How To Identify & Satisfy The 10 Most Common Customer Needs

A bullseye dartboard with two pink darts next to it.
A bullseye dartboard with two pink darts next to it.

What does it take to gain a competitive edge in today’s market? You could argue that price, product availability, quality, company reputation, and ease of doing business all play an important factor in gaining market share. But take a step back and you’ll see that all of these elements are about being able to identify and meet customer needs.

Companies need to stay competitive in today’s quickly evolving business landscape. If your product or service offering fails to meet consumer needs, the customer will simply go to your competitor. That’s bad for business, of course, so it’s important to stay on top of what your customers want and need, now and over time.

How can you ensure you’re delivering on customer needs and expectations? Here’s our complete guide on how to identify and satisfy the 10 most common customer needs.

Table of Contents

What Are Customer Needs?

There isn’t one single best answer to this, as customer needs can take many different forms.

It could be a product-based need to fill a purpose. For example, a garden center stocks a variety of lawn care tools, plants, and décor.

It could be a convenience-based service, such as getting curbside delivery from your favorite restaurant.

Or it could be a call center that can answer specific product-related questions before a customer orders from you.

An all-encompassing definition of customer needs is this:

Customer needs are the known and unknown needs your customer relies on you or a competitor to fulfill.

Pay attention to that word, unknown. There are times when a consumer doesn’t always know what they need or want from a business, but will recognize it when they see it.

Here's a case in point: before Amazon Prime, no one was doing free two-day shipping. That wasn’t really a need on people’s minds. But now that Amazon Prime has been around for 14 years and boasts more than 200 million members, more people view fast, free shipping as a need. It’s become something of an expectation.

When Amazon introduced Amazon Prime and its famous free two-day shipping, it changed customer behavior forever. Amazon knows its audience: they value things like convenience, technology, and low prices, all of which serve as the foundation of Prime’s success.

Understanding all possibilities of customer needs means first understanding the customer journey. The customer journey is the path your customers take when taking action with your company. For example, the action might be making a purchase or signing up for a loyalty club.

Your customer journey can be a goldmine of information about how customers identify and try to fill their needs. When you learn more about their strategy to taking action, you can tailor your products and services to connect with them wherever they are and simplify their journey (and earn brownie points for your brand in the process).

In today’s omnichannel world, your customer journey likely takes many different paths. They might first discover you on Facebook, then click through from an ad to your website, then read about your business on online review sites, for example.

To learn how to visualize and map the customer journey, check out our on-demand webinar.

Why Does Identifying Customer Needs Matter?

Being proactive in identifying customer needs is the surest strategy for long-term growth and success. It nurtures strong relationships with customers and shows you really care about them and not just making a sale.

When you become a company built around the concept of customer focus, a few things can happen:

Customer Loyalty Increases

Customer-centric companies know that when they can anticipate and solve customer needs, they stand a better chance of building loyalty with that customer. Loyalty is one of the highest forms of flattery for brands. It reduces costs to acquire new customers since your loyal fans often act as free brand ambassadors. It can also help you earn repeat business without relying on expensive marketing.

Brand Reputation Grows

When you achieve customer expectations, their opinion of you increases. Consistently achieve customer expectations and they’ll keep coming to you to solve future needs.

You become the type of brand they can rely on and trust to meet customer requirements. And, the stronger the relationship you build with your customers, the more forgiving they are if you don’t meet their expectations one day.

Identifying Customer Needs Becomes Part of Your Culture

Practicing something over and over makes that thing become more of a habit. You don’t need to think about it as often or try as hard to get the same results. Something similar happens when you become a customer-centric company.

Instead of making identifying customer needs an occasional chore, you can build it into your company culture and capture more opportunities to deliver.

You can start to shift toward a customer focus by listening to your customers, following the customer journey, and learning more about who buys from you. Collect audience insights that go beyond basic demographics to get deeper knowledge about your customers.

What Are the Most Common Customer Needs?

Shoppers turn to businesses for solutions for a variety of reasons. Some are looking to alleviate customer pain points, such as simplifying a task or fixing a problem. Others might choose you to save money, or spend more money to get a better experience than your competitor offers.

Some of the most common customer needs include:

Price/Budget

Customers that are shopping in a specific price range or are bound by a strict budget will choose the products, services, and companies they do business with accordingly.

Convenience

Customers are increasingly less willing to jump through hoops to fulfill their needs. They need products that are convenient solutions to their problems, and they need companies that make it convenient to locate and purchase those products.

