User , Startups , Scaleups — 02.28.2023

If You’re Losing Users, You Need User Research

When you go to the doctor, you describe your symptoms to help them diagnose your illness. A qualified doctor then prescribes treatment. 

Imagine if, instead of prescribing you medication, your doctor asked, “what diagnosis should I give and how would you like to be healed?” You’d run for the hills. No qualified doctor would leave it up to the patient to self-diagnose.

Product is no different. When you’re building a digital product, you know it better than anyone else. It’s easy to get siloed and rush to develop one-off requests from users at the promise of a contract, or worse, out of fear of losing users completely. But you must avoid becoming the doctor that takes orders from patients.

Do you actually understand the needs of your users? Not what features they’re asking for, but the problems users are trying to solve? If they’re dropping off or asking for more features, they clearly have needs that your product isn’t fulfilling. 

To understand user needs and make your product more valuable, invest in research. 

Discover how research de-risks your product strategy. Learn the signals that indicate you need research and what to prioritize.

Research helps you fill gaps between founder vision and user needs.

Users don’t know what they want. They know what causes friction for them and how it makes them feel, but it’s not their job to figure out how to fix it. It’s difficult to imagine the future of a product when they don’t know what is possible, so they can’t self-diagnose and determine your roadmap. 

And one user’s request may not represent the entirety of your user base. Imagine if the doctor, instead of prescribing treatment based on your symptoms, asked, “what diagnosis should I give and how would you like to be healed?” and then treated every other patient the same way. Building your product based on one-off user requests is the same as a doctor allowing one patient to dictate every other patient’s treatment plan.

Instead, you must understand user needs, pains and motivations so you can prescribe the best features for your entire user base. 

The only true way to understand what causes friction for your users is to ask them. Research is valuable because it gives you direct access to the people that use your product the most. Research fills the gaps between the founder’s vision and user needs. Your product is only valuable if it solves real problems for real people, and research is how you discover those problems. Research gives you information so product managers can prioritize areas with the most opportunity and user value. 

Without research, you’ll have to make assumptions. And when there are assumptions there is risk. Research de-risks your product by: 

  • Helping you understand user needs, pains and motivations. 
  • Identifying opportunities to add value and impact. 
  • Equipping you with the cold, hard data you need to confidently make the best decisions. 
  • Using data to help you justify your decisions to stakeholders and investors.

These signs signal that you need research.

How do you know you need research? It can be hard for a founder to know exactly when research is necessary. 

Red flags that signal a need for research include: 

  • High churn rate
  • High sign-ups, low usage
  • Low paid-tier upgrades 
  • High customer complaints or support tickets
  • Email unsubscribes
  • High volume of new competitors
  • Market and economic shifts
  • New technology and trends

Some of these red flags indicate you have a product problem — your product isn’t usable or valuable. Others are completely out of your control — you can’t predict when new AI capabilities will hit the market.

To find out if you have a product problem that requires research, ask yourself:

  • Have you recently updated your product?
  • Have you recently collected data?
  • Do reviews inaccurately reflect the state of your product?
  • Have you developed features without evaluating user needs? 

If you answered yes to any of the above, your product could benefit from research. 

Now is the time to prioritize research.

It’s no secret that the economy is in an uncertain state. If you’re wondering why you should prioritize research over short-term revenue activity, you’re not the only one. But while shifting focus to sales activity or restricting budget to exclude product improvements may seem like a good idea right now, sacrificing the quality and value of your product to manifest short-term success is a mistake. No amount of marketing dollars can sell a useless product. And time won’t correct the effects of uninformed or rushed decision-making. 

Now is the right time for research because:

  • Research is valuable at any and all phases of your product lifecycle. Whether you’re launching your MVP or revisiting your product strategy before raising your Series A, research can help you fill in the gaps between what your product is and what it should be. 
  • Research is never finished. Even if you’ve done research before, there’s always more information to uncover. The only constant is change. Your users change. The market changes. Your product changes. Research helps you transform these changes into opportunity and impact.  
  • Research can give you confidence and help you navigate uncertainty. In times of uncertainty, control what you can and seek to understand what you can’t. When all else feels unstable, research gives you the confidence to make informed decisions. 

By bridging your product and your users, research helps you make better decisions, grow your product and scale your company.

Ready to build a more valuable and usable product? Find out how our product strategy experts can help.