Why brand should collaborate with their users During product development


24 Oct 2019 | 0

Brands invest lots of money and resources to create new and innovative solutions for their customers but unfortunately many of these innovations fail. The reason for a product's failure may be many but a very crucial reason that came through intensive research in the field of New Product Development is that they do not involve their target audiences during the development phase.

One way to reduce the risk of product failure in NPD is to involve 'LEAD users'.

Who are LEAD users?

LEAD users are those who deal with a problem very intensely and who are actively looking for a solution. This term was coined by the economist Eric Von Hippel at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Through his research, he found out that it wasn’t the manufacturers who were responsible for more innovations but the users.

According to him, each LEAD user has two characteristics:

·         They derive great benefits from an innovation. 

·         They have already identified needs and requirements before the early market participants like the early adopters even recognized them.

By involving these LEAD users in the early stages of product development, companies could deploy their resources effectively.

These users are self-starters and may start working on their own to improve a product. There are many companies who assume that they are solely responsible for carrying out innovations and maturing them till they launch them in the market.  But as Eric Von Hippel points out that 75% of innovations done through the traditional method fail. According to the economist, companies may have outstanding technical expertise but LEAD users have outstanding needs that force them to look for suitable solutions.

Some of the innovations by lead users:

1. Gatorade was invented when in the mid-60s an America football team Florida Gators suffered due to excess heat in the area. The doctors found they have lost lots of electrolytes and carbohydrates due to sweating. That when a new drink rich in these two contents called Gatorade was invented.

2. The World Wide Web was invented when Tim Berners Lee took it upon himself to solve the problem of information sharing face by his employer European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN) who had different laboratories located at far off distances.

3. The Mountain bike was created by some biking enthusiasts who recognized that normal bikes were not strong and sturdy enough to deal with the rugged terrain of the mountains.

Benefits of involving lead users in New Product Development:

Lead users have the ability to foresee market needs and they come-out with rough solutions for those needs. In the early stages of product development, where the accuracy of market needs and new ideas is crucial, these lead users become game-changers for product developers.

Research has found out that involving LEAD users early on in the development process impacts the speed to market and customer satisfaction positively. It also increases the innovativeness of the product.

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