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Market Research vs. User Research: The Similarities & Differences

market research vs user research

Market Research vs. User Research: The Similarities & Differences

market research vs user researchIn the business world, questions of “who” and “what” and “why” and “how” help shape decisions that hopefully satisfy consumers, secure new customers and improve bottom lines. But obtaining the right information to facilitate those decisions depends on whether or not you’re asking the right questions to the right people in the right ways.

All research is not created equally. Some questions lead to sweeping generalizations and others lead to more precise (and often surprising) insights. At no other time is this more apparent than when researchers contemplate market research vs. user research. Market research is used to understand what people want, and user research is used to understand why they want it. Consider the following information to better understand the nuances of market vs. user research so that you can ask the right questions and get the data you really need:

What is Market Research?

Basically, market research is the process of gathering and analyzing information about a market (either established or projected) so that you can recognize what people want and  know how to give it to them. The data gleaned is typically subjective and dependent on respondents being candid about the ways they exist within a market.

What is User Research?

User research, on the other hand, is much more specific, seeking to gather information that can help you identify how and why people use certain products so that you can design easy-to-use ones that appeal to specific populations. Data obtained during user research studies is usually much more objective, verifying user behavior through real-time observation. 

The Similarities

Both market and user research techniques are used to inform decisions and depend on an accurate awareness of consumers and/or users. Each uses similar methodologies — such as surveys, focus groups, interviews and ethnographic studies — to expose and/or verify facts and opinions that can then be applied on a larger scale. Neither is confined to any particular department or stakeholder group with marketing and product design and executive teams alike using both to generate insight, direct action and, hopefully, maintain growth. 

The Differences

When considering market research vs. user research, the most important distinction revolves around the end results: market research directs business practices, whereas user research directs product design. The implications of choosing one over the other are critical. People don’t know what they don’t know. If you only depend on their own revelations (market research) about what they want and need, you’ll miss vital information that you could have used to address an unmet need and grow your business. Likewise, only observing how people interact with and use one of your products (user research) will do nothing to help you predict market demand or evaluate your competition.

So, What Does This Mean for You and Your Business?

Choosing between market research vs. user research will depend on your research objectives. But whether you want to build a product or improve its function, you still need to assess market demand and make sure the right product is made in the right way for the right people. Thus, it’s quite possible that choosing both types of research will improve your bottom line. Our team at Communications for Research (CFR) has over 20 years experience determining the right questions to ask to get the data businesses need.  Contact us to learn how we can help you match your objectives with a quality study that garners you actionable results. 

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