Strategic Research via Product Life Cycle
Design as Strategy with Research as Fundamental Base
Research is as iterative and strategic as the design development process itself. But the process itself is insufficient without active follow-through by strategists who can transfer the key touchpoints to achieve strong design solutions. The first step of revealing great opportunities is to run in-depth research and analysis of user, market, competition and trends, although this is still not enough to succeed.
Strategic Research with Double Lenses - Design Thinking X Product Life Cycle
For years, design thinking has been considered as a golden rule in design fields. It does systematically help conduct projects. However, when facing a complex and changing business environment, it becomes more useful to equip with an additional lens to cooperate with the client in a sustainable relationship. This is what we call a product life cycle mindset.
As known, a product strategy cannot always remain the same. It differs according to the stage where the product is in its life cycle. Researchers and strategists should customize the strategical research activities to be adaptable and efficient for digging out the areas where great opportunities are hiding. While a design thinking mindset helps to run a project in a relatively shorter period, a product life cycle mindset allows owning a developmental perspective in a longer time span.
There are 3 product stages that we often deal with: Introduction, Growth and Maturity
Product in Introduction
In the introduction phase, a product is entirely new to the market. All the products that we take for granted as everyday objects used to go through this stage. It is often called an “invention”. Usually, at this stage, two kinds of scenarios are to be found. The first one is where clients have the technology and want to apply it into suitable fields and industry. The second one is when a specific user need is popping out, and it is required to find a product solution to meet the requirement.
In contrast to products in other stages, there is often no benchmark on the market, and it is not possible to broadly collect existing user feedback. With the uncertainty, it becomes essential to find out the true user demands and product opportunities. User research will be fundamental to understand user behavior and especially the value perception. Another key method for these type of projects is technology scouting. Expert and KOL interviews are conducted to check technology maturity and crossover application in other industries.
At this stage, the amount of investment for research might be more extensive, and a few rounds of UX research studies will help clients to ascertain the product ideas and decrease the project risks in an early stage. (Reference read: Bosch IoT)
Product in Growth
With the product and business' growth, more stakeholders will get involved in the product ecosystem. Stakeholder-mapping and stakeholderjourney study are frequently used. From end-users to distributors, maintenance and service team, various strategic brand, marketing, product, and design opportunities can be found to accelerate the growth.
As approached by Jack sewing machine in 2013, the company did well in product sales, but they were struggling with their old "copycat" brand image. TEAMS developed an aligned brand DNA across product lines and helped the company jump out of the competition with a respectable new brand image. To achieve this, our strategic research methodologies helped to reveal the real value of the brand, which helped to build a unique brand experience. (Reference read: Jack Sewing Machine)
Product in Maturity
Products in the maturity life stage require a strategy to expand broadly. Since the product already has a market recognition, the purpose is to keep growing in speed and volume. Localization often becomes more important at this phase. Strategical research studies with a focus on the cultural aspects and cultural differences are usually conducted to achieve it. We believe that there is no golden rule for product success. It is essential, especially for a global company, to keep the product’s core identity from feature to design, but also adapt to the local markets of the stakeholders' as well as their cognitive level, behavioral habits, etc.
Taken the medical equipment industry as an example, where the product development period is often long, such as 5-10 years, and significant product innovation is often restricted by the technology, any minor improvement in UX could be the product advantage. A lot of surveys and evaluations are conducted to drive the minor innovation in different regions.
Also necessary at this stage, the development of manufacturing technology may become a breakthrough point for products-to-market performance. When the product profit becomes smaller and smaller, material and structure innovation can also help reduce the cost to keep the product advantage. Together with the collaboration of experienced industry experts, TEAMS supports clients with profitable solutions. (Reference read: United Imaging)
Nevertheless, it is vital to keep an eye on new technological trends to prepare in advance for the approach of the decline stage and to continue catching up with the next product trends. During the decline phase, dragging positive elements out from the actual product is vital to learn and form new questions for the next generation. Although, based on strategic consideration, this learning is already happening in the maturity phase when companies already start developing the new vision of future products.
When it comes to complex development with innovation involved from the beginning, research ensures success in each stage of the product lifecycle. At TEAMS, we help our clients to look for new product and service opportunities within changing markets and create early innovative product or service concepts. Our consolidated processes are tailored to meet each one of our client´s needs.