As digital product and research experts, we have the power to drive decision-making by shifting our thinking at the outset from outputs, such as project deliverables, to intended outcomes.
By identifying what truly needs to be changed based on customer insights, we can be creative when choosing the best medium to deliver insights and recommendations following customer research.
Bringing insights to life
When insights emerge from data analysis, they shouldn't be lifeless paragraphs of text, nor should they be buried in 50+ page documents.
As we learn about customer behaviours through product discovery or through the evaluation of a product, we glean a lot of data through qualitative research, and even more when we combine it with other data sources like quantitative studies, product analytics, and competitor research.
When we've dug into the data, thematically grouped it, and formed meaningful insights and actionable recommendations, opportunities are then identified to help inform or shape the product experience. There are many ways in which insights can be presented and shared. Typically, insights are documented in written form in a Word document or PowerPoint deck, and this is what many teams I’ve worked with tend to ask for since it’s shareable. It could be argued that a lengthy report is tangible and therefore feels like value for money for a client.
Today, I’ve seen a shift, whereby team budgets have shrunk, and more and more teams, including those outside the role of research, are becoming responsible for customer research. There’s an expectation that research insights are being fed directly into delivery backlogs. There is a proliferation of tools available to use, and I’ve seen insight consultants and those involved in customer research take different approaches when bringing insights to life:
- Posters - outlining headline insights and opportunities.
- Customer insights mapped against the designs (e.g., using Figma, Miro).
- Concept sketches.
- Customer stories.
- Video highlight reels.
- Storytelling with imagery and physical artefacts.
- ‘War rooms’ - a physical space capturing user story diagrams, research notes, photos, artefacts, printouts of the existing UI, sketches, storyboards, etc.
- Personas and a day in the life one-pagers.
- Experience maps and journey maps.
- Customer dashboards (e.g. PowerBI).
- Jobs-to-be-done statements.
- User stories.
The choice of artefact, of course, depends on the type of insights being shared and leans on creative talent like visual design and video editing in some places.
Budget and time constraints have not stopped us from creating insight reports, but instead, have created the need for high-impact artefacts. There is a growing need to illustrate a return on investment for doing research in the first place.
Avoiding the insight reality gap
Before jumping to the type of output we should be creating following research, we should look at the information we have about the work that needs to be done and take time to understand the audience. Who is commissioning the work? Who will be consuming the insights? Ultimately, what outcomes will we achieve as a result of the research?
Who will commission the research? Who will consume the insights and how?
- What part of the organisation is engaged with the research? Product, Engineering, Design, or Marketing?
- What level of seniority is your audience?
- How mature is the audience with respect to insight and data?
- How do they work, what kind of tools do they use to get work done?
- What are their aspirations?
What are the expected outcomes? What will we achieve as a result of this work? Will we:
- Inform a product strategy.
- Validate a set of features.
- Help decide which tool to invest in based on usability, preferences, etc.
- Demonstrate internally that research is being done to show customer centricity.
What are the KPIs (success measures)? What do we want to measurably improve and drive?
- Accessibility, ease of use, and the overall user experience.
- Performance metrics e.g. load time, error rate.
- Conversion metrics e.g. average order value, shopping basket abandonment rate.
- Customer support metrics: Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score.
Once we have a clear view of the audience groups and intended outcomes of the research, it’s important that the insights are actionable. After all, insights should advance our knowledge and understanding of real-world problems and lead to some form of change; whether that’s influencing the strategic direction of the product or iterative changes to the existing designs. Insights must be delivered with impact to make a real difference.