Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Research is an adventure

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Nik Shuliahin

Before you set off
“Russian custom. Before you go on a trip, after all the running around and packing, stop for a moment so you leave from a point of complete stillness. It makes for a safe and pleasant journey.” – Werner Herzog

Stumble through the hinterlands, realising your map is out of date; tangle with the natives.

Up into the high hills of understanding, look down on the view where for a wonderful moment everything is clear, before the fog moves in again.

Descend and return
The exhilaration of pushing yourself and surviving, looking forward to the comforts of home.

Looking back
Form memories, narratives and understanding. Excitedly share your stories.

Add a layer of experience, broaden your horizon, never see things the same way again.

The ACEO model of user experience research

Monday, September 1st, 2014

When designing a diary study to do ux research, user research or customer experience research, it is handy to have the ACEO model in mind as a guide.

ACEO stands for:

•    Activity – what are people doing?
•    Context – what is the context of their experience?
•    Emotion – what is the emotional impact?
•    Outcome – what is the result of the experience on the user/customer?

These are the four main elements of any individual experience. Structuring your exploration along these lines of enquiry will help you fully understand what is happening and why.

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:


Quite simply what are people doing or trying to do relating to your product or service at that moment in time? This is an easy task to start with and will form the basis for the rest of your enquiry.


What is happening at the time that might add a different meaning or interpretation to what people are doing? For example, what is their goal at that particular point? What frame of mind are they in? What other external factors are colouring their experience?


Daniel Kahneman tells us that emotional peaks are the things that stick with us most, that make an experience a memorable experience.

And research for the advertising industry shows that if people feel nothing, they do nothing. The IPA found that emotional communications are 12 times more efficient in driving market share. If it’s action we want then we have to make people feel.

So we need to ask: what emotions are people feeling? How strong are these and what is driving them?


Which leads us to our final element: outcome. We are not interested in user experiences out of idle curiosity – we need to know from a business perspective what this experience adds up to – either on its own and together with other experiences.

Only by tracking the outcome can we work out whether the experience was effective against any given goal and if and how it could be optimised.

Here we need to ask: what did people do next? Was this as a result of the experience? What was the influence of this experience on perceptions of the product / service / brand?


So there you have the ACEO modelActivity – Context – Emotion – Outcome, a four point framework for structuring your experience research diary studies.

This is an excerpt from nativeye’s Mobile Diary Bootcamp. If you’d like the whole thing in 6 handy emails just follow the link to sign up. It’s completely free!

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Innovating the market research industry – a startup perspective

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Anyone who has tried to get traction for an innovation – whether startup or internal initiative – will recognise the challenge. You have a view of a better future for your customers, if only you can convince them. Sticking doggedly to your grand vision on the one hand may not bring along enough people to achieve market success, while being too customer-centric limits your potential and fail to deliver the game-changer.

The trick of course if navigating a third way of market-driven innovation that meets people’s unarticulated and unmet needs – giving them the thing they didn’t even know they wanted but from which there’s no going back.

The following are some personal experiences from the last 3 years of launching and growing a mobile research platform – a tool that seeks to transform the market research industry. The examples are specific but hopefully the lessons are relevant to anyone trying to get their innovation off the ground.


Mobile – the next frontier in market research

When asked at the recent Insight Innovation Exchange in Amsterdam when the time of mobile market research is coming, Ray Pointer of Vision Critical replied, “About 18 months ago”.

This anecdote gives you some insight as to a market that has been hotly tipped for a while now but is still waiting to catch fire. (that said Survey Monkey recently reported that they had seen x14 increase in their mobile traffic in the last 3 years).

The case for mobile is various but includes: massive smartphone penetration and usage, an intimate and ‘in the moment’ channel,  the richer data made possible by smartphones’ communication, multimedia and location functions. This all adds up to a new way of engaging and learning from customers. At nativeye we talk about doing research that doesn’t feel like research.


Predicting real need is hard but vital

Prior to coding a single line we put together a clickable prototype and received strong encouragement to proceed. However those nodding heads we had initially were not necessarily our first customers. In fact, some are only starting to buy now, 3 years on. Possibly there was more we could have done to validate need, but there are a whole host of other factors beyond your control that dictate when people are ready to buy.

A clue to validating real current need is to look at whether people are already trying to solve the problem right now. They might be using other products, hiring people or inventing workarounds to try and do the thing that your product does.


Find your tribe

Some people resist just change (including new technology). This is certainly the case in the market research industry. Either because it requires effort to learn new techniques or because people feel threatened by it (which is probably justified if you are an Amazon warehouse picker). David A. Aaker advises innovators to ‘beware the pessimist’ that will attempt to derail innovation projects based solely of their irrational fear of the new (interesting to note that he also mentions to be aware of the over-optimist).

