4 Reasons You Should Invest in User Research Now, Not Later

April 4, 2019

This post was written by Qualaroo team member Sarah Cantu.

Have you ever tried to remember a close friend’s favorite type of sweet treat for their birthday or celebration, only to realize you have no idea what flavors they prefer? In fact, you’ve probably eaten sweets with this person on more than one occasion, only to have no idea what to say when asked about their flavor preferences. You can rack your brain for memories of times you’ve seen them eat something sweet, but still, you come up short.

The truth is that despite the fact that you’ve probably seen them select their flavor of choice before, you probably didn’t intentionally hold on to this piece of information or make a mental note of it, because there was no apparent need to.

This is what passive feedback collection looks like. Without the intentional collection and storage of user data and feedback, it can be easy to lose sight of what our users actually think and feel. You likely see user feedback everywhere: in social posts, in support tickets, and more. But if you’re not intentionally and systematically collecting and using that information, you might as well have never been exposed to it at all.

“Without the intentional collection and storage of user data and feedback, it can be easy to lose sight of what our users actually think and feel.”

User research is the gap so many companies need to fill when making a major decision about an interface, navigation, feature, pricing, or even copy. But trying to gather that information in a scramble or when action needs to be taken soon, is often too late. User research is the missing puzzle piece that can help guide teams in addressing many of their most pressing challenges.

User Research: The Holy Grail

Although the process of user research and user experience have existed for some time now, the function is slowly gaining a seat at the table. In fact, according to HBR, a focus on UX from leadership has only become commonplace in the last few years. Clearly, UX researchers know that they must leverage user insight to create something of value for their customers, but getting executive buy-in for user research can still prove to be quite difficult.

“User research is the missing puzzle piece that can help guide teams in addressing many of their most pressing challenges.”

At Qualaroo, we’ve worked with thousands of clients to automate their user research programs. And one of the most common issues we come across is teams who are well aware of how important user feedback and research are, but don’t allocate time and resources accordingly.

However, we’ve learned that specific, well-timed user feedback can prevent costly mistakes in product design, silly oversights in user experience, and marketing/sales messaging that just doesn’t resonate. So why wait until next month, next quarter, next year? Invest in user feedback collection and strategy upfront for money, time, and effort saved down the line.

Why Does User Research Get Pushed to the Side?

So if user research is so important, why do so many companies feel like they can ignore it? Because as professionals and subject matter experts, we tend to have an inflated sense of how much we understand about our users and their experience.

UX professionals are clearly aware of how much impact user research can have. However, many companies have a difficult time understanding that user research requires additional investment outside of just hiring user experience designers. That’s not to say that UX professionals don’t also fall into these traps. Even as UX professionals, our empathy can really only go so far.

Think about it like this: how many times have you tried to explain what you do to your family members or friends in completely different fields, only to find that they don’t recognize some of the most fundamental terms that make so much sense to you? You can write this interaction off as your audience simply lacking domain expertise, but it’s likely that you just don’t realize how inaccessible the language you are using may be.  

“Your subject matter expertise on your product makes you (probably) the most poorly equipped person to truly empathize with your users.”

As an employee of a company, you spend most of your days reading about, talking about, and thinking about what your product does. This may create an illusion that you know what your users experience, but in an almost comical way, your subject matter expertise on your product makes you (probably) the most poorly equipped person to truly empathize with your users.

User Research: A Timely Matter

To truly improve the user experience, you have to understand it. User research can get you there. If there’s anything we know, it’s that user research requires a sense of urgency. User insights are not just crucial at the prototyping phase or for testing new feature releases, we actually need it at every stage to assess all kinds of business activities effectively.

UX departments tend to be (with good reason) fierce advocates for the user and for gathering user research. Over time, they are slowly gaining a seat at the executive table. Not all companies are there quite yet but that doesn’t mean they should wait to invest in user research. The value of the feedback you receive from your users is monetary, not just an item to be checked off your list.

“The value of the feedback you receive from your users is monetary, not just an item to be checked off your list.”

So how valuable is your user research? Let’s just say that you’re leaving money on the table without it. Here are 4 ways user research can generate more dollars to your bottom line and increase customer longevity.

1. User Feedback for Effective Testing and Social Proof

Testing, Testing, A, B, C….

Testing is an essential element of finding the most effective iteration of your product or website. It’s impossible to know what’s going to resonate most with users or be the most usable without regular testing. User research and feedback is crucial to that process, and there are a number of ways to gather it. A/B testing is one of our favorite methods.

A/B testing consists of isolating and tweaking variables like wording, design, and more in a product or webpage to determine what performs best. It is one of the most tried and true ways to optimize interface designs, and it cannot be accomplished without user feedback.

Learn more about A/B testing with Qualaroo + Optimizely.

User Feedback as Social Proof

Have you ever noticed that just about all brand websites have either a row of customer logos or testimonials weaved throughout their site? This tactic is called social proof and it’s one of our favorite ways to leverage user feedback.

Example of social proof on Instapage’s homepage.

While constructive user feedback is typically the most useful from a product and user experience perspective, complimentary feedback also has a lot of use! When you receive a glowing review from a customer, it helps you pinpoint what features and capabilities are particularly helpful.

Moreover, if you deliver this feedback to your marketing team they will gladly repurpose this information as they’re able to and they’ll have you to thank. You can also let them know that the Content Marketing Institute has consistently reported that case studies are the most effective form of content for late-stage deals. It pays to get user feedback!

According to this report by Nielsen, 70% of shoppers trust online recommendations, even if it’s from complete strangers. So leveraging user feedback on recommendation sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra and through social proof throughout your site can have huge benefits for your bottom line.

