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A Class in Bridging the Gap – When UX and MR Meet

UX researchers go out of their way to give good experiences to marketers and researchers who use their findings. Consider the UXalliance. When brands began turning to UX insights more and more, this UX network organized to agree on standards for metrics and deliverables.

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By Pamela Stoffregen-Gay

It should be no surprise – user experience (UX) researchers go out of their way to give good experiences to the marketers and researchers who use their findings. Consider the UXalliance. When global brands began turning to user experience insights more and more, this UX network organized to agree on standards for metrics and deliverables. Now nine years old, with 25 member companies worldwide, the UXalliance offers a consistent quality standard from all vendors, ensuring comparable results, and fosters a connected community for shared learning.

The UXalliance’s latest gathering – a one-day UX Masterclass hosted by GfK in New York City– focused on another development that is poised to take UX adoption to new levels: the growing integration of UX and market research. Though they naturally intersect in focusing on brand and customer experiences, UX and MR remain in separate silos within most organizations today. And, to some degree, they speak different languages; MR is usually quantitative in focus and numbers driven, while UX has more in common with ethnography and qual studies.

But the benefits of bringing UX and MR together were readily apparent at the NYC UX Masterclass. Experts from Axance, Mitsue-Links, GfK, and others showed how research and design could be combined to fuel innovation, deepen understanding of brand/customer relationships, and enrich consumer insight.

GfK’s David Krajicek (CEO, Consumer Experiences North America) opened the day acknowledging that, as consumers touch brands in more places, understanding and controlling experiences is becoming indispensable. Frederic Gaillard (Managing Director, Axance) and Mike Murphy (Senior Design Director, GfK) showed how specific UX methods and techniques connected research and design to create a sustainable cycle of innovation. And Francis Fung (International UX Business Manager, Mitsue-Links) observed that, despite the obvious connection between UX and MR, sometimes corporate culture, country culture, or both play roles in deciding the type of research chosen.

Other presenters looked at the latest developments in UX research – techniques, advances, and applications in the corporate world. James Kalbach (Principal UX Designer, Citrix Online) showed how UX studies can identify key “jobs to be done” (JTBD) to understand what customers are trying to accomplish. And a panel of thought leaders from Estee Lauder, athenaCare, ViralGains, and GfK talked about the challenge of creating alignment around UX and MR priorities (also known as “herding cats”).

A highlight of the day was the keynote by Richard Zackon (Facilitator, Council for Research Excellence), who brought the crowd back to basics, inspiring group discussion on what experiences are and why they matter; Zackon used examples of how UX is shaping new ways to measure ad impressions in the cross-platform, multi-screen world. The audience, which represented a cross-section of generations and expertise, was engaged from the start, trading observations and ideas.

One conclusion, heard repeatedly onsite, is that simply bringing UX and MR experts together in one room goes a long way toward tapping this synergy-in-the-making. When face to face, UX and market research experts naturally realize how much they have to learn from each other and begin to build bridges. The experience is powerful, and the possibilities are endless.

Pamela Stoffregen-Gay is Global Strategic Marketing Director of User Experience at GfK.

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