The Value of Research for Startups

Is research worth it? As a funded company, your survival depends on two things: growth and speed. So we understand why it can be hard to slow down to conduct research on a product you already know is fantastic. We’re here to tell you that research will help you to fail faster and smarter in your design loop while also helping you uncover how to get the word out about your product to the right people.

Let’s begin with the basics of research.

What are customer or user insights?

“Customer insight” is a fancy term for communicating and understanding your customer or user. We use insights to broaden our understanding of users’ or customers’ feelings and behaviors around a topic, product, or category. Customer insights are about learning what drives them, what influences them, and what underlying attitudes and beliefs influence how they see the world.

How does this translate to tech?

Insights have long been used in packaged goods to shape how the product is developed, marketed, and sold. More recently, insights have made their way into technology products through User Research (also called UX Research) and User Testing. We can apply insights to technology through similar methodologies and principles — seeking to understand our users' feelings and behaviors around a topic, product, or category. User testing can be done at any stage of product development, but we find it especially valuable in the “fuzzy front” when a new need is being identified or as validation and targeting after the product has been developed.

We worked with Slack to execute user research on a new product called Workflow Builder. The product was already built and developed, but we needed to better understand who would use this product and in what situations they would want to use it. We used focus groups, user data, and business analytics to improve the onboarding and adoption experience, ultimately resulting in user adoption that far exceeded initial goals.

Here are a few ways to quickly and cheaply gather insights for your product:

1. Use social listening to uncover trends. Today’s social-centric world means there are myriad ways to gain insights without primary research. Use social and review monitoring to hear consumer perspectives unfiltered and unbiased. Assign a team member to monitor for customer complaints or feedback, then categorize and file it for future updates. Tap into social sites you may not be thinking about like TikTok and YouTube for in-depth product reviews and emerging trends on usage, hacks, and complaints.


2. Dive into your user data for in-product insights. Your product may hold answers within your own analytics. Take a look at user data to find pathways that might lead to exit, or fallout points for user signup. Then look closer to see where this is not happening, where users have engaged longer or stuck through signup, and look for similarities among those users. Your own product data can illuminate audience insights that influence future targeting, design, and build. 

3. Interview your users to understand "why." Video interviews are another cost-effective way to understand the “why” behind what’s happening. Conduct short, qualitative interviews virtually through Zoom or Hangouts for deep insights at a fraction of the cost of focus groups. Recruit respondents using targeted social media ads as an alternative to panels, and develop discussion guides and activities specifically for a digital interview. We recommend using qualitative interviews to dive deep into a topic and explore all the nuances surrounding it, rather than find an answer to a very specific question. 

4. Conduct a quick survey for validation. Quantitative research doesn’t have to break the bank or your timeline. Surveys through platforms like are a cheap and easy way to validate hypotheses and gain feedback from a larger number of respondents. Post surveys to LinkedIn or other social sites to solicit participants. Some platforms also offer inexpensive fees to provide survey participants in your target demographic, geographic, and behavioral set. 

User research or customer insights can feel like a daunting skill set to integrate into your company, but all it really requires is a sense of curiosity. Take simple first steps like social listening or product data analysis to gain preliminary insight into what’s happening in your product. Then use interviews or surveys to gain a deeper understanding of the problem and identify ways to solve it. 

Want more information on how to integrate user research into your growing company? Contact Spectacle Strategy at