To know customers to satisfy and to surprise them

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CREDIT FOTOLIA
CREDIT FOTOLIA


If the method and the process are essential to develop the project, the added value is the element that makes the proposed solutions competitive on the market.

Gianluigi Bortoluzzi

When we talk about the development process of a product, it is spontaneous to imagine the different methods already consolidated to accomplish a winning design. These theories are well-known to any company or professional advisor and easily available. The key factor, then, is the “added value” that you must give to the project to be developed: to overcome the borders of the methodology is mandatory. If we reflect in-depth, we can notice that a successful product has taken into account some factors that others would not have considered. The cases that we can mention are numerous, present in all sectors.
There is a great quantity of design methodologies and approaches and each of them has arisen in well precise contexts and epochs, to improve the existing ones and to progress with a new state of the art. To keep pace with the socio-cultural evolution allows maintaining design efficiency and satisfying the market requests: operation of extreme importance especially in the companies involved in FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods).
The understanding of what happens around us can decisively contribute in the success of a new product. The analysis of the society and of the market permits to keep pace with competition or to anticipate it, offering innovative and potentially winning solutions.

How and where can we discover the origin of the added value?
The added value, to be such, must surprise consumers and offer something more.
To understand what can precisely capture the attention is not easy, it is well-known, but there are various ways that, if correctly undertaken, can give great benefits to the development process of a new product:
•   the anthropological analysis is at the base of everything, to know one’s own customers is essential
•   To understand the context where the consumer acts is the second step that allows achieving a global vision
•   to analyse and to interpret the future needs of the society is complex, but highly fruitful
People are more and more demanding, their life styles extremely dynamic: flexibility becomes, then, a crucial element in all situations. At the same time, we can observe a pressing research and development of technologies that are becoming more advanced and smart every day. Sometimes, the emerging lifestyles drive the technological innovation, in other cases products themselves enhance the life quality.

CREDIT FOTOLIA


The individual is the source of the added value

Thanks to the thorough analysis by Anne Lise Kjaer, specialized in the interpretation of the future and in consumers’ mentality, we can observe that two macro-personalities exist:
•   Hunters: individuals oriented to their own person and focused on the improvement of their own life
•   Gatherers: oriented to the group and focused on collective values
The added value concerning a product or a service can assume completely opposite meanings for each analysed personality. The contrast between the bent for emotions and the praise of rationality helps in the matrix categorization of different types of targets. In the graph by Anne Lise we can notice how these contradictions are mutually compared, up to outlining new identities.
To catch the behavioural and habitual traits of consumers is therefore the beginning of the identification process of the real added value of a product or of a service.
On the other hand, this strict segmentation does not differ from the context where man lives.
The circumstances, on the contrary, induce individuals to generate different attitudes: some elements are accepted by all identities and are linked both with the socio-cultural context and with the global evolution.
Nevertheless, there are some general trends, defined macro trends, which represent the starting point to define the micro trends, focused on particular categories of individuals, markets, technologies and each other specific aspect.
To consider and to analyse thoroughly macro-trends according to one’s own purposes unavoidably leads to create that added value able to capture the consumer’s attention.
We are going to describe three main trends that will strictly concern the relationship between product and individual in the imminent future. They are aimed at arousing the designer’s and the companies’ curiosity in deepening the matter and widening their design vision. The argumentation does not give any answer but it provides food for thought to be applied to one’s own study cases.

Smart
At first sight the adjective Smart can recall electronic instruments such as mobile phones or tablets, the first that are “smart” and able to facilitate our daily life. If we consider, on the contrary, the technological anti-venous reflux valves, the garbage bag made of bio degradable material, the robot for the quality control of the productive process: could we consider also these solutions as Smart? The answer is yes.
They are Smart products because they have an intrinsic intelligence, not necessarily dependent on a computer. They are solutions that support the improvement of human life.
Consumers are developing a stronger and stronger critical sense and a wide analysis capability thanks to the mass diffusion of information. Today, for instance, before purchasing a product, consumers ask whether it is really useful to them, where it has been manufactured, what are the materials composing it, what is the brand ethics, why the price is so different from the market average.
Smart solutions at all levels share in the creation of a winning product.
Widening the vision is the first step to boost innovation and to characterize certain solutions with high added value. The majority of the products present on the market should improve the life quality in general or simplify a specific process (linked in any case with man).
From the person care to urban life, from the technological progress to the work organization, products and services must be Smart and contribute in the individual’s wellbeing.

Graph of emerging personalities, Anne Lise Kjaer copyright


Travelling in time and space

The trend towards globalization is undoubtedly well known, but what is the successive step?
To shorten the time and the distance in relationships will increase the quantity and the quality of the information exchange.
To promote the global connection, to integrate solutions that favour the interdependency at different levels, from individuals to nations, is a farsighted target. The constant migrations of men, for fun, work or for other reasons, has no more hindrances. Time and space are not considered a real barrier anymore.
The introduction of interactive platforms has allowed the active dialogue among people in different places, even when the physical contact is not possible. Every type of border has gone out and a strong social empowerment has been developed.
The net has diffusely widespread also in objects, able to dialogue and to transmit information to the user or to other products.
A frantic and dynamic society, like the present one, needs zero-time flexibility to satisfy its needs. Products and services must therefore comply with this evolution, recover information, generate benefits wherever users may be and, especially, in a very short lapse of time. Mobility, flexibility and adaptability are requirements that gain day by day a relevant place in people’s daily life.

Accessibility
The trend to exasperate time and distance is strictly connected with the possibility of operating, everywhere and at any time. To gain access to a fundamental need and not to have the possibility of satisfying it immediately jams the growth process.
Internet and communication networks are the first step to expand the accessibility to services and to one’s own network. A matter that is true for products, too: to develop flexible and accessible solutions multiplies use possibilities and performances.
The accessibility, then, includes the double concept of connection and use flexibility. Transportable and modular products, with adaptable critical aspects, will be the design focus of the future.
Over the last few years we have been the spectators of a notable technological evolution in all sectors.
From products with easy functions we have passed to complex systems, certainly cutting-edge, but often difficult to be set and used. For this reason it is by now clear that consumers need to choose a ready-to-use product, rather than one with higher performances, accessible only with a sound technical knowledge. It is so back the tendency to loosen the obstacle in time and space.
The simplification of a solution has a notable potential in catching consumers’ attention: the presence of forefront technological products, but anyway accessible, will be felt on the market in the course of next years.

Conclusion
If it actually exists the subdivision between Hunters and Gatherers according to emotional or rational propensities, these global trends do not exclude anybody. Everybody needs Smart products and services able to satisfy any propensity, to reduce distance and time, to be immediately enjoyable and without particular skills.
The added value must be searched, and often interpreted, in the individual’s behaviour. More resources will be used in the study of the social and technological evolution, greater possibilities will be available in being the pioneers of innovation.
Choosing a birthday gift (useful, fine, which is within the budget) to be made to a person of whom we do not know habits, passions and dreams is really difficult. Something similar happens when it is necessary to design a product for consumers but with a slight difference: they must pay to have it.


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