User Research vs. Market Research

The latest issue of User Experience (UX) focused on the (dysfunctional?) relationship between market research and user research. Whether working as part of an agency or as an internal practitioner, conflict between the disciplines is a matter of when, not if. Let's consider some of the reasons why this conflict occurs and examine what can be done to mitigate the damage.

The conflict

The root of all conflict is the ego's fear of annihilation, no? Practitioners of both user and market research can feel that their work isn't appreciated by the other camp, i.e., their ego's are being rejected. Does this go beyond philosophical bruising? Absolutely. After all, financial resources (especially for research) are always limited. And like rival brothers, the disciplines compete in the same arena. Both are advocates for the user, yet each has its own very different skill-set and approach. Market researchers tend to value statistical validity based on what people self-report through surveys, whereas user researchers focus on analyzing observed behavior using usability studies and ethnography.

Perhaps market researchers have the upper hand as they're more established professionally and it's hard to argue against statistical validity. (Of course, for those in the know, it's easy to misunderstand the importance statistical "certainty".) For sure, it's a scrappy battle as user research has gained more prominence over the years.

The solution

As the above-mentioned magazine advocates, the solution is to bring the two disciplines together. Combining both qualitative and quantitative research paints a much more complete picture of the user, so arguably the disciplines are actually very complimentary. Of course learning (and thus respecting) both disciplines' methods is no trivial tasks. Math is hard (for many) and qualitative research is at times more an art form than a formula you can memorize.

This cross-pollination must occur, however, since the client does not care about such internal grumblings--they want actionable recommendations. User and market research working together will create a much stronger story and in the end better serve the ultimate client, the consumer.


Angelina said...

Market research and research users are similar to each other, but have completely different purposes. Sometimes they share common goals and to inform others.

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junaid rahman said...

Quantitative data depicts the quality and can be scrutinized, but measuring it precisely is daunting enough; in contrast quantitative data can be easily measured and is depicted in number or amount. analysis of quantitative data

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