You can't get more tech-excited than attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas each year. But this year, one thing is glaringly clear - cool tech is not enough. Businesses and products are getting lost in their own technology and what is being shown here at CES looks and tastes like flavors of the same technology or marketing spin. Innovative or not, unless you move your business and products quickly to a consumer-centric model and retro-think your way back to the technology of features, you are wasting valuable money and time on your way to sales success. If a consumer doesn't value your features, why are you including it? If they haven't yet chosen to become your consumer, why are you stalking them?
Stop Stalking and Start Conversing
During a talk at Pixels, part of the Publicis Groupe presence at CES, presented by Adobe and The Drum titled, Digital Transformation: This Time It's Personal, it was glaringly clear from all panel experts that we have moved to an age where consumers are well aware that their data is being collected to the point that they expect and in some cases demand that you do something for them with it. You need to use all that "Big Data" being gathered and dive into the way each consumer thinks and instead of just stalking them with ads build a hierarchy of individualized needs and desires to build more relevant and smarter product choices.
We've all had it happen, especially when we search for a gift item. This year I bought a compost pail for my dad's birthday. He lives in a town that has started requiring separation of food scraps from the regular trash and he thought it was a good time to finally start that compost pile for his garden. Problem is that my mom thought it was going to be a lot of work and potentially smelly. One quick Amazon search later and I found the perfect solution - a beautiful designed copper compost pail for the countertop with filters that would last months. Problem wasn't the product; it was the perfect gift. Problem is that I don't have a green thumb and I am still being stalked months later by gardening product suggestions.
Sorting through all this data and as Digital Transformation panelist Shelby Saville, President of Innovation and Investment Platforms for Mediavest | Spark, put it, "tapping into our conversations and anticipating our needs without being creepy is the fundamental challenge" of responsible and customer-centric data usage. In an effort to move "advertising from a toll gate to FastPass" you need to become less interruptive and more assistive with your technology. This starts with the consumer first.
Consumer Centric Design + Technology
As panel moderator Doug Zanger, North American Editor-at-Large of The Drum, pointed out, "The most powerful thing we can do in the industry is start to bringing creativity and technology closer together." Technology is no longer optional but it is also not the be all and end all of the product, experience and relationship. It is time for it to take a back seat in your business priorities and start with the consumer first. Consumer-centricity means moving your supply chain, technology development, UX, market, advertising, sales, and more - basically everything in your business must shift. It can no longer start with you and your needs or your product. It has to start with them.
Just look at the success of Dyson's $399 Supersonic hair dryer and the Titans of Tech panel criticism of the Kérastase/L'Oréal and Withings (part of Nokia) collaboration on The Hair Coach hair brush as the worst of CES 2017 despite winning a CES Innovation Award.
Cool technology is not going to be enough in a crowded 1.9 Billion American hair product market to get women to buy what looks like a $10 hairbrush for $200. Especially when it tells you the obvious, that you have split ends. But the solution to upsell you a frizz-stopping Kérastase/L'Oréal product to help completely misses the opportunity to solve female consumers' problems and treats technology innovation as a marketing and advertising gimmick.
Compare that to the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer who focused years of industrial design development into solving all the problems with conventional hair dryers creating class of its own. Not only did the style and form of a hair dryer get reinvented in the process; it focused on the one thing sure to drive women to open their pocketbooks - saving time. If I can dry my thick wavy hair in less time, I'm in.
Hire a High-Level Designer Now
Industrial and Product Designers educated through the 90's and early 2000's are best suited to helping you through this because both their education and experience has been focused on a human factors based design process. They are used to going deeper into human factors than ergonomics and user interface to the psychology of perception, shopping, need-based prioritization and even gender differences. You might think that the last one seems sexist, but as the Dyson example shows, in a shopping economy where women control or influence more than 85% of all consumer purchases, this is a smart business strategy.
Even if you aren't in a position to hire an experienced Chief Design Officer or Industrial Design Director, a company of any size or any stage can find access to great designers, design management and design oversight today. Bring in a more experienced design consultant for oversight and strategy. We offer 'rent our brain' hourly and half-day sessions and so do many other design firms. Find a marketing company that has an advanced research department like Moxie. Spend your dollars on the much-needed marketing and get innovation help at the same time. Or bring a product designer onto your board of advisors. Companies like The Exec Ranks help to match start-ups and growth phase businesses with experienced executives that have been there and done that in your tech or product category. They even offer Advisory Council Roundtable Discussions on Product Development.