Product Research: How Surveys and Closely Related Methods Can Help
Whether you’re hoping to launch a new product to market or extend your existing product portfolio. Whatever move you’re looking to take, there is always an element of risk in product development, which is why the product research stage is so important.
From helping you to shape a product idea and identify any similar products that might be on the market already, to teaching you about what customers want and the best way to develop and advertise your product. Product research is crucial in helping you to assess whether your product is likely to be successful or not, with any tools like surveys and other closely related methods invaluable to this process.
Effective product decisions are made on detailed product research and good data. So, you need to tap into what your customers and the wider market are saying if you’re to make the right decisions. This is where an overview of the product research methods available to you can be really helpful.
Product research methods
It’s useful to point out at this stage that the process of gathering product research data will vary depending on whether you’re looking to launch a completely new product, or simply a product update.
For example, if you’re simply interested in developing new features for an existing product, your product research is likely to be solely focused on product satisfaction. Here you would be interested in knowing about customer needs and pain points, how those needs have changed over time and how users are adopting new features.
The data you got back from this could then be used to decide which initiatives you should prioritise and what to concentrate on within these updates.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to develop an entirely new product, it’s likely that you won’t yet have a customer base or any historical information about user behaviour. In this case, you’ll need to concentrate on learning about your competitors and the existing market your product is likely to fit into.
Here are some potential ways you can obtain this information:
Product surveys are really good for learning how existing and potential customers feel about your product.
To get the most out of them you would need to include questions that reveal what your customers really think of your products. This means covering off areas such as:
- What their current favourite features are
- What most frustrates them
- What they consider to be their most needed improvements
- How all of these aspects compare to that of your competitors
For product areas such as websites and apps, you could also consider running in-product surveys, to see what issues your customers could be struggling with, pairing this with session recordings and heatmaps to get a more complete picture of what’s going on.
Concept testing is another valuable area, which in this case involves testing ideas with your target consumers during your product’s development lifecycle.
The idea here is that through learning how they feel about your product and how willing or not they may be to purchase it, you’ll gain a better understanding about any improvements you need to make to increase its success when it’s finally launched to market.
This is a versatile method that can be carried out online, over the phone or through real-life interviews.
Focus groups are another good option, where a group of individuals, usually no more than around ten is brought together to discuss specific topics. They are great for obtaining a deeper insight into who your audience is, their behaviour and what motivates their buying decisions.
Try to find focus groups of people who already use a product similar to the one you are thinking of developing. Doing this can enable you to identify what the most important features are, anything that might be currently missing and what the optimal price they’re prepared to pay is likely to be.
Such information can help you to better estimate your budget, product development strategy, spending and profit margins. You can also identify the qualities of your product that will make it unique and outbid your competitors.
More information about focus groups can be found on our market research survey types page.
Usability testing and demos
The final area to look at once you’ve created a test model of your product is usability testing.
Typically, this involves a test, where you invite participants to try out your product and its features by getting them to complete typical tasks, while you watch, listen and take notes.
However, this can also include getting them to watch a demo, if you don’t yet have a beta version of your idea.
As with all the areas we’ve outlined, this can be a great way of learning about their experiences.
The best times to perform product research
When it comes to the product research process, there are essentially four key stages of a product’s lifecycle:
Prior to launch
Here your product research should be focusing on what the competitive market is like, any features that are missing but are in demand, and any aspects of your product that you should be prioritising.
Testing and feedback
You’re ready to perform testing, once you have a beta version of your product. This should help you to understand how customers perceive your product or any new iterations, what they like and don’t like, and any further improvements you can still make.
A soft launch involves releasing your product to a proportion of your customer base to monitor how it will work in a “real world environment”. At this stage, you’re unlikely to have any advertising, so the focus of your research should be on usability and value, rather than pricing and market fit.
Following the launch of your product, you need to be focusing on your customers ongoing satisfaction, behaviour and any struggles they may be having.
The product research process
Besides timing, you need to be covering off the right areas in your research too.
With product research, you’re essentially studying users to learn more about their needs and expectations for your product. So, it’s good to start with general information about the competitor landscape, before moving on to areas like pricing, subscription plans and visual design during the latter part of your research.
Analysing your competitive landscape
Any product research should always include an analysis of your competitors' products, audiences, and processes.
