Market Research vs UX Research: Key Differences & When to Use Each

Starting from scratch with a digital product is a thrilling but tough job. Research helps answer tough questions, so knowing when and how to use UX research vs market research methods is crucial.

An abstract illustration of comparing research methods

In this article we answer: 

  • How can you distinguish between different types of research?
  • What characteristics define market research vs UX research? 
  • Which one should you use, and when?
  • How can you combine market research and UX research?

Doing research can give the answers you need to move on and create a great product. 

The big question is, then, what type of research do you need, and when. 

Let’s get started.

Market research vs user research: uncertainty

Essential Questions for Digital Product Planning

When you’re building a digital product, you need to answer these eight questions as soon as possible.

  1. Does the need for your product exist?
    Examine how big of a potential market it has.
  2. What competing products have already entered the market?
    Don’t just list them, go deeper and find out about their functionalities, differentiation, and market share. 
  3. Who would be  the target customers for your product?
    Learn what they are trying to accomplish, their pain points and motivations.
  4. How do potential users currently solve their problems?
    Your product needs to be easier to use, better, faster, or cheaper. 
  5. How likely are they to buy your product?
    Estimates can only take you so far, but you need some data-based info on how  much they would pay.
  6. What features do they find the most important?
    These need to be perfected.
  7. How do they use it?
    Research their satisfaction and how intuitive they find your product. 
  8. Finally, how will you get more users? 
    Growth potential is crucial.

Questions like these keep coming and they can overwhelm us sometimes. Don’t panic. Research will get you the relevant and reliable answers you need. Let’s explore which type of research suits your needs.

UX Research vs Market Research Differences

Not all research works the same. The type of research depends on the questions you want to answer and the kind of information you need. 

UX research aims to find people’s true pain points and motivations based on their behavior, whereas market research aims to find people’s attitudes towards a product and estimate the size of the potential market. 

The UX Research Approach

A UX researcher would try to find answers by conducting interviews with potential users. You’ll get data on what users want to achieve; how they currently do it; what problems they face along the way; and what motivates them to keep going.

UX research focuses on:

  • Understanding user needs, behaviors, and motivations
  • Problems users face, and how they solve them

Methods used in user research include:

  • Interviews and surveys
  • Observations and field studies
  • Usability testing and A/B testing
  • Card sorting and tree testing
  • Persona creation and user journey mapping

Outcomes of user research provide:

  • Insights into user preferences and expectations
  • Data to inform design decisions and improve user experience
  • Validation of design concepts and prototypes
  • Metrics for measuring usability and satisfaction
  • Recommendations for product improvements and feature prioritization

The research should indicate if a need for a product like we envision exists. However, it wouldn’t say how much need exists (how many people have the problem, with what frequency, etc.). 

A diverse group of users testing a digital product on various devices, from phones to laptops and tablets

The Market Research Approach

A market researcher would also try to conduct interviews with potential users. This is where the question of market research vs UX research comes in. 

Market researchers focus on:

  • The  product idea’s appeal and key purchasing factors
  • Explore alternative solutions

Market researcher would conduct a survey with a representative sample to assess:

  • Product occurrence and frequency
  • Current solutions
  • Likelihood of using the new product
  • User demographics

Survey results would:

  • Add quantitative insights to qualitative data
  • Indicate market need
  • Estimate the product’s potential

This example shows how UX research and market research clearly differ in strategy. It also indicates that the insights they provide complement each other

A clean white desk with a decorative vase of flowers, reading glasses, and a laptop displaying advertising trends for market research.

Main Differences

Market Research: Broad Insights Focused on Attitudes

When you want to get the broad picture by uncovering high-level information about a specific industry, use market research. Market researchers use mainly quantitative methods, meaning they focus on numbers. They run studies on large representative samples to infer results for the whole population. 

The results of surveys reflect the situation in the whole population within an acceptable margin of error. This can make us quite sure of the average potential user’s age, income level, level of education and other general characteristics. Market research tends to give more weight to attitudinal data (what people say about themselves or about what they would do) rather than to concrete behaviors in a certain context. Market research is mainly used to inform marketing decisions.

UX Research: Detailed Insights Focused on Behavior

UX research employs a very different strategy. It has nothing to do with market size and shares, trends, market segments, or demographics. It has even less to do with attitudinal responses. Instead, it looks at people’s behavior when they solve everyday problems or use a product.

UX research provides a direction about how to design a product, and to what extent it meets user needs. We can use significantly smaller sample sizes because the results don’t need statistical accuracy. 

Consequently, UX research doesn’t deal with broad data, but rather very specific, deep insights about users. Researchers collect insights into the deeper reasons behind people’s actions and words. It observes what users actually do with a product and focuses on improving design and usability.

