You need both market research and user research to understand more about your audience. But they focus on different aspects of the research process; i.e., market research is about studying the market landscape, industry trends, and competitor analysis while user research revolves around understanding the user’s needs, behaviors, motivations, and pain points.

Let’s know more about market research vs user research so that you can align your product or service not only with market trends but with user needs as well. 

What is Market Research?

Market Research is the study of the market environment which includes various factors like market demographics, popular demands, and competition to determine the best course of action for the success of business.

Before a company gets into any sort of business, market research is done to identify the viability of getting into that field. Jumping into business without market research is a very risky gamble you would not like to take.

Let’s say, a company named Zara wants to get into the business of selling cosmetics. Just setting up a shop and advertising will not guarantee a successful business and can be a waste of resources. 

In order to ensure that the business will be feasible, Zara will need to know about the location where they are going to do business, the popularity of similar products, the competition they will be facing, etc. Only by knowing a lot of these factors can Zara have an understanding of the viability of their business idea.

This phase of research can be defined as market research. Without market research, there is market uncertainty which has held back 34% of marketers with their strategies according to a survey by Qualtrics.

What is User Research?

User Research is a specified research system that tries to determine how target users react to the business of a company to evaluate the effectiveness of their methods. This includes how receptive they are to the products, the marketing campaigns, and other activities related to them.

Let’s go back to the previous example of Zara. We have mentioned their research to determine whether they are going to be successful. Let us assume they figured that their business idea has great potential and have decided to go in.

Now, they are going to need to develop their products and services to cater to their target audience. For that, they provided samples to a number of potential customers and collected their feedback for ideas and changes. 

By gathering data on how to design their product based on potential customers, they are trying to get the best possible products for them. Using this data, they will also figure out other things like marketing campaigns, distribution channels, etc.

This procedure can be defined as user research. According to a case study done by HFI, Staples saw an 80% increase in visitors, a 45% reduction in drop-off rates, and a 67% increase in repeat customers after a research-driven site redesign, which shows how important it is.

Market Research vs User Research

Market researchUser research
Stage when conductedUsually in the beginningUsually during the product development stage
Scope of researchVery broad, industry-wideNarrow, focused on user base
Purpose of researchUnderstand viability and overall business plansMaking necessary changes to products/services and activities related to the target audience
Methodology Similar but results determine overall business plansSimilar but results determine changes made to product/service, website, or advertising campaigns

At a glance, both market research and user research might seem like the same thing, and some overlap of approaches and subject matters can even suggest that. However, they are very different in what they bring to a business. 

The stage when conducted

Market research is one of the earliest steps that anyone takes. It helps a business understand the overall picture of an environment and helps assess the viability of entering the business.

User research, on the other hand, is done during the development process of products and services to map out the best course of action to optimize them. 

Scope of research

Market research is a very broad and open research that consists of a lot of aspects which include customer preferences, market competition, and significant industry-wide information. 

User research is much more specific and is confined to a smaller degree which includes behavior from a sample group of users with their reactions in mind.

Purpose of research

Market research is done to determine a lot of huge topics for a company. A company pretty much fixes the majority of its identity and activities based on results found from market research. 

They also decide on major things like what kinds of products and services they should be providing and how to present them to a target audience to create the best impressions.

User research is done after when most of the planning stages are done and the products and services that will be offered are figured out. During the development process, a group of users is selected with various methods to understand how they interact with a product. 

Based on their experience, various issues and oversights are found that are very likely to be missed by creators during the creation stage. This data can also be used in other aspects like improving marketing strategies and customer services.


The methods of market research and user research have a lot of overlapping techniques, which can be repetitive. However, the results for both serve very different purposes.

Results from market research are used to devise business plans. On the other hand, information from user research is used to make changes and alterations to the product, customer service, or marketing campaigns.

User research and UX research

User research and UX research are often used interchangeably in the industry, leading to a lot of people thinking they are the same. While they do have a lot of similarities, they do have a few subtle differences that set them apart.

First, in terms of similarities, there are a lot. Firstly, both include intensive study on understanding target customers. They both have a highly involved process of selecting users for data collection and use both qualitative and quantitative methods for the process. 

They include methods like surveys, questionnaires, interviews, user behavior analysis, focus groups, etc. These methods are also carried out by the same tools like software and platforms.

With so many similarities, you might be wondering what are the differences. The most important distinction between the two is that user research focuses a lot on the overall general behavior of the target market. UX research is mostly focused on the UX design process, trying to improve the user’s experience with the product or service. 

With a difference in scope, there will be some differences in research activities. For example, while product-based research activities will fall under both user and UX research, a study on age groups based on how they feel about different marketing campaigns will fall only under user research.

These data and insights can be used to improve the products and different activities. Product-related improvements will fall under UX research while everything else will be part of user research. 

In most cases, this distinction is barely noticeable or irrelevant, the reason why they are thought to be the same. While there is nothing wrong with them, knowing the differences will help you when they become relevant in your case.

