Can you determine what your customers want before they do?

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


How can we create opportunity for insight on what consumers don’t even know they want?

Or as Steve Jobs put it: “Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.” 

We can’t all be visionary leaders, but I am sure you recognise this problem. 

Sometimes we really need to work to find problems that users didn’t even know they had. This means proactively relooking at products, listening to the user problems, and looking through that to the root of what they want to achieve rather than how they want to achieve it. Consumers act based on what they have been given, not necessarily what they want. 

A closer look at the News Corp Australia's product increased pageviews and time spent with the product.
A closer look at the News Corp Australia's product increased pageviews and time spent with the product.

It’s important to take a step back and look at how a product may be improved rather than wait for a “need” or a “problem” to arise.

An excellent illustration of this was brought up to me recently by Monika Jansch, general manager/core product, and Elizabeth Pek, head of UX, at News Corp Australia. Monika was a user of their own product: It’s the market leader for recipes in Australia and an all around success. 

There was no need per se to relook at this product, but they wanted to look to see if they could improve engagement. The data all looked great, but as Elizabeth pointed out: “Once you overlay the qualitative research — and once we started doing some research and just understanding what happens when you’re cooking, what happens when you’re preparing meals in your family time — [the] two parts to that problem became really apparent to us: Ingredients needed to be super clear, particularly when you’re doing meal planning. And then cooking needs to be super clear, as well, particularly the methodology part.” 

Through the qualitative studies, they realised they could change the standard template to have these two different steps as separate tabs. This change led to a sustained 14% reduction of bounce rates and time, an 11% increase in the mobile recipe page views, and time spent increase from 35 seconds per recipe to one minute. 

Julian Delany, chief technology officer/data and digital at News Corp Australia, reinforced the drive behind this: “If we hadn’t have made an effort to really understand what is driving consumer behaviour on this site, we wouldn’t see these increases in metrics.”

This further demonstrates the point I made in my last newsletter about ensuring that we look at the why, not just the outcome

Everything I’ve seen as I’ve delved into this has shown me that qualitative user research is absolutely fundamental in our discovery and understanding of users. Yet one quirk is that it rarely sits within the product team. Traditionally, it has been within marketing. And several organisations are wrangling this right now, as many of the insights gleaned are useful for product and could be led by product need. Best practices show regular proactive meetings with the lead of that team can be helpful in getting insights that product can work on. 

How do you handle within your organisation?

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About Jodie Hopperton

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