Will Galaxy 4 fail because they based it on customer research?

I don’t know what is going to happen with Samsung Galaxy 4 sales and I am not going to make a prediction. One thing that is clear from the media reports is that initial excitement quickly gave way to a feeling of let down. Unlike Apple that says they don’t do customer research and shares no details about their understanding of what the customer needs, Samsung gladly shared their design process for S4

the phone’s software development was driven by four key requirements that Samsung research found consumers most desired:

  1. The phone had to be fun,
  2. encourage closer relationships,
  3. offer convenience and
  4. help improve health and wellness.

This is some very specific details based on whatever customer research they conducted. And they fed that input into their design process to deliver what they believe to be the right phone for these jobs customers are hiring a phone for.

Compare this against the famous Steve Jobs statement about not asking customers what they want and designing the product in secrecy.

The question is what will the bloggers and social media say if S4 turns out to be a bust? Will they once again extol Jobs school of product innovation and blame S4’s failure on taking the path of methodical customer research and developing products based on customer needs?

Again it is hard for me to say the outcome of S4 but if they were to fail then it is not because they designed it based on what customers desired but because of their interpretation of how to fulfill their desire.

For fun needs Samsung added a whole bunch of camera features like Sound and Shot for amateur news reporting, Beauty Face etc.

For relationships needs they added text translation to chats,emails and texts.

For convenience they delivered a set of gesture features to control phone without touching.

Finally for health they added features mirroring those of FitBit and other devices popular among quantified self movement.

If you are going to question Samsung’s approach to product development it is the way they chose to fulfill customer needs with these features that you should question. We hope they did not ask customers directly what will be more fun or convenient because that would be the equivalent of asking customers if faster horses will be more fun.

It is quite possible they did no follow-on research to determine if Samsung’s interpretation of desires matches that of customers’. It is also possible they first decided on these features and later fitted them on to customer needs.

Any of these reasons for sure will result in product failure that is not due to asking customers what is important but how it was asked and how it was interpreted.

So if S4 indeed fails in the market place do not rush to accept what you believe to be Apple’s method of product development and give up on customer research. Instead recognize that customer research is lot more complicated than finding what they desire or asking what will fulfill those desires. It is a multi-step approach that starts with customer desires and testing repeatedly with to deliver the right offering that serves customer needs better than any other alternative available to them.

How do you do product development.

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