BEIJING: Lenovo, the information technology giant, is putting consumer insights at the heart of efforts to drive growth both in its home market of China and internationally.

The firm currently holds a 13.5% share of the global personal computer category according to Gartner, the research provider, having overtaken Dell, which now takes 11.1%, in the third quarter of this year.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Chad Duhon, director, product marketing, for Lenovo's IdeaPad tablets and computers, argued focus groups and similar forums acted as a "sanity check".

"You've got to show your product to people who have nothing to lose by giving you an honest opinion and will tell you if your baby is ugly," he said.

The considerable importance that can be attached to these exercises in practice was shown when Lenovo demonstrated its notebooks to Chinese shoppers, and found widely divergent attitudes.

While participants from the countryside tended to have traditional preferences based on factors like cost, their urban counterparts displayed greater enthusiasm about performance and design features.

"They want to feel the device looks cool. But in provincial areas, people go for a more conservative look and feel, and are more concerned about price," said Duhon.

Equally, talking directly to the target audience often helps determine the relative emphasis given by potential customers to issues such as screen size and resolution, battery longevity and weight.

Popular misconceptions might also be unearthed in this way, as Lenovo discovered when testing a "clamshell" gadget folding on a hinge, a process revealing frequent worries it may break.

"We had tested it 20,000 times and knew this wasn't so," Duhon said. "But the fact that consumers had this fear shows we will need to emphasise its durability if we go ahead with the launch next year."

Moreover, the suggestions made in focus groups can yield a glimpse into future trends. This was shown by a recent statement of interest in technologically-advanced solid state drives capable of storing one terabyte of data.

"This is not yet feasible at a realistic price, but it is good to know what customers are expecting," Duhon said.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff