Opinion

How the principles of user research will be critical to businesses reinventing themselves post-COVID-19

By May 7, 2020 No Comments

How we choose the products and services we use, what we aim to achieve through them, and the approach we take to discovering them are all changing at unprecedented speed.

Many of us are now working from home, increasing our reliance on deliveries, reducing our travel, using telecoms services and home entertainment more and interacting with physical services less – the list of the changes to our daily lives is large and growing by the day.

While not all of these changes will be permanent, many of them will have far-reaching impacts in both the medium and long term. All of us are learning new coping mechanisms and new methods of achieving our goals, many of which will become habits that stretch beyond the current crisis. We are trying new products and services we might not have otherwise have done, and abandoning old ones that are suddenly no longer relevant.

How businesses react will reflect how their staff and their users change

As the individuals within organisations and the individuals they serve adjust and change their habits, those organisations are finding themselves grappling simultaneously both with entirely new ways of working and a need to reorientate their products, services and communications to fit the new landscape.

Many will be doing so with one eye to the future, in the knowledge that many of users’ behavioural changes are likely to have a lasting impact on their business – and that they will need to adjust their long term strategies accordingly.

Some organisations, less well-positioned to weather the crisis, have already in some cases found the impact decisive and disastrous. Others have found themselves fortunately (or wisely) positioned to deliver what users now newly require and demand. The majority are likely to find themselves somewhere between these two extremes.

For this third group of organisations, the crisis has the potential to reveal not only their vulnerabilities, but also opportunities for them to improve. The priorities for many will be twofold – to establish how they can protect themselves from the changes in the near term, and how they can capitalise on them  in the long term. 

To do this successfully will arguably require a strong understanding of how customer needs have changed, and, consequently, a reimagining of their services to better meet those needs. 

Importantly, this reimagining must not stop at reconceptualising only what the customer receives – instead, it should consider the end-to-end delivery of the service. Lack of labour availability, disrupted supply chains and other medium to long term impacts will require serious appraisal if organisations are to effectively deliver their reshaped services to customers.

User experience design principles will become an ever more valuable touchstone

Key to undertaking the planning necessary for businesses to thrive in the Covid and post-Covid era will be a strong and renewed understanding of both service users and service providers – their drivers, values, pain points and other emotional and operational factors which they bring to bear, knowingly and unknowingly, on the success of an organisation’s services. 

The core fundamentals of how these factors can be researched and understood remain broadly the same, even during the crisis. It’s these fundamentals that many of the most forward-looking businesses are likely to seek to anchor themselves to as they undertake the research crucial to adapting their strategies. These fundamentals are only likely to grow in importance – the need to maintain an evolving understanding of users as they rapidly change will be critical to successful reinvention.

The next step

The true nature of the post-Covid business landscape remains unclear.

What is clear, however, is that those organisations who wield user research principles effectively will be among the best positioned to begin building an understanding of their customers’ emergent behaviours.  These principles should be considered a critical part of the strategic toolkit – even for businesses who find themselves at an advantage in the post-COVID-19 world.