Nine digital design tricks that can differentiate your products or services and send your bottom line soaring

‘Be one of the firms that has a true dialogue with its consumers so you can offer them exactly what they want,’ says Patrick Reinmoeller, IMD Professor of Strategy and Innovation.
40 min.
February 2021

Is your product more Friendster than Facebook? Your service more Blockbuster than Netflix? Houston, you may have a problem.

The harsh reality in many commoditized markets is that without differentiation, there is no competitive advantage. From TikTok to Toblerone, only strong designs have survived the pandemic’s economic wrath – a reminder that how customers see your product or service can make or break your company.

These nine digital design tricks can help your organization understand and more importantly, leverage the tools at hand to ensure it gains and maintains a competitive advantage.

1. Set your goals

Does your company have clear goals? Begin by figuring out what you want to emphasize first: functionality, emotional appeal or symbolic value. By setting priorities, you can move ahead on one particular area and use design and digital design as the primary strategic tool to enhance business performance.

“Case studies on giants such as Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, Ducati, Tesla and TikTok demonstrate the power of design and its effects on revenues,” said Reinmoeller.

2. Function first

To begin with, assess your design’s functionality – in other words, is it well-thought-through? Could its technical specifications be improved to add value to the user? Perhaps a new product could be implemented to capitalize further on your main product or service?

“The digital experience has been transformed by Amazon’s shopping cart,” said Reinmoeller. “They brilliantly replicated the ease of use and appeal of a shopping cart, benefitting from what was already a habit and routine in the real world.”

3. Looks matter

Appealing to as many people as possible makes good business sense, however, emotional appeal and symbolic value must be inspected with a critical eye.

“Craftmanship and aesthetics add meaning and resonance to products and services,” said Reinmoeller. Smeg’siconic refrigerators are a colorful case in point.”

Be it the ‘wow factor’ or the prestige and status that symbolic value confers upon them,customers will pay more to own that allure.

4. Be bold, not bland

The ubiquity of bland products often leaves consumers baffled in the aisles and producers hard-pressed to make their products either exceptional or profitable. Companies like Apple and TikTok have risen to the top because they both offer iconic products that have inspired hundreds of millions of customers with the “right” design.

5. Don’t overdo it

Companies must ride the dangerously thin line between ridiculous and revolutionary – not an easy feat. They can achieve this by remembering that first and foremost, their product should serve a function that is recognizable, making consumers understand who they are and what they are offering them.

“A brand needs to stand out, especially in the cutthroat world of fashion, yet remain relevant,” said Reinmoeller. “Moncler is well-balanced –some designs are slightly outrageous, but they still blend in enough that people understand what they are offering.”

6. Data leads design

The potential of digital design all comes down to one thing – data. Working out what type of data on customer usage you will need to reach your goals – often this is already in house – is crucial and will inform your design decisions, says the digital design expert.

7. Hack user habits

Reinmoeller recommends taking data collection a step further by embedding sensors into products and services to enable a data feedback loop between the company and the customer’s product journey. This perpetual flow of data enables products to be refined, segments to be defined and customer engagement to be enhanced.

“Many apps are trigger-happy using advertisements or friend recommendations, or internalized needs that make users want to repeat an action over and over again,” he said. “The more successful apps are able to reduce any barriers to your ability to act.”

8. Speak a new language

Companies are creating a new design language that is easily understoodby consumers around the globe.

“This simplified design that is standardized across all languages and geographic areas allows ease of use around the world,” said Reinmoeller. “Your digital design language should be unified, universal, iconic and conversational.”

9. Put purpose to the test

Tough choices will arise during your digital journey, and your firm’s purpose may be put to the test. Is your goal to sell products and services or is it to sell the customer data you are gathering? No matter what the answer, aligning your goal with your company purpose is essential.

“Someone out there will be willing to pay for your customer data in order to impact their own revenue streams, so it is a lucrative choice,” said Reinmoeller. “However,it also signifies the point of no return because with it, we risk losing customer trust.

Despite focusing on the details in the nine design insights above, companies must remember to approach design from a broader perspective as well. Whether COVID-19 or climate change, the big issues must be addressed, insisted Reinmoeller.

“IKEA is focused on sustainability, installing one million solar panels in its stores,” said Reinmoeller. “It is no longer just about making great products at affordable price points; companies are starting to think about how design can help us while also taking the big challenges of our time into consideration.”

If you enjoyed this webinar and are interested in learning about digital analytics, I’d like to invite you to participate to the following program: LiVE Digital Analytics – Leverage your big data and analytics in your business (starts 2 June 2021).


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