Some people you’re just not going to win over. The best you can hope for is to quickly identify them and move on. For others to try something new the Benefit must > Pain. Pain comes in many forms – the mental effort to work out where your product fits, the risk of an untried approach, bugs in a new product.

However, some people are much more inclined to give something new a whirl – the benefit to them being the potential transformation of their day-to-day. These people are like gold and will be your champions. I think Seth Godin provides the best advice here which is, “find your tribe and grow out from there.”


Learn to explain innovations in terms people currently understand

Of those that do embrace technology, many initially consider it in old frames of reference. Initially nativeye was seen as a mobile survey tool. Common questions included, “How will I get all the survey questions I want on a screen that size?” This made our spirit sink somewhat as we didn’t see nativeye this way – we saw it as a two-way customer channel that captured people’s experience in unprecedented richness and timeliness.

It’s sometimes frustrating when trying to push things forward only to be pulled back into old frames. But if your product is truly transformational and you can get people to try you out, then this should bubble to the surface and they will tell others of their great experience. In the MR world a tool has to deliver on old measures such as ‘response rate’ before people will countenance the new stuff. It’s a reality that you have to navigate this while still not losing track of the larger potential.


Don’t sell features, solve jobs

Clay Christensen talks about innovating by solving the jobs people want to do. Selling in these terms also makes your proposition much more compelling whereas only talking about features leads you to sell yourself short. This is why about 18 months in we started selling “relevance”. This is the bigger benefit that helps bring people on board by speaking language they can understand. As a customer, I don’t know if I want a ‘mobile research platform’ or to ‘open up a channel to my customers’ but I certainly want my brand to stay relevant to its customers.


Ben Claxton is the founder of nativeye, a mobile research platform that helps your business stay relevant.

What research is and what it isn’t

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Some choice quotes from this great article by Erica Hall in Wired on why the ‘fail fast’ startup culture can actually just be an excuse for avoiding doing any research – which hell, i don’t know, might actually help your business succeed.

At the heart of this is being the most informed you can be. Not to restrict your imagination to what customers tell you what they want, but to make sure you are able to “design and build for the real world”. In other words, direct your imagination in the right direction.

“a common concern and excuse for not doing research is that it will limit creative possibilities to only those articulated by the target users, leaving designers devising a faster horse (lame) rather than a flying car (rad).

Worse than being limited by potential customers’ imaginations is being limited by one’s own — especially if most business leaders admit they’re not going to be the next Steve Jobs. But why should they have to imagine how the world works, when it’s possible to find out through research? Their imagination is then better spent on designing the solution.”

As an entrepreneur one of the hardest challenges is to really ask yourself “am I designing a solution for a real problem?”. Ideas are temptresses, especially if they are your own. But doing everything you can to validate your idea before you embark on a long and choppy journey of development is doing yourself a massive favour. And this again is where research can help.

Research is…

  • A tool to help create for the real world
  • Creative fuel
  • A way to validate your ideas and kill your darlings
  • Increase the success rate of innovation

Research isn’t…

  • A substitute for imagination
  • A limit to the possible

Capturing the real customer experience

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Yesterday I spoke at an event organised by the very nice people at Hard to Measure. Great turnout of interesting people from different backgrounds, but all interested in how we can capture the (real) customer experience.

Here’s the blurb…

In the Experience Economy, capturing the real customer experience is more important than ever. But the proliferation of digital technology has both multiplied and changed the nature of customer touchpoints, making this task more complex.

In addition, recent thinking from behavioural economics tells us it is not always straightforward to get to a true understanding of our customers’ experiences. The reasons people do things may be a mystery to themselves, let alone market researchers.

In this talk I look at the shift in the customer landscape and our understanding of ourselves, before looking at practical ways to capture the real customer experience with examples from the nativeye insight platform.

Always-on insight

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

‘Innovation is hard because “solving problems people didn’t know they had” and “building something no one needs” look identical at first.’

Aaron Levie, CEO of Box (via Bokardo)

That’s taken from a post by Joshua Porter called, “Don’t design blindly”. Rather than guessing what people need, do some simple research and observation. Here he gives some clues of what to look for:

  • Where are the pain points?
  • Are people already trying to solve the problem?
  • Are they already spending money on it?

You can commission formal research for this but you have to be careful not to be too focused or closed. Another way is to open up a channel to let the ideas and insights come to you. The advantage of this is:

  • Makes unknown unknowns known (!)
  • Does this quickly
  • Highlights areas for further exploration
  • Means you are always plugged into your market
  • Fuels agile and continual innovation




Research kills creativity and other innovation myths

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

We tend to mythologise the lone creative genius. The lone genius doesn’t need to do market research – they just know.

