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GuidesUser experience (UX)Staying ahead of the curve: Using UX research to keep up with trends

Staying ahead of the curve: Using UX research to keep up with trends

Last updated

3 July 2023

Author

Claire Bonneau

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

Every year, companies change their approaches to UX research. It’s a field of constantly changing technologies, trends, and insights—are you keeping up with the latest in 2023?

UX researchers are experts in adapting their methods on the fly thanks to:

  • Better access to newly emerging technologies

  • Alterations in popular research techniques

  • Increased interest in exploration and experimentation

UX professionals are essential to any productive and innovative team. Those who keep up with the latest trends get the opportunity to improve their skills, their company’s overall product quality, and customer satisfaction.

A good UX researcher applies correct methodologies and understands and adapts to limitations. A great UX researcher seeks new technologies and trends to inform and expand their portfolio. 

Created with great researchers in mind, here’s our guide to everything new in UX research in 2023. Let’s get into it!

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UX research: An ever-changing field of innovation

Over the past few years, the role of user experience (UX) research in product development has moved from “nice to have” to an essential component of any brand’s long-term success. 

UX research studies your customers’ needs, wants, experience with your brand, and more.

Gathering qualitative and quantitative data about your company’s top customers is the first step to understanding them. 

Interpreting customer feedback can reveal crucial insights. This can lead to a clear path forward for your company’s future product launches and desired feature improvements.

Depending on your company’s research strategy and niche, the collection methods for UX research vary greatly. Traditionally, some of the most common methods include:

While leading UX experts are still using these strategies, changes in our social and economic climate have led to advances in other areas of UX research.

UX researchers will always be kept on their toes as their industry is ever-changing.

UX research changes traditional approaches to product development, bringing innovation into the workplace. Many companies experience plenty of benefits from integrating even small amounts of UX research strategies into their existing plans. 

As more businesses make the switch, UX researchers need to continually evolve and improve to be the best of the best. 

The magic truly begins when a company applies this cutting-edge mentality to its UX research practices. This approach allows a company to:

Stay ahead of the competition

No matter what industry your company works in, you definitely have competitors trying to out-sell and out-provide to your top customers. 

Don’t let them overtake your place in the market by failing to keep up with UX research best practices. Instead, use research trends to stay ahead of your competition and better serve your target audience.

Challenge the status quo

Has your team become complacent and lacking in innovation? Continual success can lead to internal complacency.

While sticking to what you know often feels safe and comforting, it’s not the best way to continually grow your business. 

Keeping up with UX research trends challenges your practices and encourages your team to improve their approach as well. This can push them toward increased creativity and innovation.

Offer your clients the best of the best

UX research focuses on getting to the bottom of your customer’s true desires and pain points. This is a great way to uncover helpful feedback that guides future product features.

Modernizing your UX research strategy ensures you become highly attuned to what makes your target audience happy. 

When it comes time to pitch a new product, the question turns from “Will our audience want this?” to “How badly will our customers need this?”

This powerful switch allows your team to produce only the best quality products, improving your bottom line, enhancing your reputation, and boosting the customer experience.

Become a leader in your chosen niche

Acting as your client’s crystal ball into what their target audience is looking for, conducting high-quality UX research helps your clients become a leading voice and resource within your chosen industry.

Being a leader involves ongoing growth and a willingness to experiment. Continual education on UX research trends and technologies enables your team to brand themselves as experts within your niche. And high-quality customers naturally gravitate toward niche specialists. 

2023 has been a big year for UX research innovation, and we’re only just entering the second half!

Being aware of the latest UX research trends is key to providing the best value to your business and positioning yourself as a valuable, engaged team member. Knowing how these trends will impact your team in the coming years can help you future-proof your projects.

Improve your UX research knowledge and your team’s UX strategy by getting familiar with ten of the most influential themes that are emerging in the field this year:

UX research tools are improving company results

Without a doubt, companies investing in UX research are seeing the biggest return on investment so far in 2023.

For example:

  • After investing in UX research to improve its website, office product brand Staples saw an 80% increase in customer visits and a 67% increase in repeat customers.

  • By prototyping UX design options, Bank of America exceeded its ROI benchmark and doubled the number of customers enrolled in its online banking service.

  • After implementing a company-wide UX research initiative, General Electric noticed a 100% increase in development team productivity. This change saved the company multiple millions of dollars in resources and labor.

