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Hierarchy of Consumer Needs for a Product

Mark Riggan October 7, 2009

Have you ever wanted something that you don’t necessarily need? I’ll admit, I’m guilty on numerous instances. Now for the real kicker: when you actually broke down and bought that product you had been dying to have, how long did it take you to realize that it didn’t meet all of your expectations? Fact is, consumers demand certain needs to be satisfied by a particular product.

Consumer Needs for a Products:

  1. Functionality
  2. Usability
  3. Pleasure

Take a chair for example. How many different types of chairs have you seen? A lot. They range from the very basic to the extravagant. What do you look for in a chair when shopping? Is it the bright, attractable colors? How about the cool cup-holder feature? Maybe the shape and feel are what you like. Chances are that you’ll return the product back or abandon all use of it if it doesn’t meet at least 2 out of the 3 consumer needs levels.

Functionality

Level 1 refers to the core basics of a product. Can it perform basic functions of what it is designed to do? In our example, a chair simply needs to support the person’s weight. Also, it’s good to point out that functionality may include the endurance of a product. Can it perform basic functions over a long period of time? Depends on the quality.

Usability

Level 2 refers to the functionality in relation to the consumer. Do the functions appeal to me? If so, how? I want a chair that not only supports my weight, but rocks too! I would also like a cup holder when drinking a cold beverage and enjoying my comfortable chair. Those are features that would appeal to me. Usability is a tough one because the designer of the product attempts to appeal to their intended audience as best as they can.

Pleasure

Level 3 refers to the emotions that a consumer endures with a product. Does the product look aesthetically-pleasing to me? If I were trying to match furniture (which I know my fiancé would expect me to) I would want the color, shape, texture, etc. to coordinate with what I am trying to match.

Pleasure-based approaches are about really understanding people and respecting and celebrating human diversity. They are about understanding the benefits that people want from a product and understanding what is required in order to deliver these benefits. Above all, pleasure-based approaches are about designing products that can bring a real joy into people’s lives.

Patrick Jordan

Apple® consistently provides products that meet all 3 levels (at least to me personally) to satisfy consumers. I know for a fact that I feel emotionally-satisfied when I use my iPhone everyday because it:

  1. Reliably functions properly (and consistently)
  2. Pertains to my needs of use
  3. Looks amazing and feels comfortable

We can look at any product and tell whether it is valuable to us by going through the 3 levels described here. Consumers can greatly be influenced by the way websites are designed. The same hierarchy applies.

So let me hear from you! In what ways have you been influenced by a product? Does it make you think about what you really look for in a product?