How do you demonstrate the value of user research to your business?

France Wang
March 23, 2022

User research has become a must, and is increasingly adopted in companies to investigate the needs and uses of target populations. Whether for a product or a service, it is even essential to meet the needs of users. Yet many companies continue to shy away from it. Preconceived ideas, "no time", "no money"... There are many reasons. If you are faced with these rejections, here are some tips to try to change the mindset of your interlocutors.

Understand your company's needs

Before going to the front line, there are a few preliminary steps to take, starting with identifying the stakeholders in your project. These are the best people to talk to in order to fully integrate strategic issues, business requirements, and to clarify certain points. This will ensure that your research is relevant and that the sponsors, whose support is essential, are interested.

If it's a large project, it may be more difficult to identify the many stakeholders. UX researcher Tomer Sharon divides them into three categories. They can help you in your thinking:

  • The company (management, product managers, marketing managers, etc.)
  • Engineering (developers, quality assurance managers, technical support, etc.)
  • The UX team (designers, researchers, technical writers, etc.)

Whatever the profile of these people, their interests may be very different from yours. Try to understand their activity and their needs so that you can provide them with solutions that match their business objectives. To do this, don't hesitate to offer them an interview; it will give you the opportunity to ask all your questions and above all, to listen. During these interviews, make sure you :

  • you have all the information you need to carry out your search
  • That you have a clear understanding of the company's needs so that your search is relevant, effective and can meet them.
  • Let the stakeholders explain their KPIs to you.
  • That your research has not already been done by someone else in the company

The aim is to gather as much information as possible, but also to turn the stakeholder into an ally. By showing interest, you involve them directly and engage them in your user research. You will need their support for the next step.

You can also find allies among the decision-makers or on the operational side. If you are well surrounded, you will gain credibility and will be able to convince the hesitant ones more easily.

Implementing user research on a smaller scale

To start demonstrating the importance of user research, there is nothing like concrete examples. Before you think big, start with small victories. This way you will make your stakeholders understand that the ROI of user research can be very positive.

Internally, try to identify problems faced by teams that can be solved with user research. For example, if the design team is faced with a complex feature that is wasting valuable time trying to fix the problem, offer them a series of small user tests. Once the solution is found, highlight the results while making your data accessible and understandable to everyone.

Hold on to these results, they are just the beginning of a long road to democratising user research in your company. You have already convinced a team, now you just need to turn them into allies who will enable you to expand your field of action.

Do you have time on your hands? Get out of the office and go straight into the field. Go to a train station and meet the passengers and ask them questions to try to understand their problems. By gathering as much information as possible, you will get the full picture and develop empathy, which is essential to better respond to people's needs.

A small home-made solution can also be used as a basis for hypotheses. Try to put yourself in the users' shoes. Blindfold yourself to face the problems of blind people. By immersing yourself, you will understand their daily lives and the difficulties that accompany them. Then do some research to validate or not your personal feelings and support your experience.

Think also of surveys which allow you to gather as many opinions as possible in a digital way, without taking up much time.

The advantage of this small-scale user research is that it involves little or no expense. It will be useful for your future presentations.

Storytelling your research results by linking them to business objectives

Now that you have applied this method on a small scale, it is time to use the results of this first experience to reinforce your statements. Because doing user research is good. Knowing how to put your results forward is better. Don't forget that your interlocutors are not necessarily familiar with this practice or with the environment.

You need to capture their attention by engaging them in a story rather than listing your observations, user needs and insights from your research. You can accompany your storytelling with verbatims or video and audio content to bring your presentation to life.

