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Lean into Generative UX Research During Recessions

Lean into Generative UX Research During Recessions


Generative research produces revenue through data-driven storytelling. The resulting qualitative findings may be the difference between a company folding or flourishing in the year ahead. Businesses that embrace generative research methodologies will stay aligned with changing user needs and, in turn, will be better positioned to pioneer user-centered innovations.

For most, it is clear that a recession is underway with soaring interest rates, rising inflation, and negative sentiment among consumers. However, this isn’t a recession like the rest because this is the first time user experience is being considered an essential part of a business rather than a luxury. Companies can’t afford to bypass user experience this time; they must invest in generative research to keep afloat during a down market.

Strategizing with generative research

One thing we know about recessions is that people will begin deciding what’s a luxury versus a necessity. Naturally, with decreasing disposable income and increasing economic uncertainty, users will choose products, apps, and user-centered services. The increase in day-to-day stress will also affect how users interact and feel about the products they use now, during the downturn, and in the future. Users may feel more inclined to continue using products they typically dispose of more quickly to save money. Further, users may feel the crunch to decide between services, products, subscriptions, and apps as they tighten the reigns on their spending.

User-centered and recession-proof

Recession-proof companies will take a user-centered approach to how they conduct business during an economic downturn. Companies will be smart to perform cross-sectional and longitudinal studies to understand how users’ everyday lives change during a recession. Researchers can quickly deploy diary studies to understand how the same set of users feel about products and services over a set period of time. However, commonly used methods like interviews only give companies a snapshot of a particular moment in time.

Remote generative research has led to lower costs and speedier findings and opened the door for companies to tap into audiences that were previously less accessible with traditional, in-the-field UX research. Remote diary studies and virtual ethnographic observations have led to rapid innovation by making products and services accessible, inclusive, engaging, and attractive to larger audiences than was previously possible.

A UX team using generative research to design products that meet consumer needs during a recession.

Leaning into UXR during a recession

User research can cut through the noise when it comes time to make decisions and prioritize work. After hearing from users and seeing how they go about their everyday lives, deciding between launching a new product or iterating on a poorly-performing feature becomes much easier. With a first-row seat to how users live, teams can focus on improving, innovating, and engineering services and products that meet consumer needs during a recession.

Further, generative research can help give credence to stakeholder projects by adding a qualitative risk assessment of how certain products and features will perform in an economic downturn. These findings may show that users’ feelings are not in line with an innovation set for release later in the year; however, qualitative findings from generative research may show that users would respond well to the release of a new product that is seen as essential. UX research gives a certainty that seems evasive during a recession as it allows teams to prioritize, mitigate risk, and proactively plan.

Persuading stakeholders

These methodologies give companies a pulse on where users are, what they need, and how they make decisions in times of economic turmoil. B2B companies are even feeling this financial crunch as they grapple with supply-chain issues and layoffs.

As companies cut costs, generative research is generally overlooked and seen as a luxury to be instituted when there is an upturn in the economy.

  • Common concerns about generative research:
  • It will take too long.
  • It can’t be done easily.
  • There are bigger priorities to focus on.
  • The return on investment may not be enough.

Initially, these assumptions can appear correct, but truthfully, all of these are dead wrong. This is the absolute best time to employ generative research methodologies — the evidence is already showing in recent layoffs and general conservation in consumer and B2B behaviors. The best time to start generative research was earlier this year, but the second best time is now.


There is no better time to get insights directly from users. With the advent of remote user research platforms and services, UXR has become more affordable and time-efficient. With speedier and less costly testing, teams can run more tests than ever. Remote research like diary studies and digital ethnography will keep companies privy to how users think, feel, and behave in real-time, allowing businesses to design and engineer products that will keep them afloat and help them emerge from this downturn as a leader.