Your next billion customers are going to be different. Their culture, value perceptions, relative economic mobility, general thriftiness, life outlook and living conditions are all going to be unlike today’s middle and upper-middle class consumer in fully developed markets. The design of your products must change to meet the needs of these new customers. Here are a few considerations to think about as you go about creating products for the next billion.
Think east and south. This is where the next billion live. Are your product designers sensitive to the aesthetics of the emerging markets of China, Southeast Asia, India and South America? Do they understand the design biases the established cultures in these countries bring to the buying decision? Do your product engineers understand cultural expectations well enough to make informed product performance decisions and tradeoffs? If you expect to create products for the next billion, you need to proactively build an understanding of their needs, culture and design sensibilities. Simply start by asking, “What is going to be different about these new customers?”
New Use Scenarios & Environments
Think rugged. Large excursions in temperature and humidity will be common. Electrical power may come and go on a regular basis. Living quarters are cramped. Space is at a premium. Availability of basic hardware may be limited. Shared purchase and pay-per-use models will be common. Expect a faster accumulation of duty cycles. Products for the next billion consumers need to be designed and engineered to survive and thrive in these new use scenarios. Products designed to specifically address these new use environments will build loyalty and market share.
Design for Hyper-Serviceability
The next billion consumers fix things, they don’t throw them away. They have emerged from tough times. They are thrifty, prudent and value conscious. Think post-depression era consumers in the United States. A purchase that might be considered small in a developed economy is a big deal to the next billion. The next billion consumers are going to want products they can rebuild, refurbish, reuse, clean and maintain easily. These consumers can’t afford to throw away an expensive electronics module; they want to replace the nickel capacitor that caused the failure. Products that are designed to be easily, reliably and economically serviced will be winners.
Rational Feature Sets Done Well
Products for the next billion consumers will require lower price points. Low-cost manufacturing strategies will help deliver these price points, but inevitably hard feature set decisions will also need to be taken to meet aggressive cost targets. Make informed yes/no feature decisions and commit to attaining real design excellence in the implementation of those features you select to include in your product offering. While the next billion customers may not expect products with all the “bells and whistles,” their expectations will be high for the features you do deliver.
Adopting Growth Architectures
Your next billion customers will appreciate products that can grow. Well thought out product architectures that seamlessly accept upgrades, extensions, performance enhancements and feature additions will garner followers. Product design strategies that provide low entry price points with configurability and upgrade paths make good sense. Is your development team up to the challenge of delivering designs that support these strategies?
A billion is a big number. Successful products designed for the next billion consumers have the potential to be manufactured in huge quantities. Do your designers and engineers know how to create products that will be produced in such large numbers? Does the supply chain have a representative(s) on the development team? Does your organization have the discipline required to design high volume, low price point products that can be delivered at acceptable margins? How will product design help you ensure quality? A development team that understands the ramifications of delivering product in very high volumes can minimize ramp-up challenges and help ensure that your business can meet unprecedented levels of demand.
The opportunity to develop great new products for the next billion consumers is an exciting challenge. Taking the time to think about how these consumers will be different is the essential first step to ensure your product offerings are successful in these new markets. Start now.
1. World Economic Forum (2012): More with Less: Scaling Sustainable Consumption and Resource Efficiency. http://www3.weforum.org
2. World Economic Forum (2009): The Next Billions: Unleashing Business Potential in Untapped Markets. http://www3.weforum.org