Expert Products, Novice Consumers

DesignMarketingLab

Crate and Barrel, one of my favorite stores following Pottery Barn and Williams and Sonoma, has a section called “Everything You Never Knew You Needed.” It introduces highly specialized kitchen utensils including jar spatula, melon baller, strawberry huller, avocado slicer, dual citrus squeezer, egg timer, and herb scissors.

At first, they look useless for many who do not cook often. Even if they do so, they can slice avocados and trim herbs using existing kitchen utensils. However, it is true that people often fell in love with a product only after they experience it. For example, I love the salad spinner by OXO, Panini grill by Breville, and wine decanter by Spiegelau. Although I am able to dry vegetables, grill sandwiches, and oxygenate wines without using these products, they make my cooking experience enjoyable. Indeed, I believe most smart kitchen products are the nice marriage of careful observation of people’s behavior in the kitchen with just a bit of technological flavor. If I should slice many avocados and trim a lot of herbs all the time, I may need a slicer and a pair of scissors designed exclusively for them to enjoy my cooking experience.

This leads us to a series of critical questions about new product development. Should designers and marketers ignore the novices’ voices (e.g., I am fine with an existing slicer) but listen to the experts’ voices more carefully (e.g., I need a better slicer for avocados)? If so, how do designers and marketers confirm that there will be a market for highly specialized expert products (e.g., avocado slicer)? Alternatively, how should designers and marketers “educate” novices when launching highly specialized products so that the newly developed products are appealing to novices ?

DesignMarketingLab