Market research vs user research: differences in techniques
Market research vs user research

Can’t I just Choose One and Adapt the Results to Fit My needs?

Not really. Both research methods play an important role, and you must avoid using one in the wrong context. 

Relying on market research insights to inform UX design decisions works equally as bad as relying on user research insights to derive market size. 

UX design requires different information than market research data. Also, a UX researcher or a market researcher requires different knowledge and skill sets. All-rounders who can equally master both come along a lot less often.

If you want to work with expert UX researchers, why don’t you browse our services?

UX Research vs. Market Research: When to Use Each?

Generally speaking, market research plays an important role during the product development cycle’s early stages for analyzing the potential to turn a profit. Here we need business insights on market size, trends, and competition. Also, product/service areas that interest people need to be identified.

After the initial market research, UX research will take over and dive into one of the focus areas we want to understand more deeply. UX research brings useful insights for building an innovative product: validating specific design decisions, deriving features and testing product ideas. 

Once you have concrete ideas from UX research, market research evaluates which concepts will sell well and identifies price points.

Let’s compare the goals and methods of market research and UX research to see when each is best used in the product lifecycle.

Market research vs user research: table with differences
Market Research vs UX Research: They answer different questions and come up in different stages


  • Market research goals: evaluate needs, market size, trends, competition, value proposition, pricing, and segmentation.
  • UX research goals: Define personas; create user journeys and test designs; choose features; build information architecture; analyze usage, product satisfaction, loyalty, and new needs.


  • Market research methods: surveys, focus groups, competitor analysis, price studies, and conjoint analysis.
  • UX research methods: interviews, diary studies, ethnography, usability testing, concept testing, card sorting, analytics, A/B testing, clickstream analysis, eye tracking, net promoter score, and customer feedback.

Stages of your product lifecycle

  1. Discover: involves interviews, diary studies, ethnography, surveys, focus groups, secondary analysis, and competitor analysis.
  2. Define: includes defining personas, value proposition, and user journeys.
  3. Design: involves testing designs, choosing features, and information architecture.
  4. Develop: encompasses testing concepts, usability, concept testing, card sorting, and price studies.
  5. Deploy: focuses on analytics, A/B testing, clickstream analysis, eye tracking, Net Promoter Score, customer feedback, and market segmentation.

Combine market and UX research to make better decisions

For making the best decisions, combine market research and UX research throughout product development.

  1. Initial Stage (Discover): Use market research to understand market needs and trends, and UX research to gather initial user insights.
  2. Concept Development (Define): Market research helps define the value proposition; UX research defines personas and user journeys.
  3. Design Phase (Design): Market research guides feature prioritization; UX research focuses on usability testing and design refinement.
  4. Development Phase (Develop): Use market research for pricing strategies; UX research continues usability testing and concept validation.
  5. Pre-Launch (Deploy): Market research fine-tunes marketing strategy; UX research optimizes user experience through analytics and testing.

Integrate findings from both types of research throughout the product lifecycle. Make the research process iterative and collaborative between departments. 

A researcher deep at thought at their desk as they survey data.

The most important thing for user experience professionals to know is when marketing research is needed, and when user experience research is needed,” says Apala Lahiri Chavan, the Chief Oracle and Innovator at Human Factors International. “If you understand how these two methodologies work together through a product lifecycle, you will be able to work effectively with marketing departments. You can demonstrate the value of including user experience research in their projects because you are able to explain how it complements the market research they are already conducting.”

And now you know how to go about it.

Key Takeaways

To sum up this deep dive, let’s review the main points we touched upon in this post.

#1 Research methods don’t all work the same. Think of the kind of information you need and choose a method that can provide the relevant answers.

 #2 Never confuse UX research and market research or use them interchangeably. Synergy is key.

 #3 Market research mainly provides broad, quantitative insights about people’s attitudes and their willingness to buy a product. This, in turn, informs marketing decisions.

 #4 UX research mainly provides deep, focused qualitative insights about people’s behavior and how they would use a product. As a result, this informs design decisions. 

#5 Used together, user research and market research can help product managers make better decisions and provide a clear roadmap to create successful products.

Want To Learn More?

What is beyond market research vs UX research? Read more related articles to research on our blog: Product Manager’s Guide To UX Research and Nine UX Research Methods Product People Should Know

Reach out to us if you want to consult expert researchers with 10+ years of experience. We sure have some ideas!

Dan Jecan

UX Researcher with an incurable case of curiosity. Passionate about circular design and sustainability. Convinced that through smart design, the world can be changed for the better.

Johanna Székelyhidi

I'm what happens when you take a doctor of literary sciences and give her the powers of marketing.

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