Innovating with market research

One of the things that people often ask me is how does someone goes about creating innovative product concepts. What are the research methods and tools to use?

One of the most powerful tools is just watching what customers do and identifying problems and opportunities for improvement. Many customers have a hard time articulating needs. Or they will incorrectly estimate their needs. Every time I’ve done survey research asking about local tasks, 30% of consumers claim they would check movie showtimes daily. No one does that!

The solutions consumers articulate are also typically much more limited than what’s possible.

A great example of that are the new apps that let you take a picture of a check to deposit into your account. (USAA had one of the earliest ones; Chase has been advertising theirs heavily.)

If you were to ask customers how you could improve the check deposit experience you’d likely get answers like:

  • Make the lines at the bank shorter.
  • Have an express lane for simple transactions.
  • At the ATM, put a pen on a chain so I don’t have to find a pen to fill out the deposit envelope.
  • Get rid of the deposit envelope and let me put checks right in the ATM. (Newer ATMs now allow you to do this.)

But you’d be unlikely to have customers tell you “let me take a picture of the check with my iPhone and put the money in my account without the bank ever holding the check.”

They don’t know enough about banking regulations to know that this is even possible.

Everyone I know who has seen the iPhone check deposit thinks it’s magic. That’s how truly innovative products should feel.

About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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