Why product research studies seem like garbage

Them’s fighting words aren’t they.
But it’s also a pretty logical deduction. Historically, product studies are performed for research and development because there’s a need to know what the market wants before going ahead and creating the product. On the flip side? These surveys and studies are biased since they are usually paid, and the naysayers are more likely not to be involved.
Let’s take a product that everyone knows. For example, mobile phones. If you’re targeting the ages of 18-24, a survey would do less than standing out on a campus asking every student that walks by, what phone they use and why. Want to do it passively? On a sunny day, just mark down what sort of mobiles are out in the common area. If you watch carefully, the younger markets are less around keyboards (eg. Blackberries and Qs) and more about candybar shaped phones with a lot of texting involved. They’re more likely to carry LG and Samsung, due to the looks, and is less concerned about flip phones and thin sizes as much as the ability to do things like take good pictures, texting, internet, and speaker phone calls.
This is the type of thing that just walking around on a nice day at the mall, can tell you from just observing. That would give you a great perspective on how people use the technology in an everyday environment.
It’s funny, but random people watching gives you a lot better data in my opinion for a lot of different types of products than most product research. While this doesn’t work for everything, it does seem to paint a pretty clear picture for a number of goods rather than reading some survey done just as Nielsen’s ratings drive the shows that you watch on television, even though those that have rating boxes don’t necessarily represent every genre.
Again, it’s not an absolute. But overall, there’s a lot better ways to figure out if a product is worthwhile or what sort of design changes you should make without looking at just some numbers that you don’t know where they come from.
Photo Credit: (Amit Gupta)