When people hear the word, ‘Design Strategy’ most times, they raise their brows, mainly because the words ‘Design’ and ‘Strategy’ are rarely used together. Also because Design is hardly associated with Strategy, so while this confuses people at first listen, this arouses the interest of many.
So what is Design Strategy? No doubt, you’ll find a myriad of definitions when you search for the term ‘Design Strategy’. However, a simple way to define it is as the intersection of Corporate Strategy with Design Thinking to provide customer-centric and innovative solutions to businesses. Design Strategy goes beyond aesthetics to using tactics and processes founded in Design to proffer solutions to challenges businesses typically face.
Design and Strategy combined has upped the way in which products and services are designed, and offered to the market, to bring value to all stakeholders involved.
As customer needs evolve with the change in times, they are no longer subject to accepting whatever product or service is offered to them but require that products and services fit into and ease their daily routine. The need for companies to develop products that fit this demand has become a priority. Companies who don't evolve with the trend stand to lose ground and become left behind eventually.
Although companies have begun adopting Design Strategy for product, service and process development, we see that the companies who are using design as a strategy are benefiting immensely in terms of customer acceptance and revenue.
There are various ways in which Design Strategy can positively affect a product's performance in the market.
Product Differentiation: For every need or pain point the customer faces these days, it seems like there are many products on the market that cater to that need, hence it is critical for ventures to build products that stand out from the competition. Experience, amongst many other factors, is a big way to compete and win customers hearts. This is where Design Strategy can potentially play a vital part in. Design Strategy redefines how problems are approached, identifying unique opportunities that help in delivering solutions that meet customers needs.
Competitive advantage: When a company delivers great solutions, it inadvertently gives it a competitive advantage. Design Strategy leverages on data obtained from Design Research, to unearth and understand what users are needing and then develop solutions that speak to those needs.
This gained knowledge of your customers is a great advantage to any and every business. As they help you plan your overall product and business strategy over a period of time and helps you better tailor your solutions in a way your competitors can’t.
This was one thing Duolingo was able to offer to their customer base that caused it to be the world’s leading learning app, even trumping industry king, Rosetta stone. It is also what Airbnb has been able to leverage to stay ahead of the competition, especially the traditional ones who are still confined to their brick and mortar models.
Aligning with Business goals: Usually, teams develop offerings because competitors are releasing similar solutions, or because they heard some customers complain about a part of their service, and so rush in to develop an offering that ends up failing in the market.
However, using Design Strategy, teams can discover opportunities they can leverage on, these opportunities are sometimes solutions that are of value to the market and the business’ stakeholders.
Having earlier stated that design identifies pain-points of customers, it is also good to state that Design Strategy finds ways to translate customers needs into revenue-generating opportunities for businesses. In building a product, designers always look to see if the offering being developed checks all the necessary boxes of the innovation lens. Any offering that falls short of the 3 major areas of the innovation lens, which are feasibility, viability and desirability will not be developed further for market release. This reduces the time wasted on products that yield low returns for investors. Giving them ample time to focus on products that are guaranteed to offer immense value to all stakeholders whether they are the customers or business owners.
Design Strategy properly done, benefits the whole team, from when the team identifies the challenge, to the point when the solution is in the market. We know product adjustments don't end when a product is launched, it continues throughout the lifecycle of the product. In 2019, Netflix did an A/B test on a part of their landing page and at the end of the test, they were able to decide on which design they were to go with, from seeing which of the 2 edits to the landing page, customers engaged better with. This is something Netflix continually does in keeping customers engaged on their platform. As we know the more traffic you receive on your platform, the higher your chances of increasing sales.
Finally, Design Strategy is very important when you are building your product/service. As a product manager, product lead or ventures team, always remember you are building for humans and their needs. Design Strategy helps you develop products that drive new customers to your offering. You don’t just need a product that looks nice on the shelves, that’s good too, don’t get me wrong, what you need is a product that is able to meet your customers’ needs while still looking great and technically feasible and viable for business!
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