Tag Archives: Product Design for Women

Two Secrets that Bring Joy to Your Product Design

Marketing to Women Starts with Great Products

Twentieth Century Fox recently released a movie about one of the most successful designers in history. The role of the designer is played by Jennifer Lawrence, no less, one of today’s hottest stars. Her sidekicks are Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper (of course!) and Isabella Rossellini. And yet I bet you don’t know this designer’s name.

It’s Joy Mangano.

She focuses on the housewares sector and sells all her products via the home shopping channels HSN and QVC. This retail format is one of few that provide consolidated, immediate feedback on customer response and business success. And, OH, what success she’s enjoyed:

  • Her first product sold over 18,000 items in 20 minutes. And to show that’s not a fluke, another of her designs sold 150,000 in six hours.She holds the record for the best-selling product in electronic retailing history—678 million sold, all told.
  • She holds the record for the best-selling product in electronic retailing history—678 million sold, all told.
  • She has been known to generate sales of $10 million in a single day—extraordinary for this format.
  • To date, over the past 23 years her designs have generated revenues of over $3 billion.

Her phenomenal success can point the way to several specific strategies that can and should blow open your design thinking and accelerate your business success.

Two Secrets that Bring Joy to Your Product Design

Joy’s most important insight is that she roots her design thinking in solving end-user problems in day-to- day life, not in seeking innovation for innovation’s sake. She looks for end users who are exasperated or annoyed by some aspect of a product with a gap between what they want and what’s available.

The second insight is that changes that seem small can have very big business impact indeed. Joy’s best-selling design, the Huggable Hanger, may seem mundane. (OK, so naming might not be her forte.) But this blockbuster product was the first to solve three closet-management problems. First, it’s velvet-flocked, so clothes don’t slip off onto the floor. Second, it’s strong but flat, unlike heavy-duty wood or plastic hangers, meaning less crowding on the closet bar. Third, the shoulder edges are rounded, so there are no poky little puckers ruining the lines of a lovely blouse or sweater. The hangers come in 19 colors, including pink. And she’s sold $678 million of them so far.

It just so happens that Joy’s category, housewares, automatically focused her on the consumers who buy most of everything—women. But women as buyers drive the brand choice in almost every category (this means you, too, auto and consumer electronics); women as end users are the research resource who best notice and articulate design problems that need solving; and women as design colleagues contribute even more than their valuable guidance as the voice of the customer.

In a nutshell, centering your research and product development around more input from women will deliver better innovation, stronger sales, greater career success and more customer love in every sector of industrial design. 

Why the World of Industrial Design is Failing in Marketing to Women

Women Buy Everything. So Why Aren’t You Designing for Them?

Why the World of Industrial Design is Failing in Marketing to WomenFirst of all, why should industrial design brands care about women? Women aren’t particularly “industrial” are they? Wrong.

In the US B2C world, women account for 80% of consumer spending. And they buy significantly more industrially-designed products than men. According to Michael Silverstein of the Boston Consulting Group,

“Women make the decision in purchases of 94% of home furnishings… 92% of vacations… 91% of homes… 60% of automobiles… and 51% of consumer electronics.”

Please tell me you aren’t thinking something like, “Well, sure, women buy a lot of consumer goods. Isn’t that sweet?”

Women mean business, too. Women also account for about 55% of business buying decisions (Listen up, B2B!). It’s worth noting that, according to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, women comprise over half of wholesale and retail buyers (think retail inventory), purchasing agents and managers (cost of goods), administrative assistants and managers (business equipment and services), and HR employees and managers (employee benefit plans). In other words, except for real estate and new building construction, women place the purchase order. And even if she’s a recommender rather than the final decision-maker, if you don’t make her short list, you have no shot at the contract.

How to Design Products Women Love

How do we know that the world of industrial design is failing in marketing to women? In many categories, women report a continuing gap between what they want and what they’re offered. By large majorities, they feel manufacturers, marketers and designers aren’t paying attention to what they want.

Why the World of Industrial Design is Failing in Marketing to WomenIn the automotive industry, for example, a 2014 Frost & Sullivan study of car buyers revealed that globally 50% of women are dissatisfied with their vehicles, which probably explains why fully 74% say they feel misunderstood by car manufacturers. I’ve seen similarly shocking numbers from studies in other big-ticket categories, including consumer electronics, financial services and healthcare, so I’d be comfortable guessing that this pattern would hold in just about any of them.

Design firms love to say that their process is customer centric. But the marketplace is telling us that either they’re focusing on the wrong customer—at the very minimum, they’re not including the right customer—or they aren’t doing a great job figuring out what she wants. Women are different. They aren’t built like men. They have different lifestyles and roles than men. They perceive, prioritize and shop differently than men do. And as far as women can tell, designers and marketers don’t care.

Women are far more likely than men to recognize and respond to the second-tier features and improvements that all brands rely on to differentiate themselves from competitors. Women’s perceptual abilities allow them to register and retain details better than men do. Moreover, because women shop differently from men, they pay more attention to features that men—and researchers—tend to classify as unimportant.

Men are more likely to believe that little things make little difference. Women believe that little things make all the difference. In their search for the perfect answer, women seek out more options and compare their trade-offs down to the last detail.

In the world of industrial design, thousands of products are annoying millions of women every day. And for designers, that’s called opportunity. Listening to women—as end users, as buyers and as designers—is a sure and certain path to better innovation, stronger sales and greater career success.