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Do customer reviews impact new product innovation?

As consumers, we’re constantly searching for new and improved versions of our favorite products. We eagerly anticipate the launch of a new phone model and patiently wait for the latest fashion collab to drop. Because of this demand, product innovation is key.

Innovation recognizes the need for change. It considers the evolving needs of the consumer, taking into consideration negative feedback. But when products innovate, do they always meet the pain points of consumers?

To find out, we used Relative Insight’s customer insight platform to analyze customer reviews of three distinguished brands known for their innovative product development – PlayStation, Dyson and Fitbit.

Firstly, we collected customer reviews of older products and then compared this to the reviews of newer models, specifically:

  1. PlayStation 3 (2006) vs PlayStation 5 (2020)
  2. Dyson Supersonic (2016) vs Dyson Airwrap (2018)
  3. Fitbit Versa (2018) vs Fitbit Versa 3 (2020)

PlayStation 3

When PlayStation 3 was released in 2006, it was the world’s most sophisticated games console. The PS3 was the first of its kind to include a Blu-ray drive, which served as one of its unique selling points against competitors. In our analysis, we found that reviews of the PS3 were 40.7x more likely to mention Blu-ray. Users commented that they now had the ability to stream films and connect to services such as ITV player and BBC iPlayer.

Despite these capabilities also featuring in the PS5, the large relative difference suggests that this innovation was a big deal to customers at the time. In this case, reviews capture the cultural zeitgeist of the mid 2000s, when Blu-ray was the latest advancement in technology. However, over time, these “new” features simply become the standard.

While reviews of the PS3 were mostly positive, the controller seemed like a feature that could be improved. Customers were infinitely more likely to mention the ergonomics of the PS3 controller in comparison to the PS5. Gamers pointed out that the Xbox 360 controller reigned superior.

PlayStation 5

The release of the PlayStation 5 and the product innovation behind it was hotly anticipated by gamers worldwide. Our analysis found that overall, people felt that the PS5 was a massive improvement on both the PS3 and PS4. Customers were eager to talk about the improved design of the console, referring to it as beautiful, slick and absolutely amazing; adjectives that were completely absent in the reviews of the PS3. Gamers were also impressed by the lightning speed of the console and the subsequent gaming performance.

Insight card showing product reviews of PS5 and how product innovation was received

People who purchased the PS5 discussed the revolutionary Dualsense controller. Words such as haptic feedback and adaptive triggers have entered the vocabulary as a result of PlayStation’s innovation, setting the bar for competitors in the gaming industry and making sensory immersion in gaming a must. PlayStation clearly provided a solution to their customers dislike towards the previous controller, listening and adapting to customer feedback.

Insight card showing product reviews of PS5 and customers love of the controller

Dyson Supersonic

The Dyson Supersonic revolutionized hair dryers, involving a mechanism that minimizes heat damage by measuring the air temperature 40 times a second. Customers who purchased the Supersonic discuss how quiet and lightweight the product is, reflecting two of the Supersonic’s unique selling points. Based on reviews, it’s almost hard to imagine how Dyson could improve this product, which had already set the bar so high.  

Dyson Airwrap

But low and behold, in 2018 Dyson released their iconic Airwrap, cementing their position as leaders in product innovation.

While Dyson had already impressed their consumer base with the Supersonic, customers are infinitely more likely to refer to the Airwrap as a game-changer. Furthermore, the use of temporal nouns suggests that people have been waiting years for an all-in-one hair styling product to arrive.

By innovating on a much-loved cult product, Dyson have delighted their customers with yet another solution to styling their hair (without a professional). Customers point out how the product makes it easy to create voluminous curls and replicate that salon-fresh blow dry. The only thing that’s not too pretty is the price tag.

Insight card showing product reviews of Dyson Airwrap

Fitbit Versa

Founded in 2007, Fitbit is known for inventing a new category in the technology space: wearables. The brand has evolved to become more than just a step counter and has continued to innovate creating over 20 fitness trackers and smartwatches.  

Looking specifically at the reviews of the Fitbit Versa in comparison to the newer Versa 3, we found that people were 2.9x more likely to mention a variety of design flaws. This included issues such as battery life, cracked screens and broken straps. People also mentioned that they experienced issues with syncing and connectivity, claiming that walks and other exercises did not record properly.

Insight card showing product reviews of Fitbit Versa and the design flaws of the watch

Fitbit Versa 3

Looking at the reviews of the Versa 3, Fitbit seemed to have addressed some of its customer concerns. As a result of product innovation, customers claim that the Versa 3 is far better than its predecessors. Reviews mentioned that the battery lasts longer and praised the addition of voice assistants and GPS tracking, resulting in a better user experience.  

Yet despite innovations, Fitbit could benefit from analysing customer review data to gain more intel into additional product improvements. For instance, our analysis found that some customers were confused by the lack of music storage on their Versa 3, despite this being a feature of the Versa 2.

Insight card showing product reviews of Fitbit Versa 3

Relative Insight’s text analysis tool pinpoints the important differences and similarities in topics, words, grammar, emotions and phrases between data sets. Analyzing customer review data is one of many powerful customer insights examples. It helps you dive into the thoughts, feelings, opinions and pain points of your ever-changing audience base. As brands continue to innovate, comparing like-for-like product reviews will help you to understand whether you’re hitting the mark with your customers or highlight areas where you could improve.

This approach is particularly useful for product managers and UX designers wanting to understand the impact of product innovations and spot unmet consumer needs.

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