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  • Dumile Sibindana and Thomas De Ridder

A different approach to conducting research for a modern-day digital business (Part 1)

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The changing consumer dynamics in the digital transformation era have forever altered how we do business. They have called into question why we still use traditional market research methodologies in a digital world. A lot of the market research theory applied by corporates was envisaged to create a bridge between conventional sales and marketing departments in response to changing consumer dynamics (which started during the industrial revolution right through to the emergence of globalisation in the 1960s). However, with the changing tides of how businesses deliver products and services, one can’t help but wonder whether traditional market research systems are becoming obsolete.

As the adage goes: times have changed

Gone are the days when your customers choose to operate in ‘digital mode’ (interacting with your business on its digital platforms) and then revert to traditional ‘offline’ channels. Let’s use banking as an example: How many of us are still keen to walk into branches when we can request the products and services we require on-demand without standing in long queues? The same can be said regarding the quality of the market research information fed from marketing, data analytics and other teams that is siphoned to various other business units in any modern-day organisation with a digital focus. The research needs to articulate a digital strategy.

Picture this for a second. Why should market research be conducted by traditional marketing and strategy teams when it can be combined with UX research? Any business that will survive in the 4th industrial revolution should develop a penchant for a laser-focus on customer experience (CX) on all its digital platforms and touch points. One of the efficient ways to do this is by leveraging the different sources of research in your business and using that as a building block for your digital strategy.

What we’ve seen consulting for big corporates

As Human Insights, we’ve seen that UX and market research are colliding at an incredibly fast pace, and there’s a growing need to absorb the research function into your broader UX environment, particularly with the emergence of digital solutions offered through blockchain technologies and the IoT (internet of things). You can’t isolate market research to one team or division in your business.

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Now, you may ask yourself: which departments should support the market research imperative within your business? Should the function belong to marketing, data analytics, strategy or executive management teams? The answer to this question is less critical. The more significant takeaway should be reframing the traditional stream of market research that permeates your business and incorporating your core UX team with this responsibility. UX teams should play an integral part in how market research is gathered, synthesised and interpreted to inform your business’ digital strategy.

We can expand on market research and draw other insights from analytics, data science and machine learning to form a substantive market research stance as a business. We’ve identified challenges within the big corporates we’ve worked with. One of the most significant is that market research, UX research and analytics insights are often siloed across teams and divisions (due to the often complicated organisational structure of the business). Corporates treat UX research as a separate and often conflicting piece of information when the opposite should be true. A future-ready business would integrate traditional research, UX research, and other research sources from strategy and executive teams. This data must be harmonised to craft a cohesive group digital strategy. Only then can your UX division play an impactful part in your business goals and targets.


Food for thought: As customers increasingly adopt your digital channels, the traditional field of market research becomes irrelevant (on its own). The same applies to UX research as your client’s progressively integrate their omnichannel digital experiences. Harmonise your research approach by incorporating UX and market research (both new and existing) in your business. It can go a long way to improve your digital products and service delivery. Perhaps you can even develop new ones that serve your customer’s pain points or needs.


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