Innocent drinks started in 1999 after selling smoothies at a music festival. They put up a big sign asking customers if they thought they should give up their jobs to make smoothies, and put a bin saying ‘Yes’ and another saying ‘No’ in front of the stall. They got customer to vote with their empties and the rest is history. This is a fitting example of customers at the centre of product innovation and a business testing and meeting their customers unmet needs.
Product innovation is a process of iteration, think about the iPhone 6, 7 or 8 they are just iterations of the previous version. Apple iterates their designs throughout manufacturing as a key part of their innovation improvement process. The product is built, it’s tested and its customers review the product, then the design team improves on it and it’s built all over again. This cycle takes 4 to 6 weeks at a time and may be run many times over in the product’s development lifecycle. No product is ever done there is no perfection.
If you strive to create new products and services for unmet customer needs, understand that those needs evolve, you must target the customer pain and create with your customer to remain on target.
If you can relieve a customer pain that no other company is solving, you will not only survive but thrive in these challenging times. To outperform your competition your solution must solve the problem more efficiently than your competitors. But you can never sit on your laurels because success will attract imitators, and customers will switch to those imitators if in your customers perspective, your customer experience is poor.
The problem with perfecting your product before your customers experiences it; is that you spend time and money on perfecting, only to discover you’ve completely missed the mark when it comes to solving the customer’s unmet needs. A perfect product or service is one which solves a customer’s unmet need.
The rise of mobile, social and cloud technologies have empowered customers to want and expect better products and experiences, and now they expect companies to be listening. Customers are fickle but they have more power and higher expectations, so engage their experience knowledge and insight to support your business.
I talked in previous sessions about co-creation and releasing continuous improvement products. To capitalise on your customers insight, to co-create and to thrive in challenge time you must structure your business towards customer centricity and foster a culture of innovation.
An innovation improvement process does not just happen, a culture must be nurtured and a systematic process to create an environment for generating and implementing great ideas; wherever the ideas are sourced. Innovative ideas can come from any employee whatever level. R&D is not always the best place for innovative ideas, frontline employees are often more focus on the issues customer face rather than the technology.
In my experience customers are your best innovator and creators. They are not limited by internal processes, they do not think about what is possible they think ‘what would solve my problem’ and ‘this would work better if’. You can only harness these ideas by fostering a culture of feedback, collaboration and co-creation.
Innovation is not for innovation sake, otherwise we would innovate useless products. Innovation must be agile, focused on meeting customers unmet needs, capitalising on these opportunities and giving your customer what they desire. To do this you must be open to all your internal and external sources, customers being close to their problems must be the primary source for your product insights.
Authors of Everything Connect: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer wrote in Business Insider ”Listen again to the customer to help them imagine; use prototypes to elicit feedback; listen to customer acceptance/buying criteria; listen to what could go wrong, but don’t let the devil’s advocate take control.”
4 Essential Areas for Inspired Product Innovation:
- Create a culture of innovation and systematic improvement process wherever the source of inspiration.
- Technology has enabled customers to expect even demand you to listen to them, so stay in touch.
- Customer are the best creators and innovators collaborating and co-creating is key.
- Implement a feedback process of iteration and continuous improvement of your products and service.
Innovative customer centric companies talk to their customers often to continue to develop relevant technologies and innovative needed solutions, these companies gain more attention and secure customer loyalty which results in higher profits. Why would you want to inspire your product development?