5 ways to get the voice of the customer into your design process, Part 1

For some of you the start of the New Year means the launch of new concepts and design ideas for the upcoming year. Others of you may already be midcourse in your product development cycle. Whether you are at the beginning or mid-stage in the new product development, it is critically important to build your awareness of customer interests and consumers’ unmet needs.

In this two-part blog post, I talk about 5 ways you can incorporate the voice of the customer into your design process.

1. Web Analytics

Data captured from page clicks and mobile device access portals helps you understand your customer interests. Web analytics can answer access questions such as:

  • Do your clients engage with you in Facebook journeys or product quests?
  • Where do customers click for product reviews?
  • What web avenues lead them to your webpage and what devices did they use to get there?

Knowing your social media stops and being able to identify your percentage of “dark social” sharing (done by email and private social networks) is just the beginning of understanding the personalities that are showing interest in your products or programs.

In the web analytics world, things began evolving a little over a year ago when Google announced new customer insight analytics at their GASummit2013. Here’s an example of using the segmentation tools with a Google Analytics platform from the In-App Analytics and Segmentation for Mobile using Google Analytics presentation. The segmentation discussion starts at 4:41.

Google calls these new analytic tools Audience Reporting. According to Google’s Audience Reporting launch:

“One of the biggest challenges for online marketers is the lack of information about the people visiting their properties and buying their products. Unlike in physical stores where a manager can tell a lot about the sorts of people coming and going — What age are they? What’s their gender? What are they interested in? — online merchandisers and marketers are often flying blind. Audience Reporting solves this problem by providing age, gender, and interest categories as dimensions in Google Analytics. Find out who your site visitors are and gain a better understanding of who your most valuable (highest converting) audiences are…Taking into account demographics and interests, you can efficiently target, bid, and optimize your creative to improve your campaign’s performance.”

This information is derived from the third-party DoubleClick cookie and device identifiers. The customer data reports the user profile in terms of demographics and Interests. Interest elements include both affinity and in-market categories. The tool also allows you to identify core customer segments you are interested in observing and then creates separate tracking reports about their activities. Here’s an explanation of how this web information is currently being deployed.

2. Product Reviews

To capitalize on your research from web analytics, look at what customers are saying about your products and your competitors’ products. It’s not easy to read through comments that criticize your product or praise your competitors’ strengths, but this is how you’ll uncover important information about customer needs.

Search engines can assist you in locating product reviews on the web and in print. When customers write comments about product highlights and shortfalls it can lead to new avenues of concept ideation for product improvement, product redesign, or new technologies. Comments in product sales pages, buying guides, magazine reviews and expert blog reviews are some of the more common types of reviews.

When you look at reviewer comments, what you want to look for is “comment echoing”—the same unmet need being voiced repeatedly about multiple products in an in-market product group. You can quickly identify comment echoing by capturing the text from 20 to 40 comments and reviews, compiling the text and running it through a “word cloud” generator. If you reduce this analysis to the top ten or 15 most frequently mentioned descriptive words, the core of unmet needs typically begins to emerge.

Beyond Web Analytics and Product Reviews

In my next post, I’ll talk about three more ways that you can engage with the customer:

  • Relationship-Building and Engagement
  • Customer Research
  • Product Testing