Dusting Off an
After conducting market research in the U.S., the household giant saw the opportunity for a stick vac that better accommodated its customers. Further segmentation and research provided by TEAMS suggested that there was also a promising market awaiting in Asia.
Jonas Vollmer, TEAMS vice president, oversaw the project and explained, “We’ve had a good working relationship with Bissell for several years. By combining market insights from both sides of that relationship, we could set ourselves up for designing a stick vac that's optimized for both western and eastern households, offering the brand the potential to step outside of North America."
Our team of UX experts and designers set out in Shanghai to see how people were using their current vacuum cleaners. We reviewed everything from their cleaning habits to their storage issues. Users kept a journal and detailed their vacuum habits weekly while we captured first-hand observations about their pain points and workarounds.
After a series of extensive in-home interviews followed up with creative workshops, the results were summed up one-by-one.
Vollmer described some of the key findings, “In talking to users, we found that small flaws were holding them back from purchasing a stick vac. The findings were nearly the same as the U.S.-based research from Bissell, with the only exception being that smaller Chinese households were using the stick vac as their primary vacuum, while in the larger U.S. homes it's treated as a backup vacuum. We saw several major areas where the stick vacuum could improve.”
Both regions of the world shared overwhelmingly similar needs. Both U.S. and Chinese households used the stick vac to navigate through narrow places, such as underneath tables and chairs and around other pieces of furniture.
There were also some minor differences between the user groups. While in the U.S., most users kept the stick vac next to their dining room table for on-the-spot cleanup, most users in China stored it away in a small closet. Because U.S. households left the stick vac in an frequently seen part of their home, it required a design that could blend in with a modern and polished look.
We first focused on functional innovations to make the cleaning process faster. To accommodate small closets or pantries, we drew up a design for a foldable handle; by giving it a hinge that bent in both directions, this feature also made it easier for users to vacuum under tables and other hard-to-reach spaces. Having recently redefined Bissell's entire visual brand language, we knew how to align the design with the company’s image, making sure that users gained trust in the stick vac’s performance — through a powerful look and high-tech appeal.
“Having gained that trust from Bissell early on, the company was comfortable enough to let us steer the design process quickly, starting with numerous rapid prototypes to test different concepts and functions, followed by testing models against major competitors.”
Letting Trust Drive the Design Process
All of the key findings demonstrated that stick vacuums could have been better designed to work with the user and their environment. Armed with these insights, we focused our design efforts on the above areas of performance innovation.
This trust was critical, because as any big company knows, moving a product from an idea all the way to realization without that confidence in the team can drag on for a significant period of time, blocking innovation, eating away finances and eventually stalling a project altogether. Having that sweeping synergy with BISSELL shaped the process quickly — like a bolt out of the blue.
Rolling Out the Bolt Ion
As the Bissell Bolt ION was launched, it was clear that the design successfully hit the nail on the head for all areas of improvement in both countries. Within months, it became a top seller, reeling in outstanding user reviews on many major websites and bringing a whole new perspective to the level of quality offered in the line of stick vacs from major competitors.
Chris Reinke, design director at Bissell commended the new design, “Bolt has surpassed the sales of its strongest competitor. This is proof to me that you have created a more desirable product with a superior design. Great work!!”
Using trust as a catalyst to optimized collaboration can create a swift momentum, especially when it comes to industrial design. Perhaps that’s the reason the Bolt Ion is just so swift—it was passed on from its creators.
"I wanted to share some great news with you. The Bissell Bolt has surpassed the sales of its strongest competitor. This is proof to me that you have created a more desirable product with a superior design. Great work!!" Chris Reinke, Design Director at Bissell