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Bridging the Gap between MRX and UX 

Posted By Kelsey Segaloff, HubSpot, Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Bridging the Gap between MRX and UX 

Two years ago, I made the move from working at a market research (MRX) agency to a client-side user experience (UX) team at a software company. Starting my job in UX, I had the perception that UX research and market research were two completely different worlds. The more I have learned, the more I’ve found we really aren’t that different after all. 

We are focused on related goals:

Let’s take a look at the definitions of market and UX research. 

Market Research Definition 
“The process of gathering, 
analyzing, and interpreting information about a market, about a product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the past, present, and potential customers for the product or service; research into the characteristics, spending habits, location, and needs of your business's target market, the industry as a whole, and the particular competitors you face” 

UX Research Definition 
“UX (user experience) research is the systematic study of target users and their requirements, to add realistic contexts and insights to design pro

It helps us identify and prove or disprove our assumptions, find commonalities across our target audience members, and recognize their needs, goals, and mental models. Overall, research informs our work, improves our understanding, and makes our work better.” 

Notice any similarities?

Market research and UX research are closely related. The foundation of both kinds of research is a focus on understanding target users/customers. Importantly, UX research and market research are types of research one can conduct. Just because you identify as a market researcher does not mean you haven’t been conducting UX research, and vice versa. 

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As UX researchers, we use market research to better understand customers, the market, and the ways the products we work on can be best positioned. As market researchers, we use UX research to make the experience of interacting with a product or service better. You may already have been conducting UX or market research without realizing it! 

Imagine the goal of your study is to understand uncover the pain points of a gym membership in order to try and increase the number of membership signups. Would that be a UX research study or a market research study?

I would argue it’s both. If UX is focused on the user experience, the member’s experience would fall under the UX umbrella. However, if we’re looking to increase the number of membership sign-ups, we would need to conduct market research (e.g., what are the gym competitors doing, what external factors beyond the experience at this gym impact membership?) to understand the full picture.

Market and UX research are two pieces of the same research puzzle. 

We are doing the same kinds of research but in a different language 

One of the biggest challenges to bridging the gap between market and UX research is, what I like to call, “research gatekeeping.” 

Gatekeeping is when someone or something arbitrarily decides who does or does not have access or rights to a community. Within the research community, we’ve become gatekeepers of research. We consciously create UX-specific or market research-specific jargon that results in artificial boundaries between what are or aren’t certain types of research. 

Here are just a few examples of UX and MRX-specific lingo that means the same thing:

Market Research Term  UX Term 
Co-Creation  Co-Design 
IDI/TDI  One-on-one interview 
Ethnography  Contextual Inquiry 


Research gatekeeping makes bridging the gap between research types incredibly challenging. When we consciously create jargon, we’re siloing ourselves from the greater research community. If we continue drawing superficial lines, a market researcher may never realize they have been conducting UX all along, nor will the UXer realize they have been exploring the world of market research. 

So how do we bridge the gap? 

I no longer consider myself just a market researcher or just a UX researcher, instead, I’m a researcher. I can use market research, UX research, or any other kind of research to help my stakeholders achieve their goals. The more we as a research community can break down these arbitrary barriers, the more we can learn from one another. The more communication and sharing we have across the research community, the more we can grow together. And in turn, we can bridge the research gap. 

About the author:

Kelsey Segaloff is a professional question asker and loves looking at the why behind everything we do. 


Tags:  comparing MRX and UX  QRCA Digest  UX research 

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