“When you receive a glowing review from a customer, it helps you pinpoint what features and capabilities are particularly helpful for your users and serves a dual purpose as marketing material.”

Bottom line: User feedback can be used in A/B testing to improve your user experience and double as social proof your marketing team that will use to inspire trust in your brand.

2.) Get Product Development and Pricing Right.

On the UX team, you’re probably not the primary person responsible for pricing your team. However, you certainly play a role in understanding a user’s perception of the value of your product. User feedback is a critical part of getting pricing right and (by association) product development. To optimize your pricing, you need to understand what the market (AKA your users) can withstand. You need input from your users to be able to determine what your optimum pricing balance looks like.

Leveraging user feedback to test pricing can prevent you from leaving money on the table or potential customers out in the cold.

If pricing comes up (directly or indirectly) during user research, dig deeper. This type of insight is priceless (pun intended). Besides, other departments and your leadership will thank you for looking beyond your immediate responsibilities and providing insight into something that can impact the health of your entire company.

This article from Chuck Liu of Chime, explains how his team used customer feedback to get a better sense of why customers were leaving, and how they leveraged that information to tweak their pricing.

The method Chuck describes is simple, and you’ve probably encountered it yourself. He suggests automating the process of asking users “why are you leaving?” when they are canceling an account. This can be a great source of data for understanding the reasons customers churn. As Chuck points out, this process helped his team identify that pricing is a common reason why customers were leaving and were subsequently able to adjust accordingly.

Cancellation survey example from Birchbox via Appcues.

Even if you run a similar survey and realize that for your team price may not be the most common response, you can find areas of improvement that will likely affect your pricing. Without the effort made to collect user feedback at this critical ‘offboarding’ step, major areas for improvement may never be discovered.

Bottom line: You need user feedback to understand what an optimized pricing model is and why you’re losing customers. Asking for feedback when a customer churns is an easy way to identify potential areas for improvement and improve retention practices.

3.) User Sentiment as a Data Point for Product Development.

Of course, research and feedback are central to cultivating a positive user experience. As you continually refine your user experience, it’s critical that you take steps to measure how those changes impact your users.

If you are continuously conducting user research and collecting feedback, you can map user sentiment trends to any changes you’ve made that impact your product or user experience. For example, customer satisfaction is one type of feedback you should consistently be measuring.

The team at Appcues recommends leveraging user segments when you’re analyzing customer satisfaction data for more specific insights. Not all product changes will impact customers in the same way and this approach will help you better understand the needs of your various user segments.

“If you are continuously conducting user research and collecting feedback, you can map user sentiment trends to any changes you’ve made that impact your product or user experience.”

Not sure how to segment your users? There are lots of different ways you can slice the pie, so to speak. We love the list below summarizing different segmentation categories and what makes them valuable from Daniel Zacarias’ blog.

The sooner you begin collecting user research, the more historical data you will have about your users. By segmenting this user data, you’ll have even more actionable feedback to inform your strategy. The more actionable data you have, the easier it will become to truly understand how product or service changes are truly impacting the experience of your users.

Of course, keep in mind that you may receive negative feedback after making significant (or even not so significant) changes to your product. Resistance to change is common when introducing new features so balance your interpretation of user feedback appropriately.

Bottom line: Segmented user feedback gives you specific data to understand how your product roadmap is affecting your user segments.

4.) User Experience can Impact Your Reputation and Retention Efforts.

User research is critical to understanding and measuring the customer experience. Particularly when it comes to factors like usability and customer satisfaction, you need input from your users that’s collected and organized systematically, to really make an impact. These factors are important if you want to retain customers and attract new ones.

What people think and say about your product matters. For example, word of mouth marketing is important and your reputation can be an intangible asset (or liability). Remember: it’s always cheaper for your company to retain customers than it is to acquire new ones. In fact, a report by Hubspot reveals that consumers indicated that word of mouth is the most widely relied upon source of information when making purchase decisions for software.

The same study also revealed that “49% [of consumers surveyed] reported sharing an experience they had with a company on social media, good or bad.” So keeping an eye on what your users are saying about your brand is important for relationships with current customers and potential new customers. Collecting user feedback helps you keep your finger on the pulse of what the conversation is about your brand.

“Word of mouth marketing is important and your reputation can be an intangible asset (or liability).”

Apart from attracting new customers, user retention should also be a crucial business focus. Happy users who recommend your tool is always the goal. However, the function of UX cannot only be limited to the pursuit of user satisfaction at all costs. The sooner UX professionals get familiar with metrics like Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), the faster UX departments will have a proper seat at the table.

With CAC steadily rising, investing in the customer experience and customer retention efforts can have a big impact on your bottom line. Listening to feedback from your users is an important foundational step to customer retention efforts.

Bottom line: Your reputation can impact your ability to attract and retain customers, so listen to your users and build your user experience accordingly.

Tying it All Together

You may think of user research as something that’s most pertinent to UX. That may be true in many ways, but it has so many applications. Collecting and using user feedback for the benefit of your entire team is a powerful opportunity.

When approached strategically, user research can make a serious impact on your bottom line. From marketing messaging to product development and more, investing in user feedback upfront can improve the performance of several departments and save you a lot of time and money

If you’re ready to get started collecting and activating on user feedback, book a demo with Qualaroo. We can help.

Not sure where to get started with your user research program? Check out our User Feedback Guide.

The Qualaroo team has years of collective experience in user feedback and can help you capture insights that matter – at scale.

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