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A design process tapping into customer needs to develop products

8 Trunki car seat
Trunki’s car seat is the product of staying very close to the wants and needs of a customer base

Whether you’re launching a new product or improving an existing one, market research is an essential component. Kids’ travel company Trunki puts customers at the heart of its product design process.

Since launching its flagship ride-on suitcase, Trunki has gone on to create dozens of other kids’ travel products, from waterproof backpacks to foldable booster seats. Currently, the company tries to develop three or four new products a year.

Trunki’s ability to identify gaps in the market and tap into customer pain points has been a pivotal part of its success. We sat down with founder Rob Law to talk about Trunki’s research and development (R&D) and design process and why customer insights are vital to product development.

Research existing competition

Rob recommends starting with market analysis. He looks at what products are available, then maps them out on a matrix by price point and functionality. Then the team will see where the gaps are and if there’s anything innovative they could bring to the space.

“We do quite a lot of research on Amazon and see how competitive certain categories are. It’s useful to read reviews to find out if and how products are failing consumer expectations. Then start talking to end-users,” Rob explained.

While it’s important to talk to potential customers during the product development stage, Rob is wary of using focus groups. It’s easy to fall into the trap of using them to make every decision, which can slow down your processes. Use them to sense-check products and ideas, but try to factor in a host of different research and data, he suggested.

Real tests

5 Trunki product explanationIt’s helpful for Trunki to have its target audience – parents – already in the office. But relying on the same group of people for feedback risks creating an echo chamber. To avoid this, Trunki has opened up testing to volunteers.

“We’ve created a Trunki lab where parents can sign up to become user testers. It gives us a broader range of feedback,” Rob said.

He emphasised that it’s still crucial to get your product tested in real-life situations before you launch. Without real-life testing, you risk spending money on sales, marketing and manufacturing for a product that isn’t fit for use.

“When we developed our toddler reins, we commissioned ten pre-production samples to send out to users to test. A lot of people picked them up and were flying them horizontally using the strap – we hadn’t realised it could be misused,” Rob remembered. Trunki ended up reengineering the product and changing the handle – delaying the product’s launch by a year.

“The most important part of the design process is that you understand your target consumer and are addressing their needs. To do that, you need to find out how a product is going to be used in reality and make any adjustments.”

Hone your product

Bear in mind that product development doesn’t stop once you’ve launched. Keep track of customer feedback and market trends to find elements you can improve on in future.

“Initially Trunki didn’t have carry handles as my research highlighted kids could damage their backs carrying heavy amounts, but parents feedback was ‘add some bloody carry handles, I’ve got to carry it up the stairs’,” Rob explained.

“We’re always monitoring our reviews and keeping tabs of what’s being reported back to customer service. Then we can go back and solve any problems.”

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