Emerging markets present many challenges to businesses, including the need to operate on a smaller scale and lower cost basis. Product design is more critical than ever for emerging market success, because it can help manufacturers create products that are affordable for local consumers and are able to meet their needs in terms of features, performance, and aesthetics.
By focusing on product design from the outset of an emerging market entry strategy, businesses will be better equipped with the tools needed to succeed as cost-effective manufacturers and distributors of goods.
What is Product Design?
Product design is a process that begins with a thorough understanding of what customers want and how they use a product. It includes understanding end-user needs, developing concepts, testing and prototyping, engineering, and manufacturing.
The resulting product design is the basis for all marketing and branding efforts. Product design encompasses all aspects of a product’s aesthetics, form, safety, ergonomics, and functionality.
It must take into account regulatory requirements, manufacturing and distribution constraints, and customer service considerations, such as the time and cost to repair a product. Product design is often linked to engineering, but it is not the same thing. Engineering is the process of creating a product with the right features, materials, and processes to meet customer needs and regulatory requirements.
Design is the process of creating a product that is likely to succeed in the marketplace. Good design is often invisible. People don’t notice it, but they do notice bad design.
Why is Product Design Important for Emerging Markets?
Product design is critical to success in emerging markets for several reasons. First, customers in these markets have different needs than those in developed markets.
Local customers often have lower incomes and may be less educated, which means they are less likely to be familiar with a product and its features. If a product is too sophisticated, customers may not be able to use it, and it may sit on shelves for months or years without being purchased.
This is especially important for products that need ongoing servicing. If customers are unable to get maintenance or repairs, even necessary repairs like routine oil changes, the product may become unusable after a short time.
If a product is too complicated to maintain, customers may prefer something less sophisticated that they can service themselves. This is especially critical for products used in the agricultural and construction industries, where products must be able to operate in harsh conditions.
Which Functions are Involved in Product Development?
Product design is an interdisciplinary process involving many functions. Marketing and sales research is critical to understand customer needs and identify which customers are likely to purchase a product.
Market research can be used to identify potential competitors and the features and benefits of the product that customers want. Design research is the process of understanding the needs of the people who will use the product.
It can be used to understand the type of product that customers need and how they use it. Design research can help designers understand the conditions in which a product is used, the constraints of the usage environment, and how different user types interact with a product.
It can also be used to understand the types of materials that are available in the local economy and the regulatory environment.
Defining the Right Design Objectives for Emerging Markets
In addition to the challenges of designing a product that meets customer needs, designers must also consider the realities of operating in emerging markets. This means designers may need to make trade-offs between meeting customer needs and operating as a low-cost manufacturer.
Local customers often look for low-cost goods that meet basic needs, so a product that is too sophisticated may be overkill. To meet both customer needs and design objectives for cost and scale, product designers need to focus on designing for affordability, simplicity, and sustainability.
A product’s design must be affordable for the company to produce and for the customer to buy. It must also be simple enough to be made with the available materials, tools, and skills in the local economy.
Designers must also take into account the environmental impact of materials and processes. Products that are sustainable and contribute to a cleaner environment can be especially important in emerging markets, where air and water pollution is often a challenge.
How to Integrate Manufacturing and Design for Emerging Markets Success
Product design is a process, not a one-time activity. It involves iterative steps that start with customer research and continue through the design process and into prototyping, testing, and manufacturing. A product design company must continually re-evaluate the design objectives and be sure they are in line with manufacturing constraints.
During the design phase, designers must work with their engineering team to ensure that the design isn’t too complicated and that it will be easy to manufacture. After the design is finalized, it’s important to create prototypes to test the design in a real-world environment.
Designers can create prototypes from whatever materials are available in the local economy, such as cardboard, plastic, or fabric. Prototypes may not look like the final product, but they can help designers understand how customers interact with the design.
This can help designers make adjustments to the product before it goes into full production.
Product design must be an ongoing effort that begins with market research and ends with the design of the final product. Designers must be sure to account for materials, processes, customer needs, and regulatory requirements.
They must also understand the constraints of manufacturing in the local economy. While designers may want to create a beautiful product with the latest technology, it may not be the best choice for emerging markets where customers want affordable goods that meet their basic needs.
Clear product design objectives can help designers create products that meet customer needs and operate as low-cost manufacturers.