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6 Scientific Reasons UX Research Is Worthy of a C-Suite Executive’s Time

As a C-suite executive, you're busy. That said, always make time for UX research.

At some point every executive has been told that good user experience is important to the success of their companies … but how many of them actually take on the responsibility for UX research?

The 2017 UX/CX Industry Report states that 81 percent of executives “agree” or “strongly agree” that user experience (UX) research makes their company more efficient, and 86 percent agree that it “improves the quality of their products or services.”

UX research and the ensuing strategy and product roadmap alignment is a C-suite, hands-on activity. Reading a final report will not yield the same quality of results as actively participating with the research team.

Executives are uniquely positioned to benefit from participating in UX research activities, such as setting overarching goals, joining trained researchers in the field, prioritizing user pain points and identifying product differentiating opportunities. 

Why should C-Suite executives prioritize and participate in UX Research?

Here are six compelling reasons:

1) UX Research Drives Profitability

Let’s cut to the chase: UX research and design, when executed by seasoned professionals, will feed your bottom line. When the right type of UX research is done at the right moment it naturally drives the right design in less time, leading to faster time to market, higher conversion rates, better retention and increased customer loyalty.

What kinds of revenue figures are we talking about, exactly?

Forrester writes that IBM’s adoption of design thinking practices led to “faster time-to-market (which) increased profits by $182,000 per minor project and $1.1 million per major project.

Theresa Neil, founder of Guidea and a Top Designer In Tech, says, “No other approach will give you the most insight to true product innovation and differentiation opportunities than up-front user research. UX research was crucial for creating sustained user engagement in WellDoc’s BlueStar app, the first FDA-approved prescription app for Type 2 diabetes.”

2) You Have a Gap — CX Doesn’t Cover UX 

Perhaps you’re thinking you already have this covered with market research and your CX team – don’t count on that. CX and UX are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

While they may overlap, UX and CX professionals tend to have different backgrounds, separate fields of vision, and though they can work together to create a holistic overall experience, they should have discrete objectives and measurements for success.

Whereas CX focuses more generally on the customer’s relationship to the brand

UX focuses specifically on all aspects of the end user’s experience with a product.

UX research can produce qualitative and quantitative data through a number of different methodologies. UX professionals are experts at designing engaging, efficient products by using data to drive the designs.

3) UX Is Measurable — Set the Success Metrics

Do you know what your users are doing — or not doing, for that matter?

It doesn’t matter how amazing a product is, if people aren’t using it, then it hasn’t succeeded. 

History is full of products which were 100 percent useful, and yet failed, while similar products with optimal UX succeeded enormously. Look no farther than the story of How Wesabe Lost to Mint to see how some rudimentary UX research would have averted the fall. 

Adoption of a product, or lack thereof, has significant consequences.

Experience Dynamics reports that 52 percent of users won’t engage with a company if they have a bad mobile experience using its software. Adoption is also a primary KPI used by Google's H.E.A.R.T. framework in order to assess the quality of Google user experiences.

User experience research allows you to build customer-driven products that are more likely to be adopted by uncovering the needs your customers exhibit, and later, by validating the design meets those needs through user testing. This type of rigorous research and design process removes the guesswork and minimizes risking time, resources or reputation.

4)  Adoption Is Only the First Step — Plan for Retention 

Now you know what your customers want and you’ve tested the designs to ensure adoption will be high, how will you sustain the success of your product after launch?

How do you turn prospects into users, and users into evangelists?

“To ship a feasible, desirable and high-quality product, it is very important to design the product not only for success cases but also include possible failure cases and alternative flows in a user interaction,” writes Alexandra Matz and Panagiotis Germanakos

User research can provide data to build use cases that influence the initial build, future interactions, user support, sales — the list continues. The research will allow your teams to communicate through a single source of truth to serve the current and future needs of your customers.

5) You’ll Enable Future IT Transformation

For a C-Suite executive, perhaps the most interesting aspect of UX research is the insight it provides into future product opportunities and areas for differentiation. These insights, along with the ever-changing technology landscape, make a fertile field for innovation. 

Industry Analyst Maribel Lopez writes, “User experience expectations demand new interfaces. Mobility defined the last era of user experience design with touch, app stores and development for smaller screens.”

Continues Lopez, “Today’s technology enables another realm of experiences that offers conversational and voice interfaces, digital overlays with augmented reality and immersive experiences with virtual reality … Every company needs to rethink how these new interaction models will change their business.”

UX research, specifically rapid iterative testing and evaluation (RITE) studies, are an ideal way to test new technologies in the context of solving real user challenges. And there is growing support for this type of testing — for the fourth year in a row, companies are reporting that user experience research is increasing and expect it to continue to increase.

6) Successful UX Requires C-Suite Leadership and Vision

C-level executives have the benefit of a big picture vantage point.

Sure, they are responsible for driving their teams to meet the goals of the individual organizations, but they also have insight into how the other organizations have to come together to meet overall company goals. 

Effective UX research can be a key binding force that integrates the work, planning, and vision of multiple teams – across product development, marketing and brand, sales and finance.

UX research data tells a story that supports planning, execution, and delivery. It enables multiple teams, often hindered by silo effect, to align for a singular set of objectives. It often takes executive foresight and finesse to make the case for UX work.

Commonly, the most obvious point of entry for UX is an organization’s digital agenda.

Deloitte released a study, reporting, “When it comes to the digital agenda, CIOs can be the most proactive leader in the enterprise. As their organization’s technology leader, the CIO likely has a tremendous opportunity to be a booming voice in the digital discussion. With their disposition to accept risk and confrontation, CIOs who have added business leadership skills to their portfolios can step up and lead their organizations digital efforts.”

Leveraging user research to advance critical objectives has been a well-kept secret by the most successful and competitive C-suite executives. Excellent user experiences drives profitability, promotes product adoption and customer retention, and optimizes organizational interoperability. 

However, this is no longer a secret, and senior executives are now coming en masse to understand that user experience is not only a core executive responsibility, but it is also an essential tool for collecting data to help maintain a seat in the suite. 

Ready to innovate but not sure how to execute? Want to launch an amazing idea as a viable product? Building your own UX team but need an expert guide to get you started and lead the way?

Time to interview UX research firms. It’s a guarantee that your competitors are.

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