Little Book of Innovation – Chapter 6 – Ensuring Customer Insight Is At The Heart Of Your Innovation

Consumer insight is a rich source of knowledge & information helping drive truly innovative ideas & yet so often in business we fail to make the best use of it, why? We don’t have enough, it’s the wrong type or we gather so much that we simply don’t know what to do with all: it distracts us, diverts our focus & attention as we veer off, digress. But, the right level of consumer insight, used correctly within the steps of your innovation process, is a powerful tool. One that will not only generate creativity but is, in fact, critical for the success of new products, ensuring a continuous & sustained growth of business.

In an ideal world all employees working on a product or category would sit in the target demographic group or at least be users of the product. However, for most businesses this is an unrealistic goal, & so ‘consumer empathy’,  understanding changing behaviour & attitude must to be placed at the heart of your innovation planning.

What is consumer insight?

Consumer insight is a process that begins with knowing & understanding what your consumers want & ends with proof of their satisfaction with your products & your organisation.

The Steps of the Process

Identifying consumer needs & expectations: not only of your products & services, but also the level of service you are providing

Examining your processes & functions; ensure they are consumer-centric

Allow your focus to be placed entirely on the consumer

Implement actions to improve the consumer experience & perception

Measure internal performance, consumer behaviour, consumer perception,  determine what further action is required

Make the most of what you already know

Who are your priority consumers? Learn how to use existing research reports to identify their demographics, segment them to allow for easier NPD, marketing & promotion.

Talk to other experienced managers & agencies; broadcast the voice of the consumer within your own business.

Build Your understanding

Immerse yourself in your consumer’s world: meet them, face to face, watch them, listen to them, talk to them, do what they do, go where they go, shop where they shop, read what they read. Qualitative research is as important as quantitative; ensure it is category specific to give true understanding – how does the consumer view your business, category, brands?

Understand your competitors – what are their marketing strategies; how does that affect your category & brands? Who are your direct & indirect competition, what are their strengths and weaknesses? How are your target consumers comparing & making their decisions?

Quantify consumer benefits: understand the structure of the current market – measure segment sizes, weight the relative importance of consumer benefits, plot performance against need. How are they making their buying decisions? What are their key triggers?

Identify emerging trends: set up task forces, consumer panels, research groups, invite trend experts, meet leading-edge consumers & influencers who are dominant voices within your categories & communities. Involve outsiders: manufacturers, new technologies, new packaging, new shopping channels. Look to other countries & trawl other markets & categories for new ideas & concepts.

Stay close to technology: how does your target consumers research & shop their decisions? Explore the potential benefits & opportunities of utilising new technologies & platforms for raising product awareness, marketing & promotional activities.

Build a stimulating physical environment: ensure available facilities to meet consumers; have cross functional brainstorms (NPD, Marketing, Technical, Research, etc.).

Encourage idea champions: respond to creativity with encouragement; create forums for idea generation & sharing; reward ideas & proposals; treat failure as a learning opportunity.

Enable experimentation & exploration, budget for this; allow time & freedom to explore new ideas.

Consider strategy: strategy should inspire, not limit; communicate category strategy across the business; focus idea generation in areas of strategic priority

Focus on opportunities: prioritise what could be rather than what was; explore vague ideas as well as the clearly defined ones; don’t be afraid of big changes; be prepared to live with uncertainty.

Collaborate with colleagues: support all your team; go on cross category team-building days to encourage new ideas; break barriers by injecting fun into the business

Keep it up!

By including these points within your innovation process, it will help you understand your target market, give you an understanding of consumer behaviour &, importantly, give you plenty of ideas to fuel your NPD fire, ultimately allowing a continuous roll out of successful products, ones that your consumers want.

Don’t lose the momentum!