Model aims to help companies make products we actually want

February 12, 2013
Model aims to help companies make products we actually want

(—Researchers have developed a model that will, hopefully, help companies develop innovative products that people actually want to use. The model is a first step towards capturing the behavior of both companies and consumers, so that we end up with more iPods and fewer Edsels.

This concept may sound obvious, but companies have difficulty grasping it. Companies constantly try to develop new products and services that capture market share. We knew that. Consumers constantly try to evaluate recent innovations to determine whether they're useful, and how much they'd be willing to pay for them (if at all). We knew that, too. But, to this point, business researchers have attempted to understand these two processes separately: product innovation on one hand, and customer evaluation on the other.

Now a team of researchers from NC State, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and University of Wyoming has developed an integrated model that tries to capture both sides of the equation.

Their conceptual model illustrates the interaction of innovation and customer response, which will hopefully help companies adapt their innovation processes to make them more efficient, forward-looking and successful.

But not so fast – there are at least as many questions as answers.

A paper describing the model, "The Interplay of Customer and Product Innovation Dynamics: An Exploratory Study," is published online by the Journal of Product Innovation Management. The paper lays out the researchers' ideas for integrating customer and product innovation dynamics. The researchers spend much of the paper identifying issues that need to be explored in order to flesh out their model and give companies a better idea of what exactly is going on.

One of the most interesting issues identified in the paper is what researcher and paper co-author Jon Bohlmann calls a customer-of-customer or "downstream customer" perspective. It has a place in the , but there's not a lot of data or "best practice" findings that can be plugged in to that variable.

The term downstream customer is like a food chain of customers. It basically means all of your customers' customers, and their customers, and so on. So, if you manufacture computer chips, your customers are probably electronics manufacturers. Their customers (who are YOUR downstream customers), might include other manufacturers, retailers, etc. Those companies, in turn, will sell the finished product to consumers. And those consumers are your downstream customers too.

But there are some big questions here: How can a company research the perspective of the entire continuum of downstream customers? And, more importantly, how could they use that information to out-innovate their competitors?

Here's the thing: no one really knows. It hasn't been studied in any sort of systematic way. But it could be a valuable source of information for companies that are making strategic decisions about where to focus their innovation efforts. That's what makes a downstream customer perspective valuable – you can use it to do something. After all, it makes sense that understanding where your downstream customers are coming from would help you predict trends – and position yourself to take advantage of those trends. But now we need to figure out if that's true, and how to best utilize downstream customer information. For example, research is needed to see if companies that actually pursue a downstream customer understanding can actually boost their bottom line.

Explore further: Staff 'false smiles' won't bring customers back: study

Related Stories

Staff 'false smiles' won't bring customers back: study

May 11, 2010

( -- Companies should invest effort in convincing their staff about their marketing messages as well as trying to convince their customers, according to The University of Queensland's Associate Professor of Marketing ...

Study: Phone co customer satisfaction evens out

May 15, 2012

(AP) -- Improvements in customer satisfaction at Sprint Nextel Corp. and AT&T Inc. have narrowed differences among the Big 4 wireless carriers to the point that they're basically even in terms of pleasing their subscribers, ...

Recommended for you

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.