A Bluetooth-connected toaster. A “smart” juicer no one really needs. “For her” pens that attracted the ridicule of customers.
History is littered with examples of failed concepts and products that launched and then flopped almost immediately. And while failure is essential for learning and innovation, when products flop big, they cost companies millions of dollars and valuable time.
Failure often comes from making assumptions, so if a company wants its next big product to be colossal success, it needs to ask more questions ahead of time. And it’s existing and potential customers who can provide the answers. Brands should actively seek feedback to validate new ideas and understand what doesn’t work and why.
And as the following examples show, companies that incorporate customer feedback throughout product development are more likely to avoid flawed products.
Example 1: Keurig Canada brews better products
Keurig coffee machines quickly became ubiquitous in homes and even some small restaurants to meet the varied tastes of hot beverage drinkers. Keurig Canada’s leadership in the at-home coffee market is the result of an innovative culture, but that culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
The company tests every aspect of product innovation from the initial idea to concept testing, says Eileen Chen, customer insights analyst at Keurig Canada. This iterative approach had led to many successful products because the company connects with customers frequently to understand their pain points-the Keurig milk frother for making lattes at home is a recent example, she says.
But it’s not only about figuring out what consumers need. By providing their feedback, Keurig Canada customers have flagged innovations that are risky or aren’t quite ready for the market yet. In one example, feedback collected through the company’s insight community showed that the Canadian market wasn’t quite ready for a cold brew product yet. In another instance, customer insight showed that launching K-pods from a popular brand would cannibalize existing Keurig product lines.
By turning to customers for insight, Keurig has been able to focus on research and development for the most viable ideas and de-prioritize those that are not ready yet.
Example 2: Chico’s tests products with people who matter most
Through its insight community, Chico’s gets ongoing feedback from shoppers about the latest fashion trends. In one example, the international women’s clothing retailer launched a series of wear tests with community members, giving them free merchandise in exchange for real-time feedback. And it’s good that they did, because many shoppers told Chico’s they were unclear how to pair the new style of pants with shoes and their existing wardrobe.
Rather than spike the new product line, however, the retailer developed a marketing campaign to show customers how to wear the latest trend. When Chico’s went to market, it made sure stores, websites and all of its customer touch points showed the new pants in ways that suggested how to wear and match them with customers’ existing wardrobe.
By tapping its insight community for feedback, Chico’s was able to prevent what could have been a product failure. Without shopper feedback, the company would have launched the product with less success, and wouldn’t have known why. The context customer insight provided helped Chico’s avoid a failure that wouldn’t have been due to the product itself, but rather to how it should be marketed.
Example 3: Canadian Tire leans on customer feedback to test products
It’s important to maintain credibility with customers, and a failed product can cause them to lose faith in a brand. To ensure success for the products it promotes in the market, Canadian Tire has tapped actual customers to test them first.
The quintessentially Canadian retailer uses two insight communities to provide it with a direct line to thousands of engaged customers who want to share their opinions and see the business succeed. For example, Canadian Tire created prototypes for clip-on holiday season lights based entirely on testers’ feedback. Not only was the product a success when it hit the market, sales far exceeded expectations.
Your customers are visionaries
Investing in customer intelligence to improve product innovation is worth it. In The Total Economic Impact™ of Vision Critical, a study from Forrester Consulting on the ROI of the Vision Critical platform, one customer estimated that, by engaging their customers in the innovation process, the company has saved between $2 million to $5 million from the development and marketing of a flawed product.
In the end, if companies want to deliver innovations in the market, they need to have a deep understanding of their customers. And as the examples provided here show, that understanding could lead to better products and more effective go-to-market strategies.