Product research: Common mistakes to avoid and tips for success

product research

Product research is the secret to building products that customers love.  Backed by insights gathered from qualitative and quantitative research, it allows companies to build products that meet customer needs, have a good market fit, and offer competitive differentiation 

Product research is one of the most important steps in the product development life cycle. Done right, it increases the odds of a product’s market success. 

What is product research?

Put simply, product research is a type of marketing research done to understand if a product meets its intended purpose. Based on qualitative and quantitative research, it enables companies to incorporate user-led feedback into their decision-making. 

Product research can be conducted at any point in the product’s lifecycle – from concept to post-launch. It provides insights that contribute to the success of the product by combining user research, market research, and product analytics.

Mistakes to avoid when conducting product research

Conducting research infrequently: The best products are developed with a deep understanding of the consumer and the market, both of which are constantly evolving. However, when product research is conducted infrequently, product teams tend to develop a myopic vision of the market. As a result, companies fail to catch early warning signs and understand underlying issues that impact product usage over time.  

Product research should be a habit – conducted regularly at different stages along the product journey. Doing so allows product teams to develop the right solutions to the right problems, take the right approach to solve those problems, and, finally, refine existing features.

Lack of context: It’s crucial to consider market dynamics while interpreting results and suggesting actions. Numbers are important but so is user feedback, which takes into account consumer needs, current behavior, and motivations. Companies these days have a lot of data captured from Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Omniture, etc. While these platforms tell you what users are doing, they fail to answer why they are behaving the way they are.

Relying on a fixed methodology:  Product research methods vary depending on the type of product, users, and lifecycle stage, as well as your organization’s needs. That’s why methodologies need to be adapted for every situation while taking into account how soon you need to make a decision. It’s common for insight teams to follow best practices outlined in conference talks or blog posts, or to rely too heavily on tools. Research methods should be tailored to the specific needs or projects of an organization rather than following a recipe. 

Keeping a closed mind: Sometimes, product research is conducted with the intention of validating assumptions or biases – where insight teams are just looking be right. Critical feedback could be dismissed, as a result, which gets in the way of truly understanding the customer’s perspective. Instead, insight teams should try to listen to what customers are trying to tell you with the focus on generating insights, not confirming opinions. It allows you to discover serious flaws in the product, see its strengths and decide whether to keep or discard certain features.

Related reading: Product testing research for a global alcohol brand

Tips to get the most from product research

1. Study existing products in the market 

Analyzing available products and alternatives can give you a good idea of who you are competing against. It might seem like your product is perfect, but are there better alternatives available? 

After you have identified your competitors’ products, you need to gather some competitive intelligence so that you can benchmark them against yours. In the case of software products, it involves understanding the underlying technologies used, features they offer, customer feedback (based on online reviews and social media conversations), market positioning, target users, and so on. On the other hand, retail product research can involve analyzing product pricing, descriptions, and customer reviews on popular e-commerce sites. 

Synthesizing this information can help you determine product gaps and how you can differentiate your offering from competitors.

2. Know your customer segment

With thousands of brands vying for consumers’ attention, it’s important to clearly define your audience in order to focus your product research endeavors. Knowing your customer will allow you to ask the right questions that you want your product research to answer.

Identifying the type of consumers who will benefit most from your product is best done by segmenting them by common segment dimensions, such as demographics, psychographics, and behaviors. Once you know who your audience is you’ll be in a better position to focus your product development and marketing efforts, for example, product packaging, price, and features. 

3. Process customer feedback quickly

In the age of speed and time-to-market, companies cannot afford to spend months doing research. Insights derived from delayed research can be too stale for stakeholders to act on.

Thanks to technology-enabled consumer insight tools, you don’t have to spend months to find valuable insights. The use of automated, online, and self-serve systems allows insight teams to obtain consumer feedback faster and cost-effectively than ever before. Furthermore, some of these solutions offer real-time updates that allow users to track study results and access consumer feedback in real-time.

4. Combine analytics with qualitative and quantitative research

Applying analytics can answer questions about how users are using your product from the data trails they leave. Analytics can also inform questions for further product research and relies on behavioral evidence to understand the user. 

While qualitative and quantitative research provides insights by asking questions to your audience, analytics reveals insights based on their actual behavior. This can help confirm insights derived from qualitative and quantitative research. 

Product teams rely on sharp, timely insights to determine the impact of what they are building and be customer-centric.  Our customer insights support product teams across B2B and B2C organizations through a combination of traditional and innovative research methods. Contact us to know more. 

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