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Empowering content strategy with user research

Understanding the readership is the key to BestReviews' business operations as well as product and editorial planning. 

Individual Project • Qualitative Research • BestReviews

Role

UX Researcher

Tools Used

Qualtrics, Hotjar, Calendly, Zoom, Excel, Google Sheet, Google Map

Skills Used

Interviewing, Survey Design and Distribution, Data Analysis

The Challenge

Design and execute the user research to understand BestReviews' readers, their interests in the brand, and their shopping behaviors

The Outcome

Presented research findings to stakeholders (CMO, product team, content team) and provided actionable product and editorial recommendations to increase reader engagement and user retention

Impact

  • Synchronized cross-functional teams' knowledge on its reader demographics and psychographics

  • Influenced editorial decisions on content strategy and audience development planning

  • Added context and user insights to the design process (homepage redesign)

  • Provided foundation for an upcoming marketing branding campaign

Overview

BestReviews (owned by Nexstar Media Group) is a consumer product review website serving over 30 million customers. BestReviews monetizes through affiliate marketing and has approximately 9 million monthly visitors to its website.

Process

Discovery

Design

Execute

Deliver

Project Timeline

project timeline (yellow).JPG

Discovery - understanding the problem

To understand research goals and to optimize research impacts, I talked to two product managers, three editors, and a marketing analyst (who specializes in paid traffic) before drafting the project plan and gathered their insights and knowledge of BestReviews' readers.

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At the same time, I conducted a comprehensive audience engagement analysis with data from Google Analytics to discover patterns in user flow (website visitor journeys), user behavior, and user demographics.

research questions
research goals

Why this research matters?

Before the research, the product team had a vague concept of its reader demographics but was unclear about the psychographics and what value(s) readers find in BestReviews.

The product team and the content team had slightly different understandings of the core readers of BestReviews before the research — I got four different descriptions of the core readers from discovery interviews with company stakeholders, which showed me the importance of synchronizing cross-functional teams' understanding of BestReviews' readership.

Design & Execute

Phase 1 - quantitative research, sampling and recruiting

Using the screener survey, I sampled interview participants across dimensions relevant to BestReviews' key value props and attributes and got a quick overview of readers’ knowledge of the brand and their usage of review websites.

survey screenshots
survey screenshots

Using Qualtrics and Hotjar, I designed and distributed the survey via BestReviews' newsletter and a pop-up window on BestReviews' homepage and received over 400 responses.

Sampling Plan

Filter participants out if...

  • Didn't finish the survey

  • Lives outside of the U.S.

  • Haven't browsed the website before seeing the survey

 

Demographic Sampling

Age

Gender

Geography

Income

Psychographic Sampling

Familiarity with BestReviews

Usage of review websites

user survey slide

Phase 2 - quantitative research, in-context interviews

From the survey, I selected a representative group of 8 people and conducted 30-minute virtual interviews with each of them.

Interviewee overview:

  • 4 females, 4 males

  • 3  interviewees over the age of 65

  • 3  interviewees in their 50s

  • 2 interviewees around the age of 30
     

interview structure & goals
interview structure & goals

Challenges

Time constraints

 

Challenge: There was usually a one-week delay between the interview invitation and participant registration, and some participants would cancel the interview at the last minute. I was worried about completing all interviews on time.

Solution: Outside of working days (I worked two days a week), I opened up my schedule on all weekdays to increase the possibility of successful interview sign-ups.

Diversify the sample

Challenge: The loyal readers of BestReviews and its newsletters are people aged 50 and above, but we wanted to expand the scope of our research to get the views of people of different age groups.

 

 

Solution: We distributed a survey on the homepage to target all visitors to the website.

Deliver

At the end of the internship, I presented the research results to stakeholders from the product, content, and marketing teams and answered their questions related to the report. The presentation summarized key findings and insights about the target market, validation of BestReviews' value propositions, three representative user personas, and recommendations for product design and content planning.

Presentation (Conclusion Section)

Feedback

"Tina presented her research findings, and both (the content and product) teams found the research to be helpful and actionable."

— William Reynolds, VP of Product & direct supervisor

"Really impressive what you were able to put together so quickly."

— Jacob Palmer, Director of Digital Content & direct supervisor

Next Steps

Due to time constraints, I didn't complete the following tasks, but ideally, these would be the next steps after the research:

  • To create a product roadmap for proposed product recommendations

  • To work with the editorial team to implement proposed content recommendations

  • To work with the content marketing team to implement proposed newsletter recommendations

Reflection & Learning

User research can help to correct assumptions and cognitive biases.

 

Before this research, several colleagues (including the CMO) and I thought that millennials, rather than baby boomers, should be the target audience of BestReviews because:

a) they are more engaged with the site (measured by page/session and bounce rate on Google Analytics);

b) their purchasing power is expected to grow over time, which brings more market values in the long term. 

However, after primary and secondary research, I realized that baby boomers are more suitable as the target audience because they spend more time researching products and services, and are often more loyal to brands like BestReviews that provide trust and reliability. As a result, I shared my learnings with my colleagues and helped correct the assumption.