A fellow mentor at the Unreasonable Institute recently told me the following story:
Earlier in his career he was tasked with "unfucking" the e-commerce store of a prominent Internet company. People didn't buy and the assumption was that the user experience was just not good enough; that people abandoned their carts as they were confused by the user interface and checkout flow.
He and his team did the usual thing – they ran a bunch of user tests where they asked users to complete specific tasks such as "Put an item into the basket and go through the checkout process", observed their behavior and optimized their flows. And yet – regardless how much they optimized flows and how good they made the overall experience, the results just weren't there. People still didn't buy.
Then one day he did something different. Instead of conducting yet another round of user testing, he went to the test subjects, gave each of them $100 and said: "Buy something on our website."
The users turned around and answered: "We can't. You don't sell anything we want to buy."
Turned out: What the team perceived to be a question about usability was really a question about merchandise. They solved for the wrong problem.
Are you solving the right problem?