You might think that your product or service is great, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t what your customer wants.

But how can you go beyond your own gut instinct to be sure you’re really meeting customer needs? We spoke to industry experts to get their advice on how to understand what your customers need:

Don’t push your solutions

When speaking to customers, innovators make some key mistakes. First, they ask leading questions that are loaded with social desirability problems. For example, asking customers whether they like your product will elicit positive responses because very few people are willing to be critical of other people’s ideas to their face. Focus on trying to deeply understand customers’ needs and problems, rather than pushing your solution.

“The second mistake is asking customers questions about their future behaviour. Very few people can predict what they will do in the future under different circumstances. Instead, ask customers how they are solving the problem today, and how much that is costing them.

“The final mistake innovators make is asking customers what products to make or the features those products should have. Very few people can imagine future technologies, so will just mention something similar to their current solutions. Customers own needs and problems, innovators own solutions – the more we understand customers pains, the more likely we are to make products customers really want.”

Tendayi Viki, Craig Strong and Sonja Kresojevic are co-authors of The Lean Product Lifecycle: A playbook for making products people want, published by Pearson, priced £11.74


Use behavioural science

“Why don’t people do what they say they do? This is a question companies often ask after investing time on costly market research to understand what their customers want, only to find that their customers won’t pay for the product or service, or don’t want it after all. This indicates that there is a substantial intention-behaviour gap.

“Behavioural science is a way to reduce the intention-behaviour gap and to get a deeper understanding of what customers really want because it focuses on identifying the factors, benefits and attributes that really drive behaviour and decisions in the real world.

“Conventional research often asks people about their attitudes and beliefs, or asks about the product or service out of context. But conventional research often fails to get at the ‘truth’ because it does not address the complex interaction of social, psychological and emotional factors that influence our decisions.

“Behavioural science focuses only on behaviour, makes use of behavioural theories and models to work out which factors really matter, carefully considers the context in which the product or service will be used and then works out how and where to intervene to change behaviour. In this way you can find out what people actually do, not just what they say they do… and hence design products and services that customers really want and will pay for.”

Helena Rubinstein is a Behavioural Scientist at Innovia Technology and author of Applying Behavioural Science to the Private Sector (Palgrave Macmillan).


Look for new levels of speed, convenience, choice, and transparency

“If the speed with which ecommerce growth has outstripped that of stores over the last 15 years has taught us anything, it is that the consumer is looking for new levels of speed, convenience, choice, and transparency from their shopping experiences.

“Technology has been the key enabler of these new dynamics. It has become the main differentiator between today’s retail winners and losers. It has put those retailers who started out online, like eBay, Net-a-Porter and Flipkart, at a distinct advantage. But Alibaba, and Amazon have made the most gains.

“As a technology company first and a retailer second, Amazon, the US giant’s focus on giving customers more of what they really want has afforded it unprecedented competitive power to reshape the industry landscape, both online and offline. From its ‘1-Click’ checkout through to its ‘no click’ checkout-less Amazon Go experience, Amazon has pioneered ‘frictionless’ retail to give customers the level of convenience they now want.”

Miya Knights is co-author of Amazon: How the World’s Most Relentless Retailer will Continue to Revolutionize Commerce, written with Natalie Berg, published on 3 January 2018, priced £19.99

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