  • Don't hesitate to create empathy maps or User Journey Maps, which will support what you say. These are real listening and visualisation tools and will be very useful for developing your personas and making them known to your audience. If you need a little help designing it, this article might be useful:

  • Adopting the same language is essential to communicate and convince stakeholders. KPIs, ROI... Some sponsors only react when they hear terms that really speak to them. You will need to prepare key arguments to demonstrate the added value of user research.
  • Make them understand that user research, if done very well, offers quality data that can be measured. Highlight the business value of your research and the benefits it can bring, to demonstrate its ability to meet their financial objectives. They will be more sensitive to this budgetary aspect than to arguments such as "user research allows you to create a product that really meets user needs". So, give them examples of financial benefits such as increased conversion rates, reduced response times from support teams or reduced development time.
  • Emphasise the collaborative aspect of this method. With user research, there are no more differences of opinion or unnecessary debates about the progress and development of a solution. Everyone puts aside their own opinions and aligns themselves with tangible results, regardless of their area of expertise. The teams then work hand in hand towards a common goal. However, be careful to take care of the managerial spirit of some decision-makers. We are never safe from a misplaced ego.
  • Show the stakeholders that user research will enable them to stand out in the market and take a leading position. Prove to them that they are capable of presenting a solution that is as unique as they are, that no one has thought of before but that user research will have brought to light.Once the stakeholders are convinced and the user research is in place, continue the momentum by sharing the results with all the teams.

Because it is by communicating them correctly and explaining the user search explicitly that it becomes meaningful. This saves a lot of time and money. Promote it, evangelise it. This is how you will succeed in establishing this new working method in the long term. And don't forget that your research results can later be used by someone else. It is therefore essential to make them available to everyone, because you have created a base around which everything will be built. This will prevent newcomers to the project from having to start all over again: it would be a shame if a subsequent user search, if badly done, were to undermine your work.

Knowing how to respond to each blockage

Les sceptiques vous mèneront la vie dure pendant votre présentation en remettant en cause la validité de cette approche, souvent par manque de compréhension. Pourtant, il vous faut leur soutien. Il est donc essentiel de parer aux idées reçues avec des arguments persuasifs. Gardez en tête votre objectif : pousser vos interlocuteurs à considérer la recherche utilisateur comme quelque chose dont ils ont autant besoin que l’utilisateur final.

"User research is too expensive. We don't have the budget."

👉 The budget issue is one of the main obstacles to implementing user research. Stakeholders don't want to invest in something they don't believe in and which seems to them to be a waste of money. The difficulty is to estimate the benefits of the research. In this case, try to calculate the cost/benefit ratio of a poorly researched solution in advance: show them that developing a product that does not meet any need is a waste of time and money. Solving the real problem allows you to challenge questionable assumptions based on real data. It's not about saving money, it's about saving unnecessary expenses.

Use concrete examples from in-house work to support your point. To do this, it is necessary to have a good knowledge of the company's history. But, again, there is nothing like tangible evidence to convince them. If you tell them "Last year we spent three months developing an application that cost us €12,000. Yet when it was released, very few users downloaded it and used it. If we had invested even one day of user research, we would probably have identified this lack of need, and thus saved about €10,000", they can only see the reality of the situation. Accompany your colleagues who have participated in this experience to reinforce your credibility.

"User research takes too much time."

👉 It's true, like all good work, user research requires mobilising teams and giving it time. However, there are side solutions to save time and efficiency, as mentioned above with the application of user research on a smaller scale. By finding a subject capable of providing you with results in 2 or 3 days, you will prove to the stakeholders that this method saves time elsewhere, and very often on the development side (which is the most expensive).

"It is the UX Designer's job to design an intuitive product"

👉 Like many other "new jobs", the UX Designer job is misunderstood. It is therefore your duty to educate decision makers by offering them a detailed description of the skills and limitations of UX. Make them understand that proposing new practices is part of their mission. User research gives them the insights they need to design a solution or product that perfectly meets the needs of users. Like any human being, UX cannot have all the answers, and sometimes they need help to accomplish their task.


Although user research is becoming more and more popular in companies, it is still a method that is poorly perceived by many organisations. Yet it is often the expertise that is missing from the development process of a product or solution. Lack of management support, lack of knowledge of methods and businesses, lack of understanding of each party's objectives: these obstacles can be overcome by adopting the right attitude and working on a solid action plan.

Your first attempt may not be successful. Don't give up: the idea is there, it just needs to germinate. Don't hesitate to try again and apply user research on a smaller scale. Give them concrete examples, stay motivated!

If you manage to develop this user-centred practice, discover our introduction to quantitative and qualitative user research, two different approaches that will enable you to better understand your users.

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