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Diffusing the War Between Market Researchers and User Experience Researchers

by Brianna Sylver

In preparation for this month’s edition of Sylver’s newsletter, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the nature and evolution of what is commonly referred to in the insights industry as “hybrid” research. As someone who has been trained in both qualitative and quantitative methods and has used each approach individually and in combination for many years, this topic is especially intriguing to me.

In the moment, as the words came out of my mouth, a description of how market research was alike and different from user experience research might sound “smart.” Yet, playbacks of that moment would always produce the litany of caveats in my head, “Not true because of X, Y, Z; What about in this situational context? Does it hold true there?” Bottom line, I was often left wondering … are there really differences between market researchers and user experience researchers or are we just making this stuff up to substantiate two different insight disciplines and make ourselves feel better in the process?

Short answer—no. These insights disciplines are indeed different, but not in the ways that the industry so wants us to believe. The key defining differences are not hinged on methodologies. Rather, it’s the philosophies behind the work and work process that literally divide these two insight disciplines of Market Research and User Experience.

Yet, because these insight roles look eerily similar from the outside (especially as User Experience matures in Corporate America), what begins to emerge are territorial wars wrought with ill assumptions and uninformed biases. Heels get dug in and pontifications of “I’m better than you” start to surface. It gets fairly ugly rather quickly.

I advocate, “Why do we have to go there? Can’t we all get along?” I think there are lots of reasons for each insights discipline to share and collaborate with one another and, by way of that, produce some incredibly powerful, insightful and strategic shaping work.

So, what does it take to break down the walls between the insights disciplines? And why would you want to make it your mission to do that? Diffusing the territorial wars and creating meaningful collaborations between these disciplines is precisely what I’ve been so fired up about this past year. I’ve now spoken on the topic of integrating Market Research and User Experience in four different venues (to rave reviews each time!), have contributed a chapter to a UX Careers Handbook (coming out soon!) and have recently published a full feature article entitled “Why Now—More than Ever—Market Researchers Should Consider a Transition into UX” in the Spring 2016 QRCA (Qualitative Research Consultants Association) Views magazine (gifted to you in PDF form here).

I feel strongly that there is more to gain by these two insights disciplines working together vs. separately. I have my own thoughts on how to make that happen (and, in fact, will soon be leading a UX/MR cross-disciplinary training for a Fortune 500 company to do just that.) I’d also love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this subject.

Read the article, then please share your comments and thoughts below. What actions might you personally take to diffuse the war between Market Researchers and User Experience Researchers?


  • Customer experience
  • Design
  • Market research User-centered approach
  • Customer centricity
  • Customer experience
  • CX
  • Market research
  • MR
  • Organizational change
  • UCD
  • user experience
  • User-centered design
  • UX

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