Common sense, as well as plenty of research, tells us that customer feedback can play an important role in successful product development efforts. By understanding the key factors that affect customers' evaluations of a new product, a project team improves its chances of making the right decisions throughout the design and development effort. However, customers typically lack a useful frame of reference for evaluating discontinuous, or really new products. In all likelihood, the key factors that affect customers' evaluations of radically new products differ from those for incremental innovations. Robert Veryzer describes the results of a study that examines the customer research efforts and findings of seven firms involved in the development of discontinuous new products. This study has the following objectives: gaining insight into the customer research inputs such companies use during the development of discontinuous new products, and exploring the critical factors that influence customers' evaluations of these really new products. The subjects in this study conducted relatively little formal customer research during the early stages of the NPD projects. The methods used for obtaining customer input during the concept generation and exploration stages were primarily qualitative. Although the companies in the study still did not focus consistently on customer issues during the technical development and design stage, the less discontinuous projects did use such traditional quantitative techniques as concept tests, clinics, and experiments during this phase of NPD. Throughout the projects in this study, the real opportunities for obtaining customer input came during the prototype testing and commercialization phases of the NPD projects. Several key factors appeared to influence customer evaluations of the products that were being developed by the NPD teams in this study. Lack of familiarity was manifested in customers' resistance to the new products in the study. Similarly, unfamiliarity with these new products often seemed to lead customers to focus on product attributes that development team members viewed as relatively unimportant. Other factors that affected customer evaluation of the products in this study included customer uncertainty about the benefits and risks associated with the product, customers' ability to understand how the product operates, perceptions of the product's safety, and product aesthetics.
The Journal of Product Innovation Management – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 1998
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