Supercrunch Blog

Rainer Petke August 16, 2017 Product Management

How to conduct user research like a pro

Do you remember one of the big product research fails in history (which has a happy end, but that’s a different story)? The introduction of “New Coke” in 1985. Even though The Coca Cola Company conducted taste tests among 200,000 consumers which confirmed a superior taste experience in comparison to the traditional recipe, the product failed massively. What went wrong?

The Coca Cola Company definitely investigated one core need in their research: the taste experience. But at the same time the importance of another, less tangible need was neglected: the brand experience.

Here are my 3 tips on how to conduct your user research like a pro:

Tip 1: Client needs first

Taking a look back at the Coke story consumers loved the brand associations with ‘classic’ coke and had a strong bond with the existing brand. Cutting this bond by introducing an inferior new brand image was from my perspective the main reason why new coke could not succeed despite better functional benefits.

What it shows us is, that you can deliver a superior functional/technical product, but as long as the benefits of your product do not address the core needs of your consumers – which may very well not be related to functional benefits – they will not perceive it as being superior and won’t adopt or accept it. This applies to both physical and digital products. So don’t use your product as the starting point; instead always try to understand what the most important needs, wants and desires of your users are first.

Tip 2: Move fast, fail fast, learn fast

An uncomfortable truth about user research is that a proportion of it is conducted to push actions into a specific direction (e.g. top management is convinced by an idea) or to justify decisions which have already been made.

As a product manager responsible for developing an appealing product which requires substantial investments don’t fall into this trap. Do not stick to your product for any other reason than the fact that your customers have a strong need for it. In fact I suggest going one step further. Be willing to kill off your product idea quickly, even if you have already invested time and money (these are sunk costs which shouldn’t impact your decisions anyway). If you don’t do it you will pay for it on a much greater scale later and blame yourself for not having stopped sooner. Don’t be a slow mover who can’t accept failures and is unable to learn from them.

Tip 3: Think BIG, but start simple!

Okay, so you have finally managed to onboard a co-development partner, which, by the way is one of your most important clients. Congratulations! Now this client is asking to implement many features – potentially more features than you can ever implement with reasonable levels of investment.

My tip in this case is to think big and have a comprehensive vision of your product which takes your client needs into consideration. But don’t try to implement all of those features before you go to market. Start with a lean product which focuses on a few SUPER features addressing the core need of your client. Then, during your next iterations, try to find out what must come next to further improve your product; not only for this client, but also for other existing and potentially new clients. This is the art of thinking big, but starting simple.

And guess what? It’s not totally by chance that the tips I am giving you are 3 of our 6 corporate values here at SUPERCRUNCH by GfK. This goes to show you how something as seemingly ‘abstract’ as values can easily be translated into your daily work as a Product Manager and guide your decisions.

Do these tips resonate with you? Get in touch with us and let us know if you agree.