The reality? Sorry – the stats say that you’re probably not a genius. It is, however, your job to innovate.

How research helps:

1. It FUELS your creativity

Far from blocking your creativity, research gives you the raw material it needs. And this is perhaps where this whole misunderstanding arose – for good or bad, research isn’t going to give you the answer in 20ft tall pink neon letters. It will give you clues that you then must take and perform dazzling alchemy with in order to turn them into a great product, advertising campaign, fashion line, whatever.


Research helps you empathise with your subject. If you can feel their pain as well as see it, then it’s more likely you will have the motivation to care and to persist long enough to crack the right solution.

3. Gives you FOCUS

Constraints set you free. So having the insight that your communication will be most relevant in a particular context or that customers only care about particular features lets you focus your efforts. This will make your creativity relevant.

4. Lets you ITERATE

With the proviso that you don’t chuck out early ideas too quickly (remember – research doesn’t give you the answer in 20ft tall pink neon letters) customer research lets you test and refine your early concepts with your audience. And then iterate again and again until you have to ship.

And what does the genius have to fear from all this? That they might be proved wrong?

5 benefits of mobile research

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Mobile is set to overtake PCs for Internet access. Mobile research – market research using mobile phones as capture devices – is riding this wave. So what are the benefits of this approach to gathering customer insight?

1. It’s in the moment
Behavioural Economics has taught us we are much less rational beings than we liked to think. As Rory Sutherland has pointed out, anything that helps us get closer to the point of decision will better inform us as to why people do the things they do.

And at a more basic level – people forget! Asking them why they did something 2 weeks ago is prone to hazy recollection as well as any post-rationalisation.

2. Understand the context
Being in the moment means we can get more clues about the context of people’s experiences. The same message to someone when they are stressed out as when they have free headspace will yield very different results.

This is why some have claimed that there is no such thing as channels; only interactions, which are dictated by shifting contexts.

3. Link emotions to events
Emotions are a great predictor of behaviour. Knowing what events precipitate what emotions (e.g. during interactions with customers, in the workplace) can help us design better for them.

4. Empathy drives great innovation
And this emotional content is an aid to better innovation. Being able to feel people’s pain as well as see it makes people care enough (as well as know enough) to want to do something about it. Mobile qualitative research comes into its own here.

Plus that empathy can be pushed up the chain. Having that ‘customer proof’ to take to management will help to drive customer-centric change.

5. It’s quick
And finally, it sounds simple but speed is a real business advantage. Being able to turn around solid insight quickly aids timely decision making and an agile approach. In the words of more than one client, “The right answer but too late is no use to me.”

It’s the journey (or, designing for the ecosystem)

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Cindy Chastain says, “It’s the customer journey; not the persona” that matters when designing for today’s ecosystem of digital and real-world services.

She says some other smart things like:

  • Considering customer journeys is now a business strategy tool not just design
  • Within the ecosystem, marketing moves from “persuasion” to “value” (I read this as total, integrated brand utility, if you like, not just one-offs)
  • Right thing, right context
  • Iteration and constant learning are the foods that feed the ecosystem
  • Marketers shifting mindset from linear to iterative

It’s interesting to see UX principles shifting to inform the broader brand experience, not just the design of individual interfaces. And this article by Tomer Sharon is another testament to the mainstreaming of Lean UX principles, as pioneered by startups.

The importance of empathy in innovation

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

We love getting feedback at nativeye. Not only does it mean we’re not just talking to ourselves, it helps us develop in a user-focused way. Receiving feedback of the type, ” it would be great if you had X as it would help us to do Y” is gold. If you hear it a few times from a few different people then you know you have a good argument for developing in that direction (balancing with internal factors such as strategy and resources).

But it’s more than getting user validation for innovations.

When you listen carefully to problems or wishes from real users you put yourself in the moment with your customer, faced with the same task they are facing. You might then start to think, “Yeah if that was me I’d really want to be able to do that too.” Taking on board their emotions leads you to a new level of understanding of the problem and how to design for it  – but also the motivation to do something about it.

User research might not always tell you the answer straight away (the old “customers don’t know what they want” maxim), but it helps to build the empathy that can lead to user-focused innovation.

Do whatever you need to do. Build an experience map – include touchpoints and all the attendant emotions. But first and foremost watch and listen. That will throw into relief where there is room for improvement and critically, help you to empathise deeply with the emotions bundled in with the customer experience. That will lead you to consider the problem in detail and then do something about it.

And that’s the point –

Until you feel the customer’s pain you’re just not informed and motivated enough to solve the problem well.