Vital Findings’ mandate was to develop new mobile phone product concepts for a new female segment. All three pillars of the firm’s expertise were leveraged – quantitative research, qualitative research, and design – to bring to life several holistic phone concepts informed by the needs and priorities of the target consumer. In order to bridge the two-year product life cycle gap, the team incorporated innovative research methodologies, using video stimulus to present concepts and focusing sampling on the early adopters who would likely encounter the new products in-market before other members of the segment. Vital Findings delivered a large quantitative study, an ethnographic study in multiple cities, a co-creation workshop that encouraged collaboration between clients and consumers, and photorealistic physical renderings of each of the final phone concepts.
This project highlights Vital Findings’ ability to employ innovative methodologies to produce high-potential product concepts informed by a user-centric approach to design. The success of the project is tied to the firm’s extremely rigorous, unique concept testing process; the thorough, design-conscious research inspires and informs the design process, resulting in relevant user-centric designs. The strength of Vital Findings’ research background and methodological approach creates a strong synergy between research and design, producing design that is inherently informed by research results and research that, in turn, integrates design intent. With this creative tension at play, Vital Findings can perform rigorous quantitative testing that ensures strong, actionable design concepts for the client.
Based on the strength of the firm’s research-centric approach to design and ability to execute quantitative concept testing alongside qualitative concept generation, Vital Findings was selected to develop new mobile phone concepts designed to appeal to these women. Knowing that the success of these concepts would be tied to the strength of the insight that inspired them, Vital Findings needed to design a process where consumers, researchers, and designers could participate together throughout the process, without the hand-off that typically occurs when companies test new product designs.
To solicit more accurate and relevant reactions from respondents, Vital Findings re-thought the typical research and design approach. Typical quantitative market research concept testing involves showing and testing design concepts without context and usage cues (typically using a one-page concept summary including a small visual and 3-4 paragraphs of text), making the concepts presented difficult to understand and internalize. Our process improved the development of concepts, presentation of concepts to participants, and the testing environment.
Vital Findings suggested an innovative and progressive research approach to a concept design project:
- A co-creation workshop that brought together consumers and the client in an environment where Vital Findings could work hand-in-hand with both stakeholders to generate strong new concepts.
- Using rough prototypes from the co-creation workshop, Vital Findings went into field to test them using in-home ethnographies, where women could demonstrate how they might use the concepts in context, allowing us to refine the designs.
- After refining the concept designs, Vital Findings created videos for each concept, including a narrated concept description, illustrations showing consumers using them, as well as consumer reaction to the concepts' benefits culled from the ethnography footage. These videos formed the basis for the quantitative concept testing, giving consumers a much more realistic understanding of each design. Vital Findings then interviewed a representative sample of mobile phone consumers online, including both a "rep" sample of the target consumer as well as an "oversample" of the early adopters within the target, those who would likely be most representative of the target when the product is finally released.
First, Vital Findings invited several female early mobile adopters to participate in a co-creation workshop session with a cross-functional team of researchers, designers, and product managers from the Vital Findings team as well as from the client side. Tweaking the standard workshop process where clients and respondents work independently of one another, clients were paired with respondents and asked to build concepts together. Working together, the client and respondent tested one another’s understanding of key needs and worked together to visually demonstrate those needs as concepts, using foam core to show size/shape/thickness and abstract image cards to convey texture, color, and material. The capstone of this day of discussion, ideation, and creation was a concrete list of concept directions.
Using key insights extracted from the workshop, the team refined the rough ideas that were developed during the co-creation workshop into more detailed prototypes. This was done in a manner that was specifically designed to elicit feedback about the conceptual intent rather than the visual execution. Each prototype was made out of foam core, paper, and tape, and had six to eight paper screens that were sketches of key points in the interactivity of the smart phone design. Respondents could navigate the interface through flipping cards that explained the concept’s functionality. To facilitate comparison of these refined concepts, Vital Findings ensured that the visual language was consistent across them. This would help respondents to avoid becoming distracted by graphic details, which could skew research conclusions.
