Business & Marketing Tips – What customers want and what Dyson taught us


Business & Marketing Tips
Business & Marketing

How can we know what customers want, as business owners who have products and services to sell?

Are surveys and past behaviour the best indicators?

What is the best way to get customer insight?

Maybe we can learn from a successful company that took 5 years and over 5000 prototypes to develop its successful product?*

Bri Williams writesWhen James Dyson was pitching his new vacuum cleaner with its revolutionary clear plastic container, retailers warned him off, telling him that no one wants to see dirt. This was confirmed in market testing when consumers baulked at the notion of seeing their own filth but despite this Dyson famously persevered.

According to Forbes his company made $5 billion (2019) in revenue this year and his personal wealth is estimated at over $5 billion (2019).

Apparently lots of people want to see dirt after all.

I thought of Dyson last week when I was on a panel at a retail accounting forum. There was much talk in the session prior about customer data and the importance of asking the customer what they want. But as Dyson (and others like Apple) have shown, the dirty little secret of customer insights is that often customers don’t know what they want and their past data can’t predict reaction to a new concept.

Given these two challenges, where can we turn as business people to get a sense of what customers are likely to do in the future without asking them?

Behavioural economics

As I wrote in a previous article (“Why you should ignore what customers say they want”), behavioural economics is the closest thing we have to forecasting behaviour. It is the study of how decision-making behaviour is influenced by a person’s social, cognitive and emotional context, based on observed rather than self-reported responses. In other words, “what we do when…”

So as I stated on the panel, and my central message to you as a business is to worry less about what customers tell you and more about how what they do changes in response to the context (your shop, office, website, offer, ad) you create for them.

For the article, go HERE to Smart Company.

*My notes and testing to see what sells – Dyson, is the successful company that took 5 years and over 5000 prototypes to develop its successful product.”

(Edison apparently had 10000 versions before the light globe was a success!)

Dyson’s breakthrough in the UK market came more than ten years after the initial idea, through a TV advertising campaign in which it was emphasised that, unlike most of its rivals, the Dyson vacuum did not require the continuing purchase of replacement bags. At that time, the UK market for disposable cleaner bags was £100 million. The slogan “say goodbye to the bag” proved more attractive to the buying public than a previous emphasis on the suction efficiency that its technology delivers. Ironically, the previous step change in domestic vacuum cleaner design had been the introduction of the disposable bag – users being prepared to pay extra for the convenience. The Dyson Dual Cyclone became the fastest-selling vacuum cleaner ever made in the UK, and outsold those of some of the companies that rejected his idea, becoming one of the most popular brands in the UK. Wikipedia

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