Wednesday, September 22, 2021

How Macro and Micro Research Enables Better Product Design

Claire Stewart, Associate Director of Research, Business Design
Technology / Strategy

Most companies simply don’t know what they don’t know—especially in today’s experience-driven marketplace. With so many variables shifting at a moment’s notice, research at Rightpoint has become a key step in understanding not just our clients’ core customers but also the markets and industries in which they operate at that precise moment. We believe that research is fundamental to the product design and development process, allowing our project teams to approach client work with a full and holistic understanding of relevant market trends, headwinds and consumer needs.

In conducting research with the goal of understanding of our clients and their users, Rightpoint designs more thoughtful and relevant digital tools and experiences. We hold a better understanding of what will and won’t work in a particular industry or environment and can more rapidly identify unmet needs or gaps in users’ experiences. Additionally, research enables increased speed and efficiency out of our developers and designers. We have found that, frequently, less re-work is required when we’ve been afforded the time and resource to truly understand our clients’ and end users’ problems (read: there are far fewer surprises).

OK, research is important… but how should we attack it? In my role as Associate Director of Research, I like to think of research as falling into two different buckets: Macro and Micro. Here’s more on each:

Thinking Big

Macro approach focuses on building an understanding of the broader market context within which our clients are operating, specifically: nuances of a particular vertical or category landscape, relevant competitors, user segments, consumer trends and noteworthy innovations, to name a few. 

Macro research can be even more critical when our clients are so immersed in the weeds of their day-to-day operations that they fail to offer their consulting partners detailed business or market context. Without conducting research to fill these gaps in understanding, the final product either doesn’t solve for hidden or root problems, or neglects to account for industry headwinds that can create issues later down the road.

These approaches have granted Rightpoint the ability to be as prepared for our clients’ ever-evolving needs as possible. To better embed ourselves in their business and build rapport and trust, we need to speak their language, understand their challenges, know their customers and be aware of how their competitors are innovating or driving the category forward—all things Macro research can illuminate.

No Concern Too Small

Micro approach is extremely critical, particularly in the development of digital tools and experiences. Rightpoint frames this approach around CX and UX Research—or, the understanding of more acute end-user journeys, needs, pain points and behaviors.

Micro research methodologies, which include things like stakeholder interviews, wire-frame testing, or persona building, inform our perception of how specific user groups interact with tools and services. In researching user behaviors and motivations, we can generate evidence-based designs that ultimately drive better product development. Whether collected qualitatively or quantitatively, Micro research dispels us of our own biases and misconceptions and helps us to identify gaps and unmet needs.

Finding the Middle Ground

Collaboration and open minds are key to best weave Macro and Micro research into product development and design. The strongest research programs ensure that research insights are shared frequently and openly with the internal project team and with the client. All stakeholders, both internal and external, must be operating with the same fundamental understanding of both the broader marketplace, as well as specific user groups and behaviors.

Failing to incorporate a research-backed approach can yield a few undesirable outcomes: Products and designs, although they may look cool, may not accurately address the true needs of the marketplace or of target user groups. The result is a half-baked solution that is unable to revolutionize customer experiences for the better. Another potential outcome is a tool or solution that is not sufficiently future-proofed. Failing to research and account for industry or consumer trends, upcoming regulatory measures, or competitor innovations will hinder product development and likely generate re-concepting—if not in the short term, then certainly in the long term.

Whether Macro or Micro, deploying research as a critical part of our workflow inevitably fosters more trust between us and our clients. By delivering design that can be backed by real user data and insight, clients are given more confidence to go to market or make long-term investments in their digital transformations.

Get in touch with Rightpoint today to learn more about how Macro and Micro information about your business can lead to better results and increased ROI.