’re looking for? Or do you give up before ever finding it?

Alternatively, when you walk into a department store, do you feel anything? Is it cool? Is it lame? Would you tell your friends about this store? Or did you turn around the moment you walked in?

Intentional design decisions enrich a consumer’s experience and encourage specific behaviors, such as increased spending purchases or greater engagement with brands once thought to be out of one’s price range.

By understanding user perceptions of a brand, product or service, strategists and designers can synthesize research insights to identify and guide specific opportunities for their designs. This process usually involves both of the following techniques:

Secondary Research – An analysis of existing research

Primary Research – Research completed by a UX researcher, strategist or designer from one of the following dimensions:

  • Attitudinal vs. Behavioral
  • Qualitative vs. Quantitative
  • Context of Use

*This may also include user testing to establish a baseline for how users currently do something.

At GS&F, we validate these insights and then supplement them with additional data about the audience segment or specific user. This allows us to create rich personas to help guide design.

By investing in UX research, businesses can gain deeper, more specific insights into user behavior that will aid them in creating more powerful products and services.

Personas are usually based on differentiating characteristics of how or why a portion of an audience segment uses a product or service. From there we begin creating a customer journey map based on how each persona navigates an experience using a product or service by establishing step-by-step stages a user will go through to complete the end-to-end experience.

In the end, this information can inform everything for a brand from media planning and business objectives to design and execution of marketing campaign concepts. By investing in UX research, businesses can gain deeper, more specific insights into user behavior that will aid them in creating more powerful products and services.

The next and final release of the series “Understand The Customer Journey” will dive into what a customer journey captures and how the customer journey may be leveraged to gain a deeper understanding of an experience in order to identify opportunities for design.