What will your life be like in five or ten years? Where will you live and where will you work? Will your needs and expectations have changed? The questions may sound difficult, but it is even more difficult to answer them on behalf of someone else, for example a friend or a neighbour. Or a customer.
We discussed with B2B companies in various industries about utilizing foresight to examine customer needs, and about the challenges they face in understanding their future customers and developing the customer experience.
Companies considered it very important to develop and invest in understanding changes in customer needs, but identified challenges associated with anticipating future needs:
- It is difficult to identify the end customer.
- Customers or end users cannot be reached because of the distribution network.
- It is difficult to identify customer needs related to current business themes, such as digital services and sustainability.
- No systematic scenario mapping has been done to identify customer needs.
At the root of these challenges are the diversity of B2B customers, the difficulty of anticipating the future, and the trends that have been observed in customer needs. One of the major themes was customer needs related to sustainable development, the importance of which has been widely recognized everywhere. The pressure for a more sustainable future is clear, so how can future needs for sustainable development and the environment be better anticipated? How could these customer needs be met?
Knowing and understanding customers ’own future sustainability goals is important in order to develop products and services that support those goals. We therefore considered whether the emphasis on sustainable development could serve as a driver and incentive in developing ways to understand future customer needs and increase companies' willingness to systematically develop their future planning. Without a clear and systematic plan to understand future customer needs, it is impossible to understand the needs and goals related to sustainable development or other similar emerging themes in customer organizations.
Fortunately, help is available if there is willingness for development: VTT's experts are available for foresight research on future customer needs. Using participatory methods, we bring a customer perspective to foresight , information about changes related to customer needs and their effects on business. By developing and evolving together, it will be at least a little easier to answer the questions we asked at the beginning.