Even more special is that their newly launched LIMIT furniture range, which is part of their Crosswater UK brand, won the coveted ‘Best Modern Bathroom’ award.
We are proud to have supported the market research of new products for the Bathroom Brands Group and Crosswater UK over the past two years, and LIMIT was one of the first product ranges upon which we conducted market research.
Heather Young, Editor-in-Chief at Ideal Home said:
“We love the inclusion of the wood-effect panelling in the Limit bathroom range from Crosswater. It feels so of the moment and has an instant calming effect.”
This win is a fantastic achievement for our client and supports our approach that gathering valuable insights from your target audiences can lead to developing commercially successful products.
Market research empowers brands to make smarter decisions about which products to bring to market.
We offer a full package of market research options and can tailor to any product or stage during the development process. Speak to our market research experts today to see how we can help your brand.
You can see all of the Ideal Home Bathroom Award winners here.
Additive manufacturing, known more commonly as 3D printing, has been in existence since the 1980s, but it’s only in recent years that it’s become a household word. It’s still an emerging technology, although we are now entering a period of sustained growth as more companies turn to 3D printing.
In the product development industry, the use of 3D printers, or rapid prototyping machines, has revolutionised how we create prototypes. It provides a cost-effective and quick solution and enables us to quickly test whether a design will work in reality, or not.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, 3D printing was used reactively, a short term solution. But now many companies are adopting a more strategic approach, they see the long-term benefits, and that temporary fix has shifted the mindset. 3D printing has assisted in the digitalisation of manufacturing – by simply sending a file the process becomes decentralised and more flexible. Something that incredibly important during Covid-19 – mitigating supply chain risks, reducing the reliance on manual labour and reducing manufacturing costs. In 2022, the global 3D printing market size was valued at 18.33 USD billion and it is projected to grow to 83.90 USD billion by 2029, exhibiting a annual growth rate of 24.3%.
Moreover, our current global insecurities, from the climate crisis, supply chain issues and impending recessions, can be alleviated somewhat by 3D printing, so it’s likely that more and more businesses will turn to 3D printing. Complex designs that could previously only be manufactured at great expense can now produced by 3D printers, which supports the ongoing acceptance and integration of 3D printing into mainstream manufacturing.
It was recently announced that the first piece of cheesecake has been 3D printed – so does this spell the end for bakers and chefs? Well judging by the look of these two slices, it’s safe to say their jobs are secure for now!
But cheesecake isn’t the only food being produced this way. 3D printed steaks have been hitting the headlines for a couple of years.
But aside from food, what are the likely future trends for 3D Printing across other industries?
3D Printing in Manufacturing
As already highlighted, one area where 3D printing is already making significant impact is within manufacturing. As product developers, we use 3D printing for many of our clients. It enables us to create prototypes quickly and cheaply. It speeds up the design process as we can instantly see any design flaws and make the necessary amends.
3D printing also allows for the creation of complex and intricate designs that would be difficult or too expensive to produce using traditional manufacturing methods. This has the potential to significantly reduce the cost and time required to bring new products to market.
Medicine and Health Care
In the medical field, 3D printing is already being used to create custom implants, prosthetics, and even human tissue. It is being used for orthopaedics, dental and surgical instrumentation. Medical device manufacturers are creating patient-specific implants from metals and polymers that are customised to the shape of individual bones. Many hospitals now have their own 3D printing facilities to tighten supply chains and ultimately provide better patient care.
As the technology advances, it may be possible to use 3D printing to create entire organs for transplant, eliminating the need for organ donors and reducing the risk of rejection. Some companies are already bioprinting human tissue for drug treatments, which may eliminate the need for animal testing in future.
In the construction industry, 3D printing is being used to create buildings and structures using a process called “contour crafting”, and in fact entire towns are being 3D printed. This process allows for the creation of complex structures with a high degree of precision, and it has the potential to significantly reduce the cost and time required for construction projects which could revolutionise the house building industry globally, particularly in developing countries.
Personalised Consumer Goods
The trend for personalised goods has been on the increase for the last few years, and this has resulted in manufacturers utilising 3D print technology to help meet the demand. The products created range from customised footwear, moulded to the shape of the individual’s foot, or orthotics, which help alleviate foot pain. Other sporting goods such as goggles and glasses, for skiing and squash for example, or even golf clubs moulded to the person’s hand.
Another area where 3D printing is making strides is in space exploration. NASA is already using 3D printing to create spare parts and tools on the International Space Station, and is even creating a Mars habitat using 3D printing to simulate what life on Mars might be like. In the future, 3D printing could be used to create habitats and other structures on other planets.
What’s next for 3D printing?
