Changing consumer standpoint: Need to gain disruptive insights
Design research is gaining momentum for establishing good human factors. What are the trends that will impact the design research, how does new technology play a role in this new evolution and how does one reach out to the concerns of the new age end user.
By KRANTI VANJARI
‘Design Research’ is one kind of proficiency that uses an eclectic approach to understand deeper consumer needs. Empathy helps designers create products or services, which are best suitable for people needs. It would be half a truth, if we consider Design Research as a tool used only by Designers. Consumer centric businesses also have the requirement to learn their user needs, which ultimately leads to a greater business opportunity.
There is a noticeable trend that more and more corporate brands are adopting Design is a tool to serve various business requirements whether it is about developing a new product or entering into a new consumer segment. This has also brought in more challenging opportunities to both designers & design researchers to create & refine methods to dig deeper and extract useful insights.
Buying is not just about buying
Working on a product, designers were looking out for a key question. Why does this consumer buy that product? A standard interview approach was not helping. We stepped back and realized that today buying is not about buying for a need, it is also about getting the best deal. Consumers are aware of the plethora of options available today. This is playing on their mind all the time. We applied an interactive play tool for our research, which helped users to configure features that mattered the most, were willing to pay, why and what they valued as the best deal.
It is vital to make subjects think and reflect on their needs, a little play, story, a scene can open out people to a level of preparing prototype scenarios wherein consumers can make real time buying decisions based on their wishes.
Online vs. Offline
If we ask a present day consumer, how do they buy, they talk about online purchases, price & features comparison. People rate the best deal for them, and then they either buy online or offline. Today, consumers want a comparison between prices and products before they buy; but through a singular interaction, the way it happens online on a PC screen. In retail spaces, sales people help to compare but that is not always efficient. This learning was another eye opening trend that we observed.
People as consumers are changing. Online shopping has made them accustomed to make quick and sound decisions – purchase is just a click away. The greater responsibility for design research and designers is to explore these decision-making patterns used online and how it can be replicated in a brick and mortar scenario along with an enhanced experience.
If an alien were to visit a modern retail store, what will it see? People with their shopping carts, looking through numerous shelves and buying things for themselves. If one takes a closer look at this scenario, people are not only looking through the shelves, there is a lot of reading people do on and off the shelf.
One can imagine several hypotheses in such a scenario; like modern retail spaces are designed in such a way that products are more visible, readable even from a distance.
Clean up the space, make the product accessible to the consumer.
Another hypothesis could be people rely on their own subconscious thinking which keeps on alerting them while in a public space - “Am I getting judged because my shopping cart is looking less heavy than others”, “Am I picking the right pack or people around me are considering me an unhealthy junkie”, “I need to look smart so I must read carefully before any purchase”. Such thoughts are output of natural human behavior like; Mrs. Responsible, Mr. Righteous, neighbor’s envy, be no fool and so on. However, environments are also catalysts to evoking such reactions. And therefore, even while buying a regular brand, a shopper in a modern retail will not just look for a brand, but will read the Front or Back of pack to reassure herself about the content, health benefits, calorie contents etc. Yet another perception could be increased consciousness around health and appearance, which has led consumers to read a lot on the pack before buying. This is a trend; we cannot turn a blind eye towards. What is the story your product is telling, which will reflect reassuringly on the target consumer’s mind?
The new age consumer
Some of these consumer trends that we discussed, such as looking for best deal, online buying models or drivers to understand a product gives us a deep insight that the choices and preferences for buying have changed pragmatically. Influencers to these changes could be many like increased awareness, exposure, connectivity etc.
Here the interesting part is diversity and ambiguous patterns of consumer behaviors. Today’s consumers are loyal to brands at the same time, they are not afraid to express their opinions against it, if need arises. Even a basic experience about a product or service is shared or tweeted for increasing personal social quotient. Review based websites are flooded with feedbacks on minor inconveniences, not only for making use of the social platform but to express people opinion. It is the arrival of an aggressive age for consumers!
A consumer no longer is the unsung meek but rather a roaring warrior with multiple faces of expressions like the mythology figure, Ravana ( epic Ramayana ).
Marketers, researchers or business strategists have to become more sensible to understand the deeper grieve and eventually win people by addressing best solutions tailored for their needs but also value at affordable prices.
To understand today’s consumer and to dig more into their minds one has to take a diverse approach in the study. It might not be enough to make few handful people sit in a discussion and probe them for feedback. Such practice may or may not lead to unfeigned insights. One has to customize methods that are best suited to the intent of the study, right from clustering consumer cohorts by their behavioural patterns or to deploying interactive tools, which will help consumer express themselves freely. The social presence of the consumers cannot be ignored. Articulations based on people opinions on social media will provide added knowledge about people’s both offline and online life. A disruptive insight is a denouement, which is best achieved with help of tailored user centric approach and tools.
KRANTI VANJARI is an Asst. Manager, Subject Expert, Strategy & Design Research at Elephant. She has a graduate diploma in Mechanical Engineering, WCE and a Post Graduate Diploma in Strategic Design for Business, MIT Institute of Design, Pune, India.