The customer review is arguably the most powerful force in today’s consumer market. It has shifted power from the hands of the retailer to the customer, allowing consumers to choose which services to trust and which products to buy based on real opinions.

We have become sceptical of big advertising campaigns and prefer to listen to the voices of our fellow consumers.

This trend means that service providers and product developers have new hoops to jump through; satisfying the consumer is all important. Product developers now need to go the extra mile to ensure that their products will get 5* consumer ratings before the product goes on the market.

This is where the big challenge for technology lies: how can we use technology to really understand what the consumer thinks of our product while we are designing it?

The traditional approach is user trials involving diaries, focus groups and questionnaires and large numbers of consumers to help generate insights. These methods are fraught with incomplete data, biases and inaccurate information. Long forms and tick boxes are difficult to process not least because of the bulk of information that has to be manually interpreted.

For this reason, product developers are clamouring for technology which allows easy access to more accurate, more extensive and digital feedback from user trials and the ability to take these trials outside of a controlled lab environment. Technology is now enabling product developers to learn about consumer usage of products in the real world, providing more efficient and effective ways of focusing product development with real insights.

Put GPS on a product and we can map where the user takes it. Use an accelerometer and we can detect how often the product is used.   Combine a range of sensors and it is amazing what you can infer about usage and response.

But how can we achieve an even deeper understanding of the consumer behind the product?

I hear you!

Can we decode your accent

A person’s voice, with the help of machine learning, can tell us an awful lot about that person; where they grew up, their gender, approximate age and local environment. Research suggests that soon we will be able to detect the person’s mood, height and even weight. On top of this, we can digitize what someone is saying about the product without the need for pen and paper.

Cambridge Consultants’ accent identification platform exemplifies this technology. We can now unlock the previously hidden information behind a person’s voice to give product developers an invaluable new dimension of consumer insight.

Consumers can now look forward to using services and products that are more tailored to their personal needs than ever before.

Author
Julia Greenwood
Principal Physicist

As a physicist, I perform both theoretical and experimental research for the development of emerging technologies, with a particular focus on designing optical systems. These include fibre optic sensors and spectroscopic systems. My experience also includes electromagnetic modelling, fluid dispense and non-optical sensors.