Looking to the future, one of the most exciting prospects for 3D printing is the development of new materials. As new materials are developed specifically for 3D printing, it will become possible to create even more complex structures and objects. Metal will continue to gain traction within the rapid prototyping world, as will the ability to print with multiple materials in a single build, which will allow us to produce more complex and functional parts and open up exciting new possibilities in manufacturing.
Additionally, advances in software and hardware will continue to improve the speed and accuracy of the printing process, making it more accessible and affordable.
Injection moulding will be ever present in high volume manufacture, until 3D printing speed increases, however, for one off prototypes or bespoke items, 3D printing will always win as it’s not reliant on tooling. And with the adoption of more exotic filled and blended polymers the gap between injection moulding and 3D printing is closing rapidly.
The future of 3D printing is incredibly promising and exciting.
The technology continue to transform industries and change the way we approach manufacturing, medicine, and construction along with other industries like space exploration.
3D printing will continue to tighten supply chains, reduce tooling costs and enable flexible working.
The development of new printing materials and technology will continue to improve the speed, accuracy and quality of prints.
Open AI, which owns ChatGPT, has estimated that 80% of jobs could be impacted by AI, but how worried should the design industry really be? Are these just scare stories, or will jobs seriously be at risk? And how can we use AI to improve the product design industry?
Artificial Intelligence has already had a significant impact on many industries, including tech, marketing and PR, and the product design industry is no exception. AI-powered technologies are starting to transform the way products are designed and manufactured. AI is enabling designers to create better products in a shorter period, while also providing valuable insights that were previously unavailable.
One of the most significant ways AI is changing the product design industry is through the use of generative design. Not to be confused with generative design in engineering, generative design using AI is a technique where designers input design parameters into an AI system, which then creates a range of possible design solutions based on the given constraints. It enables designers to explore many more design options than they could manually, and in a shorter space of time too. It can also provide them with data-driven insights about the design. The result is more efficient and effective product designs.
As an experiment, we created this image using AI with the prompt “sports bottle, grenade, bidon”.Yes it’s a cool looking image, but there is relatively little other than the aesthetics that you can take from it, but potentially with different prompts it could start to produce some real world products.
But of course, these are concepts, it will still require human input to produce the design and ensure it will work in real life.
Another way AI is transforming product design is through the use of predictive modelling. Predictive modelling uses machine learning algorithms to analyse data and predict future trends. This helps designers to create products that are more aligned with customer needs and preferences. For example, AI can analyse data on customer behaviour and preferences to identify design features that are likely to be popular.
This is certainly interesting, as ensuring there is a market for a product is something that we always build into our projects.
Testing and Validation
AI is also making product testing and validation easier and more efficient. Traditionally, product testing has been a time-consuming and costly process. However, AI-powered simulations can now test product performance under different conditions, helping designers to identify potential problems and make improvements before a product goes into production.
Again, this element of AI could speed up projects and reduce costs, but it is an area that we would undertake with caution because real world testing often highlights issues that even Finite Element Analysis. Think about Formula One cars; they go through rigorous virtual testing processes within different simulators and wind tunnels. But then a person sits in the car and drives it and all of a sudden there are issues that need to be fixed.
Finally, AI is enabling designers to create more personalised products. AI-powered algorithms can analyse data on customer preferences and behaviours to create products that are tailored to individual needs. This can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, as customers are more likely to be satisfied with a product that is designed specifically for them. Here we see some value, particularly within the medical sector when thinking about protheses.
The way we see AI impacting us as a consultancy, and the wider product industry as a whole, is that AI will become an integral part of the product design process, but will be used as a tool rather than a replacement for product designers. Its value is more in aesthetics than it will be in problem solving difficult design decision or coming up with new ideas for how a product functions. This still requires years of education and expertise.
AI will add value in mood board creation and generating colourways for products, and in some instances general style direction.
But AI will always require input from humans to function, it cannot think for itself (for now, anyway!) so it will always be reliant on an instruction and must abide by any rules put in place by programmers.
In conclusion, AI is here and it’s here to stay. It’s transforming the product design industry by enabling designers to create better products in less time, providing valuable insights, and allowing for more personalised products. As AI continues to evolve, we can expect even more changes and improvements in the product design process. We think the future of a combined AI and human product design industry is very exciting.
AI is undoubtedly fast, efficient and exciting, but it can’t replace human experience. Our team have experimented with some AI tools, and the results have been interesting so far. We are yet to use AI on a live project, but we imagine that day is coming soon.
We view AI as a modern tool that will help speed us the product design process, rather than take over completely. Similar to how we use washing machines now, rather than hand washing clothes, it’s a tool to help us. Throughout history humans have created machines that benefit our lives, and AI is no exception.
Artificial Intelligence has arrived and it is here to stay.
