There once was a time when consumers bought items out of necessity. For example, we used to buy outerwear for the sake of protecting ourselves from the elements; or we bought cell phones to stay in touch with our friends, family and acquaintances. And product design focused on an object's functionality and ability to efficiently serve a purpose.
Designers and entrepreneurs recognize the dual purpose an object serves. Not only are consumers looking for goods that satisfy a need, they also seek items that can be considered an extension of the buyer's personality.
Home buyers are always looking to balance function with design. "Everything from mixers, to cutting boards to dog bowls need to be cool and visually appealing and fashionable," remarks Doug Stein, founder and owner of Mad Style, an on-trend fashion and lifestyle brand. "Instead of hiding our home appliances in the cupboard or in our pantries, we find people treating their appliances and functional items as pieces of art that are meant to be displayed."
Entrepreneurs need to create with design in mind. In today's competitive market, almost 50% of new businesses will not survive longer than four years and failure could be attributed to multiple external factors. Survival in oversaturated markets depends heavily on a business' ability to differentiate themselves from the crowd; entrepreneurs need to find a way to appeal to their customer who are already used to some iteration of your product or service offering.
An industry that is supersaturated shouldn't be seen as a turn-off. Think of it this way: a market that has thousands of businesses vying for the top spot means that industry is healthy and in demand. In the automobile industry alone there are over 600 model vehicles a customer can choose from.
In 1950, there were only 65 models or so available, but since then we've seen the market expand and now consumers can choose from hundreds of options. In an oversaturated market, whoever adapts to consumer needs the best will outlast the competition.
Businesses must be able to change. Customer needs can change on a dime, and companies who hope to survive the next five to 10 years have to be able to adapt and keep up with trends and expectations. Startups in particular have a slight upper hand when it comes to identifying and exploiting the gaps that established businesses have yet to notice; startups are less rigid and better able to pivot than big corporations.
Take, for example, the healthcare industry and the buying and selling of healthcare products. Previously, when a doctor told you to buy a humidifier, you bought one because you were told to do so and didn't pay much attention to what it looked like or how it fit into your home decor. Once you didn't need the humidifier anymore, you presumably stored it away. But what if that humidifier looked like a piece of art that could be displayed in your home or your bedroom?
Crane-USA set about rethinking the design of a humidifier and showing customers how functional items could be fun, cute and serve a purpose at the same time. This innovative company released their collection of whimsical animal humidifiers called "Adorables" to fit in a nursery-setting or a children's room. It was an idea that revolutionized how customers view functional items like humidifiers; now, customers can choose products that not only serve their actual purpose but can be viewed as an extension of a person's identity. "Design for better living is Crane's mantra," says Katie Sotor, VP of Marketing and co-founder of Crane. "We believe design is an attitude and the home is a expression of an individual style.
Crane products are good quality at an affordable price. Why purchase ordinary when you can purchase extraordinary. Style is a statement, a choice - even if all you need is way to relieve your dry skin or stuffy nose."
Something as simple as redesigning the way an item looks can open up a world of opportunity for a business. This is what is meant by change - in a highly competitive market, businesses need to change to meet the consumer need while also appealing to their desire to express who they are through their material goods. You could easily create something that is functional and works perfectly, but if it doesn't look visually stunning it may not be appealing to certain customers.
Industries today are saturated with businesses who are eager to launch the "next big thing". In order to stand out, you need to not only have a product that works great but is appealing to the customer in more ways than one. Design is more than just a product's functionality; it's also about looks and how a product will fit into a customer's lifestyle. In the case of standing out, looks can help launch your product to the front of the line.