How to do Product Research [Step-by-Step Guide]

Product Management
November 21, 2022
14 mins read
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An effective and robust product research process increases the chances of product success. 

Seth W. Godin, an American author, once said – ‘Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.’

The quote subtly hints at the necessity of product research. By performing product research beforehand, product managers can create the ideal product for customers. 

Did you know that 90% of new product research focuses on ‘modifications’ and ‘additions’ rather than new concepts? 

But even improving or adding new features to an existing product requires a proper product research process.   

Product research enables managers to understand the current and future needs of the users. Thus, based on users’ pain points and what they are looking for, product managers can innovate products of a higher value. 

Furthermore, organizations with a strong product research process understand the market better. They stay one step ahead of the competition and survive better in the long run. 

Now that you know how important product research is, you must dive into how to do product research right away!

So, let’s begin!

10 Steps to Product Research

There’s no single product research process that fits all the product development teams. But there are certain key steps in the process that product managers must know about. 

Here are the 10 essential steps to perform a successful product research process. Follow these steps to derive valuable product insights that will guide your product development decisions.  

1. Define your research goals

Why are you performing the research?

Once product managers find an answer to the why, they can set the goals of the research. 

Set the high-level goals first. You can set these goals considering the product strategy and vision, ensuring their alignment with business objectives. 

Next, create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reliable, and Time-bound) goals for the product development team to focus on during each research stage. This may include;

  • Performing market research for product adoption before its release
  • Finding out the key areas or features of the product to be improved after the launch
  • Assessing the product performance through the product’s lifecycle.

Setting clear, measurable, and time-bound goals for the product research process guides the product team’s actions. It helps them to understand what they need to do. Also, the goals help product managers to measure outcomes and make improvements where necessary.  

2. Understand your customer's needs and pain points

An effective product research process is always customer-centric. So, start engaging in user discovery. 

Understand user pain points. Start your user research even before planning the product features. Interact with your existing and potential users to identify their needs and wants. 

Performing open-ended user research will help product managers to; 

  • Measure the market demand, 
  • Get inspiration for the new product
  • Determine the product-market fit
  • Product positioning against competitors, and 
  • Increase customer satisfaction. 

Since user research is a vital part of the product research process, you can check out the best product discovery questions list

After the user research, when product teams develop prototypes, they can start trials and ask for user feedback. Next, the insights from feedback can be used to improve the product. 

3. Perform competitor and comparative analysis

The next step in the product research process is to know the competition. 

  • Start with competitive analysis. It involves reviewing the products that are directly similar to yours. For example, if a company sells smartphones, it is directly competing with other companies selling smartphones (like Samsung and Xiaomi). 
  • Next, perform a comparative analysis. It involves evaluating the alternative options for a product. For instance, an automobile manufacturer can compare the safety features of multiple car models to measure the sales of each and identify the features that require improvement. 

Performing the analyses will provide insights that product teams can use to make the product better. 

4. Study the market

Besides performing competitive and comparative analyses, product managers must run thorough market research to map the available opportunities.

Study the market

Here are a few ways to study the market thoroughly;

  • Use the historical market records, and research reports by academic institutions, government agencies, and trade associations. 
  • Observe and analyze the competitors’ strategies like advertising, pricing, and distribution of products. 
  • Read up on blogs, magazines, social media posts, and other specific content related to your space.
  • Run keyword research to understand what your users are looking for. This can help you generate product ideas too. 

Once product managers validate a viable market for the product and determine the market saturation, the development teams can focus on the product's USP (Unique Selling Points). 

5. Conduct research using qualitative and quantitative methods

Further, product managers can use both qualitative and quantitative methods of market research. 

Qualitative methods – The qualitative methods of market research aren’t statistically significant. These methods help product teams to understand the potential customers at a deeper level. Individual interviews, focus groups, observations or follow-me-homes, and interviews with professionals or field experts are a few qualitative methods you can utilize for market research.

Quantitative methods – Quantitative methods include conducting surveys, polls, or sending out questionnaires. Through quantitative methods, product managers study a large enough pool of respondents in their target market to have reasonable confidence in the collected data. For organizations with a limited budget, you can rely on the survey reports of other organizations in the relevant field.

6. Know the industry trends

Stay on top of the industry trends by updating your knowledge regularly. Observe the tech trends that may impact users’ expectations of your product or its viability in the long run. 

Engage with the tech cultures – read blogs, news, and magazines, listen to tech podcasts, follow the latest tech updates on social media platforms, forums, etc. Product managers can also use tools like Google Trends, Trend Hunter, etc. 