Kroger has mastered this with its online grocery ordering that can be picked up at brick-and-mortar stores. The company even made a video and FAQ to show customers exactly what to do.

How to Shop Kroger Grocery Pickup | How to Shop at Kroger| Kroger

Product Functionality

Sometimes, customers choose products based on the way in which they work to solve basic needs. For example, a business owner on the go might choose a cloud phone system over an on-premises one so they can take calls outside the office.

Product Design

Similar to functionality, customers might choose a product based on design. The Android vs. iPhone battle is a classic example of this. Some people prefer the simplistic iOS interface and functionality over the Android, which is more customizable.

Compatibility

Market page offering complementary products.

Businesses that offer complementary products should consider how those products work together for the end-user. Likewise, consider the other products your customers are using and see how your product offering can complement them.

For example, home meal kits like HelloFresh are now offering side salads, quick and easy lunches, and even desserts to complement their main dining options. This offers customers a more complete grocery package and may save them a trip to the store for other essentials.

Product Quality

Customers that want their investment in a product to last and get their money’s worth are often focused on product quality.

This could be the difference between choosing a cheap pair of sandals from a mass merchandise store versus purchasing a pair of Chacos, which can last for 10 years.

Information

Page that offers more information before purchasing an item.

Customers that aren’t ready to purchase might need more information. Content on your products or services, such as educational blogs, demo videos, reviews, and FAQs can help them find answers to their questions and move forward with confidence. A case study might also prove beneficial.

Project management tool Asana offers an excellent knowledge base chock full of project examples, tutorials, online courses, and other resources so users can unlock the platform’s full potential.

Efficiency

Some customers look for products that streamline an otherwise lengthy process. This might be a powerful hairdryer to speed drying time, a block of firestarter, a no-scrub shower cleaner, or a social media management tool to streamline content publishing, for example.

Options

Hubspot's subscription options page.

Options can mean different things to different customers. For example, SaaS companies like HubSpot offer businesses the flexibility to pay for a subscription on a monthly or annual basis.

Or, a customer that’s in the market for a new oven might want to explore different finishes, colors, and features. They might also want different ways to pay for that oven, including a lump sum payment with cash or credit card or set up a monthly payment plan.

Availability

Walgreens app information.

Customers need to be able to access a company or its products or services at a time that works for them.

Walgreens has done a good job of this by extending its pharmacy services into its store app. Customers can check and refill prescriptions via the app without having to wade through the store’s auto-attendant or be put on hold.

How to Anticipate and Meet Customer Needs

It’s one thing to know that you need to meet customer expectations to maintain good customer relationships. But it’s another to put ideas into action.

How can brands anticipate and meet customer needs on a consistent basis?

Let’s look at some customer needs analysis methods that can point you in the right direction.

Ask for Customer Feedback

When you want to know what your customers need and want from you, why not go straight to the source? Customer relationships thrive on honest, thoughtful feedback. This is your opportunity to get inside your customers’ minds, learn what makes them tick, and understand how they view your company.

You can make customer feedback collection a natural part of doing business through email surveys, focus groups, or online forms. Or, you can check for unsolicited feedback sources like online reviews or social media comments.

Put the feedback you gather to good use in identifying customer needs that you might have overlooked.

Conduct Customer Research

If you prefer to take an indirect approach to customer research, gathering intel such as audience insights can help you get to know more about your customer base as a whole.

You can also conduct market research to learn more about your audience, competitors, and industry at large. Market research can reveal new opportunities to get in front of your ideal customer, learn more about customer behaviors, and monitor the market so you can fine-tune your approach.

A Means-End analysis takes the conversation a step further by looking at why customers would buy from you. The reasons typically fall into one of three groups:

  • Product features
  • Product benefits
  • Personal values

As you could probably guess, the reasons consumers might buy from you can vary widely. It's important to collect as much raw data from your buyers as possible, sort it into the three Means-End groups, and figure out how you can solve for each.

Fill in the Customer Needs Gaps

Once you start collecting feedback and getting insights from your customer needs analysis, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge to work. This might mean creating helpful content to empower your customers, or it could be expanding your product or service offering to bring more value to your customers’ lives.

Remember, anticipating and meeting your customers’ needs isn’t a one-and-done activity. Brands that make this an ongoing objective are the ones that are best positioned to build long-term loyalty and growth. Present yourself as an authentic customer-centric company and your customers will thank you for it.