The key to a successful product isn’t developing it with a whole market in mind; it’s developing it with a specific customer in mind. A market is a broader and more generalized idea of a target audience, whereas considering the particular needs of a specific type of customer narrows down the field and provides you with a more precise idea and understanding of who the product is for.
Targeting a customer versus a market allows you to create a product that will more directly meet your customers’ needs, which makes it more useful and valuable. Whether you are researching and developing a B2B or B2C product, the end goal is to get it in the hands of someone who needs it. Leading your product research with more empathy and consideration for a customer’s real needs will enable you to have greater success.
Research and empathy don’t always seem to go hand-in-hand. However, in this article, we will discuss how the former needs the latter in order to target customers and specific niches.
Empathy and product development
Understanding the perspective of your target customer is essential to developing a product with a long lifecycle. You have to think like your customer and empathize with them. It’s not just about considering their wants and desires but about creating a product that truly meets their needs.
For example, say you have two products next to each other on a shelf. One is bright and colorful, and more appealing to a particular market—let’s say women—but it doesn’t have good functionality. The other product looks more basic but more accurately meets their needs with a wider range of functions. Customers may initially reach for the more aesthetically pleasing product, but once they learn that it doesn’t meet their needs, they will return it and buy the other one that does.
You may think that developing a product that appeals to a generalized audience (women) may work, but if it only appeals to a basic idea of what they want versus actually meeting their needs, it’s likely going to fail. Customers ultimately want brands and products that have their best interests in mind—products that are thoughtfully curated and developed to make their lives easier and better—not something that simply looks pretty. This is not to say that you shouldn’t or can’t get creative when designing a product, but thoughtfulness and empathy for your customer should primarily guide you when conducting research and coming up with a design.
Read about Creating ethical product principles to care about your customers.
Developing thoughtful products
When developing great products, you ultimately want to create something with a unique value proposition. If you want customers to buy your product, it has to be meaningful and worthwhile. It needs to speak to them and their needs in a way that no other comparable product does.
To create products like this, you have to get into the minds of your customers. You have to think like them and see things from their point of view. You can’t just consider what you think they need; you have to understand what they actually need.
An empathetic product design process involves:
- Behavioral research: Knowing what someone wants requires observing their behaviors. Generalized ideas and products come from generalized statements and ideas formed with an outside perspective. You have to thoroughly research your target audience to know what they want and need.
This means doing more than just internet research; you need to actively engage with your target audience as well. For example, companies that partake in corporate activism have a better understanding of what their customers want and need because their employees are gaining insights by critically engaging with their target audience in real life.
- Data analysis: Business analytics is crucial in today’s landscape if you want to create desirable products and maximize profits. Successfully conducting online behavioral research involves analyzing the data you come across. It doesn’t help only to see what your customers are doing; you must understand how to interpret it into something you can actually work with.
- Asking insightful questions: Once you’ve gathered a sufficient amount of data and information on your target audience, you’ll then need to turn towards a more introspective process by asking insightful why-oriented questions. This will help you empathize and ultimately determine what your target customer wants.
- Creating insightful statements: Of course, the next step is to try to thoughtfully answer your questions. For example, if your question was, “Why are women in their 30’s searching for the best ways to naturally reduce fine lines?” you might answer it with, “Because they need an anti-ageing product.”
From there, you will create insightful statements about your target audiences’ needs. Such as, “Women in their 30’s need anti-ageing products with more natural ingredients because they want to be more eco-conscious and use products that are safer for their bodies and the environment.”
- Determining a unique value proposition: Once you have created a series of insightful statements, you will gather and compare them to determine your value proposition. Essentially, you are determining what kind of product to create to meet the unique demands and needs of your target customer. This is your value proposition—why your customer will choose your product over another.
If you want to design a product that customers will love, you must have a drive and passion for what you do, but you must also have the ability to act with empathy and consideration for your customers’ best interests. Every stage of product development, from the initial research to the design process, must involve thoughtfulness and care for what your customers truly need. Your product must provide your target audience with a unique value proposition if you want to achieve lasting success.
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