Steve Jobs (founder of Apple Computers) is credited with saying, “It’s not a problem for consumers to know what they want.” Consumers identify products that satisfy their needs and wants, but they are not product specialists or designers. Many times they do not know what a product is made of or consists of; more so they have no idea what is involved in designing and making them. This will not be a problem for the consumer.
Usually interviews, group sessions (focus groups) and surveys will be conducted with consumers individually or in groups so that they can provide possible solutions to their problems. Although this is an appropriate methodological approach, there are other activities that can also help identify solutions to consumer problems. One of them is observation, the other is intuition. In both cases, the way in which consumers use or can use the current products is known and the observed or known differences can represent new solutions that have become products.
Consumers may have multiple wants or needs to address their needs. If they are all combined, it is possible to have a product that is not very viable or interesting to a small group of consumers. In both cases it is less profitable for the company. Companies are the ones who decide the products that are launched in the market, so they are the ones who evaluate what the consumers really need. It is the company that recognizes what is best, what represents the best value to the consumer and what is most profitable.
The company is an expert in the products it offers, it has expert designers for its products. Consumers need to be heard, understood, and tested for the products you design before they are launched in the market. It’s important to consider everything consumers have to say, but that information needs to be broken down and analyzed to understand exactly what they’re looking for or want.
One of the main problems in the development of new products is the necessary resources. In addition to financial investment, experts who know the customers and experts who know the products are needed. The combination of these two skills often results in products that solve the needs and desires of customers. Unfortunately, in almost all companies, these resources are scarce or, at best, limited.
Marc Randolph, one of the co-founders of Netflix, says in his book That Will Never Work that if you are not willing to disrupt the business, there is always someone else willing to do it. Which means you should always be looking for ways to improve the product so that consumers will continue to want it. In addition to the research mentioned above, it is worth considering that products must always be improved, this is called continuous innovation. When continuous change requires a new approach, discontinuous change follows.
Continuous innovation consists of making significant improvements to the product so that it is appreciated by today’s consumers. Usually this happens in a different way, making improvements to the existing product. Disruptive innovation raises the need to exploit technology or develop new business models that make current market changes.
Traditionally, companies have made incremental and continuous changes to products, to the point where little can be done. After that, the product must be reinvented, taking into account what is known about it, the need it satisfies and what the consumer shows. Apple and Netflix started businesses that they had to change through incremental, continuous and ultimately disruptive innovations. In all cases, consumers don’t know what they want, but when they see it, they know it’s what they’re looking for and buy it.