What will future customer experiences be like as technology such as mobile devices and 3D printing move products away from mass manufacturing? An article by Yasushi Kusume on the UK’s Design Council website offers an intriguing perspective. He argues that product design is moving away from being based on differentiating a brand/ product within a category to one based on providing solutions in a collaborative ecosystem based on customer needs.
From the article:
…what if a manufacturer didn’t just allow companies the chance to control its washing machine, but also allowed customers the chance to personalise their appliance by, for example, changing it’s appearance. What would happen if the washing machine owner could change or replace a part by contacting other companies? Not just the original manufacturer?
What will this mean for today’s companies? For me it means that one company will often no longer complete a user experience by itself. It means that it must pool resources with others to deliver the best possible solutions. It means that the current product-focused categories will disappear and new categories will emerge. These new categories will be based on providing solutions that meet all manner of needs, whether they be operating a washing machine or, to cite a more complex solution, monitoring diet and lifestyle to encourage healthy living. The solution will be goal, not the product.
I like this idea because it puts solving customer needs first and offers the potential for exciting and completely revolutionary products and services to emerge rather than ‘tweaks’ or incremental changes in existing and familiar product categories.
And of course, I also like it because ethnographic research will be well placed to provide insight into understanding these customer goals and needs and the ecosystems in which they occur. (wink, wink)