Predicting the future: Customer-driven innovation

Predicting the future: Customer-driven innovation
Credit: Bluewolf

It's a common joke that science fiction technology has consistently predicted real innovation. Plenty of memes can be found on the subject, most memorably those referencing Star Trek's contributions to science and technology. To be fair, quite a few sci-fi concepts have been developed into mainstream devices and technology — from cell phones and laptops to 3D printers. What once seemed miraculous is now ubiquitous.

Why are some ideas chosen above others? While some realized sci-fi concepts, like tablets and smart watches, have captured our fancy (as well as wallet share), less emphasis is put into the development of televisions that speak.

Technological advances are not just based on what's possible, but what is useful and valuable, in order for customers to embrace it. Through this lens, customers — both corporate and individual — become the key drivers of innovation. This concept of customer-driven innovation raises the question: How do organizations effectively predict what would be viable?

To achieve that insight, organizations need to gain a holistic view of their customers to understand what is valuable to them. What do customers expect from your brand or products? How often are they purchasing and through what channels? What features do they use frequently and what do they want more of?

Companies need to be proactive in uncovering that value with a customer-obsessed approach. It’s not just “what” the capabilities of new products are, it’s “how” and “why” customers will use them that are of utmost importance.

Today’s digital tools — social, communities, and connected cloud — must be leveraged to better listen to customers, interpret fragmented data, and in turn, arm companies with deeper understanding of customers and how to satisfy them. Analytics and actionable data tools can take insights a step further to effectively predict what customers want, and guide companies to take next best action. Closing the loop, companies need to incorporate customer insights to inform every part of product design, user experience, and innovation pursuits. Without a customer-first mindset to guide both UI/UX and adoption, technical development becomes irrelevant.

For example, there is a marked difference in value between remote mobile access to your coffee machine when you wake up and remote access to your security cameras while on vacation. Both are real concepts, but the latter achieves a greater connection to its customers, providing security, real-time and recorded monitoring, and peace of mind from any device or location. That type of innovation truly provides value for customers.

Propelling innovation through a customer-driven lens is essential to provide lasting value and inspiring customer loyalty. Gaining a full understanding of customers is the essential first step to next generation innovation — ultimately, that determines what will succeed beyond the realm of science fiction, and what will flop in today’s global marketplace.

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