One of the main tasks of any Product Manager is to envision the success of their product. But not every product will be successful and it is not an easy task to perform in this market in which, as a Product Manager, you will be competing against well-established companies, such as Apple or Samsung, as well as the newer generation of innumerable startups. How can you triumph in order to not get swept aside in this relentless crowd? You need to be able to think ahead of the curve and anticipate the unmet needs of the consumer.
What Are Unmet Needs?
Unmet needs of the consumer are the problems that they have not comprehended as problems, the desires they have not realize they desire, and, simply, unknown needs. As a Product Manager, you need to constantly think about improving your product by implementing changes that provide a solution to some problem that the consumer has.
As an idea, unmet needs are fundamentally simple. At its core, unmet needs can be found by the problems of the consumer. But this task should not be regarded so simplistically because it is not a simple task. You need to be able to take the initiative in discovering the desires of the market, mostly without the market specifying what it wants. Then the important question that you need to think about is: “How do I, as the Product Manager, find out what my consumers, or the market, need?”
What is the Significance of Identifying the Unmet Needs of the Consumer?
As a task, discovering these needs are time-consuming. Should I even waste my time looking for something that might not be found? You can not think like that as the Product Manager. The skill of identifying the unmet needs of the consumer will become one of your most valuable tools in becoming an accomplished Product Manager. Ask yourself if you want to follow the currents of the market or become the head of market trends. If you and your product will adjust to the precedent set by other products, then it is unnecessary to focus your energy on unmet needs. However, if you want to be able to dictate the standard of your product, then it is of utmost importance to bring innovative answers.
Questions to Uncover the Unmet Needs of Your End User:
- Are you directly asking the consumers what they need or want in a product?
- Does it make sense to accept all the ideas that they give?
- How expensive is your product to make and how much are you offering to sell it for? How does this price compare to other similar products, and would it make financial sense for users to buy your product over some other product for the services that you are offering?
- What kind of customer service are you offering? Apple tends to sell products at a higher price point relative to their competition, but besides selling their brand name, it also provides better customer service than many of their competitors. Are you providing additional services that warrant a higher price point than your competitors even if your product is identical?
- Who is using the product in terms of demographics? How would you expand to different users?
- How does the user interact with the product?
- Are you servicing all kinds of users? (e.g. for software – PCs, Androids, Apple, etc.) Is your product compatible with all types of user devices?
- What features are being offered by this that are found and unfound in other similar products?
- Are any of the features extraneous?
- Should they be deprecated?
- If they have some use, should they be separated to a second product?
- Are these features taking up the time of developers, designers, etc. that could be used more wisely elsewhere?
- How is the user interface designed? Is there a big learning curve that may oppose attracting new users?
- If there is a learning curve, are you creating content to assist in teaching new users? While difficult interfaces may make new users reluctant to change, having well-written tutorials can overturn any doubts of using your product.
- What is the lifecycle of your product? Is it used long term, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, or is it generational, such as phones and computers?
- In the long term, how do you maintain users from year to year? Are you making adjustments or introducing newer features that will expand user consumer base and retain old users?
- In a generational product, how do you entice users to continue purchasing your product? What do you need to add from year to year to stay relevant in your market?
- After developing a new generation of your product, do you continue to provide support to members of your consumer base who did not upgrade to a newer device, or do you enforce upgrading to the new generation?
- If you give continuous support, for how long? Does it make economical sense to keep give support to this product?
- If you enforce upgrading, how do you keep these users from changing to a longer term product? Are you innovating enough, generation to generation, to warrant this type of service?
Often unmet needs are found in analyzing user behavior. It’s all about hypothesis testing, data, and metrics. For example, Classpass initially had a product called Passport where someone could try 10 classes in a month for $49. They hypothesized that people wanted to try out gyms but want to find one they would call their gym home. They had an internal metric that 75% of people who gave a class a 4 or 5 rating out of 5 would then leave Classpass and join that gym. However, the actual percentage of such incidents happening was actually 15%. Then, in looking at user emails, Classpass found that people would sign up with multiple email addresses just so they could get another “Passport.” The unmet need turned out to be the diversity of classes period.
How to Brainstorm
- What are the demographics of the users? Is there a reason that certain groups of people are more inclined to use the service than others? Is there a bias toward certain age groups? Is there subliminal racial segregation happening? Is the product marketed towards certain groups so that others are not perceiving this product as needed?
- How does the user interact with the service/device, etc? Is it more convenient compared to other similar products? Does it offer something other similar products do not?
- How is the user interface designed? Is it complicated for the user to learn? Is there a learning curve that makes it hard to retain newer users? If the user interface is not intuitive, especially for newer users, it might be impossible for the product to obtain new users.
- What does the service offer? Which parts of the service or product are actually used by the user? Does it offer too many things, some of which are not actually used by users? Should these features be deprecated, or should developers, designer, etc, spend time and money to make these features more usable?
- If some features are being deprecated, what were the values of them? You are losing functionality, but will this help with overall success? You may be more able to develop the features that are being used more by users. Realize as the developer that there are features that you may want to create, but are extraneous to the end user.
- Were those deprecated features used by someone? While the majority of members may not need certain features, others may. Would it make more sense to distinguish these two features as two separate products?
- How easy is it to transition into using this product? If the user were to originally use another similar service, would it be difficult to transition from one service to yours? Is it worth the time and effort for users to switch? This is especially important for a product to be allowed entry into a market.
- What is the lifecycle of this product for the average user? For example, is it a product like a phone that needs to be remade from year to year, or is it a product like FaceBook that can be used throughout life? Many of these previous questions pertain to the long-term products. How do we retain these users or compete with other similar products?
- For the short term product, how do you maintain users from generation to generation? In the current market, do we need to introduce completely new features or is making small updates to meet technological advancements sufficient?
- If the product is renewed from generation to generation, are you maintaining older generations of the product, and, if so, for how long?
- Is it ok for these users to stick with the older generations, or should support for these products be removed in order to enforce upgrading to newer generations of products? With this method, there is a possible risk of losing old customers.
About Allie Meng:
Allie is a skilled Product Manager with a highly technical background. She transitioned into Product Management from software engineering and loves working across every aspect of a business. She thrives on creating products that improve the quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Allie at the gym working on her deadlift form or behind dual monitors day trading cryptocurrencies. Allie has a BS in Computer Science with a specialization in Entrepreneurship from Cornell University.