How do we want to live in ten years?
In order to stay relevant in the long term, organizations need to develop new business models and offer new products or service innovations. Strategic customer foresight may help companies to create solutions and answers by understanding the questions and problems of the future. But how can we get a glimpse into the future?
Que será, será? Why the future should be ours to see
Understanding and anticipating how customers’ wants and needs change is vital for companies’ survival in the market. All major strategic decisions are shaped by assumptions about future market dynamics. However, gaining insights about the future is challenging. So, how can we anticipate how lives of consumers will change? What methods can be applied to gain the most valuable insights? One exemplary field for studying these questions is the mobility sector. The automation trend has sparked a strong desire for autonomous vehicles and driving. This development will disrupt the market for car manufacturing. In the following, we will present an approach to gain customer foresight and the results derived from that for autonomous vehicle (AV) driving.
But who knows about the future?
Prior research has shown that even the best technological innovations fail if they are not adapted to the customer (Kleijen et al. 2009). However, most foresight methods rely on the insights of experts, rather than the customer (e.g. Bloem da Silveria Junior et al. 2018). Indeed, other studies show that involving regular customers in innovation processes may fail to deliver the ground-breaking insights needed for strategic orientations (e.g. Ulwick 2005). As the famous inventor Henry Ford once put it: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Nevertheless, there is a particular consumer group that may help companies to gain the needed insights: Trend Receivers (TRs) are consumers “who perceive changes and potentials of the new in a specific domain in a highly sensitive and differentiated way.” (Hofmann, 2015, p. 92). For TR studies, trend-receiving customers are invited to discuss future trends, signals of change and potentials of the new and emerging consumer needs. The insights gained with this approach can help companies find a vision as well as contribute to their long-term decision-making, and brand, product and service developments.
We gained valuable insights through Trend Receiver studies
In order to understand how consumers will interact with their vehicles in the future a qualitative pilot study was conducted with 29 visionary, trend-receiving customers from Germany, the USA and China. Through the interviews, three innovative use cases for premium AVs were identified. A subsequent quantitative online survey with 733 participants from the same three markets confirms the relevance of the use cases for mainstream and innovative consumers.
The findings underline that highly AVs are a game changer and are transforming future cars into extended living and office spaces, with several implications for practitioners. The findings help in shaping organizations’ business models, branding strategies, corporate communications and provides valuable insights for follow-up studies.
What can we learn from that for strategic customer foresight?
1) Know your trend receivers and include them in your foresight research
Every organization should try to identify the individuals with the best antenna for future developments. Thanks to social media you can stay up-to-date on your industry’s trend receivers and their views on the latest developments. Make an effort to stay in contact with them, invite them for discussions and include them in your research.
2) Broaden your horizon
Do not focus solely on developments in your particular industry. Most likely the most disruptive forces have their origin outside of your organization. Also, the solutions to challenges can be found outside of your organizational micro-cosmos. Try to build bridges to other spheres and industries and look for opportunities for the transfer of ideas.
More regarding our research
- Schweitzer, N., Hofmann, R., & Meinheit, A. (2019). Strategic customer foresight: From research to strategic decision-making using the example of highly automated vehicles. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 144, 49-65.
- Research project website: http://ici.unisg.ch/de/methods/explorative-methods-2/
- Meet us at: https://transformamus.com/
- Contact us: Johanna.email@example.com
- Bloem da Silveira Junior, L.A., Vasconcellos, E., Vasconcellos Guedes, L., Guedes, L.F.A., Costa, R.M., 2018. Technology roadmapping: a methodological proposition to refine Delphi results. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Chang. 126, 194–206.
- Hofmann, R., 2015. Visionary competence for long-term development of brands, products, and services: the trend receiver concept and its first applications at Audi. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Chang. 101, 83–98.
- Kleijnen, M., Lee, N., Wetzels, M., 2009. An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents. J. Econ. Psychol. 30 (3), 344–357.
- Ulwick, A. W. (2005) What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services, McGraw-Hill Companies.
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