Cars, Computers, Pizza Delivery, And Tote Bags: What Do They Have In Common?
by Felicia Rogers
We needed a faster, better form of personal travel. Henry Ford invented the automobile. We were ready for a more efficient way to process data. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs introduced a personal computer.Perhaps we were seeking (or didn’t yet know we wanted) a more convenient way to get food from a pizzeria. A home-delivery system was invented. No matter the product or service type, the most successful innovations are grounded in a consumer need or white space.
Rarely does an innovative and successful idea just appear in someone’s dreams or imagination. It’s typically more of a process of trial and error that can take years to conceptualize, prototype, test, and refine. Many innovations require rigorous scientific experimentation. Often engineering and industrial-design functions are also involved.
Regardless of the category, the end user’s needs should always be considered. What does the consumer need or want? How likely will the consumer be to try the product? Will my idea delight consumers by meeting a common need? Will they see our new product as being better than solutions that are currently available to them? How much will they be willing to pay for it? There are so many questions to be answered to help ensure eventual success. Here are several types of consumer research and analysis that should be part of the innovation process:
- Qualitative exploration to create hypotheses and initial market insights
- Ethnographic observation to help identify unmet needs or “white spaces”
- Ideation and concept development, incorporating consumers’ perspectives and ideas
- Qualitative or quantitative concept refinement
- Quantitative concept screening and testing
- Quantitative product testing
- Sales forecasting
- Test-market measurement
Here’s one example from some work we did to identify and meet the needs of new mothers. Through a series of observational and qualitative interviews in multiple countries, we learned that there were a handful of key need-states that all new moms seemed to feel. The sentiment that stood out the most had to do with getting out and about with a baby: “I feel like I take the whole house with me when I leave to go anywhere.”
Through consumer-led ideation with our Imaginators® community, we were able to develop several concepts for multifunction tote bags to help moms organize and efficiently carry all the baby supplies they need when taking the family out somewhere. The concept-development process was iterative, with initial designs being put through a brief qualitative refinement step before taking the concepts into quantitative testing. Since the entire process kept the consumers (the new moms) in mind, the end result of the process was a set of product concepts that scored very highly among new mothers.
In the example above, our client embraced a multi-step innovation process with an unwavering commitment to multiple research steps. While I have also worked with organizations started by inventors who launched their “baby” and found initial success, a company’s long-term success is much more likely with a disciplined focus on consumer needs including consumer research, throughout the innovation and NPD process.
About the Author
Felicia Rogers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Executive Vice President at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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