How to Discover a Niche User Base with User Research

Have you ever built a product?  And have you found yourself unable to get your idea on track? This is a case study demonstrating how we discovered a niche audience in a crowded market in under a month, simply by talking to people.

The idea

We wanted to build a unique product for stock market traders. In case you're not familiar, these are the people who work in front of dozens of computer monitors, watching numbers and pushing up oil prices.

So our question was: what might be a good product for these people? What would they pay for? To answer these questions we needed to identify their main challenges. What are those pain points in their lives that we can solve in order to earn their gratitude?

We sat at our tables in the UX studio office and reflected on these questions. In the end we realized that the answers were surprisingly obvious.

The process

Instead of thinking about traders' pain points for hours, I logged into my Facebook account and searched for groups like "stock market traders". I started to publish some ads in those groups - for example:

“Hey, We are developing a new product for Traders but we don’t know if we are crazy. I am very curious about your opinion. Can I reach out to you?”

And I also created some eye-catching pictures to help the ads get noticed.

traders we need you

Over the next few days I received numerous messages from traders around the world, and organized interviews over Skype. All of these were recorded, and at the end of each day I spent a few hours reporting the interviews. This phase took about two weeks.

Our questions were designed to identify the traders' pain points, and they included the following examples:

  • What is your main challenge in trading? 
  • What gives you the biggest headache? 
  • Why is this a problem for you?
  • How do you try to solve it?
  • How much time or money do you spend for the solutions?
  • Can you give me an example when this problem occurred recently?

After approximately 20 interviews I came to see the bigger picture. Almost all of the traders gave the same answers. I collected these answers in a table and used color coding to signify different categories of problem, such as technical or psychological.

Here are the results:

user research results

The table shows that many of my interviewees experienced psychological difficulties arising from their trading process. For example: “Emotions, especially while you are in the trade. Fear, greed, hope, anxiety...”

Results

Drawing on these interviews, we formed some initial ideas about the most important types of problems experienced by stock market traders, and we wanted to test these ideas with a wider audience to see whether they were valid. We used the same process as before - Facebook, eye-catching picture, copy - and we led respondents to a page containing a survey comprising the questions that were asked during the telephone interviews. This time we targeted more people. Almost 50% of the visitors filled out the survey and provided an email address so that we could contact them later. This phase of the experiment took another two weeks.

Would you be surprised if I were to tell you that we received completely different responses to the surveys than to the Skype interviews? 

Well, we didn’t. After almost 50 surveys we got back exactly the same results.

We were ecstatic. We had found something. We had discovered a unique problem that hadn’t yet been solved in a crowded market. I had butterflies in my stomach.

Conclusion

You can make many assumptions about the needs of your audience, but the best way to build a niche product is to begin by askinga few simple questions about your customers' habits, challenges, problems, and solutions. The more questions you ask, the better you'll be able to build your product. Of course, this was just a first step, and our product can fail at any time because of a tiny, tiny thing. But if we don’t listen to our customers from the very beginning we'll never build a great product at all. 


About the Author

david bartos

David Bartos is the marketing manager at UX studio, a Budapest-based UX design company. He has a wide range of experience in online marketing and helps people to find their perfect product scope before launching it.