The 11 Consumer Needs You Should Focus On
When asked for his three wishes, Aladdin had his priorities straight. One: Get out of the cave. Two: Get the girl. Only after the girl and safety came the altruistic wish to set the genie free.
Most people aren't forced to prioritize their needs like that. When you feel like a Coke, you don't philosophize about whether it's a deep need or just an urge stirred by a passing billboard.
But for a business such a deep understanding of consumer needs does pay off. It allows product development to prioritize the right features, marketing to craft the right messages, and sales and support to use the right words.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory ranks human needs in a layered pyramid. The base starts with basic needs, which grow more sophisticated with each added layer.
This framework was developed for generic human needs, but we can use it to understand consumer needs as well.
- Survival needs
- Office/practical survival needs
In Maslow's original version, this concerned the most basic human –or animal– needs. Food, water, warmth, sex, rest, etc. When it comes to consumer needs, you should consider it as the core functionality of your product or service.
The core functionality of a car, for example, is to drive. The functionality of Userlike, our customer messaging software, is to chat with your web visitors. Ask yourself, what's the core value around which your product or service is built?
This is about the need to feel safe when it comes to yourself, resources, employment, health, your family, etc.
Regarding a consumer, it’s about the need to feel safe when using your product. With a car, that includes safety features like airbags, but also return policies, customer service, and reimbursements in case of product failures.
In software it concerns issues like data privacy, customer support, as well as service uptimes. Think about your own habits as a consumer: when have you ever been ok using a product that made you feel vulnerable?
Humans are group animals. We value relationships and feelings of love and belonging. In the context of a product, features can make it feel more "social" as well.
Some products or services allow you to make social connections with other users, or directly connect to social media.
Userlike, for example, makes it easy to connect businesses with their customers across different platforms. This not only makes communication easier, but makes support feel social since it’s available via the customer’s preferred messaging app.
Other examples of belonging are Tesla’s online community of its car enthusiasts, and the search engine tool Ahrefs’ Facebook community, where they share blog posts with tips and best practices with their users.
This is about the need for prestige and feelings of accomplishment. In a product/service scenario, the right features can create a positive experience and boost your reputation.
A car like Tesla is an object of prestige in itself. In the context of our customer messaging software, for example, you can share your average customer service rating on social media to promote trust and confidence in your business.
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The final step of consumer needs is about reaching your full potential. In life, this is about finding your calling, developing yourself, attaining enlightenment in ethics, etc.
Applied to consumers, this is about growing together with the product. For example, when you get started with Photoshop, you have access to all the functions but don't yet know how to use them. As you get to know the tool, you start to have more fun with it.
This also breeds loyalty. When another program comes along, the fact that you have to learn it and –even worse– unlearn photoshop, makes you unlikely to switch.
Amazon Smile is a different type of incentive that speaks to your self-actualization needs. Knowing that a certain percentage of your purchase is going through your favorite charity makes people feel better about themselves.
This framework was developed as an alternative to Maslow's. Its original application was for office employees, but it can be tweaked to consumer needs as well.
At Userlike we use this pyramid to prioritize our users' feature requests. If someone asks for a new feature, we ask ourselves: is this a need, a want, a whim...?
This one is similar to Maslow's Physiological dimension. For consumer needs, this is about the core functionality of your product or service.
What does your product do, and what are some of the main problems that it solves? By looking at reviews of Userlike online, for example, we get great insight into the main “tasks to be done” our customers are looking for.
These are what used to be desires, but through the passage of time and changes in lifestyle have turned into essentials.
If you consider our car example, air conditioning was not commonplace a few decades ago. But now it is, especially in hotter countries.
With live chat it has become essential to offer a mobile optimized user experience, due to this persistent trend in consumer behavior. Because of this, Userlike clients can now offer their customers asynchronous messaging that’s familiar and easy to use.
Office/practical survival needs
Originally termed "office survival needs," these are the bare necessities to be productive in an office. A sales team, for instance, needs an effective CRM system.
From a consumer needs perspective, these are the features that make your power users much more efficient with the core functionality of your product or service.
Take Userlike's chat macros — these canned messages make it so much easier and quicker to answer frequently asked questions.
While not essential for happiness, these needs still add to the value of life. My mother drives around with her own car for her work, but she'd definitely appreciate having a company car for this purpose.
For consumer needs, it concerns product/service features that aren't essential to the core functionality, but that still offer considerable value.
Parking assistance would be an example for personal cars. Useful, it does not diminish performance for most drivers.
An example at Userlike would be our analytics feature. You can be successful with chat without it, but it does allow you to better make decisions about your staffing.
These are needs that aren't required on a daily basis, and the customer would still be happy if they lacked them.
Car seat heating strikes me as a typical example. Sure it can be nice for the first few minutes on a cold morning, but how much is it really needed?
An example at Userlike would be an app. While this is something that a few of our customers have requested over the years, most of our clients use a desktop to manage their support communication.
You might daydream about, say, being promoted to CEO overnight. But most people let go of whims soon after the thought arises.
For consumer needs, a whim would be a feature that is totally unrelated to the product's core function. For the average guy, James Bond's car gadgets fall in this category.
Sure. I've fantasized about a passenger ejection seat when criticisms about my driving style became too intense, but this fantasy disappeared just as quickly.
At Userlike we receive great, but also crazy requests. A user might come up with the idea of adding a project management function to our backend. We like project management tools (and love tools like Lime ), but that's just not what we are.
These categorizations of consumer needs should help you make better judgments about how to serve them.
At Userlike we use Nain's Pyramid to determine which features to offer in which plan. We put desires and wishes in higher premium plans, and survival needs, wants, and practical survival needs already in Free and Team.
But what constitutes a need and whim isn't carved out in stone. Here are a few considerations.
Core functionality. A feature might make sense for one company, but not for the other. Userlike is a live chat tool for web support, so a task assigning feature is simply too far removed from our core functionality. When you're a project management tool like Asana, however, it would fall under Survival Needs.
Strategy & Competition. Which category of needs you should focus on also depends on your strategy and place in the market. If you have a niche focus on spy cars, for example, it might make sense to focus on "whims" like ejector seats. In fact for spies, ejector seats might fall in the "practical survival needs" category.
What's more, competitiveness forces players to increasingly focus on less urgent matters.
What you see is all there is (WYSIATI). Daniel Kahneman introduced this concept in "Thinking Fast, and Thinking Slow." It's the notion that we can only base our decisions on the information that is in front of us.
In product design, this means that people might have needs that they're not aware of.
The success of Apple was largely a result of them focusing on satisfying needs that consumers did not know they had.
Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.Steve Jobs
And at Userlike, for example, we developed the Logic Bot. This is a chatbot that welcomes your web visitors and asks for their questions and can forward chats to human support when necessary. No customers specifically asked for this feature, but now we see it falls within the Practical Survival Needs category.
Meet consumer needs with Userlike
Of all the tools you can use to better understand (and meet) consumer needs, customer messaging is easily one of the best. That’s because messaging makes it easy to connect with your site visitors, create personal connections and understand your consumers in the process.
If you’re interested in better fulfilling consumer needs, consider using our all-in-one solution, Userlike. Our product makes this process easy with several features:
- Proactive chat: Time your chat window to trigger at specific times
- Pre-survey: Ask your potential lead questions before the conversation even starts
- Chatbot: Provide 24/7 assistance to your site visitors
Plus, not only is Userlike easy to set up, but it’s also completely GDPR-compliant, giving customers peace of mind about the data they share. It only takes a few minutes to set up the Userlike widget on your website and start generating leads.
Want to understand your customers and better meet their needs, all while building long-lasting personal connections?