Being familiar with customer needs and behavior is crucial for a successful product launch and business. Companies that consider themselves to be customer-centered or customer-focused take the extra steps to ask their customers directly what they expect and want from a product. For those working to become more customer-focused, the best starting point is asking the question, “What do consumers want?”
A great example of a customer-focused business is Nestle. They recognize that what consumers want may vary from person to person. People have diverse lifestyles, are part of different cultures, have varying budgets—basically, every consumer is different. These variables shape how consumers buy, and are also a determining factor in what they buy. Because of these things, Nestle creates different foods for all aspects of their consumers’ needs based on their findings during research and development. This is especially important because Nestle is a food company, but all businesses should follow this idea in understanding their consumers. Knowing these important things about your target market can tell you what they want now and in the future.
Jim Haselmaier of Pragmatic Marketing explains the problem that companies that are trying to inquire about consumer behavior are experiencing. Companies ask consumers about what they want a product to be like or how it can be improved, but the truth is that most of the time consumers don’t know exactly what they want. And it makes sense. It is not the responsibility of a consumer to sit around and brainstorm product improvements. When asked, most consumers are happy to provide feedback and recommendations, but meeting the needs or implementing the suggestions of customers can be difficult or even an impossibility for some products. An alternative route to asking what a customer wants from a product is to be more specific in questionnaires. When do you use this product? Is this product easy to handle? Have you experienced any storing difficulties? Etc. Discovering consumers’ interactions with a product throughout their day to day lives can make it much easier to determine what they need out of a product.
It is not necessary to routinely observe consumers to gain insights on product effectiveness, though consumer shadowing can be very useful by observing how a customer lives, works and spends time. However, by performing qualitative, interview-style research, data for customer retention can be collected quickly and effectively. Just asking what a customer wants should not be the only aspect of an Integrated Marketing Strategy, but excluding marketing intelligence from a strategy entirely would be unwise.