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Experience Research vs. Market Research

By: Dan McDonald, User Research Lead

At The ExperienceBuilt Group, we’re often asked the question, “What’s the difference between experience research and marketing research?” The answer boils down to approach and prioritizations.

We believe that the perfect middle ground between flexibility and efficiency is found by combining research methods – sometimes called mixed-method research. Marketing research often relies on traditional methods, like surveys and focus groups, which are essential to providing structure and ensuring that the data gathered is clearly connected to the project’s goals. They allow researchers to gather relevant data at scale efficiently.

Experience research methods, on the other hand, hone in on in-the-moment, in-the-field experiences. Rather than taking the marketing research approach of precisely seeking opinions at scale, we cast a wide net to find both macro and micro experience gaps to close. Uncovering the answers to make impactful experiential changes relies heavily on conversations and observations – either between researchers and customers (or employees) or respondents having conversations at their own pace, like in a data-collecting diary. Creating meaningful connections in the field uncovers customers’ feelings and problems to find practical, relevant solutions. We often include in-the-moment surveys as well to allow us to capture feedback from a large audience; these surveys prioritize documenting behavior, actual experiences, and journey choices.

Mixed-method solutions allow us to precisely tweak experiences in order to achieve business objectives. Experience research can also include experiences that aren’t about the customer. Improving employee experiences, for instance, will make your team stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Marketing research also tends to have influence over various aspects of a brand's offerings, like sales pitches, product development, or B2B environments. Experience research, as the name suggests, puts experience at the forefront of research efforts. So, what does this look like?

It looks like visiting sports fans’ homes on a football Sunday to watch them place sports bets and observing fast food customers go through the drive-through during the pandemic.

It looks like gathering avid grillers in a community park to test gas, charcoal, and pellet grills and talking with greeting card shoppers about what it's like to pick out a card online versus in-store. Each experience research project looks a little different but is always centered on understanding human experiences in-the-moment

The most important thing in any research project is having a clear objective and knowing exactly what you’re going after – and at The ExperienceBuilt Group, the answer is always experience optimization. Our goal is to polish every aspect of customer and employee experiences. And with MMR’s marketing research expertise in tandem, all of your company’s challenges can be tackled under the same roof.

So, how does EBG do experience research differently than our competitors? Experience is all we do. It’s what we eat, sleep, and breathe; it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. Many other qualitative research, CX, or employee experience companies reach for breadth, but we simply dive deeper into what we do best. We’re the experiential experts – so connect with us today to find out how we can help your company create experiences worth repeating.


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