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10 product research tools and software you need to add to your tech stack to improve your product

Product research is a nuanced process that helps product teams understand their users’ needs and build a product people will love. But the research process isn't as straightforward as interviewing a few potential customers and calling it a day.

Some of the challenges of product research are collecting unbiased data, implementing different research methods, and translating findings into actionable steps for product development. 

Handling all this can be pretty taxing, and you might be surprised to learn that product team members are only human! Even with great product management, there’s only so much they can do (efficiently) without exhausting themselves. Enter product research tools.

Last updated

24 Mar 2023

Whether you’re a product manager struggling to handle different roles, or a product designer who wants to make the research process more practical, the right product research tools will be your best friends.

This article will help you determine which product research tools you need, and why you should add them to your tech stack today.

Tired of carrying out ineffective manual research?

Hotjar gives you the tools to magnify your product research efforts with user behavior insights. The deeper you know your customers, the more effective your product can be.

Product research tools: the what and how 

Building a customer-centric product isn't a cakewalk—you need every bit of help you can get. So imagine you begin fact-checking and managing biases during research only to realize you're working with insufficient or inaccurate data.  

Product research tools make product management more structured and your findings more accurate with data-backed user insights to help you uncover deep-rooted and intuitive information about how to delight your customers. But do you really need to invest in dedicated product research tools, or can you make do without them? Let’s see:

5 ways product research tools help product teams

Product research is a key element of product success—it helps you understand your customer and come up with better ideas and initiatives for your products. Research tools help you do all that faster, more efficiently, and with better accuracy. 

Product research tools help you:

  1. Organize processes for efficiency and speed: product research is an ongoing process without a definite end date. Product research software helps organize the process and neatly stack and organize research findings for easy analysis, so you can get to know your customers, and put those insights to use.

  2. Conduct qualitative and quantitative product research: it’s important to make the most of both qualitative—subjective and opinion-based—and quantitative—hard, numerical—data as much as possible in your research. This gives you both the bigger picture and the ability to dive in for deeper insights. Traditionally, combining both has been expensive and complex, but today’s tools make it easier to get a complete picture of your users. 

  3. Use data-backed customer insights to guide product decisions: instead of making assumptions and guesses, product research tools provide actionable information about user needs to help you validate assumptions and make smart product decisions.

  4. Get validation and buy-in for your ideas and decisions: use rich product analytics to support your research and findings. It’s easier to secure buy-in from stakeholders with data than to convince them to trust your gut. 

  5. Ensure you don’t miss out on something crucial: product research is just one part of product management. However, miss one critical step and your entire research process could be compromised. Research tools help you create workflows, set reminders, and build strategies to ensure you always follow best practices.

What factors should you consider when choosing a product research tool?

Every business has a unique product with different requirements, and investing in the wrong tools might end up costing you more time and creating more work than you signed up for.

But, how do you choose the best tool for your product and business? To ensure you choose the right tool for your product team, consider the following factors:

  • Size and stage of your company and products: a new startup with one product manager might just go for a single multi-purpose tool. However, an enterprise with an extensive product team may require a highly specialized tech stack. Consider the size of your company and where you stand in your product's lifecycle before you make your pick.

  • Features and functionality: understand your product team’s needs and identify gaps and potential problem areas—then find a tool that addresses these gaps and assists time-consuming processes. For example, an easy-to-setup tool (like Hotjar) helps the team collect customer feedback about your product and directly send it to stakeholders for discussion—cutting down time spent on approvals.

  • Usability and integrations: some tools are highly specialized and require a lot of technical prowess to navigate. When performing usability testing, consider who will use the tool and the degree of support they might need if the solution you choose is too complicated. Also, think about the time it’ll take to onboard new and existing team members.

  • Budget: your budget matters no matter how much you need a product research tool or how good it is. Before you even begin your research, understand the budget you have to work with, and prepare a business case for any additional costs.

10 tools to include in your tech stack for effective product research

Product research is a thorough process that brings you closer to your customers and helps you make user-centric decisions about the direction and development of your product. The more you understand users, the better you can build a product that meets their needs.

The right research tools complement each stage of the product research journey—from understanding customer needs to getting product feedback on a recent iteration.

Here are ten tools to make your product research process easier, faster, and full of actionable insights: 

1. Hotjar Ask and Observe: study user behavior and get VoC feedback

Hotjar (hi! 👋 ) gives you rich digital and product experience (PX) insights to help you understand user behavior and get product feedback in the voice of the customer (VoC). Hotjar is a great way to collect continual feedback throughout your entire product development process.

