Dualo chevron
Back to blog
3 ways to maximise the ROI of user research
Research excellence

3 ways to maximise the ROI of user research

By optimising processes and actively measuring research ROI, any team can gain deeper insights into their users’ changing needs, behaviours, and desires – and stay one step ahead of tomorrow’s research demands.

Dan Robins
January 26, 2023
In 2023 there will be a seismic shift towards the importance placed on collective knowledge across teams. No longer will insights be siloed to a single department, they'll become enterprise assets shared across the entire organisation.

This isn’t surprising given today’s economic climate. With reduced budgets and major structural changes, organisations are turning inwards to capitalise on their existing assets - customer insights included.

And in times of economic uncertainty, high maturity user research teams are well positioned to maximise the return on investment (ROI) from new and existing research. Here’s how:

1. They leverage existing data before conducting new research

2. They combine and socialise insights

3. They action new opportunities in consolidated data 

But the benefits of working in this way don’t have to be reserved for large, uber experienced insight-driven organisations. 

In this article we break down 3 best practice habits and processes that we’ve observed in high maturity teams, and offer practical advice that any team conducting user research can follow (solo researchers included), to maximise the ROI from their work.

Research is an investment

Let’s make one thing clear: research is an expensive investment for any organisation.  

By definition, an investment is “an asset or item acquired with the goal of generating income or appreciation in the future” (appreciation refers to an increase in the value of an asset over time). An investment always concerns the outlay of some resource today — time, effort, money—in hopes of a greater payoff in the future than what was originally put in. 

Organisations invest in user research in the hopes of greater payoff in the future — be it through reducing costly usability flaws, or by discovering new ways to increase activation, retention, or revenues.

And if user research is an investment, then our goal as researchers should be to help maximise the return on that investment.

Here’s the problem: many organisations treat research as a siloed one-time investment. It’s often conducted for a single, specific purpose — with little consideration for lasting, repeatable value, or leveraging wider patterns in data. This outlook significantly limits the overall potential of research.

In contrast, high maturity organisations are not only set up to maximise research ROI, they're actively measuring and optimising it.

Myth: User research ROI can’t be measured

In order to improve ROI, first we need to recognise that it is indeed measurable. 

The argument that ROI cannot be measured for user research is a lazy one.

User research influences outcomes in numerous ways. For example, it can help you design more valuable products, increase customer loyalty, improve overall conversions, or reduce expensive development costs, (according to IBM, “code defects are up to 100 times more expensive to correct than using the right information in the first place").

The easiest way to prove ROI for user research is by tying each research dollar back to key metrics such as the examples above.

The truth: User research doesn’t happen in a vacuum - it always has a goal. If this is linked to improving either a business or customer outcome (ideally both), you can demonstrate the impact.

How high maturity teams maximise the ROI from their research insights…

1. High maturity teams leverage existing data before conducting new research

I’m sure it’s not news to anyone reading this post that it's not always possible to commission new research (budget, capacity, and priority constraints can all play a part). And most teams recognise that leveraging existing insights can be just as powerful (if not more), as conducting new research. 

But if you ever have a gnawing feeling in the back of your head that you’ve looked at this topic before — and if only you could remember who mentioned it on a call 6 months ago, that likely means you’re not leveraging your existing data effectively, and are most likely conducting new research unnecessarily.

High maturity user research teams are experts at leveraging existing data, and minimising repeated work. This is only possible because of: 

1. The ability to efficiently and effectively recall previous insights, and

2. Restraint when it comes to conducting non-critical research 

Many teams are able to follow one of these, but doing both is a trait of a high maturity team. 


It's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of new insights, and it takes a certain level of maturity to first look back before marching forward with shiny new research — especially when there's a readily available budget for it. 

While it’s easy to assume that high maturity research teams are constantly conducting new research, to the contrary, they only commission new research when existing insights do not provide the level of certainty they require. This is not only more efficient, but also reserves valuable resources and budget for more critical research. Win-win. 

Note: searching through existing data is indeed a form of ‘new research’ (albeit secondary), but for the sake of simplicity in this article, when I refer to ‘new research’ I mean ‘new primary research’.

How you can action this

If you haven’t already, build a database of research findings that enables you to efficiently search existing data by topic. This can take many forms; from research registers, to dedicated insight hubs like Dualo — and it’s certainly worth doing some research before deciding on the most suitable solution for your team. 

