Trends Impacting Customer-Driven Innovation

Companies are gradually seeing the value of involving end users in the design of products, services and internal processes. This is great news for everybody involved. Customers get pleasing and intuitively usable products, services actually make our lives easier (Belgian delivery service Deliveroo has doubled in size) and employees are happier as procedures and communication become less cumbersome. Businesses that have embraced this ‘people-centric’ worldview are partnering up with innovation & design research agencies, like U-Sentric, to better understand the behaviour and needs of their customers. Some don’t stop there as more and more Chief Design Officers, Chief User Experience and Chief Customer Experience managers are allocated and sit in the C-Suite, following the example of Pepsico, Philips and of course Apple.

Another option is to simply buy yourself a design research agency. This is what Mckinsey did by acquiring Lunar, Salesforce by buying Gravitytank and Accenture by picking up Fjord.

So the question beckons; what’s next?

The movement from a product-centric to a user-centric market view is in full swing, and design principles are gradually taking root.

Ingraining these principles ensures that companies consistently deliver value to customers. The idea of enterprise UX, applying Design Principles inside businesses, has risen to prominence because of its potential to improve the work experience of employees, managers and other stakeholders. A trend that is long overdue, as every single employee has suffered or is suffering from bad processes, cumbersome procedures and poor communication that could be improved if they were better developed around the people that use them.

Another trend that I believe will influence Design Research is data. Especially as more and more companies are trying to leverage the data in their possession to understand customer behaviour.

However, Quantitative research, based on numbers, and Qualitative Research, based on insights, are 2 sides of the same coin. Both are powerful, but together they’re even stronger. For example, Big Data could be used to pick up on interesting ‘trends’ and qualitative research can be used to understand why the trend is happening. Big data can give numbers on what is purchased, design research on why customers choose and chose your products or did not buy your product… It’s crucial to strike a balance between both, neglecting neither. Or how “rich data” can enrich “big data“.

A final, but equally important trend, are emerging augmented and virtual realities. In all honesty here, I have to say that I believe that virtual reality is merely in its infancy, although there are already valuable applications in architecture. Architectural Design colossus Gensler is developing virtual spaces to give clients an idea of what is to come and real-estate agents are giving virtual tours to their clients.

Yet the most interesting applications for human-centred design lie in the hybrid realities that are merging the virtual and the physical. Allowing interactions between the two to take place smoothly is key for its adoption, and this is where customer research is vital. Additionally, the information provided is unprecedentedly personalized to the user, making it so that the experience isn’t transferable to another user, and companies should treat it as such.

I would love to know.

Start talking to your customer, he might not be able to tell you exactly what he wants, but he’ll show you.