Product Development and Customer Validation
I’m reading Demand Horizon, a new book written by my friend, Gerry Campbell. Demand Horizon helps you understand the consumer demand-driven economy and apply that understanding to product development. Gerry delivers a framework for actions and next steps to capture consumer demand during early stages of development and finding an emerging market.
There’s much insight given to the customer validation process. Yes, this is a core concept of Lean startup, but the tools and methods for getting validation continue to evolve. As I read the “how to” for user validation, it became clear that the ultimate tool for measuring consumer sentiment is the smartphone and it is on the cusp of delivering exactly what we need.
Signals of Consumer Acceptance
Current research is highly dependent on people telling us what they want and will do. Unfortunately, what a user perceives can go well beyond their ability to express it in words. Even if it can be articulated, we may not get the truth we’re seeking.
The tools suggested in Demand Horizon for overcoming these obstacles include User Conversations where facial observation is more important than verbal articulation. This stems from Paul Ekman’s research on micro-expression, which shows how our faces continuously act as an indicator of emotion for fractions of a second. These signals can be huge when someone is seeing a product for the first time.
Going a step beyond micro-expressions, heart rate and skin temperature can also give information about the emotions of a person. The tip of our finger can be as telling as the reaction on our face.
If we can understand and capture what someone feels, we are a long way toward better understanding of that consumer.
Mobile for Product Testing
This is where mobile and product testing on mobile will have a huge advantage. The smart phone is already a sensory device. It has sight, sound, hearing and touch – and it’s only getting better at them.
Your phone probably has a GPS, an accelerometer, barometer, motion sensor and more. The Samsung Galaxy S4 launched with a thermometer and hygrometer – primarily for ambient climate readings, but it’s that much closer to delivering very personal measurement.
Pretty soon, your phone will measure the temperature of your skin. It can watch your facial expressions via its multiple cameras, more intently than any person can. It will express your desire when your words fail you.
Sensors measuring conditions such as humidity, body fat, stress levels and body temperature will be used increasingly in smartphones. Forecasts suggest spending on phone sensors geared toward environment and health monitoring will reach $400 million in 2017, up from less than $2 million in 2012.
Understanding you at a physical level is the ultimate information source for product and business owners, and it’s right around the corner.
Technology in Practice
And look at the technologies only one iteration away from using a phone for measuring consumer sentiment. The software from Affdex, which looks at facial expressions to measure the emotional connection people have with advertising, brands and media, is more available as it taps into the device we carry everywhere.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute researchers have already turned a smart phone into a medical monitoring device. It is able to capture and transmit vital physiological data. And this was inspired by the Pulse Phone‘s heart rate app, able to determine a heart rate by placing a finger on a phone camera lens.
Sociometric Solutions can abandon its wearable sensing devices in favor of the device already in hand, and still provide insights around face-to-face interactions, social signals from speech and body movement and measuring proximity and location of users.
Better measurements of customer validation and better tools at our disposal will shape the success of new products. That better world for new products is fast approaching.