Market Research Methods

Depending on the source of information gathered, market research can be divided into a few methods. They are

Primary research

Primary research is the collection of information from a source by various means. In our case, it would be collecting information from sources like the target audience and market. You can do primary research by conducting surveys, interviews, and questionnaires among your prospects. Depending on your situation and information, you can do two types of primary research.

  • Exploratory primary research
  • Specified primary research

Exploratory research is done when you have just started and want to get a general idea of the market. This is sort of a first step to understanding what the market demand is and what customer trends are running. Once you have determined most of your actions, you can go for specified primary research where you can ask your segmented target market about potential and suspected issues.

Secondary research

Secondary research is the data and resources you can collect from different sources that can be relevant to your venture. They are usually done for some other purposes and are usually readily available based on how you get them. Some sources of data for secondary research are:

Public sources

Public sources will be the easiest way to collect relevant data for your company. These are usually researches conducted by third-party agencies for various purposes on different topics. Government statistics are some of the most common but useful resources you can find which can tell you how successful your relevant industry is and how much potential it has.

Internal sources

Internal sources are historical data your company has gathered over the years on all kinds of projects. If your company has been active for quite a while, you are very likely to amass an archive of data by now. 

While some of these datasets might be outdated, there is nothing wrong with checking out data you already have. Who knows, you might recognize patterns of business you did not think of by analyzing historical data. Since you already have it, try to search for anything relevant within your records.

Commercial sources

There are a lot of agencies that conduct research and provide the documents for a price. Sites like Market Reports World, Gartner, and Pew provide detailed documents on different marketing-related topics this way.

User Research Methods

User research is divided into two types, qualitative and quantitative methods. As we have discussed, you will find a lot of overlapping methods. However, the insights they provide and how they are used are very different from the information we get from market research. Some methods between the two user research methods are given below.

Qualitative methods

Guerilla testing: Guerilla testing is a fast and low-cost testing method where potential users are approached in public places and are asked to test out a website or prototype. This is a great way of collecting raw information and each encounter takes about 10-15 minutes. You can offer something small to participants like a few bucks or a coffee to incentivize them to participate.

Interviews: One-on-one interviews can help in collecting very specific information based on how you design your questions. You should prepare your questionnaire in a simple manner and make sure your interviewees feel comfortable to express their thoughts and feelings.

Focus groups: Focus groups are small groups who are selected to participate in an open discussion where they are asked a few curated questions meant to collect data whether they be open or specific. Provide incentives to encourage active participation in discussions.

Field studies: Here, you head to major business environments where you observe customer behavior and try to take notes on anything noticeable to ascertain their actions.

Quantitative methods

User surveys: Surveys are a cost-effective way of collecting specified and numbered information that can be analyzed to make informed decisions. You can easily collect a lot of data without having to personally conduct any one-on-one encounters. 

You can also incentivize participation and even spread around your survey by offering something small, like a discount or a gift to those who share it with their friends.

First click testing

This is a test where we analyze where a user will click on an interface when presented with no context. You can use paper prototypes, interactive wireframes, or even a website for observation and design your own interface based on results.

A/B testing

 A/B testing is the process of setting up two different designs for two web pages on a site and analyzing which one of them has better results. The design of the winner is then implemented throughout the whole operation. 

You should keep trying out different UI ideas this way and find the ones that get the most impressions. Keep A/B testing your  UI designs and you will be constantly improving your results.

Eye tracking

Eye tracking is an expensive but effective way of collecting crucial information as it detects where the eyes of a user go to understand what catches their eyes. If your budget allows it, try utilizing this technique to optimize your UI design. You can use tools like Lumen, Elementhuman, or Tobii to implement this.


Heatmapping is a cheaper but very effective alternative to eye tracking as it measures which parts of the interface are clicked on the most. Hotjar and Crazyegg are great tools for this.

Web analytics

Web analytics allows you to observe the demographics of your visitors and how they navigate through your site. This is important as it lets you understand how well your website funnels are working.

Merging Market Research and User Research

With the evolution of business procedures and the overlapping of methods between market research and user research, merging them can help facilitate a better workflow of activities. 

A lot of activities like surveys, focus groups, ideation, analytics, etc are crucial for both market and user research. However, if you cannot integrate the two together, you will have your marketing team and design team doing the same things separately at different times. 

Merging both these methods will allow you to handle these activities with a holistic approach. This will not only save time but will also allow both teams to procure more information through these methods. Prepare your business plan in a way such that these activities can align together to save time and resources.

Final thoughts

We hope this blog on market research vs user research will help you make optimal decisions for your company and enjoy great conversion rates.

If you have any further queries or need consultation regarding your operations, do reach out to us. Our team of experts will guide you through your journey and help you achieve your targets.


Both market research and user research are vital steps you need to make sure your operations are a success. You will miss out on vital information and insights that are beneficial to you and make decisions based on very risky guesswork, especially in a competitive industry.

The key steps to market research are1. Define problem or opportunity2. Develop your research plan3. Collect relevant data and information4. Analyze findings5. Input findings into campaigns.

The key steps to user research are1. Identify research goals2. Select appropriate method3. Recruit relevant users for research4. Run tests 5. Analyze data6. Apply them to the workflow