Discovery user research is a method of identifying user goals, motivations and frustrations. It is the first step we recommend to anyone embarking on a new website build:
- Find out what your users want i.e. their online goals
- Decide which goals you are going to support
- Build a user-friendly website that meets these goals
But a website is only one part of your business (all be it an important part) and may not be everyone’s focus. So we consider how else discovery research can be used to answer key business questions.
What should my business do?
When embarking on a new business venture, market research is obviously a crucial step. Is there demand for your product or service? If so, what shape should your offering take?
By talking to some potential users in a round of discovery research you can understand:
- What motivates potential customers
- What information they require
- How they want to consume that information
- How they expect the interact with companies
- Frustrations they have with the current market offerings (and where you might be able to establish a niche)
With this insight, you can make an informed decision of how you are going to position yourself in the market and communicate with your new customers, rather than stumbling through in the dark.
What direction should I take my business in?
Each year, we are told about new trends, behaviours and technologies that will change the way we do things.
Deciding, as a business, which direction you should develop is often driven by internal organisational priorities, rather than customer needs.
Steve Job’s once said, “It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.”
And while we don’t like to disagree with Mr Jobs, we do believe some user feedback can be useful at an early stage of development.
If you have some early ideas that are floating around the business, why not pose them to your customers. Do they resonate? Would they find this new product or service useful? This might help you nuance these ideas and nudge you in a new direction – a direction that will benefit both business and customer.
How do my customers want to communicate with me?
As consumers, we are used to the standard channels of communication – phone calls, email and social media if we really want to get a response. Many businesses now offer a chat function too.
But have you every asked your customers how they want to get in touch with you? And what are their expectations when contact has been made?
This will always be a balancing act with what your business can support. However, if you discover that the majority of your users would prefer a chat function over phone support, prioritise this on your website and divert resources where required.
Discovery research can also help understand customer expectations on response times and human vs automated interaction, which in turn helps build evidence-based service level agreements and possible innovation in customer service delivery.
How should I communicate with my customers?
Of equal importance is how you communicate with your customers.
Marketers, all too often, seem reluctant to speak to customers. Finding out if your communication efforts resonate with your customers or provide genuine value is an important step in evaluating performance. Engagement rates such as email click-through and social media likes or shares, go some way but doesn’t reveal why a campaign might not be working or how it could be improved.
Getting some qualitative feedback via discovery research from users on email campaigns, social media posts or general messaging can help uncover additional needs that are not being met and improvements to the current approach.
Although discovery research is often associated with website development, it's value extends far beyond the digital world. Marketing, business development, customer service and sales all can and should benefit from the insights gained from customers.