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Customer needs versus customer preferences in a particular product

market entry
New answer on Jun 23, 2020
7 Answers
1.8 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Jun 21, 2020

Hello everyone

Anyone willing to explain the main difference between customer needs and customer preferenes in a particular product ?

I personally see no distinct differences between these two terms.

(edited)

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Sidi
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replied on Jun 21, 2020
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi!

"Customer Needs" can be seen as fundamental requirements that people have (for example, mobility is such a need)

"Customer Preferences" then refer to how these fundamental requirements are fulfilled, and the relative preference order amongst the options (e.g., bike, own car, shared car, public transport, rented scooter, etc.)

Cheers, Sidi

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Francesco
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replied on Jun 22, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

as mentioned as well in the other comments:

  • a need is a necessity you want to satisfy (I am hungry – I need to eat).
  • a preference is the option you choose out of a range to satisfy a need (I prefer a 3-star Michelin restaurant instead of McDonald). The different preferences on a product or service can usually be ranked.

Hope it helps,

Francesco

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Ian
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replied on Jun 21, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there!

It is indeed a bit nuanced. Here's how I see it.

Customer Need: This is something I want. I need a car to move, I need it to have seats. I need safety, afforability, style, utility, etc.

Customer Preference: If I have to pick between my needs, which come first vs last? I.e. I care first about safety, then about utility, then affordability, then style.

PREFERENCES are the RANKING/PRIORITIZATION of NEEDS

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Robert
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replied on Jun 21, 2020
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Hi Anonymous,

Usually "needs" are referring to some specific customer need or requirement in more absolute terms.

On the other side, "preferences" are usually in relation to something, so a customer might prefer a week of holiday in place A over 1 weeks of holidays in place B.

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

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Anonymous updated the answer on Jun 22, 2020

Hi,

Cursomer needs : it's the WHAT (e.g. I need to travel)

Customer preference : it's the HOW ? (e.g. I prefer to take the train than the plane)

Best

(edited)

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Clara
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replied on Jun 23, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Customer needs are the things that are a must, since they fill the need of a client -e.g., a specific drug to save someone, this is something they need and that you are not going to care about its colour or shape.

Customer preferences relate to choices. For instance, when buying a handbag, you do care about size, brand, style... etc.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Luca
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replied on Jun 23, 2020
BCG |NASA | SDA Bocconi & Cattolica partner | GMAT expert 780/800 score | 200+ students coached

Hello,

Solving many cases there is an overlap between the two meanings but you have to consider that:

  • Customer need is something that can not be avoided and that our customer has to satisfy (e.g. buy a car in a town without public transportation)
  • Customer preference is the subjective preference that a customer can have in terms of brand, features ecc (e.g. a customer can prefer to buy a Fiat instead of a Renault)

Best,
Luca

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Sidi gave the best answer

Sidi

McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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