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Combining Qualitative & Quantitative Research To Drive Product Innovation

It’s no secret product innovation is challenging. According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, as many as 95 percent of new products fail.

To increase these odds, we’ve always put users at the center of the design process and emphasized the need to conduct user research early and often. On certain projects we partner with a quantitative research firm to complement our qualitative research with their expertise.

This collaboration helps us better identify opportunities for innovation and address unmet user needs with creative solutions. Ultimately, we’re making sure the products we develop are successful.

Qualitative + Quantitative: The Best of Both Worlds

If you work in industrial design, you’ve inevitably seen products that didn’t go anywhere. The common denominator is almost always a lack of focus on solving the right problems.

Since our inception more than 45 years ago, Bresslergroup has sought to reduce risk for our clients — this is why we put the user at the center, so we can begin by discovering unmet user needs. We’re always working to evolve our front-end user research capabilities.

The research work we do is highly qualitative. Our partner, OSG, has a more quantitative approach. They primarily use two data tools, ASEMAP and CAVII , to give value to opportunities to change customer behavior, rank customer expectations, and identify existing and future user needs.

By joining forces (see our combined workflow, pictured above), Bresslergroup and OSG are able to gain more precise insight into opportunities for innovation based on big data and contextual inquiry. It’s a highly collaborative process.

A Disciplined Approach to Innovation

Our joint approach with OSG begins with a qualitative stage where we meet users where they are and view problems from their perspectives.

We typically work with anywhere from a dozen to 40 users to gather data on customer actions, motivations, emotions, and uncertainties — we want to know about issues that are preventing the ideal product experience. What are the unmet needs and frustrations they’re facing in everyday life? We will often create a journey map (like the one pictured, below) to visualize what we’ve learned. The goal is to frame meaningful problems to guide targeted, purposeful ideation and take the guesswork out of the equation.

Next, we work with OSG to take that unstructured, qualitative data and pull out sentiments, emotion, and specific language that OSG can run through technologies such as IBM Watson and other proprietary tools. This helps formulate meaningful, data-backed problem statements that connect to real user needs and ranks them in order of significance from a quantitative standpoint.

Once we’ve identified pain points, we conduct a survey that presents participants with a list of solutions and asks them which benefits matter most — this provides better insight than surveys that ask users to rate items from 1 to 5, as it reduces cultural biases and forces users to make tradeoffs. The survey data is run through ASEMAP, which generates numbers to reflect how important one benefit is compared to another in driving customer behavior change.

The data from ASEMAP is plotted in quadrants that show critical unmet user needs, user needs that are met but considered essential, unmet user needs considered less than critical, and factors to which users are indifferent.

The visualization gives us actionable insight, pointing us toward new product concepts that will address the unmet user needs most important to target markets.

OSG then uses the predictive analytic capabilities of CAVII to gauge the receptivity and adoption of the new product concept, determine customers’ willingness to pay for the new concept, and forecast short and long-term market size. That allows us to better advise strategic innovation.

The Proof is in the POWERSWAP

While the products we’ve collaborated on with OSG are currently confidential, I can point to our work on BLACK+DECKER’S 60V MAX* POWERSWAP 20 cordless lawnmower as one outcome of a structured approach to innovation.

BLACK+DECKER turned to Bresslergroup for help designing a cordless mower that would convince gas loyalists to convert. We went to potential users (those with lawns on the small side — well within the range of a cordless mower) and conducted home interviews to understand why they hadn’t adopted one.

That qualitative research revealed three pain points: users worried the battery wouldn’t have enough juice to mow their yard in one go; they weren’t convinced the mower could handle tough conditions; and they weren’t impressed with the toy-like appearance of electric mowers.

By using contextual inquiry to understand the users’ unmet needs and focus on features and design to address those needs, we were able to help BLACK+DECKER redesign their product. Now, not only is the new product a commercial success and an Amazon best seller, it received a Gold award in appliance DESIGN’s Excellence in Design competition.

Adding OSG’s quantitative research strengths to the innovation process allows us to even better identify and refine concepts to create new products that succeed despite the odds!

For more on our joint process with OSG, watch the webinar, “Developing Successful Innovations: A Case Study for Discipline in Creativity.