The following examples, which examine the fast growing tablet computing market, show that this is not always easy without a strong understanding of end-customer needs, desires and expectations.
Following technology growth trends does not guarantee success
Smart tablets, which are now on the agendas of many consumer and businesses, are one of the fastest growing personal technology devices of the last 24 months.
At the same time organizations of different types – manufacturers, distributors and organizational customers - have found it hard to effectively harness and capitalize on this emerging trend, in large part due to a misunderstanding of the practical needs of end-customers, the value that tablets offers them and other related considerations.
Technology adoptions depends on understanding users’ practical needs and challenges
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted some of the challenges faced by a major US airline when they decided to adopt and roll-out tablet devices to many of its staff and clients to enhance productivity and customer service.
While the airlines CIO organization originally wanted to deploy a single device to simplify purchasing and maintenance activities, they eventually found out that a 1-size-fits-all approach would not work.
In fact they discovered a number of different needs and requirements:
- Pilots wanted a high-end device to replace their paper clip-boards
- Flight attendants needed something small and light
- Ground staff required rugged, always-on devices that could withstand rough treatment including changing weather conditions
- Devices with DRM capabilities were needed in first-class and business cabins to inhibit copying of movies.
In the end, many of the practical challenges and mistakes that the airline faced could have been reduced or avoided through better research on the needs of its end-users.
User testing can help assess and enhance commercial strategies
Soon after launching an initial tablet data-service plan and seeing lacklustre results, a major communication service providers decided it needed to conduct an in-depth user study to understand why, despite growing interest in tablets, their offers weren’t taking up as expected.
This particular user study (conducted in part by one Merkado’s associates) was meant to answer a number of key questions:
- Why someone would want a tablet device?
- How they might acquire one?
- What would they use it for?
- What did users think about a new range of data-service offers?
The study yielded several important discoveries:
- Given the recent arrival of tablets, users were unsure of the role that they would play compared to their smartphones and/or laptops. Furthermore, given that most devices were Wifi-ready, users were unsure of the additional benefits of having 3G-mobile connectivity. In particular they were uncertain of what their actual ‘mobile tablet’ usage might be like, whether or not they would be ready to pay for 3G, especially given that many already had smartphone data plans.
- While it is common for smartphones to be sold at a subsidized rate as part of a phone plan, given the tablets’ non-reliance on 3G network, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the service provider should sell tablets, either separately or as part of any offer. Since existing tablets already include Wifi and many applications can run without the need for ‘always-on’ Internet (ex. games, music-listening, e-books), many users didn’t show much willingness or even see the value in acquiring the devices via the service provider.
These insights would have important consequences on the the service provider’s subsequent market strategy and commercial campaigns.
Practical user tests often provide new insights from what we initially imagine
In the same study, one group of test subjects who didn’t yet own a tablet were each given a device to use for 1 week. Despite their expressed intentions, most discovered new and diverse usage.
In most cases, users found that tablets offered the greatest utility in different at-home situations, while connected to Wifi: surfing the web; looking up contextual information while watching TV; using it as a remote to play music from any room; or even as an online recipe-book while cooking.
Compared to their other connected devices, tablets delivered greater mobility and more practical uses (though more diverse postures), a more intuitive experience (the touch-screen combined with simplified apps) and better ease-of-use of their favourite web sites and applications.
Outside of the home, subjects also found new uses including route navigation while in the car; for simple note-taking on the go; and as a simple way to access and share many PC-based documents using common cloud-based storage services.
With these and other insights in hand, the service provider was able to re-think its market strategy, update its commercial plans, fine-tune its product messaging, and adjust its customer support programs accordingly.
Customer insights help pinpoint growth areas and ensure success
Applied customer research like the two cases discussed in this article can help technology companies and their go-to-market partners effectively assess new technology offers using real customers and real-life situations.
They can gain a deeper understanding of who their direct customers and end-users are, what drives them and what they really expect from their offers and company.
This in turn provides companies with the basis to chart out new growth areas, identify winning product or service ideas while enhancing the customer experience and helping transform their clients into their advocates.