Identifying customer needs from user-generated content

Artem Timoshenko*, John R. Hauser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Scopus citations


Firms traditionally rely on interviews and focus groups to identify customer needs for marketing strategy and product development. User-generated content (UGC) is a promising alternative source for identifying customer needs. However, established methods are neither efficient nor effective for large UGC corpora because much content is noninformative or repetitive. We propose a machine-learning approach to facilitate qualitative analysis by selecting content for efficient review. We use a convolutional neural network to filter out noninformative content and cluster dense sentence embeddings to avoid sampling repetitive content. We further address two key questions: Are UGC-based customer needs comparable to interview-based customer needs? Do the machine-learning methods improve customer-need identification? These comparisons are enabled by a custom data set of customer needs for oral care products identified by professional analysts using industry-standard experiential interviews. The analysts also coded 12,000 UGC sentences to identify which previously identified customer needs and/or new customer needs were articulated in each sentence. We show that (1) UGC is at least as valuable as a source of customer needs for product development, likely more valuable, compared with conventional methods, and (2) machine-learning methods improve efficiency of identifying customer needs from UGC (unique customer needs per unit of professional services cost).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalMarketing Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Customer needs
  • Deep learning
  • Machine learning
  • Market research
  • Natural language processing
  • Online reviews
  • Text mining
  • User-generated content
  • Voice of the customer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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