There are few things as valuable as consumer feedback in the design process. The right consumer feedback can take your product from a flop to a major success. But remember, the key to engaging customers in the design process is soliciting input and feedback effectively.

“Every day, companies solicit feedback from customers, yet only a few translate that feedback into meaning. An even smaller fraction of companies actually take action or close the loop with the customer, to let them know their voice was heard,” explained Whitney Wood, a managing partner at the Phelon Group. “If you handle it right, the dialog between you and your customers can become the lifeline of your business. To establish and maintain a healthy flow, customer feedback must result in change your customers can see. Change is the most powerful currency to reward vocal and consultative customers.”

So, what methods can you use to effectively engage your customers in the design process? Be sure to keep the following in mind:

A/B Testing

Traditional A/B testing refers to a manner of website design in which consumers are presented two slightly different versions of a website (version A and version B). Developers then conduct an analysis to see which version drives higher conversion rates, better engagement, etc. Increasingly, however, the concept of A/B testing is being employed in the product design process, and research suggests the advantages are substantial. For example, a survey conducted by MarketingSherpa found that of online marketers who measured the return on investment for A/B testing, over 80 percent saw positive returns. Furthermore, research also shows that A/B testing tends to work better than traditional focus groups, as it provides a certain sense of immediacy.

Julep, a Seattle-based cosmetics startup, tested demand for a new nail-polish wand with A/B testing by purchasing several different ads on Google. In reality, each ad was for a different variation of the same product. The first advertised the wand as a tool for color mixing, while the second ad touted the wand as a way to get results similar to those at a professional nail salon. The second ad was by far the most successful, giving the company valuable insight into which direction to take its product development. When you pay people to participate in a focus group, their opinions tend to be not as reliable. People think much harder when they think they are being asked to open up their own wallet.

Solicit feedback regularly with surveys

Julep also regularly solicits feedback from customers via surveys to garner better insight into customer wants and needs. It has 5,000 consumers on hand to poll early in the prototype development process. “I have a disagreement with my creative director almost every day,” said CEO and Founder Jane Park. “But there’s a simple way to settle any argument: We take it to the people.” It is important to remember that even the smallest tweaks made in response to customer feedback can have a substantial impact on sales. While A/B testing should be used to test different concepts, surveys can be more valuable when it comes to fine-tuning.

Always close the feedback loop

Remember, engagement with the customer should be sustained. Consumers are much more likely to give feedback again after they know how you’ve integrated their thoughts and opinions into product design.

“Customers will be encouraged to give input if they know they are being heard and know they may be driving change,” explained Ariel Finkelstein, co-founder and CEO of Kampyle. “One of the most important things to remember is that these are human beings and if you don’t have that kind of communication and close the feedback loop, you don’t have the human touch between yourself and the customer.”

Pivot International is a product design, development, and manufacturing firm with strengths in software development, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and industrial design. If you are interested in engineering a new product or updating an existing product, contact us at 1-877-206-5001 or request your free consultation today.