Mixed method research practice blends the best of qualitative and quantitative reserach

Research Practice that Starts with Data and Agile Methods

UserStudio believes in a research practice that uncovers not just wants and needs, but truly how a user moves, acts, and reacts in and around a service. Most companies already know a good deal about their customers from existing analytics and market segmentations. As part of our process we try to push research to questions at the edge of where analytics been to fail, into questions of "why" and "how" which get to the heart of customer needs. Data about customers can move us forward to begin to ask the right questions and recruit customers for interviews that push services forward in a customer centered way. Quantitative and qualitative analysis work together in today's ever complex ecosystem of products. We believe strongly in doing research in a agile way that allows us to shift recruitment, research questions, and assumptions as we learn and move forward in a collaborative manner with clients.

During research we are always looking to learn about how a customers flows in and around a product or service. We typically use quantitative data and customer interviews to learn more about existing flows, we don't assume customers only interact with a single product.

Understanding flow is critical to understand how you make an product stick. A "flow" is a set of connected wants, needs, and desires that a user ultimately takes action on. By understanding flow, we place ourselves in the path to create solid  and sustained customer interactions, which in many cases is more valuable.  It is the "flow" that informs us about a user's desires and goals and how to engage the user in a meaningful manner. Fitting into the flow is the holy-grail of a product.

With this in mind, our practice focuses on the most fundamental questions facing companies today: how do I expand my business and attract new customers in an era of extreme proliferation? And, where do I invest development dollars? We integrate seamlessly with companies at any stage of a project, with the research output providing frameworks for design and vision instead of merely listing challenges or providing a user "wish-list" that keeps growing.

"Understanding flow is critical to the success of companies across channels, devices, and services offerings."

As a practice we work with all types of teams and prefer agile research methods, that are primarily ethnographic in nature.  We believe in quality over quantity and therefore we conduct detailed screening of users for research and look to conduct interviews in-situ whenever possible.  We enable trends and patterns to emerge through the research instead of imposing ideas or concepts on users for validation. Of course we start with concepts but our goals are not to simply validate or invalidate features. Nor do we simply want to understand what they like and dislike. We need to understand what they do and why they do it.

Much of what we focus on today is how mobile flow impacts or disrupts the traditional business. Whether it is mobile or fixed, it is all connected to desired outcomes for a customer. Customers adopt the right services to achieve their goals, regardless of device -- it is that simple.  Identifying what is required for services and devices is in fact the goal of research.

A few things about our method:

1. We start with data not necessarily a hypothesis.

Data does not mean we look at data analytics alone, although they are very useful. We synthesize many different data sources and inputs (e.g. market research, stakeholder interviews, release plans) into a conceptual framework of themes.   We cull through all types of data as part of the research practice. Our approach is aligned with Grounded Theory where patterns and ideas emerge from various data points; rather than validating or invaliding theory/hypothesis in the traditional manner. New ideas essentially come from looking at problems anew and distilling users needs into themes and patterns of "flow."

2. Customers don't always do what they say they do

Often we hear that a  "customer said they wanted something" as reason for building a new feature or applications. More often we are finding that companies are engaging with customers, however, the ad hoc feedback from customers can leave teams scrambling to deliver and prioritize. We also find companies are often somewhat disappointed when the next "big" feature didn't have the payoff expected based on client feedback. This typically happens because what customers SAY doesn't equal to what they DO. Research must dig past a customers initial "wants" to understand how it really "flows" in their personal and professional lives.

Digging into the customers daily-flows and ecosystem is imperative to know where a company fits. When a customers says "yes I'd love an app that would do x" we don't just take their word for it. We ask them to show us what they did last on their phone, very often we find out they haven't used a phone app in over a week. This doesn't mean there isn't an opportunity it simply means we need to root ideas in actual user behavior and not in the "wish-lists" of potential customers.

3.  If yesterday was the age of information, today is about trying to attract people's attention. Garnering and maintaining the attention of customers is critical. (more on attention economy)

We understand and don't underestimate what it takes in today's climate of technology proliferation. Companies that underestimate this typically underappreciate what it takes to win customers and also the amount of time a customer is willing to invest in a new service or product.  The time-to-value ratio is constantly ticking in a customer's head, as it is in all of our heads daily. We constantly adjust our views of how to best achieve our goals. A customer's time is the most limited commodity there is. Over looking this fact is a recipe for failure.

Our industry experience and knowledge of the digital market provides us a vantage point from which to view what it will take to: 1) get a customer's attention and 2) maintain it. This is ultimately the greatest challenge of any application or service. We bring a vast knowledge of the industry to our research projects to ensure the value proposition meets customers' expectations based on broader market offerings. To provide strategic guidance to companies, a research firm must blend both competitive positioning with research findings. To privilege one of the other would lead us down the wrong path.

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