With refined prototypes in hand, the Vital Findings teams executed an immersive ethnographic study. Ethnographies were conducted inside the homes of study participants in multiple cities in order to fully understand the women’s likes, dislikes, interests, and priorities. Each interview lasted three hours, of which at least sixty minutes was spent probing around the prototypes, to help build context around how the concepts would potentially integrate into the respondents’ lives. Fielding questions about the prototypes in their own homes provided a realistic context for respondents to imagine the prototypes addressing their needs.
Back at Vital Findings’ office, findings from the ethnographies were shared in a client workshop and design changes were discussed and developed. Subsequently, the phone concepts were tested in a large-scale, nation-wide quantitative study to understand how both the target consumer and other segments responded to the concepts. Notable was Vital Findings’ approach to this portion of the study: each concept was presented to respondents online through a short video compilation that included a verbal explanation, imagery, and ethnography clips that showed the design being explained from multiple perspectives. This innovative approach to quant testing provided improved contextual relevance and communication of the concepts to assist respondents in evaluating each on overall desirability and purchase intent. Vital Findings also included an innovative approach to sampling, using a representative sample of the target as well as an "oversample" of early adopters within the target, those who would be most likely to consider the new products when they first come out.
Based on the research, Vital Findings presented several fully-rendered concepts to our client, along with actionable insights that will guide the company’s product team in future development projects geared at this segment.
All concepts resonated well with respondents, especially with the target segment. The average purchase intent for Vital Findings’ concepts among the target segment leaders was significantly higher for the targeted segment compared with the rest of the market segments. The target consumer liked what Vital Findings had designed for her!
This project highlighted Vital Findings ability to produce high potential product concepts informed by a user-centric approach to design. By inviting the client to work together with target consumers to produce concept designs, Vital Findings truly fused research and design. Understanding that the success of new concepts is dependent on the strength of the insight that inspires them, the team immersed itself in the life of the core consumer in order to create concepts for smart phones that were truly founded in her needs and wants.
Leveraging the creative collaboration of a team of designers, research analysts, and statisticians, Vital Findings rigorously tested, improved, and tested again the concepts being developed. An understanding of the concepts’ design intent allowed for this vigorous approach to testing and produced the final set of strong, actionable concepts.
Vital Findings produces design concepts informed by research results and research that, in turn, integrates design intent - an approach that is applicable to many design projects. Examples of problems to be solved by this methodology include:
- Why is the second-generation version of my product not selling to the same customers as the first generation? What can we do to attract that original target?
- We are a predominantly adult-focused brand, but we want to expand into the children’s products – what features do we need to attract them?
- What does the ideal video gaming system for girls look like? How is it different from the gaming systems currently dominating the market?
- What will Gowalla and FourSquare look like 5 years from now? Who will be using it and what product expectations will they have?
- Does the eReader market have a future? With whom? What will it look like?
- If you could redesign commercial banking, what are the most important user needs to address and how would the system change?
- Co-Creation Workshop
- Design Research
- Quantitative Concept Testing
- Video Stimulus for Concept Tests
- New Product Development
Vital Findings took a holistic, integrated approach to producing smart phone concepts, touching on the firm’s three core competencies: quantitative research, qualitative research, and design.
Sampling segmentation sophistication:
With a two-year wait before these concepts will come to market, Vital Findings identified progressive segment leaders as most relevant research target and introduced criteria to isolate and address this group.
Vital Findings hosted a day-long co-creation workshop that included target consumers in the concept ideation phase, asking them to work side by side with researchers, designers, and project managers from the client company.
Design-inspired research further inspires the iterative design process, resulting in robustly tested and perfected user-centric solutions.
Contextualized concept testing:
Using video montages and physical concept prototypes during quantitative testing provided improved contextual relevance and communication of the concepts for study participants, allowing Vital Findings and the client a greater depth of certainty in their findings.
Fully rendered and actionable deliverables:
Providing the client with a list of actionable insights from the qualitative and quantitative research, in addition to the mandated fully rendered concepts, adds value above and beyond the scope of this specific project.