Nobody makes bad products on purpose. Often, however, the wrong goals are in the foreground. If business goals are the only drivers in product development, the probability is that the most important factor is overlooked: the customer.

To ensure that we do not lose sight of the essentials when developing new products, we learn more about the customer and his needs and preferences in a process consisting of customer research and user testing. We present the corresponding steps and methods in our series “The customer as a compass of product development”.

“Defining the itinerary” – Customer research

The first question in product development is always: Who is the customer?
The answer to these questions is very often: everyone. A successful solution is to use as many users as possible. Correct? – No! The opposite is even the case: If you try to develop a product that makes everyone equally happy, it usually ends with the fact that nobody is happy.

This is an important point: A product can not be developed for “anyone”. Only when you focus on building products for a customer group that share a common need, a product gains traction.

For us, at the beginning of each product development process, it is important to uncover behavior patterns and customer problems within a group. Based on these customer insights, we can develop solutions for which a person would pay money. We call this process Customer Research.

To identify customer insights, we use various qualitative research methods such as depth interviews, shadowing, or mystery shopping. Qualitative methods are carried out with a small selection of participants. We use in-depth research methods that allow conclusions to be drawn about the motivations and needs of individuals. Statistically significant results or the reproducibility of the investigation are not the focus of this type of customer research. Rather, we want to gain insights into the processes underlying a behavior – and thus gain a better understanding of a subject to be explored.

By contrast, quantitative research attempts to find answers to specific questions using methods that generate numbers and facts. These are carried out with large groups of participants in order to generate statistically reliable results. Surveys are a good example of quantitative research. They ask for “How much?” or “How often?” through a series of clear and predefined questions.

Both methods have their own right to exist and are often used in combination. However, only qualitative methods provide insight into the background of behavior. Since product development is about developing solutions that are based on the behavior of a group and resolving existing problems, we concentrate on the qualitative methods.

What exactly these qualitative methods are, you will find in the next part of our series “The customer as a compass of product development”.