The IT teams in organizations also serve as a key source of tech information. Product managers can interact and take regular updates from them. 

The industry trend updates can also help product managers to research future projections, disruptive technologies, and the chances of product category obsolescence. Thus, with these insights, the product teams can create products that are likely to be in demand in the future. 

7. Validate product ideas

After thorough research, product teams can test ideas and solutions.

Based on the extensive research data, you can identify the possible products, their key features, or improvisations that can meet the user's needs. Further, you can perform concept testing to examine user experiences with concrete product ideas.

To start testing, identify the key users to test. Get participants for interviews, focus groups, or implement surveys, feedback tools, etc., to test the ideas with the existing users. 

Product managers can also ask questions and assess user responses. Or, they may simply explain to the users the product concept using wireframes and mock-ups.

8. Build your product and test the MVP

A crucial step in the product research process and the most conclusive market research that product managers can perform to ensure product success. It is only after a lot of effort that product teams get to the point of testing MVP (Minimal Viable Product).

Testing MVP is all about creating the MVP and trying to sell the product or the product idea to the target audience. Several types of product testing, like card sorting, tree testing, etc., tell whether or not users can navigate your product easily, to find the different functionalities they are looking for. 

Build product prototype and test

Further, product managers can run a regression analysis, quality assurance, and performance testing to check the MVP functionalities. Running these tests helps the team to identify the areas where changes are needed.  

Multivariate tests and A/B tests are helpful when the user base is split into different groups and each group has different products or product features. These tests help product managers to choose the perfect iteration.

9. Derive findings and insights from the market research data 

The market research data is of no use unless you convert them into findings and insights. 

Products managers and the product team must analyze the data to find out conclusive outcomes that can support their product decisions. 

The team can then start building the final product or improvise the MVP based on the research insights. 

10. Use the analysis to guide your product strategy

The final step in the product research process is to convert the research insights into action. Cut through the noise and gather valuable customer-centric insights.

Then, you can use the research to create a strong product roadmap and strategy to guide the entire product development process. When you perform new research, ensure to compare the strategy and roadmap to keep them updated. 

Further, the research should also be used to make regular decisions, drive product backlog management, and create the basis for your product storytelling. 

7 Tips to Conduct an Effective Product Research

A strategic approach to performing the product research process is essential. But alongside the planned strategy, product managers must consider a few tips or best practices to conduct the product research successfully. 

1. Research highly-demanded products

At the initial stage, when you do not have a product concept, get inspired by the products high in demand. 

Check out trending hashtags, reviews, comments on review sites, and bestsellers list to find out the most popular products in your space. 

Here, the goal is not to imitate the product in demand. It is to keep an open mind, ascertain the demand level, and evaluate if the product idea is awesome or not. The product manager’s goal is to perform an honest evaluation and get back to brainstorming with the collected inspirations.

2. Read about similar products

When performing a competitive analysis, read reviews and case studies on the products. 

Product reviews are gold mines. You can find out what users like about the product and what they do not. Reading the reviews carefully can give you a list of the customer pain points. 

Similarly, product managers must download or buy case studies from companies that sell similar products. The case studies generally include the product-related challenges and how the company solved them. 

Evaluating reviews and case studies allows product managers to think through the potential issues and keep the solutions handy. Also, they can identify the product features that can be made better than that of the competitors. 

3. Host a focus group

Evaluate your product by bringing in people who fit your target market. Give them a product profile – what the product will look like, its features, and benefits. Then, ask relevant questions concerning what they like and dislike about the product.

Though focus groups aren’t effective all the time, they can help product managers to get an idea of what people would say about the product. 

Providing the focus group with an MVP or prototype works better. The feedback received is more valid and meaningful. 

4. Get expert product engineers

Product managers can hire product engineers to get unbiased opinions on the product prototypes. 

The experts work on a contractual basis. They evaluate the product design, and features, test prototypes, and ensure quality and usability. 

If required, product engineers can also assess the market research, build design ideas, and supervise production. 

5. Consider product marketing

Building the product is not the end of the product research process. Not overlooking product marketing is one of the best practices to follow. 

Product marketing management

Product managers must give equal importance to product positioning and marketing strategy. They can check out the competitors to understand;

  • How they promote their products
  • Whether or not their marketing strategy is successful
  • How to make improvements in the strategy

Further, considering the target market is a must. Try answering questions like;

  • Where do they mostly shop?
  • What are their interests?
  • What are the social media platforms and communication channels mostly used by the target market?
  • Where do they discover the products from?

Considering these aspects, the marketing strategies, campaigns, and distribution channels must be planned. 

