By Artem Timoshenko | Kelogg Insight | December 2, 2019
Consumer products rarely remain static. They continually evolve based on customer needs.
Take the electric razor. About a century ago, one of the first models—the Vibro-Shave—entered the U.S. market. This razor, which was marketed to both men and women, had a vibrating handle that moved a blade from side to side. And, if you were so inclined, you could swap out the top for a massage head, to “coax” away your wrinkles.
Needless to say, razors have changed over the years.
So how does product development ordinarily occur? Companies have long relied on market research to determine how customers are using their products and whether they have underlying needs that a new feature or innovation might meet. Much of this research has traditionally involved interviews or focus groups with customers, who share how they use a product, what they like, and what they don’t. Companies then synthesize this feedback, to determine if customer needs are being met, and act on this knowledge.
But interviews and focus groups are expensive, and they can take an enormous amount of time, says Artem Timoshenko, an assistant professor of marketing at Kellogg. “Being on the market with a new razor half a year before your competitor gives you the edge.”
So Artem Timoshenko and his colleague John Hauser of MIT Sloan wondered whether it was possible to glean similar insights about customer needs from existing customer feedback—namely, user-generated content like Amazon reviews or social-media data.