29 November 2023 890 words, 4 min. read

How F.P. Journe created a new service without market research

By Pierre-Nicolas Schwab PhD in marketing, director of IntoTheMinds
In this article, you'll discover the example of a watch brand that launched a new service based on a customer's request. The CEO's intuition paid off, but it's important to remember that this is the exception. Here's how to get the best out of your customers' ideas and assessments.

What better way to conduct market research than to research customer demand for a product that doesn’t yet exist? In this article, I analyze a specific example from the luxury goods industry and look more generally at involving customers in launching new products.

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In other articles, I’ve explained that another way of approaching market research is to test your idea directly on the market in real-life conditions (provided that you can afford to do so). I recently came across an interesting example in the luxury watchmaking sector, which proves that customer requests can sometimes be used to anticipate market demand.

This customer’s request led to the launch of a new service

François-Paul Journe is an independent watchmaker who launched his brand in the 1990s. His first series of 20 watches were sold by subscription to collectors worldwide. This sales model is not new, but it is relatively rare to use it these days.

All F.P. Journe watches are made in very limited series (around 1000 produced each year); usually, only a handful of pieces are available for each model each year. Therefore, F.P. Journe’s production methods impose lengthy waiting times, which can be frustrating for some enthusiasts. This “customer pain” and the rarity of certain models lead collectors to fall back on the second-hand market (sales between private individuals, auctions) to find their grail. This market is growing steadily, fueling the insane prices seen on certain models (see, for example, our analysis of Patek Philippe Nautilus prices).

In the world of collector’s watches, collectors are looking for pieces with an impeccable pedigree, i.e., well-maintained, in perfect working order, and complete (with box, papers, and any accessories, all of which tend to be lost over time). This is what F.P. Journe’s “Patrimony” service proposes: restoring watches bought on the second-hand market to as-new condition and completing them with any missing components.

In the video above, François-Paul Journe explains that the idea for the Patrimony service came to him after a customer asked him to buy a watch on his behalf at an auction and refurbish it.

F.P. Journe customers

Should we always listen to our customers before launching a new product?

F.P. Journe’s example shows that, under certain conditions, it is possible to refrain from conducting market research and launching a new service or product based solely on customer requests. But this approach is risky.

Others do not necessarily share one customer’s wishes

By definition, your customers only care about themselves. Therefore, the needs they bring to you are a priori specific to them. It would be best to make a concerted effort to find the common denominator between all the needs reported to you to maintain focus.

Can the customer’s needs be monetized?

There’s also a real question about the commercial potential of customers’ ideas. Customers are interested in something other than the financial aspects of their needs. They’re only interested in seeing their needs met, if possible, free of charge. Start-ups are champions of “paying as little as possible,” so be wary of any wishes they want to put to you.

After 20 years of market research, I’ve found that ideas put forward without a comprehensive understanding of market dynamics are rarely good. There is generally a better understanding of market dynamics in B2B than B2C. Always check market traction and monetization potential via a survey. IntoTheMinds does this, so don’t hesitate to ask us 😉.

How does it fit in with the company’s overall strategy?

Every product developed must fit the company’s overall strategy regarding market positioning, customer target, and compatibility with other products or services. Developing a product based solely on customer demand can distract the company from its overall strategy, potentially affecting its brand and reputation in the market.

F.P. Journe ideas

Solution: how can we make the most of our customers’ ideas?

I’m not suggesting that customer ideas shouldn’t be taken seriously. Quite the contrary. Participative marketing can be extremely useful, but it also has drawbacks.

The ideal solution is to listen to your customers to gather their needs over the long term and assess them internally and externally. The ideal sequence seems to me to be as follows:

  1. Solicit customer feedback: this step is beneficial in gathering insights and customer satisfaction since it enables you to keep in touch with the customer throughout the year. It’s a very virtuous approach.
  2. Centralize and analyze these needs individually: collecting needs will benefit only if you have an internal process for centralizing, assessing, and acting on them. This part is crucial, but I’ve yet to see it done properly.
  3. Analyze needs at regular intervals: all ideas collected should be subject to an overall assessment. This reflection is twofold. On the one hand, which needs/ideas fit in with the company’s strategy? Secondly, which ideas have potential? This is where you need to use market research methods to get clear answers.
  4. Communicating with customers: the last step is equally important. It involves giving feedback to customers who have contributed to the company’s evolution by sharing their ideas. Whatever you do with their ideas, make sure you tell them. This will give you an excuse to stay in touch with the customer and maintain your relationship. And if their idea has been chosen, they’ll feel valued and even more satisfied.

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