ARTICLE: Sarah Freitag

Just how valuable is your EdTech product? Ask both your UX and market research teams.

UX research and market research both assess the value of your EdTech product for its users. These two distinct groups of researchers have pretty different ideas of what “valuable” actually means — and how it’s measured. 

Your UX research team determines your product is valuable when it meets the needs of students, instructors, and administrators in learning environments. The central question for UX is whether or not your product is helpful in an educational environment and easy to use.

Market researchers, on the other hand, ascertain your product is valuable when your product is purchased. The most important questions for market researchers are, “Will this product sell? And to whom?” 

Your product team ought to be considering both streams of research simultaneously. They can inform and support each other — and ultimately add up to a truly valuable EdTech product. Here’s how. 

Tap into UX and Market Research to Serve your Users and Your Business 

When you want to make a smart business decision and prove your EdTech product idea is valuable, you need to confirm it with both UX and market researchers. UX research directly addresses your users’ needs. Market research helps you understand if those user needs can translate to sales.

Generally speaking, UX research is more qualitative and user-centric. The best UX research relies on observing users in their own environment. UX research is focused, deep, and on a smaller scale. Personal interviews, focus groups, and surveys are ideal ways for UX teams to glean user insights. UX researchers seek to understand:

  • User needs and motivations. What tasks do they need to complete? How do they feel about using your product?
  • Ways in which users engage with your product. What is the user journey actually like? Does it confirm or contradict your research team’s assumptions? 
  • Product challenges and opportunities. Where do users encounter friction and frustration? How might your product iterations address these challenges? What unarticulated needs are being anticipated or observed and could be solved for?

Market research, which tends to be qualitative and number-centric, can play a critical role in validating UX insights. Whereas UX researchers routinely aim to extrapolate their results to larger groups, market research is quite adept at assessing large groups. Sure, market research can be smaller scale and utilize interviews, focus groups, and surveys. But market researchers certainly can (and do) adopt large-scale methodologies with thousands, not handfuls, of participants. 

UX research methods can shed light on how your product idea may impact the lives of your users. But you also should partner with  market research for additional validation on your product’s place in the market and how that translates to sales.

Prioritize UX Research Personas — But Don’t Neglect Market Research Personas

In order to build an excellent product to serve particular users, personas who represent that group of users are vital. But not all personas will be equally useful to your product team. In EdTech, those who make the purchasing decisions might not be the same as those who use your product. Procurement departments, for instance, may not be familiar with your product enough to know its true value. And in many cases, the instructor makes the decision to adopt a product, but the real users are the students. If the students have a negative experience, they might complain and the instructor might choose not to adopt the product in the future.

UX personas are born of deep empathy and current, real-life situations. An assessment of a UX persona’s attributes (behaviors, attitudes, skills, and goals) allows you to identify what users want — and why. 

Without a UX persona at the helm, designer assumptions and ambitious ideas may take over. The result? A product that doesn’t attend to the needs of real users. The goal of the UX persona should always be to create realistic scenarios that compel a design team to solve challenges and improve users’ lives.

Market researchers are more likely to focus on socioeconomic factors when constructing a persona. Their central goal is to target users for marketing messages. Market researchers must focus on these questions:

  • Who has the most buying power? 
  • How do you attract those ideal customers?
  • How can you turn leads into buying customers? 

The most valuable EdTech products will naturally be attentive to who it is attempting to serve and appeal to. You want an innovative, user-focused, problem-solving product. However, if it doesn’t result in sales, your efforts may be brilliant, but wasted. If you can sell your product but it fails to meet the needs of its users, well, you haven’t really made an EdTech product at all.  

Identify Product Opportunities Through UX and Market Research

You can — and should — identify opportunities for your product through UX and market research. 

UX researchers seek to understand how users operate in their own environments and contexts. They note where users adopt workarounds, get stuck, or quit to guide future product iterations. For example, observing instructors in the onboarding process can reveal where your product has unnecessary complexity and a lack of embedded support. Wherever there is a lack of support, frustration is sure to follow — and that has many negative repercussions. UX design can respond with appropriate simplification and scaffolding to make your product more valuable to instructors. 

Market research needs to clarify whether the product opportunities identified by UX translate to sales. New features and functionalities are great — if people will pay to access and use them. 

Integrate UX and Market Research for an Exceptional EdTech Product

Your team’s UX researchers will benefit from working alongside market researchers. UX researchers can determine product value and market researchers can validate its value with anticipated sales. 

Research follow up is another great opportunity. After a product or feature is launched, market researchers are well positioned to follow up with your users to monitor the factors that either bolster or undermine sales. They often ask critical questions that correspond with industry metrics such as NPS and CSAT. Examples of things they might ask are:

  • Would you buy this product again? 
  • Are you generally satisfied with the product?

The scores from these metrics help track sentiment around the product and how successful it is  in the marketplace. UX research is often needed to help explain the scores and give insight into the “why” behind them. Watching trends and understanding the context behind them will allow your UX team to confidently move forward with iterations. 

The potential for UX and market researchers to work together is huge — and largely unrealized. The EdTech products that thrive today and tomorrow will successfully integrate separate but related disciplines. UX and market research are only two of many. The days of siloed efforts must come to an end as you work to keep your product intuitive, innovative, and competitive.

  • Photo of Sarah Freitag
    Sarah Freitag

    As Director of UX Research, Sarah draws on her deep understanding of EdTech users and her background in research, design and business strategy to enable our clients to make confident decisions that result in products that solve real needs and create demonstrable impacts on their business’ bottom lines. Like her design-side counterpart at Openfield, Sarah is responsible for fostering collaboration, team development and for bringing new strategic initiatives and methodologies that allow our company to stay ahead of the curve of what EdTech users truly need to realize higher levels of learning and teaching success. Sarah is an avid reader and an adventurous explorer. Highlights from her favorite travels include Morocco, Peru, Italy, Denmark and France. With the recent pandemic-induced reduction in travel, she makes it a point to fulfill her wanderlust with another one of her passions, cooking and baking, by experimenting with recipes inspired by cultures around the world.

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