Great Product! Great Deal! But Have You Forgotten the True Expectations of the Customer?

Understanding the expectations of the customer is important and the true expectations of the customer were missed.

The Tata Nano was a great product at a great price. Launched in 2009, it was the cheapest car in the world. History was being created; a blue ocean amid all the other coloured ones. Success was a forgone conclusion and there were many reasons why it should be and only one of them was that India had a population of over a billion-plus and a billion aspirations.

History of a different type was created and for all the wrong reasons. Most of the ingredients for success were there except that the Tata’s got the positioning wrong. Nobody aspired to buy the cheapest car. A car satisfied aspirations and the Nano certainly did not. A car was to be shown off and clearly showing off the cheapest car was not one of them.

Cut to the special Flipkart Big Billion Day. For the value-conscious Indian consumer, this was the ‘mother of all deals’. With discounts up to a steep 90%, this was truly a steal. While many could avail of these huge discounts, many could not. Many received substandard products, and some were still to receive the products even after one month of the sale.

While it may not be obvious there is a common issue that comes through – understanding the expectations of the customer. I am sure that there would have been multiple levels of market research but somewhere in the intellectual discussions, the true expectations of the customer were missed.

In the case of Nano, while I am sure that the customers would have agreed with the size, pricing and features, what research perhaps would have not thrown up is that was the car aspirational enough? With Flipkart, all customers would have loved the idea of a deeply discounted sale but after-sales service, quality of products, timely delivery would have some of the issues that would have been given the cold shoulder.

This brings up larger questions – Are we trying to understand the customer properly? Are we asking the right questions? These questions are yet to be answered.

This probably amplifies the pitfalls of research or lack of it. Asking the right questions seems to be the perennial problem with all marketers. It is unfair to blame market research agencies for this as the actual brief goes from the marketers themselves.

Marketers do tend to gloss over certain issues by looking at the ‘larger picture’ but then forget that small parts make a large picture

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