Leaders can struggle with how to refresh their brands to differentiate and grow. The challenge is real and ‘sitting on one’s corporate laurels’ won’t solve it. It’s easy and tempting to ride the status quo, especially when your sales and profits figures already meet or exceed expectations. However, leaders must always be working to identify bigger, better bets to succeed in today’s manic business world.

As critical trends turn the business world upside down, meeting rapidly changing customer needs is mandatory for success. Why? If you aren’t prepared, unmet customer needs in your business can turn into opportunities for your competitors to disrupt.

How does one go about identifying unmet customer needs? When aiming for differentiation and growth, the best opportunity is to identify solutions that your customers need and want. Being on the leading edge of trends (versus the bleeding edge) and overcoming customer pain points disrupts the category and accelerates growth. Here are a few real life examples:

  • Uber evolved the way the world moves by creating a mobile app that connects people who need a ride with people who want to provide a ride. The end result is a better experience for riders.
  • No longer is Google simply a tool for typing in keywords and generating 15 pages of potentially relevant search results. Just say what you’re interested in and your Google Home smart speaker will convert your wish to results. Google provides anyone, anywhere with access to the world’s information with a few words.
  • No longer are certain products reserved for the wealthy or well-connected. Walmart has commoditized many products to help people save money so they can live better.

There are many ways to identify unmet customer needs. The key is to find that nugget or insight that will unlock a great solution.

  1. Identify trends: Do some homework and identify key trends that may disrupt your industry based on customer needs. End of year blog posts and research reports from industry associations are a great source of trend data. For instance, this post from Analytics Insight lists what we might expect from AI in 2019.
  2. Undertake a competitive analysis. This intelligence will keep you abreast of essential new elements that customers are looking for, and that your competitors think will be the next big deal.
  3. Mine your data: Chat logs, purchase history, reviews, forums, and social media are an amazing source of consumer opinions, needs, desires, and complaints, all of which are just waiting to be converted from unmet need to anxiously desired new feature/product.
  4. Conduct interviews: Conduct qualitative research, including semi-structured discussions/interviews, with a wide range of consumers. Listen to category and brand users and non-users to learn how and why they do and don’t use your products. Listen for white space and unmet needs.
  5. Conduct ethnographic research: Undertake consumer immersion work to see first-hand via co-creation groups or ethnography, exactly how customers feel/interact with/consider your brand/products/services.
  6. Conduct quantitative research: Learn more about your customers. Understand who you need to win with and how to win with them with robust quantitative research. Conduct usage & attitudes, and segmentation research to define and quantify potential target groups.
  7. Conduct VOC research: Review real time feedback through ‘voice of the customer’ learnings that can track what customers are saying in order to grasp new trends quickly.

These activities help brands uncover key insights about unmet needs. They also help to unleash big, bold ideas to kick-start discussions and decisions that will transform those ideas into meaningful solutions for customers. This is how organizations become disrupters to create growth and success.