5 Steps to Gain Incredible Consumer Insights and Spur Innovation

February 4, 2016 Steven Bullock, PRC, PMP

Anyone in an R&D department can tell you that there is no shortage of good ideas for new product designs or innovation. Internally generated ideas, technology scout submissions, supplier ideas – all are competing to be selected for development. So how can your idea distinguish itself and make the cut?

Having spent 38 years in R&D working for Procter & Gamble in upstream innovation and consumer research, I’ve seen my fair share of idea submissions – some great, many not. The vast majority of successful ideas had one thing in common – they were grounded with strong consumer insights.  

The good news is that getting consumer insights is not as hard as you think, and the value of your technology or revenue attainment goals may depend on it.

In my experience, success in getting a product to match your consumer insights comes down to five steps:

  1. Understand the need—Consumers often have difficulty articulating their needs because they think their current products are the best possible. It’s not their job to innovate, so they don’t. One simple way to identify needs is to observe consumers in their own environment. How do they interact with products? What are their habits/practices? What’s working/what’s not? Observe their frustrations, compensating behaviors, and the shortcomings of their current products or experiences.  

  1. Imagine something better—From these insights, develop some hypotheses on how your technology may solve a problem or improve the customer experience. Start the discovery process of the new “Job-to-be-Done (JTBD).” Start defining your potential target customer for your new technology.

  1. Build functional prototypes—Once you have a solution or two, develop some simple functional prototypes that the customer can experience. Ideally, customers can use prototypes in their own environments. If that is not possible, you can have them experience the product/technology at a consumer research facility under supervision.

  1. Set up a Rapid Response Panel—Select about 20 or so “target” consumers who are articulate and have keen observations to participate in a panel. As part of the panel, use exercises to elicit language about why the consumer should be using the product, how they should use the product (instructions), and whether the packaging and delivery lives up to their expectations. Observe and seek understanding in their homes. Videotape panelists interacting with your product to share with your team and customers.

  1. Iterate and reiterate—From this learning, modify your hypotheses and/or your prototypes, or your proposition and reassess with the same Rapid Response Panel. Rarely will you get it right the first time, or the second time.  Once you get it, then confidently take your findings to your business partners and management team to get the GO to move forward.

With your excellent insights into your consumers, you are in a better place to formulate strategy, design new products and meet your customers needs. 

For new ideas on how to put your consumer insights into action, click here to read an consumer insights analysis example  on Women's Life stages. This analysis is a demonstration on how consumer insights can make formulating strategy simpler and easier and will give your company's an idea on the information you should be searching for when crafting your consumer insights.


Steven Bullock, PRC, PMP is a leading YourEncore expert in in-depth consumer understanding, new business creation, and product development.  Steven spent 38 years in R&D at Procter & Gamble, where he developed and delivered new R&D initiatives for global and regional markets in skin care, feminine care, baby care, fabric and home care, foods/beverages categories. 

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