Open communication about UX research benefits needs to be a key focus of your internal strategy. Team buy-in to the process is essential for external success, so highlight your accomplishments and showcase the results you earn through your work.

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

If you receive pushback from management about the importance of UX research, provide detailed quantitative results as part of your pitch. 

High-quality UX research will produce great results, and researchers who can accurately convey the value to their team will improve the overall outcomes of their department and the company.

User research is becoming an essential component of every level of product development, but this is particularly true for design choices.

UX design taps into user research to create products and marketing tools for your target audience’s specific needs, wants, and quirks. 

However customers interact with your brand, you want to provide an empathetic and personalized experience that leaves them coming back for more. That means tailoring your website, social media advertisements, and products to your customers. 

As the expectations for brands to perform continues to increase, companies who forego user design research will quickly be left behind. Lean into this need as much as possible when seeking support for UX research efforts.

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

User-centered design is more than aesthetic colors on your website and adding features your customers want. 

Run detailed user experience questionnaires regularly with tools like customer feedback surveys. Your projects’ level of user understanding can become incredibly specialized and prime for competitive strategy. 

As a result, your top customers will fall even more in love with your brand’s UX research.

Accessibility and inclusivity are more important than ever

Did you know that 42% of American adults don’t feel represented in modern advertisements?

An inclusive approach to product development and user experience opens your business to a wider and more diverse audience. It also positions your team as an industry leader.

Even if your brand functions within a very specific niche, you can always enhance your offerings to be more inclusive to the wide range of people in your target audience.

To improve your customer experience and get the most out of your UX research efforts, conducting accessibility testing using inclusivity standards is an absolute must. 

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

As the world continues to move in a more inclusive direction, UX researchers also need to step up. Encourage your team and company to find ways to make your products, online presence, and overall business mission more inclusive. 

Researching your target audience and getting direct accessibility and inclusivity feedback is a great way to start your journey toward improving your user experience for all.

Customer retention and engagement are key areas of focus

Unsurprisingly, holding onto high-quality customers is a fantastic tactic for long-term brand growth and financial success.

The cultural and social landscape of digital marketing and media continues to shift to a more convenient and personalized experience. Top-performing brands are using skilled UX researchers to find unique, creative ways to build a strong sense of customer loyalty.

Some of the most well-known brands in the world have mastered this strategy, and the results speak for themselves: 

Need a quick coffee? Better grab a Starbucks, as they offer a comprehensive loyalty program to keep you coming back for more. 

Scrolling through social media? You’ll likely see a witty comment from Wendy’s that makes you laugh—and hey, you are feeling kinda hungry, actually!

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

To further improve customer retention, companies should perform two primary tasks: 

  • Collect specific data on what your customers love about your brand

  • Use this data to design a creative customer loyalty program that matches your brand

Retention strategies can range in complexity from resale email newsletters to tiered subscription or rewards programs.

Brainstorm with your team and find a unique option to serve your brand as a sought-after perk for your target audience.

Detailed UX research leads to smarter strategies

Imagine it’s time to pitch a new product. What if you could just sort through a list of winning ideas instead of guessing what your customers would like?

For UX researchers and product developers, customer insights are worth their weight in gold (literally). 

Instead of wasting countless resources during the early stages of product development on figuring out which direction to take, UX research allows your team to crack the code. You can discover what your customers are actually looking for. 

Better yet, qualitative studies that explore the motivations and goals of users can keep your product and clients on track for the duration of your user’s journey. These studies answer the “why,” while many companies focus on the “what” and “when” of quantitative data.

Stay ahead of mistakes and save your team a ton of time and effort by focusing your energy and efforts on products that fit the customer insights you’ve collected. It’s an easy way to reduce risk and build brand loyalty.

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

Your business needs to stay clear of “intuition” and “hunches” to get the most out of your UX research efforts. Allow your data and users to lead the way. 

“The user breaks the tie” can be a helpful comeback to any internal disagreement. Your CEO, sales team, and developers need to be on the same page about the importance and power of customer insights. Once you achieve this, the results will blow you away!

Machine learning and AI in UX research are on the rise

If you’ve paid attention to the latest news in the tech sector, you’ve probably heard about the explosion of machine learning and AI practices across almost every industry.

AI is coming for UX research, too. According to a recent Forbes Advisor report, 64% of business owners in 2023 believe that AI can improve customer relationships and satisfaction.

