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Is there a simple way to innovation and successful products? No, of course, it’s not! In Fact, most products fail. Not because we fail to build what we set out to build, but because we waste needless time, money, and effort building the wrong product — something nobody wants.
But what is the secret of good and bad innovation? How do innovative multibillion-dollar companies differentiate from others?
When Apple released the iPhone in 2007, Nokia still had about 50% market share in the mobile phone market. Although they were releasing continuously good phones, they lost their market dominance within just 3-4 years. The big problem was not, that Apple just had a great product that worked well – It was the constant belief of Nokia and it’s management to think that they know what people want. With the release of the iPhone Apple achieved to redefine the way people use phones – what led also to a total change of their behaviors and expectation to mobile phones. Nokia failed in listening to what their target customers wanted.
The story of Nokia is just one example that shows that shows with the fast evolution of technology also peoples expectations and experiences with products are changing. This is because customers today have more choices than ever before. With the rising demand for smartphones and mobile apps, Nokia had enough chances to build a product their customers want and an app-ecosystem that could compete with Apple. But they didn’t – what opened the opportunity for many other competitors like Samsung. Today people have full access to product information, online shops or price comparison sites. As products have gone from being delivered in a box to being delivered over the Internet, there’s been a dramatic shift in how customers consume, demand, and interact with products.
In the old world, failing to deliver what customers wanted, led to product failure. In the new world, repeatedly failing to deliver what customers want leads to total business model failure.
If one company doesn’t get the job done, customer simple switch to something else.
The challenge today isn’t building good products, but uncovering how well products solve customer problems or meet their needs. Today’s consumers are demanding more from companies. Customers expect products, services, and information that are timely and catered to their specific needs and desires. Traditionally, companies develop and market products based on market segmentation and demographics, assuming that the features and functionality will meet the needs of all of the customers in that demographic. This “one size fits all” mentality doesn’t work anymore today. We need to embrace the fact that customers are different now, significantly more so than previous generations.
Personas are a good way to accurately identify customers needs and desires. However, as the marketplace shifts from a mass manufacturing to a mass customization model, customers needs and desires are more accurately identified through the development of personas rather than through demographic data.
A persona represents a cluster of users who exhibit similar behavioral patterns in their purchasing decisions, use of technology or products, customer service preferences, lifestyle choices, and the like. Behaviors, attitudes, and motivations are common to a “type” regardless of age, gender, education, and other typical demographics.
Product innovation and new technology in mobile, social, and artificial intelligence allow delivering a more personalized, valuable, and immediate experiences for consumers. Customers have more choices than ever. As a result, they grow to expect this superior experience from any business they engage with.
Expectations and behaviors have totally changed. The gap between customers’ expectations and products or services they receive is getting bigger more and more. Amazon’s product recommendation “what customers who looked at this item also bought.” is a significant element of their success. Today’s e-commerce shops have to mess with this new level of online shopping experience because customers just expect this service from now on. If you want to order a taxi or book an apartment, customers will always compare the booking experience with Uber or Airbnb.
Although companies have long declared their intention to get close to their customers, the digital age is forcing them to actually do it.
The good news is that getting closer to your customers can help to reduce the risk of product failure. Practices like Design Thinking and Lean Startup involve customers even before product releases, as test and experiments are a cornerstone of innovation projects. Instead of guessing what products and features are wanted by the market, companies can adjust product and features with direct input from end users before launching it. These process not only help to de-risk product development, it also tightens the relationship between companies and their customers. Additionally, it often provides valuable information and insights about how customers think and use the products which are being developed.
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