The best part? Hotjar combines some of the most useful product research tools in a single platform:

Heatmaps give you an aggregated view of how users interact with your website or product, and tell you which elements make users click or bounce off through color-coded graphic representations.

Pro tip: use scroll maps to discover a page’s average fold score and easily visualize the part of the page most visitors see before they start scrolling. To track user engagement with key CTAs on a page, use click maps instead.

Session recordings offer a play-by-play of how each user interacts with your product. They show you where people click, how much time they spend on a page, and what issues they face along the way, leaving them to rage click or u-turn.

Pro tip: sort recordings by Frustration Score to watch sessions of users who had a bad experience with your product. All that’s left for you to do is identify user pain points and product improvement opportunities!

Hotjar Surveys provide an opportunity to collect users' thoughts and opinions while they’re in your product. You can ask open- or closed-ended questions and offer rating polls (using NPS and CSAT Surveys, or another of our many survey templates) to understand how they feel about your product, and how you can improve the experience for them.

Pro tip: improve alignment with Hotjar's Microsoft Teams and Slack integrations by letting your entire product team know when a user has left feedback.

The Hotjar Feedback widget lets you collect customer feedback in context to better understand what users are thinking or feeling while they use your product. This reliable, fast, and easy-to-understand user feedback better equips you and your team to make user-centric decisions about the direction of your product, and helps you generate ways to delight your customers.

Pro tip: product teams can use Hotjar in every stage of the product research journey. 

Use Hotjar Heatmaps and Session Recordings to collect data on how users react to your product and pinpoint issues they’re facing as they experience each page and feature. You can then use this data to prioritize product iterations or introduce new features to meet user needs.

After you've made changes, use Hotjar Surveys and Feedback to get first-hand product experience feedback from your users and assess the impact of your product decisions.

2. Zendesk: gather user feedback

Zendesk is a solution for collecting, understanding, and responding to customer feedback. It allows you to:

  • Connect with customers seamlessly across platforms, listen to their problems, and gather first-hand feedback

  • Analyze and monitor critical customer data with multiple integrations and functionalities

  • Create a response plan to address their concerns, and deliver solutions from a unified place 

In the product research journey, you want to understand what customers are feeling right now. And the best way to do that is to have a conversation with them to hear their feedback and concerns about your product.

Customer conversations are an integral part of product research because they give you direct insight into your customer’s thoughts and challenges. It’s how you learn who your customers are—and how to keep them happy.

Use what you learn from your customers to introduce new and better features, manage iterations, and provide a better product experience.

3. Make My Persona: define actionable user personas

Make My Persona is a very handy (free) tool created by HubSpot to help you define your product personas

Understanding your users and their needs is key to creating or improving your product. Once you have gathered enough information about them, creating actionable user personas is an important part of the product research process

With Make My Persona, you can create handy fictional examples of your product users, including:

  • How they are using your product

  • What their goals are when using your product

  • What barriers prevent them from achieving what they want to do within your product

Granted, the default information you need to input to create personas in the tool are only more or less actionable, but you can easily create new sections based on the insights you gathered from the first stages of your product research, then download your personas and keep them handy in your project management software (more on that below 👇).

Pro tip: getting started with user personas? Place a user persona template on your site and start learning who your users are.

4. Productboard: research, prioritize, and roadmap product updates

Productboard is a product management software that helps you get your product to market faster, and build a product you know your users need, by helping you:

  • Centralize user feedback and using AI to turn data into actionable insights

  • Build a product roadmap that your team aligns on

  • Prioritize the right features, based on data 

Centralized feedback management is a significant feature of Productboard that can one-up your product research process and make it more organized by collecting product insights and customer feedback (even negative feedback) across all your channels. 

After completing this part of the research process, turn your actionable user insights into a plan to improve (or create) your product. Productboard’s roadmaps let you align your entire product team around what to do next, with built-in filters that display only necessary information to each audience in your team.

Pro tip: wondering which features to prioritize next? Let your customers tell you what more they wish they could do with your product with a feature prioritization survey.

5. Similarweb: determine market size and analyze the competitive landscape

Similarweb is a comprehensive web analytics tool that helps you with the next stage of the product research process: market research.

At this stage, you want to gauge the market size for your product, evaluate which competitors you’d be going up against, and evaluate the business potential for your product.

