UX research: making strong brands even stronger, owning the freshest ideas

Author: Yob Dippel, Head of User & Market Insights Emakina NL

Consumer and user research can transform your business. We look at two typical scenarios and how our research methods can help you reach your goals.

We’re often asked why UX research matters. The short answer: if you care about users then you should care about UX research. Seems obvious, right? Why wouldn’t you make an investment into understanding what your users want upfront, before serving them something they might not need? Yet, we often see businesses rushing straight into technical solutions without taking the time to really grasp user behaviour and perceptions.

As the User Agency, we like to say that we don’t work for clients, we work for their clients. Everything we do is about fighting their corner and making their lives easier. We also deeply understand the challenges businesses face to be relevant at every touchpoint. We know you have to stay ahead of any curveball thrown at you, whether it’s a pandemic, an ever-changing society or aggressive competitor. You have to continuously update your user knowledge.

We see UX research as something that should be embedded in every digital transformation journey. It’s not a once-off thing but should be an on-going focus to help leaders form a competitive, future-proof, long-term business strategy. It’s something we use to support core business deliverables, like brand strategy, omnichannel service design and building websites and apps.

So where does UX research usually come in? Let’s look at two scenarios where we typically partner with clients.

Scenario 1: You want to build a stronger brand

Say you have an idea for a new product or want to investigate a new channel. Then you need a big picture view. Simply put, this means we talk to consumers and industry experts, and we make an in-depth study of the market. This gives us a clear view of your customer needs, the competitor landscape, societal changes, trends, possible threats and any opportunities you might be missing.

Take the example of a shoe brand with brick-and-mortar shops and an e-commerce store. It’s considering a premium loyalty programme with a seamless omnichannel experience for shoppers. Here’s what our research will include:

Market & trends research

Using our own market and sector experience (e.g. luxury goods, ecommerce, marketplaces, consumer brands) we find and synthesise existing market information to look for developments, patterns and anomalies. This is used to provide both a current market blueprint and a window into the near future. For our shoe brand, this would include looking at how shoe buying behaviour has changed over the last two years and its effect on the performance of the market.

Competitive analysis

Here we assess the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors to identify opportunities and threats for our shoe client. We look at target audiences, campaigns, innovations, omnichannel strategy, etc.

Understanding consumer behaviour

We find that talking to relevant consumers is still one of the very best ways to gain a good ethnographic understanding. Not just of shopping behaviours but their attitudes, motivations and intentions in a broader sense. For example, why do incentives work? How do people like to be rewarded for their loyalty? [FB1] We also observe people in their real shopping environment and discover how people use a loyalty program in practice.

Expert and stakeholder interviews

Through expert and stakeholder interviews we get internal and external insights on the market. They can share their take on how the shoe industry is developing or what the latest trends in the loyalty space are. We hold workshops with various customer departments (strategy, marketing, purchasing, etc.) to share knowledge and see where opportunities lie.

Content monitoring

Finally, we look at various websites for online reviews and check the sentiment on different social media, or various forums dealing with footwear, footwear brands and footwear fashion. We find out what other footwear/fashion brands are doing for incentive programmes and how these efforts are being appreciated.

As you can see from these examples, the result will be a much richer understanding of the market, key competitors, your brand’s perception and specific user needs.

Scenario 2: You want to validate existing ideas, products or assumptions

Now, say you have a product or idea already for a next-generation loyalty app that you want to fine-tune to perfection. How does a mobile loyalty initiative influence shopping behaviour? Which app triggers will convince a user to use it regularly, spend more or try different items? How easy will it be to see your loyalty status or redeem points for extra discounts or exclusive offers? In this type of research, we test our assumptions:

Usability testing

Here we sit with a customer as they navigate the site or with a product walkthrough to see how easy it is for them to find the shoe they like/need or why they behave (click) a certain way.

Eye tracking

We can also place an eye-tracking device on someone’s head and ask them to consult the website for the latest shoe trends. We then evaluate the website against general and detailed proven rules of thumb that assess the usability of user interfaces.

Heuristic evaluations

With our heuristics evaluation, we study proven rules of thumb, scientifically conducted by third parties. This could be, for example, basket check-out do’s and don’ts of online stores which we can apply in our own design and development.

You can see from the depth of our research that, no matter where you are in your product development process, we can help shape your future. If you want to explore new products, you would focus on understanding your users, the competition and brand perception. If you want to optimise or develop a new feature, then you would deep dive into user behaviour and usability.

If, at the end of a research process, you find out that you’re completely on the right track, then great. You would’ve made a relatively small investment into peace of mind that your user experience is as great as it can be. If there is room for improvement, Emakina can improve your digital assets optimally based on these insights and give users the very best experience.

Need a research partner that lives for the big picture? Get in touch with Yob Dippel (Head of User & Market Insights) today to see how we can strengthen your brand and back your developments with world-class research.

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