Latent Need

Latent Need

Latent Need Jonathan Poland

A latent need is a customer need that is not currently being met by the market and is not actively requested by customers. As a result, it may not be identified through market research. These needs are often referred to as “unknown” or “unstated” needs, as customers may not be aware of them. Latent needs can be uncovered through careful observation and analysis of customer behavior, as well as through the development of innovative products and services that address these unmet needs. The following are illustrative examples of a latent need.


Products and services that save the customer time and effort. In the 1960s, few customers would have asked for a faster oven because they would have assumed it would burn the food. When the home microwave oven was first introduced in 1967 it didn’t sell particularly well for the first decade because customers were unaware of the technology.


Tools that allow customers to accomplish more with their time. In 1990, few customers would have asked for an integrated global network of information, entertainment, commerce and communication but this is what they got with the commercialization of the internet beginning in the mid-1990s.


Products and services that are pleasing and productive to use. Customers often find faults in the usability of products and services and this commonly surfaces in market research. However, leaps forward in usability such as cut-and-paste and pinch-to-zoom weren’t obvious needs before their introduction.


Elements of the end-to-end customer experience of a product, service or environment. For example, the introduction of pervasive games that merge reality with digital game elements generated significant customer demand but wasn’t something customers were asking for before its introduction. Customers commonly asked for virtual reality but not mixed reality.


Tools that give you more output for input. For example, a digital twin that is used to manage infrastructure.

Quality of Life

Things that improve quality of life. For example, customers might be happy with concrete walls until they see a green wall for the first time.

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