A Beginner’s Introduction to Product Research

Ask a product manager what keeps him/her up at night and you’re likely to hear about anxiety over how a new product or feature will fare in the market. This isn’t surprising, given how these managers regularly make high stakes decisions about where to invest company resources and they can suffer a high cost for betting wrong. In a world where 85% of new products fail, a certain amount of anxiety is well justified.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Product teams can take advantage of new research technology platforms that use customer feedback to improve the odds. These platforms allow you to ask consumers what they want, before you invest resources building it. They can inform a wide range of important decisions without slowing your time to market or busting your budget.

This blog is the first in a series focused on putting market research, especially via research technology platforms, directly into the hands of product managers. We’ll tell you all you need to know, from how to select an audience to how to write questions that don’t create bias. Here, we begin with an introduction to market research.


Why do market research?


At the risk of stating the obvious, market research tells product teams what customers will buy and how they want to buy it. It’s not a silver bullet that guarantees product success, but it can significantly reduce the risk of a poor product/market fit.

Imagine an insurance company designing a new policy specifically for millennial consumers. The risk of missing the market can be greatly reduced if the company could survey customers that meet the target profile and ask them to stack rank a list of coverages considered for the policy. This is a simple example of the type of customer insight that can inform design decisions before investing resources and introducing a new product.


Why don’t product teams do more research?


If market research is so valuable, then why isn't it more widely used? This is because conventional market research projects are expensive, take a long time to execute, and require personnel with special skills. Most companies would hire an agency to design a custom survey, assemble an audience, collect, and analyze the data. This could cost tens of thousands of dollars and take months to execute, slowing the pace of innovation.

Alternatively, companies may survey their existing customers. But customers don’t represent the broader market, which biases the results. In addition, customer surveys require resources to execute and have notoriously low response rates and turnaround time.


What are research technology platforms?


Research technology platforms leverage cloud computing, AI, and a number of other popular buzzwords to scale human research expertise and automate manual processes. They greatly reduce the cost, skill, and time required to conduct high quality consumer research.

No, we’re not talking about Google Forms or generic survey tools. Research technology platforms are sophisticated systems that automate the task of assembling a qualified consumer audience, formulating questions without bias, executing the survey, and analyzing the results. Best of all, the entire process takes only hours and is far more affordable than traditional full-service market research.

Research technology platforms can inform a wide range of decisions, including:

  • New product idea(s)
  • User interface design
  • Feature prioritization
  • Product naming
  • User discovery
  • Advertising visuals

The tools are used across consumer industries and by companies of all sizes, from start-ups to enterprises. It doesn’t matter whether your product is a physical good or a service, any type of idea can be tested by a customer survey. In fact, most platforms include visual display capabilities that enable you to get feedback on designs, including user interfaces and advertising.


What skills are needed to conduct research?


The beauty of market research platforms is that they enable almost anyone to conduct high quality consumer research. You don’t need a background in statistical analysis or psychology because the platform automates these aspects of the research process.

In most companies, product market research can be directly conducted by the product team, including product managers, designers, and innovation specialists. Research technology platforms may be tailored to their needs with templates and other features designed to collect the specific types of feedback these teams seek.


How does research fit into agile design methods?


Research technology platforms enable product teams to integrate customer feedback into their agile development processes. The fast turn-around they provide is ideal for any iterative development approach. You can use the tool to set objectives for each product iteration and validate the output at its conclusion.

By soliciting continuous feedback, you bring your product to market faster and minimize the risk of wasting resources developing superfluous features.

Product managers can sleep soundly


Research technology platforms are helping to put an end to sleepless nights. They enable you to support your product development decisions with facts, rather than opinions, and increase the chances of market success.

If this introduction has piqued your interest, you can learn more by downloading the Beginner’s Guide to Product Research, which provides a step-by-step process for gathering quality customer feedback. Alternatively, watch this space for the next blog in the Beginners Series for research tips and checklists.

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