If you have ever been to a tech conference or innovation event, you’ll know that the topic of conversation tends to be technology: how your product functions better than that of your competitors.
There is indeed no question that the technological aspect is one of the most important keys within global competition today. Without having a competitive technology, it would be challenging for your company to survive the fierce competition.
However, there is still one question to be answered: is that the only reason that we buy something? Many technology companies think that only creative industries like fashion or advertisement need design — but long story short, all technology companies need design today, without exception.
More Than Aesthetic Beauty
The main reason that lots of people still think design is only for certain companies is that they think design is only about aesthetic beauty. In the past, this could have been true; one of the first commercial applications of design was in London in the early 17th century for a luxury retail store. Since then, design has been used to create things that are aesthetically beautiful.
This approach was extremely powerful before the Internet era, when TV was the main source of media, however technology has changed the environment for design, affecting both communication and the democratization of quality design.
Before the Internet era, communication was basically one-way: from companies to consumers. It was then relatively easy for companies to create a corporate image that they wanted to develop through advertisement, where creative expression was applied.
However, thanks to the progress of technology, now communication is not one-way but two-way (between companies and consumers) or even three-way (amongst consumers). What truly matters for consumers today is not a commercial message that is created for the sake of corporations, but an authentic experience that can be shared with other consumers.
Democratization of Design
Also, the advent of the Internet and mobile devices like laptops and mobiles has democratized design for everybody. In the past, design was only for a limited amount of people, and it was not easy to access quality design, however now everybody can gain access to designers, and designers can also share their designs online with people around the world perfectly easily.
These factors elevated the standard of design in general, even while most consumers have not been aware of it. If there exist only the same services or products that have exactly the same content or functionality, people will choose the one with better experience and design. The more companies improve their experience and design, the more people will appreciate it, and so naturally the standard and expectation of design — aesthetic beauty, usability, and holistic experience — will be raised.
In the past, this kind of intangible aspect mattered possibly only within the field of luxury products, but it is important for everybody today. And why? Because we live in the post-materialistic age in which people do not consume things only for their functionality or necessity, but for their meaning. It does matter what a company, service, product, and experience means for consumers.
Many people, especially technology companies in the B2B field, believe that it matters only in the consumer goods area. This is not true. It is important for everybody, including B2B tech businesses, as these B2B business clients also live in the same world consuming retail products as others do, and so these very same B2B clients are now used to using better designed services and products in their daily life.
Emotion Driven Humans
We tend to think that smart people always make decisions logically, but in reality they do not in many cases. As so much research has already proven, we are not as logical as we think, but more driven by our emotions. The greatest example would be a financial industry, where people make decisions for one of two reasons: greed or fear (I used to work in the finance sector). We only use apparently logical reasons to support and justify our emotional decisions.
Better Design Equals Better Results
There is an interesting example. There is a technology/scientific B2B company in Japan, the majority of whose products are of the best quality in the global market. However, this Japanese company is not the leader in the market, but rather a European company is. They have tried to compete with this European competitor by reducing their sales price and improving their customer service, but this approach did not work well. However, right after they reworked the visual design and experience of their website, their sales in Europe doubled within a month (a record high for the company). It is obvious that the demand for this kind of product does not double in a month, but their new design and experience influenced more people to make a decision to buy their products.
Many technology companies try to improve the functionality of their product and spend money to raise awareness of their products: this is all about how to sell more. But don’t forget that those who make a decision to buy your product are human beings who live like the rest of us. They are not robots, but emotional beings living in the same world.
If you are a technology company, you need to think about how to sell better. Design is an answer for you because it is about streamlining process, simplifying complicated concepts, and visualizing the core value of your products and services. Technical facts are important only once your customers want to buy your products. It is not that logical reasoning generates emotional motivation/desire to buy, but emotional motivation/desire that brings logical reasoning — and design can create an emotional connection between your company and your customers.
Masaaki Hasegawa is Business Advisor of Erretres.