While you may be the first to market, you’re likely to have some indirect competition and then some direct competition at some stage. It’s also prudent to do some extra research to ensure there is in fact adequate demand for your product.
The existence of competitors should not always be viewed negatively, as it at least confirms that your market has been validated. However, you will need to come up with ways to differentiate yourself and your product, if you’re to break through all the market noise.
If you’re looking to get started with this and wondering about what sorts of questions to ask, why not try out our competitor analysis survey template.
Evaluate your market size
When it comes to evaluating the potential size of your market, the first part in helping you to determine this is to define your ideal customer. This is because you need to know who you’re going to cater for if you’re to estimate how large that target market is.
To help you with this, you could try running a buyer persona survey, otherwise known as a demographic survey.
Market segment your research
Having got a better idea of who your ideal customers are going to be, you’ll want to categorise them into different segments based on specific characteristics.
Doing this will help you to figure out the most optimal ways of reaching them, meeting their needs and expectations, understanding where they struggle and learning about their goals.
Just as important is to test your product before launching it with a product feedback survey.
From trying our different marketing strategies to different distribution methods and pricing options. You want to try out as many ideas as you can during your product’s earliest development stages, to help you to better understand what conditions your product will thrive in.
The more you know about your customers or who they’re likely to be, the better your product development and advertising decisions. For example, having discovered that you have an international audience, you may decide to make your product or service available in multiple languages.
Besides trying to devise ways of reaching potential new clients, you may also want to find out more about customers who have recently stopped using your product, in order to discover better ways of preventing them from churning.
Similarly, the feedback you gain from running customer surveys, can help you to identify what features your customers believe to be missing from your product, as well their overall levels of satisfaction with what you’re delivering for them.
Automate product research processes
When it comes to your product research and product development, this needs to be an ongoing process, because in today’s world products continue to evolve.
While a solid data collection tool will enable you to keep collecting customer insights, you also need a platform that can make the data collection process seamless and timely.
Fortunately thanks to our automation and integration tools, customers on our Enterprise plan are can automatically trigger survey and collect customer insights at key moments. In addition, customers on this plan are also able to maximise the value of their data insights, as our APIs allow them to integrate and then pass data easily from our survey platform to other essential tools that they’re using.
Segment your results
Product research should never just end when you’ve successfully gathered your data. The final step should be used to fuel product decisions that will have the best chance of improving your product and customer experience and drive growth.
You should base the segmentation of your results on your business goals and your KPIs. This step will help to ensure that your data is not wasted and reaches the appropriate teams. It will also help you to plan short-term and long-term goals, so you know what data you might need in the future.
The benefits of successful product research
While there may seem a lot of areas to cover off during your product research, the many benefits that can be gained from successful product research certainly makes it worth it.
Identify user needs that your product can solve
Through product research, not only will it boost your product innovation, but it will help you to keep your accuracy in check, too. This is because product research helps to ensure the changes you implement actually align with your users’ needs.
Better understand your customers’ pain points and struggles
While the customer insights you can gain through metrics like CSAT and CES are excellent ways of uncovering some key pain points, they are more geared towards customer service than any other aspect such as product development.
For a fuller picture, you need to ensure you’re surveying your customers on the developments they’d like to see. Product research can also provide you with the behavioural data and insights you need to build optimal solutions.
Pinpoint potential wins that will help differentiate you from the competition
When you’re continually researching the market and competitive landscape, it helps you to uncover market gaps that you can fill with new features or products.
Consequently, product research is a tool that can help give you a competitive edge.
Build modifications into your roadmap to successfully hit your KPIs
When you’re conducting successful product research it should make your prioritisation process simpler and more efficient. This will help you to better identify what features users want and which ones would make them consider leaving you for a competitor.
By doing this, you can make sure your roadmap includes the most important changes and your backlog is optimised.
Your product research should be ongoing
Having read about the many areas that product research can help you study and learn from, the different research methods available and the many benefits it can provide, I’m sure most of you will recognise the value of product research in determining your product’s success.
However, it’s not something that can be started and then left. Your product research process should be ongoing, as market conditions change, and other businesses continually evolve their strategies, which is something you should do as well.
Through ongoing product research, you’ll gain the flexibility to stay competitive, as you’ll be focusing on those areas that are most important and in demand from your customers. This will give you the best chance of maximising your product success.