Let us start this with a few examples:

  1. Starbucks was founded on the insight that coffee is not a product sold in a shop, but rather it is an experience at a third place between home and work where people can gather and relax.
  2. Wal-Mart defied conventional logic by refusing to locate their operations in high traffic neighborhoods and airports.
  3. Apples ipod – the largest number of songs divided by the smallest physical size. People want to carry all their music in an unobtrusive manner

Effectively, what appears obvious need not be the truth. But customer insights are hard to come by with the traditional research methodologies. For instance, I was travelling with a friend of mine, Satish, on his Maruti WagonR, and it was raining pretty heavily and the glasses were rolled up. He is someone who believes in driving, by using the rear view mirror. The rear-view mirror on the right was not visible as there was no wiper on the sides and it really was an insight that Maruti can do with. How do they collect this feedback from a customer; it is through postal feedback and through one of those market research companies. This probably results in a lot of data but not much else.

I don’t believe that lot of insights come out of quantitative market research. Organizations though continue to spend millions on it, generate tons of data, do statistical analysis without producing much or for that matter any customer insight.

In order for better customer insights to come through, organizations need to employ both qualitative and quantitative research together. Qualitative research will generate insights and quantitative research can validate those insights. One cannot go without the other as they both are essential for understanding customers.

You can definitely ensure that you are sitting under a tree that is full of ripe apples; it is most likely that an apple will fall on your head. There is nothing that prevents you from having the same level of insight as Sir Isaac Newton did, when the apple falls on your head.