Before Rolling Out Products, Walk a Mile in Their Shoes | TechWell

Before Rolling Out Products, Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

When discussion centers around new products and market research, we’ve all probably heard someone bring up the quote attributed to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs: “I think Henry Ford once said, 'If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”' People don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” When you hear that, keep another thought in mind: Don’t take everything you hear at face value.

Beyond focus groups and surveys, different paths lead to uncovering ways to delight your customers. What Jobs did, perhaps intuitively and better than most, was recognize the problems, challenges, wants, and needs of people. “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes” is also good advice for rolling out products.

Remember Google Glass, the augmented reality headset designed to look like a pair of eyeglasses that displayed information? Announced as a prototype in 2012 to great fanfare and released to the public in 2014, Google pulled the headset in 2015. Faulty or even a lack of sufficient market research was blamed. Many industry observers offered analysis similar to MediaPost: “The team got wrapped up in an idealistic vision for the device, and it never did the market research necessary to figure out two things: what kind of customer it created Glass for, and which of that customer’s needs Glass fulfilled.” 

We know customers have embraced the convenience of online shopping. Will we next change our in-store shopping habits to embrace technology to the extent that we do more instead of less?

In its early rollout stage, the cashierless Amazon Go has been hailed as “a technological marvel to behold” that will transform the way we shop into a digital experience that lets us avoid lines. Customers can buy products without being checked out by a cashier or using a self-checkout station.

A grocery chain is taking self-checkout a step further, because the company believes their customers want to check out their own groceries using a hand-held scanner as they shop. Good for the bottom line, convenience for customers. What’s not to like? The scanners are wonky sometimes, and an in-store promotion display is a shopping cart filled with single-use plastic grocery bags. “. . . 8 percent of the litter observed in public sites was plastic bags, including grocery bags.” Hello, environment!

Social media today can be a pretty potent focus group, and while it’s too soon to make predictions, comments like “XXX better send me my W-2! I’ve been doing self checkout all year” are showing up. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Finally, here’s another quote attributed to a different Steve—Steve Martin: “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you’ll be a mile from them, and you’ll have their shoes.”

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