When you work in product development you often talk about satisfying the customer's needs and wants. While that sounds great on paper, determining what your customers really want from your product is a lot easier said than done. Your customers aren't always sure what they want making it your product person's responsibility to recognize those objectives for them. If successful, your new product or feature will have a much better chance of flying off the shelves when it's released.

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If you're having trouble discovering what customers desire from your company, this post will cover the different ways that you can determine customer wants and needs during product development.

Customer Wants vs. Needs

Customer Needs

Before you investigate what your customers expect from your business, it's important to make a distinction between customer needs and wants. Customer needs are the features and characteristics that are required for a customer to meet their goals. Needs are non-negotiable and if they're not fulfilled, they often result in unsatisfied or angry customers. The good news is since they're imperative to customer success, needs tend to be easier to identify than wants. Frustrated customers will make it clear that their needs weren't met by either leaving a bad review or asking for a refund.

Customer Wants

Customer wants are like the cherry (or hot fudge for some) on top of a sundae. These are things that customers desire from your product but aren't necessarily deal breakers. Since they're not crucial to the customer's goals, customer wants are typically harder to recognize. However, if properly identified, fulfilling these expectations can be a great way for your product to differentiate itself from its competitors.

The ideal product should provide a balance that fulfills both customer needs and customer wants. Prioritize needs at the forefront of your decision making because they're vital to achieving customer success. Then go above-and-beyond for your customers by also providing the elements that they want to see in your product. 

To identify customer wants and needs, you'll have to do some in-depth research on your target audience. This can be done throughout the product development process. If you're not sure where to start, this next section covers a range of metrics that you can use to deduce these core customer values.

How to Find out What People Want and Need in a Product

First Party Data

As outlined by HubSpot's Sophia Bernazzani, first party data is "data that your company has collected directly from your audience." It's specific to your business and can highlight interesting patterns and trends occurring with your customers. You can use this data to identify customer needs and wants that are specific to the people whore are already interacting with your business. Some first party data reports that we recommend are:

Customer Behavior Analysis

A customer behavior analysis is a report that describes the buying habits for different target audience segments. It uses the customer journey map to highlight how certain personas will react to different roadblocks. Using this report, you can look for consistencies between different customer segments, and then outline individual needs at different moments in the customer's journey

Product Usage Reports

Product usage reports contain interesting information about how customers are currently using your product or service. They have detailed analytics that highlight the most used aspects of your offering, as well as point out areas that are being underutilized or abandoned. The tools being used the most are features that customers need from your product. Look closer at those products and identify what the customer's goal is when they're using it.

RFM Analysis

An RFM Analysis identifies the most valuable customers engaging with your business by assessing their buying history. It measures the recency, frequency, and monetary value that a customer provides to a specific company. This information helps product personnel predict a customer's next purchase and allows them to plan their release dates in a timely manner.

Qualitative Data

When trying to determine needs and wants, qualitative data captures the voice of the customer. This data describes the customer's perspective as well as things that influence people, but can't be measured numerically. Some qualitative reports that you can analyze are:

Customer Feedback

When customers aren't happy, it's an opportunity for your business to learn. Priceless information about users surface in customer support every day, but sometimes it can be hard to sort through all of it. As a guideline, customers who are clearly angry or frustrated are communicating their needs to your business. Customers who are making suggestions typically are expressing their wants. While customer reviews may get repetitive, it's important to constantly sort through them to stay updated on the user's perspective.

Buyer Personas

For many marketing departments, developing buyer personas is the first step to understanding their target audience. This is because personas look at the influences on customer behaviors that extend beyond just their buying decisions. Product personnel can benefit from these personas as well because they segment the target audience by their wants and needs. Developers can then use this categorization to create features that are desirable to specific personas.

Customer Interviews

Holding focus groups or customer interviews is one way to directly question users about your company. You can ask them about individual aspects of your product and get immediate feedback from their responses. This allows you to isolate a specific situation observed then obtain an explanation for why it occurred. Information like this helps product managers guide their work when overseeing a new project.

Product Testing

Product testing should be carried out throughout the entire development process. These tests ensure that your new product or feature is going to be successful with your target audience. Here are some of the testing methods we recommend using during product development.

First Click Testing

When you're working on your product or website's design, analyzing first click tests is a great way to determine customer wants. First click tests give a participant a specific task on a website or software, then measures if and how long it takes for them to complete it. These tests indicate what customers want to do in a given situation, then highlights any obstacles in your design that prevents them from doing so. By running first click tests throughout development, engineers can build a user-friendly interface that satisfies both customer needs and wants.

Usability Testing

In a post on HubSpot's Marketing Blog, my colleague, Clifford Chi, describes usability testing as "a method of evaluating a product or website's user experience." Engineers and developers use these tests to determine whether customers can intuitively operate their product. One way to do this is to set up a system usability scale that surveys customers about their user experience using a scale of one to 10. Product management then takes this information and can tweak their developing product to fit the needs and wants of their users.

Sequential Monadic Testing

If your product team gets stuck deciding between different features or designs, you can use sequential monadic testing to choose the customer's preferred option. This test shows participants one concept, then asks them to compare its value to your alternatives. You can then repeat this process for as many features that you need to assess. This way you can see what your customers think about your ideas, particularly minor details, prior to creating them.

Marketplace Data

While it's a bit generic, marketplace data is another source to investigate when trying to understand your customer's expectations. These second and third-party data streams can portray macro-trends affecting an entire industry. Even though the data is not specific to your business, your product teams use this information to identify emerging customer needs and wants.

Competitor Products

Begin with observing your competitors and compare your product to other successful ones in your industry. If customers are buying your competitors' products over yours, then there must be a place where your team is falling short. Comparing your current products to the best ones in your market is a great way for developers to identify opportunities for product improvement.

Trends and Legislature

Product personnel should also stay up to date on rising social and political trends occurring in their industry. Changes in your customer's environment are going to affect their buying needs, so it's important for product management to stay on top of these developments. A new social trend or legislative measure can present a valuable opportunity for products owners to create timely solutions.

If you want to know more about how you can create great products, learn how to become a product manager in this next post.

Customer First Templates

 Customer Service Templates

Originally published Feb 15, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated February 15 2019


Product Management