The product design industry is already seeing changes from AI through Generative Design, Predictive Modelling, Testing and Validation and Personalisation.
AI has the potential to transform the product design industry to create better products in less time, meaning output could be significantly increased.
We predict that AI will never fully replace humans, but instead will be a tool to make us work smarter.
We’re running an exciting AI experiment soon, which we will update on here once completed. In the meantime, if you’d like some human input into your next product development project, please get in touch with our design experts.
At the beginning of any new product development project we always conduct market research, and some of our clients have asked us: is market research always necessary in product development?
Let’s take a typical scenario. Imagine you are a product manager.
A member of your company’s sales team comes to you and says they need a product that meets a certain requirement. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll assume your company makes bathroom taps, and the salesperson wants a tap with a 120mm spout projection because one of their customers (a high street showroom) has asked for it. Your current portfolio features a 105mm and a 135mm tap.
So, you develop or source a 120mm tap and you sell 2,000 units. The original salesperson sells a certain amount into their customer, and perhaps one or two other customers show some interest, but the return on investment into the product development is low.
Now, let’s change the scenario slightly.
After the salesperson comes to you with the original request you conduct some market research. You set up focus groups with your top ten retail customers. You send a survey to some end users (homeowners), and perhaps even some home developers.
Through a series of structured questions, you gain some valuable insights into what the market really wants, and the research reveals that what is really in demand is a 115mm tap. What’s more, after speaking to them, the original customer would be quite happy with a 115mm tap.
Armed with these intelligent insights you can build the business case around developing a 115mm tap. And although conducting the research has added to the overall development costs, the result is that you sell 20,000 units instead of 2,000, so a much healthier ROI.
This is a simple example, but hopefully you get the idea.
It’s often said that 80% of new products will fail, but the reality is that it’s probably much lower and varies from industry to industry. Nevertheless, a lot of new products do fail for many reasons. It’s why our company mission is to:
Our goal is to ensure that only products that will be successful are taken forward. But, how do you know which products will be successful? Well one way is by asking the market, of course!
So, what exactly is market research?
Market research involves listening to and understanding what is happening in the market. It aims to make your target customer happier by looking at opportunities and giving them exactly what they want and need to solve an issue in their life. It is a continuous process that can be conducted at any time.
Market research requires us to step outside of our organisation and remove all internal bias to really understand the needs of our customers, rather than what we think they want.
It comes in many forms, from online questionnaires and surveys (quantitative research) to in-depth focus groups with a select number of people (qualitative research). It’s also possible to use industry reports, competitor research, as well as online forums to discover customers’ thoughts.
New products, and modifications to existing products, don’t just happen by chance. Market research plays an important role in determining what opportunities exist in the market. It can uncover unmet needs, that customers are even unaware of themselves. Good market research will provide a comprehensive understanding of your product’s sales environment.
Here are some of the key benefits of market research:
It opens communication channels with existing and potential customers to understand their needs and desires.
It uncovers opportunities and emerging trends in the marketplace.
It identifies potential threats.
It can determine your brand’s positioning and messaging relative to competitors.
It validates ideas using data to ensure products are received positively by customers.
So, we’ve looked at what market research is and what the main benefits are, but what are the key stages when undertaking market research for a new product development (NPD)?
Key stages in market research for NPD
The type of research conducted will depend upon which stage of development is currently in play.
1. Exploratory research: defining the problem
Occurring before the concept stage, exploratory research involves gathering secondary data (i.e., data that already exists like surveys, journal articles or Government publications). This data will help determine any emerging trends and/or gaps in the market, but there will be a lot of irrelevant content to sift through. At this stage it will be useful to conduct some competitor analysis and a SWOT analysis to help with strategic planning of the project.
It is also important to speak to your customers to find out how satisfied they are with your existing products and what needs are not being met. This will provide direction on new products that are developed. Depending on the type of product you are developing, you may want to ask questions such as:
Are you satisfied with our current product? What’s missing? What feature(s) would you make your life easier?
2. New product concepts and prototyping: initial feedback
The point of the exploratory research is to identify a market need that hasn’t yet been met. Once the initial research has been conducted the product concepts can start to be developed and tested with the target market. Initial prototypes can also be made to ensure the concept will work in real life. Examples of research carried out at this stage include:
This stage of the process can be repeated through test and learn, where concepts are amended to reflect initial feedback.
3. User testing: real life scenarios
The only way to get true and accurate feedback about a new product is to allow people to test and use it in real-life situations. Concepts on paper don’t always turn out the same way in real life and it’s only by touching, feeling and using a product will you really appreciate how it works.
It will validate assumptions made in your earlier research, yes, but it will yield much more accurate data, because only by using the product in its intended way will the customer understand the value they can get from it.
