5 TIPS FOR BAKING CONSUMER EMPATHY INTO YOUR “FAST” DEVELOPMENT CYCLES

March 21st, 2017

Brands are feeling the pressure to move “fast.” In the past several years, methodologies such as Sprint, Lean Startup, and MVP have continued to gain popularity and encourage teams to move faster instead of eating into budgets, time, and resources to find answers and solve business challenges. While these methods are great for defining and testing critical assumptions and iterating quick prototypes, it’s important to remember that what makes truly great innovations is still stemming from a deep understanding of the consumer and her needs. It is still possible to keep the consumer at the forefront even when moving quickly; here are 5 tips for baking consumer empathy and understanding into “fast” methods.

1. Observation is ethnographic, yet efficient
Utilizing Social Media Ethnography is a great way to get a broad understanding of the language and visuals consumers are using to describe a certain circumstance or when they are using a certain product. Intricate search engines and analytical tools work well for more robust consumer studies, but widespread social sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs, and Forums work just as well to identify overarching themes and understand the context and conversation behind the business challenge at hand. Observing is ethnographic, yet efficient.

2. Send the team out on targeted missions
There are a host of reasons why traditional focus groups are not the right platform for true consumer understanding, but this becomes especially true when a team is dealing with a “fast” methodology such as a MVP or Sprint. Focus groups may take up an entire day (or more!) in a dark back room, and “Sprinters” just don’t have that kind of time. They also rely on memory recall and hypothetical situations when the real learning comes from consumers showing the ins and outs of their actual process so that the team can witness firsthand and probe. Send the team out on targeted missions, have face to face conversations with real consumers, knock on the door of experts in the field, and start building a better understanding of the actual consumer pain points the moment they are happening.

3. Capitalize on holistic insight methodologies
When time is tight, double down on methodologies that work overtime for you. Tools like Digital Ethnography allow teams to unpack “the why” behind certain behaviors or beliefs while providing a breadth and depth of output such as video responses, photo collages, in-store journeys, quotes, and personal stories. The online platform spans time zones and runs “in the background” over 2-3 days while the team checks in and catches up on content at their convenience. Capitalize on insight methodologies that give you the most complete view of the consumer with the least time and effort spent.

4. Translate pain points into Jobs to be Done
There’s a reason why the Jobs to be Done theory is widely discussed in innovation; product and service ideas using this theory have an 86% success rate compared to the 17% success rate using traditional ideation methods. Even when utilizing a “fast” development cycle, it’s critical for teams to take the step to translate consumer pain points and need areas they are seeing and hearing into the actual ‘job’ they are trying to solve for. This takes dot connecting, check-ins with the target audience, and iterating as needed on the specific job the consumers are ‘hiring’.

5. Prioritize the right consumer jobs
The final tip for keeping consumer empathy at the forefront of “fast” methodologies is knowing how to prioritize the right consumer jobs. Teams are often quick to move forward with ideas that solely focus on ‘jobs’ that may align with the brand’s core competencies or give them a competitive advantage in the marketplace to win. However, in order for MVPs and Sprints to be a success, the consumer must also see a need for this job and be willing to pay for a solution. Prioritizing the Jobs coming out of consumer insights work is an essential piece to efficiently moving forward within a “fast” methodology.

While teams continue to move with a sense of urgency in their development cycles, it’s important not to let consumer engagement become an opportunity cost on fast progress. “Fast” stems from an informed journey map and a true understanding of the consumer. And empathy fuels ‘fast’.

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