Whether we’re working with teams on building their innovation pipelines, starting with the consumer and working to uncover pain points always acts as the foundation for true innovation. Client teams are often surprised at the volume of consumer pain points they can discover with “tools” readily available to them (without the hefty recruiting or incentive fees.)
Here are six scrappy ways to find consumer pain points in order to understand true needs that drive innovation:
- Mini Social Media Ethnography: It’s no mystery that there is a wealth of information that exists on the internet. No matter what the brand, product, or category, there are tons of insights and pain points to be found online if you know how to search for them. Leveraging hashtag searches on Instagram or Twitter can not only lead to interesting posts, but they can also lead you to other hashtags, influencers, or adjacent products or services you might not have thought to explore before. A brand’s Facebook page is often filled with hundreds of interesting and insightful comments and pain points from consumers. Entering a product, brand, or open-ended question on Reddit can lead you down a path to opinions, needs, and experiences consumers may have. YouTube provides a wealth of information both at a category level and when it comes to specific brands or companies; “vloggers” will give in-depth opinions and voice their pain points while also encouraging comments and opinions from other viewers. There are countless social media sources that can direct you on a path to consumer needs.
- Friends and Family “Recruit”: Friends and family are the original “focus group”. Whether you are looking for insights on insurance benefits or snacks on-the-go, simply asking or observing what others do in the moment can lead to consumer needs just as powerful as intentionally recruiting your “target” consumers. Probing with open-ended questions such as “help me understand…,” “tell me why you think that…,” and “explain to me what you’re doing here…” all help to build context and explanations for behaviors that ultimately lead you to their pain points and needs.
- Trends: At The Garage Group, we’re big fans of using trends and analogs as a way to drive innovation; but trends can also be a useful tool in addressing consumer pain points. A trend is described as “the general course or prevailing tendency;” and innovative new products and services when done well are created because they are addressing consumer pain points that were strong and frequent enough to be considered a “prevailing tendency.” Exploring sites like Kickstarter, Trend Hunter, and Shark Tank products can give you plenty of insight into the consumer needs and pain points new products are solving, allowing you to dig deeper into those insights without spending the time and resources required when starting from scratch.
- Existing Research: Most companies we work with have one thing in common: a stack of previously conducted research studies with a wealth of information on consumers already gathered. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh set of eyes to discover new insights or consumer pain points that may have been missed before. Consolidating this information and reading between the lines helps to pull consumer needs out of the observations or conclusions. For instance, a study with findings around how a high percentage of women age 20-24 are looking for a healthy breakfast on the go might lead you to think: Why aren’t men? What are the unique needs and pain points they’re experiencing? Existing research is a scrappy way to find “new” pain points in “old” material.
- Observational Research: If friends and family are the original focus group, observational research is the scrappy version of a “shop-along.” Observing your consumers “in the wild” is a great way to discover consumer needs and pain points contextually and in real time. It’s amazing the depth of information you can gather simply by hanging around a specific store aisle or watching consumers interact with each other in the moment. Asking the opinions or assistance of employees or staff members is also a great way to uncover in-depth insights about the real needs of consumers; just don’t give away that you work for a certain company or brand!
- Put yourself in Their Shoes: Last but not least, consider your own opinions and needs. At the end of the day, we’re all consumers as well with our own “pain points.” There’s no better way to grow empathy than to really take the corporate hat off and experience, talk to, interact with, or purchase a product or service the way your consumer would. What observations can you make about your own needs or pain points in the moment? What questions are you asking yourself or what tradeoffs are you finding yourself needing to make? Is there a particularly challenging or confusing part of the decision, purchase, or usage process?
Consumer pain points are truly all around us. Instead of jumping knee deep into traditional research methods as a way to gather insights, consider tapping into some of these “scrappy” ways to uncover your consumers’ needs. Read this case story to learn more about our entrepreneurial approaches to developing consumer-centric ideas to improve how relevant brands are with consumers.