No one knows what the future holds. But it is possible to develop the product of tomorrow today.
We all would love to know what the future has in store for us. Companies would also like to have a crystal ball and see what tomorrow will bring, helping them to shape how they should sell their products and services, getting insight into exactly what the consumer wants. For both manufacturers and vendors it is crucial to identify thought processes and behavior of tomorrow’s consumer, and look at which products will stir enthusiasm and ultimately fly off the shelves.
Tomorrow’s consumer won’t even need to go to the store to buy day-to-day essentials. In time, bots or artificial intelligence will gradually take over the task of processing shopping lists. They will be familiar with our habits, brand preferences and even what time we are at home. When future consumers go shopping, they will do so consciously – because it will be all about looking for the ‘experience’. At the same time, tomorrow’s consumer will have fewer possessions, thanks to increasing mobility and access to sharing and lending schemes that are easy on the pocket and the environment.
The future brings new brands and promises
In addition, consumers will become more demanding about the origin and production of their food – at least within our hemisphere, terms like sustainability or social production are important criteria in making purchasing decisions. This attitude opens up opportunities for new brands and brand promises. Furthermore, future consumers will also be constantly monitoring and looking for ways to boost their health. Tomorrow’s services and products will need to be centered on the individual’s health – and consequently will be developed and upgraded faster than they are today. Clearly, the consumer will have a far more decisive role than now.
As consumers, a bright new world awaits us! The challenges for those who manufacture and sell retail and consumer goods are therefore considerable: Which products actually meet the needs of future consumers? What kind of products do they want? And what will the products of the future look like?
The product of the future: Fake it until you make it
Many retailers and manufacturers are looking for concrete answers to these questions. Retailers must not only promise the product of the future, but also ensure it is developed and manufactured. Otherwise, it will remain an idea and a fantasy forever.
But how can tomorrow’s product be developed? And how do you prevent expensive failures or producing goods which are not in line with tomorrow’s consumer world?
Many consumer products fail at the first hurdle in stores for the most part (“first moment of truth”) when it is already too late and costs have been incurred. It seemed obvious that from the beginning, the “product of the future” should be first created virtually and only be launched in production at the very end – when demand has been established, in other words “fake it until you make it”.
Developing ideas – and discarding them again
We only knew one thing about our client at that point in time. They wanted to launch “new food products in the area of health and wellness”. Everything else was left wide open. After we had carried out a product range analysis to determine in which area the retailer actually still had a gap for new products, we discussed and quantified market trends and market potential, and came to the conclusion that there was a need for focus groups with prospective customers.
New product ideas were drafted in visualizations or scribbles. (Many ideas were also already rejected at this stage, but that is part and parcel of the concept.) In order to win over the first consumers without actually producing the product, we chose the most obvious form of persuasion through digital marketing, i.e. purely virtual.
The modern product is omnipresent
In an anonymous but credible way via different channels, we were able to test interest level and willingness to buy. This included making potential consumers believe that the product was already available. Among other things, a webpage was created and the product was advertised via Google, Facebook and Instagram. In addition, we conducted A-B tests with different product variants.
The tests showed, for example, that our customers did not want the product in large cans but prefer pre-portioned packs that they can carry easily, proving “convenience” was key.
Time to Market!
Only then was it “time to market” and a limited amount of the first version was produced, sold online and sent to customers as a trial. Today, the product, which has been developed further on the basis of initial buyer feedback, can be purchased online. The insight gained provided us with certainty that these customers had understood the idea and found it appealing.
Granted, we don’t have a crystal ball. But with the approach described above, we can design tomorrow’s product rapidly, with the consumer at the center of our focus. Together with the modeling of future consumer worlds as part of the FutureConsumer.Now initiative, we are in a position to at least minimize the risk of costly failure when it comes to future product innovations. We rely on a principle that if a product or service innovation is destined to fail, it will fail earlier in the process – and cost less than in the past.
The future of tomorrow really starts now. Is your company ready for it? And what will this future look like? Find out more at FutureConsumer.Now