3-Steps to Applying Consumer Insight into New Product Design
There’s a whole new generation of motorcycle enthusiasts entering their prime earning and buying years. However, most aren’t interested in some of the classic big, loud bikes that the generations before them were. They’re looking for something smaller, quieter, yet with the same high quality and cult following that many brands are known for. However, if those brands don’t connect effectively with those Millennial consumers and learn what they want, their bikes and their brands could lose out to competitors that are building the bikes Millennials want.
Retail and consumer buying habits change rapidly and constantly. It’s no small feat for consumer brands to keep up! This is becoming especially relevant now as more consumers in the Millennial generation reach their prime earning and buying years. There are 80 million Millennials in America, representing 25% of the population, with $200 billion in annual buying power (according to Forbes Magazine). Brands that recognize this fact and are adapting product design as they listen to this emerging – very large – pool of consumers, will be the brands that survive and thrive over the coming decade. But how do you get into the minds of your consumers to discover how your products can serve them?
In order to remain competitive, to stay on the cutting edge of your industry and create the next round of must-have products, there are some very specific practices and habits to build into your product design process.
These are the processes and habits that are common practice for our team and have helped us to continue to crank out innovative, commercially successful designs for our clients year after year.
I’m sharing our secret sauce with you in hope it will help you grow your brand and your company to the next level. We love watching the brands we partner with innovate and grow and not only do we want to be part of that innovation and growth, but also, we want you to be part of it too.
Planning for the future of your product line is an important part of building a sustainable business and I’m here to help you on your journey of designing the future. Let’s do this!
Step 1 – Research
You may think you know your customer base, but it’s important to periodically revisit your ideal customer profile to see what’s changed. You could risk becoming obsolete without staying in close contact with your customers and how they are growing and changing. Make a consistent practice of reviewing the following traits and revising your ideal consumer profile.
Review the following:
5. Activities they engage in
6. What are they buying?
7. What trends do they follow?
How to gather this intel?
The absolute best way to gather actionable customer information is to connect one-to-one with your consumers. Focus groups and surveys do have their place, but in this instance, personal contact always wins. Yes, I can imagine this sounds daunting, but you may already have many of the answers to these questions at your fingertips. Start by talking to your salesforce and see what insights they have. Put them on the hunt for good intel for you. Interview a few of your top selling retailers. They may have some great intel from online reviews and customer service data. Brick and mortar retailers may have some great feedback from conversations their floor salespeople hear from consumers on what they think of your products, any features they’re asking for, and how they use your products. More below on exactly what questions to ask each of these segments.
Getting personal with your end consumers is important; there’s nothing that can replace the power of on-to-one communication where you can ask follow-up questions and listen for the meaning behind the words. Connecting with your consumers and retailers is a great habit to start and where you will no doubt find endless inspiration and ideas.
Step 2 – Engage in the Market
Being ‘in the trenches’ with your products is a critical part of staying in touch with your end users and also leads to great ideas for innovating. Make it common practice for yourself and your team to regularly use the products you are designing. Chances are, as an end user yourself, you will be in contact with other end users and retailers you might not otherwise connect with.
When you and your team make a habit of using the products you’re designing, you get a whole new understanding of your product and what you like and don’t like. It’s easier to speak with end users and retailers about your products and will help produce a more thoughtful, well-designed products with much more attention to detail. I highly recommend frequent testing and use of your products throughout the development cycle so you can monitor and change features before it’s too late.
We like to make a practice of reviewing and testing competing products as well. There’s so much to learn and wisdom to gain when you have experiential knowledge of all the competing products in your category.
As an end user, engaging in the market, you may get opportunities to chat one-on-one with consumers. When you do, some great, open-ended questions to ask them about your and/or your competitors’ products include:
- What brand/style are you using?
- Why did you purchase the product?
- What is your favorite feature? Why?
- What do you place value on when it comes to this product?
- What is missing from this product?
- What do you not like about this product?
- Do you like the visual design?
Another powerful method to get valuable feedback during the design cycle that I recommend is assembling a test group – a group of consumers that have agreed to test new products – to get product feedback as you are engaged in product design. I’ve found, these consumer test groups are the most useful if you ask specific questions and you use an experienced facilitator to elicit thoughtful, honest answers. You must be able to get their honest input on questions such as:
- Would you purchase this product?
- What is your favorite feature and why?
- What is missing?
- What do you like / not like about this product?
- Ask them to reveal their concerns or questions as they experience the product.
- Is the product of value to them?
- Would they buy at your target retail price?
- If not, what is a reasonable price to them?
Step 3 – Observe and Understand Buying Habits
Understanding how and what your end consumer will buy is the final, critical piece to applying consumer insight in your product design process. We can create revolutionary products that WE love, but if they don’t match up with what your consumers buy, they won’t be commercially successful. That’s why it’s important to discover and understand your consumer’s buying habits. The best way to do this – after those one-to-one communications we discussed earlier – is to connect with your retailers regarding their consumer feedback – whether reviews, customer service data, or feedback from sales personnel – specifically asking the questions below. Your retailers are generally tuned in to their customers’ buying habits and can be a wealth of very useful information. Ask them questions like:
- What are the consumers attracted to when it comes to our product? Why?
- When do they buy products in our category and why?
- Where do they buy products in our category and why?
- What kinds of information do they need in order to understand the value of our products and address their objections?
Yes, I know, collecting and analyzing this information may seem like a good deal of work. The good news is that you likely have much of this information available already and not even realize it. You’ll likely just need to be the one who compiles it, analyzes it, and turns it into useful, actionable information. Believe me, it’ll be worth it!
So, first, begin by doing your research, updating your ideal customer profile and see what’s changed. Second, build a habit of engaging in the trenches with your products and end consumers. Third make sure you understand what your ideal customer will buy and how much they’ll pay for it, get your end users involved in the design process with a beta test group. And finally, enjoy the process!
All the top companies and designers – your competitors – are doing research just like this so they can stay ahead of trend and create the next must-have products. You need to be practicing this too. And if you need help with this process, let me know – it’s one of my favorite parts of the product design – we can guide you through this process and help you successfully elevate your products and brand.