What Are Your Customers Thinking?

Volume 5 Letter 8

Customers are fickle! So when Motorola was developing a new version of its popular TalkAbout two way radio for the recreational and industrial market it was trying to determine what customer groups might want in a two-way radio. Motorola couldn’t possibly fit all the new features they envisioned into the new two-way radio but which ones should they incorporate and which ones should they leave out? Motorola needed to answer a question asked by all companies; which product or service features would the customers value most and how much to charge for the new product?

The obvious answer to the question is to ask the customer. However, traditional research tools such as focus groups and surveys have provided little help to unlocking the customers’ true needs and to understanding their decision making process. Gerald Zatman in his book states that 95% of thinking that ultimately drives human behaviour takes place below the level of awareness in memories, emotions and stories that he claims are the real drivers of purchase behaviour. So how does one understand the true motivators behind customers’ decisions?

A tool developed by Dr. Paul Green at Wharton Business School called ‘Conjoint Analysis’ unlocks the answer. Conjoint analysis can accurately determine why a customer chooses one product or service over another. This tool measures the trade offs customers make by having potential customers compare various product and service attribute options. It then simulates these choices (using regression mathematic techniques) and determines how customers will likely react to changes in the product attributes. This sounds very complicated (and the math is) but the survey itself is quite easy to conduct.

Conjoint studies can provide an excellent measure of the consumer’s true needs. The results of a conjoint study can be used to assist in:

  • Product development: to determine what attributes to include in a product.
  • Price setting: to establish what the customer is willing to pay for a specific product or service.
  • Market segmentation: to identify customer groupings who value the product attributes similarly.
  • Market size and share prediction: to predict market size and potential market share and thus assist in setting production and sales strategies.

Motorola conducted conjoint studies in six key markets across North America with groups who actively participated in outdoor activities and with industrial users where two way radio communications is a natural benefit. They tested eighteen different product benefits and price points to come up with the optimal two-way radio. Using the research results they designed what is today by far the market leader in the recreational and industrial two-way radio market

In short, Conjoint Analysis gives a glimpse into the future and is a proven tool that can be used to accurately predict potential market share and price sensitivity. New product development teams can use the conjoint information to better design new products, segment markets and more accurately predict potential market share and profits. When business teams ask “what’s the customer thinking”, Conjoint can provide the answer.

If you would like to see a sample of a Conjoint Study and to better understand how this powerful tool works please contact us at Info@iibd.com or write me directly at CTipping@iibd.com. We’ll send you a sample survey – it takes about 5 -7 minutes to complete.

For more reading please contact IIBD or see the articles below:

Green, P. E. and V. Srinivasan (1978), “Conjoint Analysis in Consumer Research” Issues and Outlook”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 5, (September), pp 103-123.

Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products in Extraordinary Experiences HBS Press Diana LaSalle & Terry Britton

How Customers Think: Insights into the Mind of the Market” HBS Press Gerald Zatman

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