Marketing leaders have many tools and approaches to understand users and improve customer experiences. One unsung hero is user research, a catch-all label for varied activities such as surveys, task-based studies, ethnographic studies and low/hi-fidelity testing. (My colleague, Simon Yates, shares a quick intro on these and others in his blog post, “Customer Understanding: How User Research Will Save The World!“)

Digital marketing techniques, especially those used by direct-response marketers, bring additional dimensions to user research. Among my favorites: A/B and multivariate tests to optimize messaging, imagery and more on websites, email marketing messages and digital advertising. In effect, it’s an indirect way of giving users what they prefer to see or hear.

Yet, marketers skimp on user research. Why? Usually because they fall prey to fallacies, such as it takes too much time or costs too much. My colleague, Research Director Jane-Anne Mennella, encounters other missteps as well.  She advises marketing leaders to:

  • Understand the research’s objective to avoid using the wrong research methodology or tools.
  • Conduct both quantitative user research to uncover “what” and qualitative research to understand the “why” and “how.”
  • Commit time and resources to continuous test-and-learn techniques, identifying the best testing team structure (centralized, distributed and hybrid.)

Gartner clients who want to counter common objections to conducting user research and better focus their efforts can check out these reports:


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