INTERACTIONS.ACM.ORG 68 INTERACTIONS MAY–JUNE2015
FORUM THE BUSINESS OF UX
This forum is dedicated to maximizing the success of HCI practitioners within the frenetic world of product and service design.
It focuses on UX strategy approaches, leadership, management techniques, and above all the challenge of bringing HCI to peer-level status with longstanding business disciplines such as marketing and engineering. — Daniel Rosenberg, Editor
As the definition of UX becomes more and more holistic, there is an increasing opportunity to merge market and user esearch activities
into an integrated process. However,
there is no one-size-fits-all answer for
whether this is a good or bad practice;
it depends on the individual project
context and goals.
Merging the two methods helps
create a complete story for the
product, but doing so requires a good
understanding of what the disciplines
accomplish on their own, and when one
research type is needed over the other
throughout the product lifecycle.
For user research professionals, it is
important to understand the strengths
of market research and what kinds of
insights it brings to the table. This will
help user researchers see how their
field complements market research so
they can determine when to use market
research insights to further plan user
research activities. Furthermore, being
aware of prior market research studies
within a company and utilizing insights
from them can help user researchers
narrate a more comprehensive story of
user behaviors, needs, and motivations.
An important fact to keep in mind
is that neither method is better than
the other: They are complementary
approaches. They are not and should
not be competing with each other
from either a content or political
It does not make business sense to
launch a well-designed product to a
market that has no use for the function
or service it provides. Nor does it
make sense to launch a badly designed
product into a market for which the
user needs have not been thoroughly
validated in advance.
Market research helps answer the
questions what and who—what will
people buy, and who or which groups of
people will buy it?
Market research provides insights
to help solve marketing challenges.
Business questions regarding market
segmentation (identifying groups within
a population), product differentiation
(how is this product different from my
competitors’), product positioning,
and industry trends are impossible to
answer without market research data.
Typical business questions that
market research helps answer include:
• Identifying a potential market for a
• Determining the acceptance criteria
of the product/service, including pricing
• Determining buying patterns—
what population will buy a product/
service based on different variables like
age, gender, income level, location, etc.
• Identifying who the competitors are
and what their key success factors are.
Market research broadly splits into
two types: primary and secondary.
Primary research compiles insights
based on research conducted in-house
or by hiring a market research firm.
Primary research helps you
investigate specific business questions,
such as demand for a particular
product/service your company has
in mind or the reaction to how a
particular product/service should be
packaged or priced.
Secondary research uses insights
compiled by outside sources such as
government agencies, industry and
trade associations, and media sources.
This is easy to find, and much of it
is available for free or at low cost.
Secondary research helps you keep
up with changing industry trends and
how a large section of the population
both behaves and spends money. The
downside of secondary research is
that it is not specific to the business
problem your company is trying to
solve. For example, secondary market
research will tell you how much money
consumers spent buying electronic
gadgets last year. It won’t tell you how
much they are willing to pay for the
new electronic gadget your company is
planning to invent.
Both kinds of research are
important for any business. Secondary
research lays the foundation and
Pallavi Kutty, Move Inc.
Blending Market Research
and User Research Activities
→ Blending market and user
research helps narrate a
more comprehensive story
of user behaviors, needs, and
→ Both market and user
research employ similar
but what they uncover can
be radically different and/or
→ Collaboration between
market and user researchers
ensures you both “build the
right product” and “build the