Unmet Customer Needs Fuel Innovation: Here’s How to Identify Themby@mustafanafees
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Unmet Customer Needs Fuel Innovation: Here’s How to Identify Them

by Mustafa NafeesJanuary 17th, 2023
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Innovation comes from identifying customer needs and meeting them, says John Sutter. Sutter: Customers use products to achieve desired outcomes; you don’t want the product itself. To identify a need that’s either been poorly met or not met at all, you need to identify a customer journey map.
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You can’t legislate innovation; you can’t buy it, then where does it come from?

Innovation comes from identifying customer needs and meeting them. It is easy to understand but hard to do. When you start building a new product, you need to make sure that it’s anchored on an unmet need. An unmet need is something that your target customers want a solution for, so without this strong anchor, there’s a much lower chance of success. If you find a big enough problem that enough customers are experiencing, then you know you have a foundation to take forward.

People use products to achieve desired outcomes. Most of the time, you don’t want the product itself; you want to get a job done. Like “people don’t want scooters – they want cheap commute.”

So, how do you know your target consumers' needs that you need to meet?

One way is to go and ask them directly, which can give you some insights, but as Henry Ford said: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

Oftentimes, customers don’t know what they want, so we need another technique to find out what pains they’re experiencing and what problems they’re facing that we can potentially solve for them.

We can do this in several ways.

Customer Observation:

You can’t observe your customers from the comfort of your home or office. To measure their pain points, you need to get out there and put yourself into the environment where your consumers spend their time. A pain point is a customer need that is not adequately met, resulting in customer dissatisfaction. It would help if you observed what consumers do with the existing products, how they use them, and ultimately what they try to achieve.

Now you need to identify a need that’s either been poorly met or not met at all. Take Apple Pay as an example – People used to hate taking out credit cards at the payment counter. Thanks to Apple Pay, they don’t have to, anymore.

Customer-journey mapping:

A customer journey map is a set of visualization (or collection of diagrams) that depicts the stages a customer goes through when interacting with your product, from ordering a product online to talking to a salesperson on the phone to posting about the product across social media platforms. It takes multiple stages and touchpoints somebody goes through, from being a prospect to a loyal customer. This map is a blueprint meant to unify fragmented efforts, and identify points of friction and opportunities for improvement. Looking for the pain points in a customer’s journey is pure innovation that comes from eliminating those pains.

Existing data:

Sometimes the solution is hidden in plain sight. You might want to review past surveys, records of customer interviews, and customer-support transcripts. You may not need to fund an extensive and expensive research campaign if the data you need is already somewhere out there. Here is what you look for, which will enable you to find unmet customer needs:

Areas oinefficiency – Anything that isn’t working effectively for the consumer.

Workarounds – things people do to make a product or a service fulfill the job they originally wanted it to do.

User torture – physical or psychological discomfort or anything uncomfortable for the user.

Foreign tools are used with a particular product, item, or service to ensure the job is done.

Frustrations – if customers are frustrated with a product and vent their frustration, that’s a clear sign that it’s not helping them achieve the job they want to get done.

Remember that identifying an unmet need is not an instant process. While some may have a light bulb moment, it is more likely that you will need to spend several hours or days doing this. After an extended period, you will see some patterns emerging. From here, you can start thinking about solutions you could create to solve customer needs – this is the foundation of all strong business models.

Also published here.