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We’re on a NEED to Know Basis

Shopping Cart ShutterStockMany firms rely on quantitative testing to prioritize which new product (or service) concepts advance in the development pipeline.  Without question, survey results can be used to align innovation teams around which projects to resource.  Concept testing is a common way to pick the winners and losers.

A dirty secret is that many concepts pass testing with flying colors only to eventually fail (or not live up to expectations) after launch.  Why then, is the predictive power of these concept tests so poor?  Could we be measuring the wrong things?  We think so.

Innovation-driven organizations attempt to develop solutions that create value for customers.  Far too often, we see concepts crafted with a vague understanding of customer needs and value drivers.  In quantitative testing, purchase intent often informs a go/no-go decision.

Decades of MIT research on failed products shows that organizations often overlook whether customers will recognize the intended value proposition.  Postmortems on failed product launches reveal that customers didn’t recognize a need or didn’t recognize how the proposed solution would satisfy the need.

Innovation teams must be laser focused on customer needs and value drivers, know (unambiguously) the extent of these needs among the target customer, and the relative importance of each value driver.  Without this galvanizing knowledge, concepts will be inadequate and the future odds of a lackluster product launch will be greater.

And, for Pete’s sake stop relying on purchase intent as the most important decision metric.  Instead, ask consumers to tell you (in their own words) how a concept satisfies the need you intended to satisfy.  If you get ambiguous answers to these more direct questions, I’d be skeptical.

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