Tag Archives: Crate and Barrel

Design Thinking vs. Behavioral Economics

Crate and Barrel sells various cookware. Most products in this store are grouped into product categories. However, some are grouped into why we need them. The two “ad hoc categories” are [7 Essentials for Every Kitchen] and [Everything You Never Knew You Needed].

 

 

Ad hoc categories, coined by Barsalou, motivate impulse buying. I bought some tools I did not plan ahead and saw some customers standing in front of the two sections for a while.

Barsalou, Lawrence W. (1983), “Ad hoc categories,” Memory & Cognition, 11 (3), 211-227.

People construct ad hoc categories to achieve goals. For example, constructing the category of “things to sell at a garage sale” can be instrumental to achieving the goal of selling unwanted possessions. These categories differ from common categories (e.g., “fruit,” “furniture”) in that ad hoc categories violate the correlational structure of the environment and are not well established in memory. Regarding the latter property, the category concepts, concept-to-instance associations, and instance-to-concept associations structuring ad hoc categories are shown to be much less established in memory than those of common categories. Regardless of these differences, however, ad hoc categories possess graded structures (i.e., typicality gradients) as salient as those structuring common categories. This appears to be the result of a similarity comparison process that imposes graded structure on any category regardless of type.

Interestingly, the two ad hoc categories in the Crate and Barrel tap into different psychological processes. [7 Essentials for Every Kitchen] are the products used by others. They nudge you to follow others, which is often recommended by behavioral economists. In contrast, [Everything You Never Knew You Needed] are the products useful for you. They help you discover your own unmet needs, which is always suggested by design thinkers.

Then, which framing is more effective between “competing against others” and “following your heart”?

 

 

We can answer this question by comparing the sales numbers between spatula and dual citrus squeezer. The two products belonged to the [Everything You Never Knew You Needed] four years ago. Now, only spatula belongs to the [7 Essentials for Every Kitchen]. If spatula sales have increased and squeezer sales did not, behavioral economics beats design thinking. In contrast, if spatula sales dropped and squeezer sales did not, design thinking beats behavioral economics.

 

 

Expert Products, Novice Consumers

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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 ?

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