The feedback they provide will tell you if they would buy it, and if not, why not. You’ll also ascertain how much they would be prepared to pay for the product.
User testing is understandably an expensive way to gain insights, and for that reason, it can be hard to get buy in, especially from senior management.
There are different types of prototypes that can be produced, so there are ways to keep costs down.
And it will bring your team together – seeing your product in real life, and all the hard work realised.
Of course, real life testing isn’t always feasible, in which case, it is down to the research company to interpret the research, combined with other market intelligence, to make an informed decision about whether there is an opportunity to develop the product.
Additionally, user testing can be conducted post-launch to gain initial insights once the product is on the market. This can provide customer reviews that can be used in marketing materials. Many companies choose to use influencers with large social media followings to gain some early feedback and spread awareness of the product quickly.
If you’re reading this with a product in development that has had no market research, don’t panic! As we mention above, market research can (and should) be carried out along any point of the development process, so it’s never too late to gain some feedback.
Are there any drawbacks to market research?
If conducted properly market research can generate essential insights, but it isn’t representative of 100% of the market. There will always be variables and external factors that can impact demand.
Market research is essentially trial and error, and it doesn’t always provide an immediate result. The data is only as good as the research itself; results can be skewed by asking the wrong questions or by analysing the data incorrectly.
A focus group may not understand the concept of a brand-new innovation. Imagining themselves buying or using a product that requires a shift in their typical lifestyle may result in them stating they wouldn’t be interested. Asking people to imagine using a product they’ve never considered before is likely to bring some hesitancy, particularly if the group is mostly “late majority” individuals who tend to be sceptical of innovations at first.
Asking a room full of innovators, or even early adopters, may bring completely different results to the majority.
Innovation Adoption Curve (Rogers)
Steve Jobs famously didn’t believe in market research, which is ironic considering he was obsessed with getting inside his customers’ heads. But he had an ability to be a few steps ahead, and believed that customers would buy what he told them to, even if they didn’t know what the product was. And yes, sometimes it worked.
But, sadly, we don’t all have the brand power and extreme customer loyalty that Apple has. So for most of us, we need market research to find out more about our customers.
Market research for existing products
As well as its uses in the development of brand-new products, market research is also valuable for assessing and optimising existing products. It can help a company keep up with competitors and entice customers to continue coming back.
Reading online reviews of your own and competitor products can give insights too. You can find out what actual customer love (and hate) about your and competitor products, and what features they feel are missing.
Market research is about listening to and understanding your target customers’ needs and desires.
Once you are aware of those needs and desires, you can develop products to satisfy them.
Customer feedback can come in many forms; from coordinated quantitative or qualitative research through to data gathering by reading online reviews, forums, competitor research and industry reports.
Market research can (and should) be conducted at all stages of product development – from pre-concept right through to user testing. Post-launch feedback is essential to continue optimising a product to ensure it continues to meet the customer needs.
Market research is not a silver bullet and requires considered analysis to determine an organisation’s next steps.
Marketplaces are typically flooded with products from your competitors.
Consumers today are bombarded with marketing messages from every angle, so it’s never been more important to stand out from the crowd and make sure your product’s value benefits are seen and understood as much as possible.
But, if your product is still in production, how do you whet the appetite of potential customers, and get those all-important pre-sales locked in?
Well, the good news is, you have many options for promoting your product so let’s dive into some here:
As a product-based business, building prototypes will add to your resource of marketing tools. You can use prototypes for photography, websites, social channels, brochures (digital and paper), direct mail, and even for presenting to investors, if needed.
If you have a physical location, such as a shop, putting a prototype on display for customers to feel and test will help to encourage sales. Something to note, however, if the prototype has flaws or isn’t 100% perfect it could negatively affect the perception of your brand and products.
There are different types of prototypes that can be produced, such as fully functioning or purely visual, and our team of prototyping specialists can help you determine what type of prototype your business needs.
Computer Generated Images
Using computer generated images before your product is created is an excellent way for customers to visualise it before photos are available.
Computer generated images can be used on digital channels such as websites, social media, PDFs and e-brochures really effectively. But CGI can also be used on traditional marketing channels such as direct mail, leaflets and paper brochures.
What’s more, CGI can be animated into videos to add another dimension to your presell campaign. When customers see a product animated and being used it instils more confidence to buy; it’s why video is such a powerful tool.
Use all available channels for promotion
Whether you’re able to photograph/video a prototype, or use CGI, you should use all available channels to push the promotion. This includes your social channels and email database to alert customers and subscribers about upcoming launches and pre-sales. The traditional channels, such as direct mail and brochures, still have their place for many businesses, so you may want to explore those too, along with launch events, trade shows and exhibitions.
If you’re interested in exploring CGI or prototyping for your business, get in touch and we’ll set up a call.
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