6. Go for a soft launch

A trial or soft launch allows product managers to estimate sales. If the trial results aren’t satisfactory, they can modify the product before spending more on its marketing.

Soft launches need not be expensive. You can create a simple landing page for the product and then run a PPC or Pay per Click campaign to assess the demand. 

You can also provide a form that interested users could fill up. Explain the product to those who inquire, maintain communication, and notify them when the product is available. 

7. Continue product research

Continue your research even after the product launch. Ask for customer feedback, measure the outcomes of your marketing campaign, and track metrics like repeat purchases, new customers, etc. 

Further, track competitors too. Observe their strategies and emerging trends. Also, test new strategies like referral programs or loyalty programs. 

Product Research Tools

Building a user-centric product isn’t easy. Product managers must be equipped with the most effective tools. They must take every bit of help available to them. 

A product research tool is something that can help the product teams a great deal. It helps in making product management a more organized and structured process. Further, using these tools, product managers can get data-backed user insights and accurate research findings.

Check out the best 5 product research tools you can invest in.

1. Zeda.io

Zeda.io is one of the best product management tools that you must invest in. It is a platform where you can; 

  • Collect feedback, ideas, and feature requests from customers, 
  • Analyze the data from a single dashboard, convert them to actionable insights, identify trends
  • Plan product roadmaps, create live roadmaps, and share them with teams and customers
  • Prioritize product tasks with prioritization frameworks like RICE
  • Execute the product development process in collaboration with teams

In a nutshell, Zeda.io is the all-in-one product management software that allows you to build a product seamlessly and in an organized way. 

2. Zendesk

Zendesk is a tool that helps you maintain interactions with your customers. It is a platform that allows collecting, understanding, and responding to user feedback.

Using Zendesk, product teams can listen to customer issues, develop a response plan, and deliver solutions to address their concerns.

Simply said, Zendesk ensures carrying out regular customer conversations as they are an integral part of the product research process. These customer conversations provide direct insights into customers' thoughts opinions, suggestions, and challenges. 

Thus, you can learn from customer feedback and incorporate changes, and better features in the product to ensure an incredible user experience. 

3. ProductPlan

In the product research process, the product research eventually converts to a product roadmap. It is the product roadmap that highlights the present and future priorities, workflows, product vision, and product progress. 

Once you have come across the research stage, the focus is on building the product roadmap. ProductPlan is the platform you can use to build visual roadmaps. The tool helps in maintaining flexibility, team collaboration, and efficient addressing of issues.

Here’s why you should get ProductPlan in your product research tool stack.

  • It is easy to use
  • It allows customizing roadmaps with lists, layouts, and timelines
  • The drag-and-drop interface helps in tailoring the roadmaps according to one’s needs
  • You can collaborate with teams, tag the members, and also comment within the roadmap

4. Jira

Another must-have product management tool, Jira ensures a hassle-free product journey from prototyping to product launch.

Jira is a project management tool that primarily helps with;

  • Organizing project tasks
  • Managing scrum and agile teams
  • Capturing and recording software bugs 

With Jira, agile product teams can manage their workflow seamlessly. The tool offers 300+ integrations, is highly customizable, great for managing product issues, and overall effective product management. 

5. Proto.io

After you have built a product, you cannot release it directly to the market. User feedback and validation are required. So, instead of building a full-fledged product, you create an MVP or prototype with the basic features for testing the waters first. 

This is where Proto.io comes in. Proto.io is one of the leading prototyping tools that help you build a prototype quickly and easily. 

  • Proto.io has a great interactive drag-and-drop interface that lets you create the prototype to test each product feature or idea based on your research. 
  • It is user-friendly with integrated icons and easy image management

Thus, Proto.io increases your research efficiency. It helps you to offer customers an amazing product experience resulting in better customer satisfaction. 

Final Thoughts

How to do product research is a common but complex question. Not all organizations use the same way to perform product research. But the product research process does have a few key steps that are crucial for its success. 

Throughout the process, just remember that product research is all about user research. The main goal is to understand the users, their needs, and their pain points. 

Once product managers implement the user-centric approach, they can build better products – the products that would meet the ever-changing demands of the market. Further, it will increase customer satisfaction and inspire loyalty.

With platforms like Zeda.io, your product research process can get easier. You can seamlessly perform user research using Zeda.io’s product features like the central dashboard, prioritization framework, building live product roadmap, easy tracking, sharing roadmaps with teams and customers, etc.  

Mahima Arora
Associate Product Marketer at Zeda.io.
A marketing enthusiast, trying to influence society by means of media and drive sustainable good.
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