Once you have this set up and you’re able to easily access key insights from multiple different sources, start challenging yourself and your teammates to exercise restraint when it comes to conducting non-critical new research.

2. High maturity teams combine and socialise insights

In the context of user research, ‘socialisation’ refers to sharing insights with the goal of helping your organisation collectively stay connected to the end-user and business (this is not to be confused with its controversial cousin, democratisation). 

At the end of the day, insights mean very little in a vacuum. If your insights are unseen or siloed, it’s very difficult to unlock their full potential.

But socialisation doesn’t stop at the User Research team. In the highest maturity organisations it’s a practice shared amongst the many customer-facing teams across the organisation. Product, Marketing, Data Science and Customer Success are all data driven teams within close proximity to User Research that benefit from user insights. 

‘Cross-pollination’ not only elevates the practice of user research and its outputs, it also brings new insight and wider perspectives. The bidirectional distribution of knowledge across teams helps to turn siloed insights into shared enterprise assets. And only by socialising such assets, can teams drive truly meaningful change at an organisational scale.

How you can action this

First and foremost, make sure you're effectively communicating and evangelising insights across your team; using the right channels to distribute key insights and recommendations. Once you’ve mastered this, start engaging with wider customer-facing teams that also collect and analyse customer data, and form a group of champions to explore ways your teams can combine and exchange knowledge.

3. High maturity teams action new opportunities in their consolidated data 

My 3rd and final point is intrinsically linked to points 1 and 2. It’s difficult to imagine a team being truly set up to find and act upon the new patterns in their consolidated data without first mastering how to leverage existing insights and combine knowledge across teams. 

The literal definition of ‘consolidation’ is “the action or process of combining a number of things into a single more effective or coherent whole”, and it’s why when many teams talk about ‘consolidating insights’ - few truly understand the ultimate purpose, and many fail to realise all of the potential benefits. 

High maturity research teams recognise that there is only so much insight that can be derived from a single study in isolation. Moreover, these teams proactively seek and pursue new insights that can be discovered from cross referencing and combining existing knowledge from multiple sources. 

When it comes to research insights, only when we take a broader view of consolidated data can we truly begin to see and understand wider cross-organisational patterns. High maturity teams are experts at looking beyond the initial discovery, and exploring how it fits into the bigger picture — this is the true meaning of ‘research excellence’. 

How you can action this

If building a central repository is not currently feasible, take a sample set of previous research your team has conducted. Pull out some key insights and index this data by arranging it into themes (an affinity mapping taxonomy workshop is a great starting point for this exercise). Do any new patterns emerge from the research data you already hold? Are there insights that have not yet been fully exploited? Can you find new ways to apply existing insights to the challenges you’re being presented with across the organisation today?

Closing thoughts

High maturity teams are set up to maximise the ROI on research because they recognise that it is an investment in the now, and the future. 

There are, of course, many ways to maximise research ROI, and this article is certainly not exhaustive. I hope however that the 3 topics I’ve covered today provide some valuable insight into the processes and philosophies we’ve observed in high maturity teams.

The simple fact that research ROI is measurable means that when it’s tied clearly to a business or customer outcome, your team can find its own unique ways to ensure you’re maximising the value and impact of the research you do.

By acknowledging this and optimising processes, any team can gain deeper insights into their users’ changing needs, behaviours, and desires – as well as stay one step ahead of tomorrow’s research demands.

Further reading

Investment Basics Explained With Types to Invest in

The fascinating history of investing 

A 100-Year View of User Experience

Top 7 user research myths you should stop believing in 2023

Socializing UX Work: The What, Why, and How

What is the democratization of user research?

Taxonomies: the make-or-break of an insights repository

What is user research excellence and is it achievable by any team?

ReOps: Research Registers

The tools being used today to build cross-team insight repositories

About Dualo

Dualo is an insights hub that helps your team unlock value from the insights trapped within your research reports and apps. If you're interested in learning more, please request a demo and a member of our team will be in touch.

Dan Robins

I’m a design, UX & strategy lead with a passion for storytelling. Proud member of Dualo’s founding product trio. Always seeking new inspiration.

Insights to your inbox

Join our growing community and be the first to see fresh content.

You're subscribed! Stay tuned for insights to your inbox.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Dualo checkbox

Repo Ops ideas worth stealing

Dualo checkbox

Interviews with leaders

Dualo newsletter signup