From our Innovation Unwound series…this piece delves into what could be an imbalance between market
research and qualitative research with users at the front end or “Discovery” phase of a project.
Market research to assess opportunities, identify and quantify markets and segments, how and where items
are purchased etc. help focus product design, determine price points, set promotional strategies and much
more. But alone they produce nothing to commercialize.
Bridging the gap to winning product ideas typically springs from interaction with users through interviews,
observations, groups, in combination or singularly. But, oft times the “R” budget in new product R&D is skewed
towards Market Research. “Insights” would be shared with design and engineering with a disproportionate
(or entire) research budget used up without insights to be gained by eyes-on/hands-on research directly with users.
Failing to engage potential users early in the process pushes a designer’s perspective and an engineer’s focus
on functionality and manufacturability to later in the development cycle. Opportunities for innovation may
be missed, intractable manufacturing problems can erupt and product ideas that look good on paper may find
a lackluster market response.
Solution: As you develop or review product development plans look closely for a balance between profiling
the market and direct interactions with users in your priority segment(s). Arm’s length analysis of market data
may seem to confirm pre-conceived product ideas but can lead to pursuing less than optimum directions.
Given the costs associated with innovation, R&D, and commercialization, investment in the right mix of research
increases the likelihood of success and can be a welcome hedge against a costly failure.
A well-considered research approach utilizing freshly-mined data and the perspective and interpretive capabilities
of ethnographic researchers, designers and engineers will more likely unearth potential innovation opportunities
that address needs of users in your well-profiled segments.