Picture this:
You are sitting in your office the Monday following Thanksgiving break, digging your way through the pile of work related emails that found their way to your inbox over the weekend. You see one from the CEO and CFO that catches your eye.

The subject line reads: New product sales fail to meet projections for second straight quarter.

The body of the message outlines that the initial need for this product line was identified by the Sales Manager at multiple trade shows; but, despite early excitement for a potential product offering, it has not performed as expected. The company still believes in this new offering and is convinced that there must be something behind this failure. It’s clear that they want you—the Marketing Manager—to figure out why this new product that was launched earlier this year, is not the “cash cow” they predicted it would be.

During your initial investigation into this problem, you realize three key things:

  1. Other than some initial field research at a few trade shows, which indicated there was a potential need, no outside research was done to determine how the product would be used, who it would be used by, and if there is value in the add-on services.
  2. Additionally, no outside research was done to establish the price point for the product and the two add-on services that pair with the product.
  3. To make matters worse, only a small portion of the total sales have come through the newly designed website since it launched 9-months ago.

Now what?
You’ve decided to gather information in an attempt to formulate a plan of attack to correct the failed product launch. But, where do you start? First let’s take a look at what each type of research does best.

As Luke Chambers, the co-founder of UX Mastery, summed up, “Market research is primarily about understanding what people will buy. This is useful in the early strategy and planning phases, and when validating designs/concepts. Market research focuses on large samples that must be statistically balanced to give confidence to decision makers. It also tends to give more weight to attitudinal data (what people say about themselves) rather than on specific behaviors in a certain context. It is about broad, generalized information to help steer how a business meets its customers, and how its customers make purchase decisions, how the brand is understood. Its priority is improving the bottom line by understanding customers.

UX research is almost the exact opposite. It’s not about markets, trends, segments, demographics, and less about attitudinal responses. Instead, it looks at how people feel about using a product or service. It is not about generalized data—it’s about very specific, deep-dive information regarding users and their contexts. UX research is valuable for providing direction about how a solution should be designed, and how it meets the needs of users. Sample sizes are much smaller because we’re not dealing with quantitative data that needs statistical accuracy. We’re looking more at qualitative data about what is behind what people say, about what they literally do when given decisions in an interface. Its priority is to improve the user experience, which translates into improved bottom line” (2016).

Since Market Research helps us understand products and demand in a broad context, it can easily answer questions like:

  • Who is the target market? In other words, what type of person or company is most likely to buy your product?
  • What needs does the target market have, and does your product fulfill any of those needs?
  • What other products exist that claim to fill the same need as your product?
  • What price is your target market willing to pay for your solution?
  • How likely is your target market to actually buy your solution?

Alternatively, User Experience can help us understand “the why” and “the how”. For our example, it can easily address questions like:

  • Can our customers and prospects find the new product on the website?
  • How do people typically buy these services?
  • Is the correct information presented to aid in decision making?
    • Is the information understandable?
    • Is there enough information to make a decision?
  • Are the differences in the packages clear?
  • Is pricing find-able, clear and understandable?
  • How can the overall experience be optimized to improve the click to purchase rate?

The solution:
Bottom-line, it’s become clear that the challenge you are facing could benefit from both market research and user experience. Jes Koepfler and Victor Yocco explain this exceptionally,

“User research and market research are different, but they are complementary approaches, cousins if you will. They are not competitive. Use both. Love them both” (2014).

In this case, several phases of research could help answer your questions. It would likely involve:

  • Secondary Market Research:
    • To identify potential competitors and their offering (including price points and target market); then, compare it with your offering.
  • Primary Market Research:
    • To validate the value of your product offering with customers and prospects, identify pain points, explore what products/services they currently use to alleviate the pain points, determine how people typically buy these products/services and evaluate their satisfaction with those solutions.
  • User Experience:
    • To determine what they need to know to make a decision and to discover whether or not your website aids or hinders the decision-making process.

Here’s the thing, though. We all know that the time and budget is not always available for a robust undertaking involving three phases of research and two different groups of participants—including double the cost for recruitment, incentives, survey development, interviewing, and analysis. Plus, with all the work that has already been done to launch this product offering, it doesn’t make sense to start from scratch with your research approach because at this point the focus should be on validating and tweaking the offering and marketing to optimize sales.

In this regard, this is a good example where a large sample size is not necessary to sufficiently learn enough about the topic at hand to make appropriate decisions. As a result, a hybrid approach just might do the trick. The topics are closely aligned and would logically build and play on each other during an interview. There are clear and focused objectives, and as long as you can stay focused on the true research objectives when formulating a research interview, it would be reasonable to approach this problem with one interview that is a mix of market research and user experience.

By having just one interview that mixes both market research and user research, you can gather all the necessary information all at once, without causing too much strain on your participants. Better yet, you can do it affordably and quickly.

“A combined methodology is the best approach. Knowing what they did, what they did not do, and most importantly why, all combine to reveal the true perspective of the audience—the essence of great research.” -Mike Whitson, Chief Research Scientist


Chambers, L. (2016, October 13). Marketing Research vs UX Research. Retrieved November 30,
2017, from http://community.uxmastery.com/t/marketing-research-vs-ux-research/2184/4

Koepfler, J., & Yocco, V. (2014, April 17). User Research and Market Research: A Tale of Two
Awkward Cousins. Retrieved November 30, 2017, from https://ey-intuitive.com/we