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What Consumers Really Want

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Last week, I was attending a book club meeting where we were discussing Eric Ries’ now famous novel: The Lean StartUp. In the book, Ries outlines all of the basic principles that a startup can put in place to achieve measureable success with proper testing and evaluation. The lean principles can merit their own blog post, so I won’t get too detailed today– but the idea of identifying precisely what your consumer wants came up in discussion.

We talked about making sure to listen to the consumer, and really take into perspective what they’re asking for. It was then proposed that the consumer is more likely to provide you with a complaint, or a desire that perhaps has nothing to do with the current product or service they’re using.

Let’s put this into context: back when VHS tapes were in their prime, one of the major gripes was that they took forever to rewind. Traditional thinkers would take this complaint, and try and design a faster VCR – when really, the customers were actually indirectly asking for a DVD player.

This concept (though simple) blew me away. I’ve always considered myself an out the box thinker – but to hear this put into such a simple example really resonated with me. One of the key parts of innovation is being able to hear feedback, and produce products and services that are able to better consumer user experiences. This was done ingeniously by the introduction of the DVD player, but has transcended into many different facets of technology to provide us with some of our now daily necessities.

It’s just a true testament to the fact that the consumer doesn’t always know what they want, but they certainly can identify what they don’t want. It takes great vision and foresight to look beyond the present day products, and create products or services from ground zero.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the late, great Steve Jobs:

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

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