Developing Innovative Ideas: What a Pain!
by Michelle Dodd

  • Developing Innovative Ideas

    Companies must continuously innovate in order to stay relevant and fresh. 

    This innovation may take the form of a new product, a revised product, new marketing channels, an expanded distribution strategy, a new ad campaign, etc. We frequently look to unmet needs for inspiration, but an often-overlooked source for innovative ideas can come from addressing pain points.

    Pain points typically impact an entire category, not just one brand. They are a ‘cost of doing business’ with this type of company.

Some former examples include:

Developing Innovative Ideas

These brands realized that by reducing friction or barriers to purchase/usage (a.k.a. pain points), they could create a competitive advantage. One drawback, however, is that these advantages are often short-lived, since most competitors are quick to copy them.

Pain points are best discovered through qualitative research—ethnography in particular. Observing people buying and/or using a product in context will most likely reveal a few hurdles that the manufacturer or retailer would never have considered, those a researcher would never think to ask about, and even some issues that customers wouldn’t think to mention in a focus group. Ethnographies are not limited to in-person research; they can also be done online/digitally, which is less invasive for the respondent. This encourages the respondent to be more honest and forthcoming than they might be in an in-person setting. Read more about ethnography.

Areas of friction or pain may include:

  • Accessing or finding a product.
  • Learning about a product.
  • Purchasing a product.
  • Opening the packaging.
  • Charging a product.
  • Using a product.
  • Disposing of a product.

Once pain points are identified, they can be quantified on a larger scale to gauge the percentage of consumers impacted, how often each pain point is experienced, impact on satisfaction and likelihood to repurchase, etc. This can help the company prioritize the list and brainstorm ways to address those top pain points. Ideally the solutions will be ones only your company can offer so that others can't copy them.

When pain points are addressed, it can be such a relief to consumers that they naturally tend to create a buzz through discussions with their friends or family who may be struggling with the same issues. When you solve those pain points, your customers may become your best brand advocates!

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