One of the main challenges for any business is to design services or products that suit their clients’ needs and wants. For this, we need to have a strategic view of the end-users. Who are they? Where are they? What are their needs? What are their preferences? In trying to answer these questions, we need to be careful not to let our own stereotypes and biases interfere in the process.
Successful products and services should not only fit the customer needs - but the customer group targeted should also fit both the strategic intentions of the entity delivering the products or services and be economically viable. Through a targeted approach where we discuss which customer group we want to focus our efforts on, we can utilize our limited means to maximise the outcome.
Be aware of false stereotypes
The danger when trying to segment consumers into different groups is to ask for consumers or customers grouped according to our own stereotypes. Age and gender are the most common ones. Locality (urban or rural) is another. Countries, religions, and cultures is yet another one. However, all these stereotypes or groupings have the inherent flaw of not telling much to you as a product developer, brand manager, or design lead. That’s because, within those categories, there is an unlimited number of sub-groups that can be relevant. For example, users or consumers within the same age bracket might have different educational backgrounds, different family structures, varied incomes, and most likely different needs.
The challenge is to create relevant and coherent categories that make sense to the company - to the product or the service we want to make. In short: Large categories or stereotypes will obscure the view of the actual market and limit our understanding of both needs and potential of a service and product.
Is your service or product really that great?
We need to develop a strategic perspective from a business stand-point while taking a step back and reflecting on the key traits of the consumer group that we want to reach. The difficulty here is that we're quickly limiting our world perspective to suit our own strategic needs. What people really do, really prefer and really want, is blurred and the view of the product, service, or the organization becomes dominant when trying to analyse the world. In other words, we let the company or organization's structural needs, the product we develop, or the brilliant idea for a service that we think is the next "sliced bread" shape how the world looks. Often, that also means that we create an inflated perspective on the need for our product or service in the process. In other words – we often overestimate the importance of our own product or service.
Using empathy to understand your customers
During the last decade, design thinking has streamlined the creative processes in companies, big and small, and brought to the table the perspective of empathizing with the customer or user when developing new products or services. Empathizing most often means to try to deeply understand the perspectives and needs of the user or consumer. Great products and services have been developed that way, and it has brought the human factor back into product development. It has created a clear focal point for companies: It is the end-user that creates either meaning or business for the organization or company.
Getting past the idea stage requires market understanding
Empathy and understanding of the consumer are essential. But if we stop there, we might find ourselves in a situation where the idea - whether it's a product or service - is just that. An idea. One that resonates in the team, the company, or the circle of potential users that are heard in the development process.
This is where creating ideas of more extensive customer or user groups becomes relevant. We need to have a strategic perspective on the market as a whole – not only individuals. We need to know how relevant our offering really is. Who wants to use our service or product? Will they pay for it? How much? How often?
The most common way of finding this out is to do some kind of market analysis. This can be done in various ways, from small-scale qualitative deep dives to the large-scale surveys. The commonality in both is that they allow us to view the world with a strategic perspective. Which customers are attractive to us? Whom do we want to target to fulfill our goal with our available needs? In other words, we have segmented our world and made a strategic and targeted decision on how to go forward.
All in all, understanding who your customer or consumer is – what their needs, wants, desires and expectations are, is essential. And you need to keep an open mind to the fact that “your” customer may be several different personas and be found in different groups.
It is also essential to take a step back from your own organization and the service or product that you’re offering. How relevant is it really? And how does it fit into the market? By keeping both these perspectives in mind, we can create a truly exceptional offering.
I'm curious to know your reflections on this topic. If you have any ideas, thoughts, or opinions – please drop me an email!
You should talk to Lead Business Designer
Truls Erik Johnsen
+47 918 17 524