Product-Led Organisations Redefine Research

Product-Led Organisations
Redefine Research

By ANDI MASTROSAVAS

Customer research, performed continuously in product-led organisations, is used to identify pain points, uncover problems worth solving, and validate assumptions.

Undertaken proactively, rather than as a result of an unforeseen consequence arising, mixed methods research has emerged as a dominant practice.

No longer esoteric, product-led organisations have been integrating quantitative and qualitative research methods for some time now, and the benefits of combining both types of data are increasingly understood.

Example - Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD)

During the R&D phase of a new SVOD service, quantitative data of video usage metrics and surveys were analysed to help define the target customer at launch. The analysis uncovered an underserved segment of voracious viewers; teenage Hispanic males.It showed they watched significantly more hours of video content per day than their female counterparts.

If the research had ended there, with purely quantitative data driving decisions,an expensive phase of content creation and acquisition would have centred around this demographic. However, combining this data with rounds of focus groups helped to explain why this disparity in viewership existed.

What emerged from the candid discussions were persistent, familial gender roles that meant teenage Hispanic females attended to more domestic duties, such as caring for younger siblings, cooking family meals, and tackling an uneven share of housework. They weren’t inherently less interested in watching videos, they just didn’t have as much time.

This qualitative understanding forced a re-examination of the quant data which found that teenage Hispanic females, despite their time constraints, were actually more highly engaged viewers. They were more likely to obsess over certain shows and stars, consider themselves fans, and watch an entire series over a random collection of user-generated videos online, as their male counterparts were primarily doing.

Had the service been ad-supported, targeting teenage Hispanic males would have made economic sense; the more time a viewer has to watch, the more ads they can be served. But SVOD has different audience dynamics. Retention is more important than watch time, and part of churn prevention is exclusive content that attracts highly engaged viewers. These findings redirected the content strategy towards a different target customer.

As barriers to entry for building software products continue to decrease, the need for continuous customer discovery increases.

What Is Mixed Methods Research?

The simplest definition of mixed methods is that quantitative data is used to describe what is happening and qualitative data describes why. But this simplification betrays the nuance of its benefits. The combination of data enables the translation of these findings into sophisticated solutions.

Quantitative data can be useful for testing objective theories and quantifying defined variables, such as behaviour. As such, it remains the main currency for analysing and optimising product features and use. Whereas qualitative data exposes subjective meanings, uncovers the underlying relationships between variables, and can strengthen or refute observed patterns.

But the benefits don’t end there. Utilising a single research method or type of data when seeking to influence change can be limiting. This holds true for research aimed at promoting policy reform or used to persuade key decision-makers in organisations. Mixed methods research allows the type of data most highly regarded by the intended audience to resonate more strongly, and enhances the validity of the findings to get buy-in for strategic decisions.

There are three main mixed methods approaches, outlined below. The SVOD example from earlier utilised a sequential explanatory approach, where the qualitative data helped to explain and build upon initial quantitative results.

Mixed methods research allows the type of data most highly regarded by the intended audience to resonate more strongly.

There are three main mixed methods approaches, outlined below. The SVOD example from earlier utilised a sequential explanatory approach, where the qualitative data helped to explain and build upon initial quantitative results.

Type

Characteristic

Purpose

Sequential Explanatory

Quantitative data analysis followed by the collection and analysis of qualitative data.

Qualitative data used to help explain the findings of a quantitative study.

Sequential Exploratory

Qualitative data followed by quantitative data collection and analysis.

To explore a phenomenon, develop and test a new instrument, or identify variables.

Convergent

Quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis is concurrent and complementary.

To confirm, cross-validate, or corroborate findings, to overcome a weakness in using one method.

As barriers to entry for building software products continue to decrease, the need for continuous customer discovery increases. Mixed methods research provides flexibility, ensures all points of view are considered, and collects comprehensive data to tell a more holistic story.

In product-led organisations, where understanding and serving unmet needs creates more value than other approaches, mixed methods will continue to evolve and be deployed to persuade important product decisions and direct strategic vision.

What to learn more?

My two favorite resources on the topic are:

Research Methods in Human-Computer Interaction

by Jonathan Lazar, Jinjuan Heidi Feng, & Harry Hochheiser.

Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches

by Creswell & Creswell.

What is a ‘Market-Driven’ Product?

What Is A ‘Market-Driven’ Product?

By ADRIENNE TAN

As a product manager, I love the words ‘market-driven’. They have purpose and connotations of real market intelligence. ‘Customer-centric’ sits in the same bucket. These words describe not only the end-product but also how we got there.

But what do these words really mean? What is a market-driven product?

A Two-Tier Definition Of Market-Driven Product

Here’s two different ways of describing it:

  1. A “Firm’s policy or strategy guided by market trends and customer needs instead of the firm’s productive capacity or current products.” (BusinessDictionary.com )
  2. “Using market knowledge to determine the corporate strategy of an organization. A market driven organization has a customer focus, together with awareness of competitors, and an understanding of the market.” (BNET)

I like these definitions because they illustrate the two key parts of what makes up a market-driven product:

  1. It’s a corporate strategy; and
  2. It’s based on understanding market trends and your customer

The definition of market-driven is dependent on both these points.

If your company doesn’t believe in customer-centred design, then it’s unlikely to invest in understanding the market and your customers.

Similarly, even if being market-driven is part of your corporate strategy, you’re not market-driven if you don’t take the time to gain an in-depth understanding of the market and your customers, more specifically your customers’ problems.

You’re not market-driven
if you don’t take the time to gain an understanding of your customers’ problems.

It’s More Than Just Market Research

Let’s focus on the second point – understanding market trends and your customer.

It’s easy to say that a market-driven product is a result of market research – but market research does not really get to the heart of truly understanding the customer.

It may give you a broad and important understanding of the changes in the consumer, technology and or business environment, but it doesn’t offer sufficient insights into your customers’ lives and the problems they experience.

When conducting market-driven research, here’s some questions to include:

  • Is there a customer problem to solve?
  • What are your customers’ current behaviours, lifestyles, and aspirations? Are they likely to change as a result of your product?
  • What experiences do your customers seek?
  • What kind of quality of life do your customers want?
  • What major trends are currently changing peoples’ beliefs, values and behaviours?
  • What do customers need vs. want vs. ‘nice-to-have’?
  • Under what different contexts will your customers use this product?
  • How would you like your customers to feel about your product?

If we keep these questions in mind when we build our research programs, we can direct our customer research to include personal elements that will provide a better idea of who our customers are and what they really need.

The Whole Market Environment

The customer is only half of what needs to be understood. You also need to understand the market as a whole.

I like to think of a market as the sum of the interactions of all participants within that market (including your competitors).

Understanding those interactions enables us to get a wholistic perspective of what is going on and helps us make important product decisions like:

  • Which is your most important target market?
  • How will you differentiate your product?
  • When will you bring it to market?
  • Who should you partner with and who will you be competing with (both current and future)?

There are a number of different tools you can use to analyse this but one I like is the PESTEL analysis. It’s not a new one, but I like how big-picture and comprehensive it is. You can quickly identify which factors are relevant to you and then analyse those in more depth. You can also identify strengths and weaknesses and go further with a SWOT analysis.

From Market Research To Market-Driven

If you translate your market research into desired customer and business outcomes, and then meet these with product outcomes you can be certain your end-product has truly been created by the target customers and the market.

If you do this well, now all you need to do to make your millions is build a great product!

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