The benefits of AI include: 

  • A better understanding of customer insights

  • Quick sorting through large amounts of research 

  • Streamlining your process

  • Improving behavioral prediction and data analysis

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

Undoubtedly, AI will play an increasingly important role in customer research as the years continue. Our advice is to stay informed and be willing to try new things, but don’t jump in too quickly. 

While there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with this new technology, no machine can replace true human interaction and connection. And that’s the foundation of all great UX research!

So don’t be afraid to try new tech as it becomes available, but ensure it enhances your systems rather than replacing them completely.

UX researchers are becoming internal educators

As we mentioned before, companies that get the best results from their UX research efforts incorporate customer insights into every level of their business. An easy way to achieve this outcome is to increase the involvement of UX researchers.

UX professionals can integrate nicely into other silos, such as customer service, marketing, copywriting, and development. Having UX researchers sit parallel or within the same physical space as these different departments can create synergies and more organic feedback loops.

Results can include: 

  • Developers having a much better hand in what they build, improving feasibility

  • Customer service teams can include exit surveys to learn why users are leaving

  • Marketing can be a much better narrator and attract participants to research

UX research can enhance every department of your company in countless ways. 

Long gone are the days of UX researchers acting as skilled solo technicians in isolation from other teams within a company. Now, more than ever, UX researchers are getting the opportunity to support and educate their peers on best practices. And that’s a win for everyone!

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

If you’re a UX researcher, advocate for participation in important company meetings and decisions. Your insights and understanding of the customer are essential, so your opinion should shape all levels of company decisions. 

Additionally, UX team members should be encouraged to share educational training sessions to change the business culture slowly (but surely). This can align everyone’s values with the importance of UX insights and customer feedback.

Virtual research is the new norm

During 2020–2022, virtual meetings rose in popularity from 44% to 78%—and this seems like a change that’s here to stay.

Being online is a standard part of our lives for most of us. So it’s no surprise that companies move their customer surveys and interviews in that direction, too.

In-person interviews and focus groups offer valuable insights that researchers can’t always collect by virtual means. It can be really tricky to read someone’s body language over Zoom, for example. Still, the convenience and accessibility of virtual research tools beckon.

Whether you send email survey links or host one-on-one virtual interviews with your customers, integrating online options into your UX strategy is a must.

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

If you’re looking to dive into virtual UX research tools, we recommend taking extra time to fine-tune your interview or survey questions. 

Your customers will complete most online surveys without support, so it’s easy for confusion to arise if your questions are unclear. 

UX research is improving and optimizing small decisions

Efficiency and productivity are hot buzzwords when it comes to product development. Spending extra time on UX research is one of the best ways to achieve these goals.

No matter the size of your team, clashing personalities, opinions, and value systems will inevitably slow progress. This is a normal part of collaboration, but it can also lead to delays, increased stress, and burnout. What’s the solution?

Top-performing teams use UX research to reduce the risk of getting stuck on the small stuff. 

With unlimited access to detailed customer insights, your team can quickly turn small (and potentially stressful) decisions into strategic moves based on your customers’ needs and wants.

This approach helps align your team to one common goal, which boosts efficiency and productivity. Most importantly, you can create a product that better serves your audience.

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

During decision-making meetings, start by highlighting the key customer insights that will guide your team’s decisions. It’s an easy way to keep everyone on track, moving towards the same joint goals, and away from unnecessary arguments.

Continuous UX research is (essentially) a requirement

Gone are the days of simply copying your competition. If your team isn’t continuously conducting customer research, you may already be falling behind.

For the best understanding of how your company is performing, you need to have current and accurate data flowing in at all times. 

In this social media age, public opinion of your brand can change overnight. Staying on top of UX research gives your team the best chance to respond to changes as soon as possible.

Additionally, continuous research ensures you’re staying current with the needs and wants of your ever-changing customer base.

How to use this UX trend to your advantage:

If possible, automate parts of your UX research outreach to prevent dry spells in data collection

Did a customer buy a new product? Have an automated survey sent out a day after purchase. 

Offer a subscription service-based product? Ask for feedback after three and six months of use.

Level up your UX research strategy with Dovetail

The first half of 2023 has shown us that UX research is quickly becoming one of the most important tools companies can use to enhance their growth.

Using Dovetail, you can bring together all your customer research and uncover insights that will change how you build products and serve your customers for the better.

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