Do Customers really know what they want?

Henry Ford, the pioneer of auto industry once said- “ If I asked people for what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.

Apple’s Cofounder Steve Jobs said in an interview said

“ It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them? “

Do Customers really know what they want?

I would argue and like a typical consultant answer “It depends”

Why No?

Customers do not know what they want and you have to show it to them. I agree with Henry Ford and Steve Jobs, who were great inventors of their generation

BUT only when you come up with innovative product that disrupts an existing market or creates a new market.

For example Iphone was a game changer and customers loved the touch screen experience that they had not seen before.

Apple disrupted the mobile device market and forced the market leader Nokia to sell its mobile devices business.

Why Yes?

Customers know what they want once your product matures and there is entry of competitors in the market. You need to listen to the voice of the customer in order to make incremental product improvements.

Steve Jobs believed that the Iphone should be of a certain size and for a long time Apple did not come out with phones with bigger screen sizes.

Competitors like Samsung did their market research that customers wanted bigger sized screen phones and started gaining market share.

Finally Apple under the leadership of Tim Cook, made the decision to offer different screen sizes for Iphones. Source- Business Insider Sep 2014

The Statista graphic link below tells us the story. It shows the market share of the smartphone vendors based on number of shipments. I

n Q4 of 2009, Samsung had market share of 3.3%, Apple had a share of 16.1% and Nokia had a share of 38.6% in the smart phone market.

As of Q1 of 2016, Samsung has a market share of 24.5%, Apple has the share of 15.3% and Nokia has moved to the ‘Others’ category. I would like to also add that market share does not mean higher profitability.

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In conclusion, customer’s opinions are very valuable for existing products and new product releases. Customers might not explicitly tell you what they want but you need to ask appropriate questions and listen to the customers to improve your product functionality.

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