Similarweb allows you to:

  • Get a view of the industry, including current size and historical trends

  • Analyze the competitive landscape, including your rivals’ marketing mix strategies

  • Learn the keywords and terms that your competition uses to market their product, as well as their search volume

The data you get from Similarweb helps you determine whether there is a market for your product and the market demand trajectory so you can evaluate whether demand is going to last or not.

6. Airtable: manage your research data

Unless all your research material is neatly organized in one place, it's difficult to make informed product-related decisions, which can lead to delays or misalignment with visions and goals—dangerous territory.

If you want a dedicated place to keep your product research data neatly organized, Airtable can help: it’s like a spreadsheet on steroids, where you can manage your data in different cells that can expand into full-fledged databases.

Data management can make research analysis and implementation faster with detailed insights about your product, customer needs, challenges, and stakeholder concerns. 

7. Notion: manage your project and communicate your strategy in one place

Notion is the workspace from where you can manage the entire product research process. It’s a great place to keep your product research data, your wiki (and all other documentation), your product roadmap, and… well, anything and everything useful, really.

Where Notion truly shines is with project management, though. To bring your product vision to life and act on your product roadmap:

  • Organize and view your project’s tasks into multiple views (timeline, table, calendar, and more)

  • Assign owners, statuses, and due dates to each of them

  • Create dependencies and visualize how each task is tracking with a progress bar

  • Integrate with third-party tools to centralize all your work

8. Figma: prototype and wireframe product and feature releases

Building a product is not a ready-to-serve recipe. After research, you can’t build a full-fledged product and release it straight to the market—you need customer validation and feedback at every stage of product development.

So instead, you build a prototype or a minimum viable product (MVP) with only basic features, so you can test the waters and see if your product vision will meet the needs of your customers. 

Figma is an all-in-one design platform that helps you bring your ideas to life with prototypes and wireframes: 

  • Design the UI of the products and/or features you want to test based on the initial stages of your product research

  • Add animations to your designs to simulate clicks, hovers, and more

  • Switch from design to prototype and share your prototype in an instant

Pro tip: want to validate and get feedback on your product designs? Use a concept test survey and let your users tell you what they think. You can also run a preference test and compare two variants.

9. Hotjar Engage: run usability tests

Once you’ve brought your designs to life, it’s time to get users to actually test your MVP. This critical stage is essential, as you don’t want to wait for the final product to be built before submitting it to usability testing

Hotjar Engage lets you automate the process of scheduling, analyzing, and sharing usability tests and interviews with your team. This essential product research tool makes it a breeze to:

  • Recruit participants, from a panel of over 175,000 volunteers, or by bringing in your own testers to the platform

  • Focus on spotting the key insights, knowing that Engage generates an accurate video transcript with the time-stamped notes you’re taking

  • Sync with Hotjar Recordings and Heatmaps to provide deeper insights into how participants use your product and why

With Engage seamlessly hosting, recording and transcribing your calls, your team can easily turn usability insights into action and continuously improve your product.

Pro tip: product research continues even after the product launch. A continuous feedback loop ensures your product keeps satisfying users, or better yet, keeps improving based on their feedback. Product development, and therefore research, is not a one-time process, but rather, a cycle.

10. Optimizely: run A/B tests to keep improving your product

Whether you’ve already launched your product, released a new feature, or are still working on an MVP, consider running A/B tests (or multivariate tests) to gauge which version of your product or feature users prefer and/or converts more.

Optimizely is an A/B test tool that lets you test and optimize every touchpoint:

  • Run tests, uncover insights, and continuously refine users’ interactions with your product

  • Validate new features and deploy high-quality releases, safely and quickly

  • Design, implement, and analyze low/no-code experiments based on powerful customer insights without requiring a developer

Building a culture of experimentation within your research process ensures that you either keep improving your product or learn from failed experiments how to do it, the customer-centric way.

Pro tip: the Hotjar and Optimizely integration gives you deep insights from your A/B tests to optimize your users’ experience. The integration lets you combine your Optimizely tests with the Hotjar Session Recordings and Feedback tools to understand how users engage with and react to different versions of your product.

Find the best product research tool for your team 

Product research is a long and often exhausting process. Product research tools unleash the full potential of product management and empower you with the necessary resources to create a product your customers truly love.

Tired of carrying out ineffective manual research?

Hotjar gives you the tools to magnify your product research efforts with user behavior insights. The deeper you know your customers, the more effective your product can be.

FAQs about product research tools