The Age of the Consumer


Understanding your consumers’ cultures, beliefs, perspectives, and needs is essential for the success of design-thinking initiatives. The Interaction Design Foundation defines design thinking as the development of a product image, using a cognitive process—an ongoing cycle that goes something like this:

  • Empathize with your audience
  • Define their needs and problems, and your insights to solutions
  • Ideate by challenging your assumptions and creating innovative solutions
  • Prototype to physically build the solution
  • Test the prototype for effectiveness as a solution that fills a customer need

To effectively empathize with your customer, ask these questions before developing a product:

What does the customer want?

What does the customer know about you?

What do you know about the customer?

Design thinking is all about getting inside the mind of your buyer. Developing this type of empathetic mindset allows you to offer products and services that are relevant to, and even desperately needed by your customer. The current era calls for a deeper understanding of the consumer’s needs and wants—not only to create an advantage over your competitors, but to demonstrate to your audience that they can trust you to 1) know what their problem is, 2) solve it for them, and 3) even exceed their expectations.

In this article, Jonathan Dalton and Trent Kahute, co-founders of THRIVE, share insights on the importance of design thinking, and how it connects you with your target market. Use these tips to implement an effective design thinking initiative:

Be willing to learn all you can. Get comfortable with the idea that you don’t know everything, and develop an attitude of constant knowledge-seeking. Challenge current assumptions, revise objectives as needed, and be creative! If there’s a proverbial “box” around your thinking, now’s the time to step outside of it.
Get to know your buyers—this understanding will benefit team members in any position. Remember, NO ONE on your team is exempt from the need to understand your audience.
Map your customer’s journey through the buying process. Seek a clearer picture of their total experience, including dreams, behaviors, pain-points, needs, and opportunities.
Ensure you’re asking the right question before beginning your search for an answer. This way, you know you’re solving the problems that truly make a difference.
Fail fast and learn faster. Create prototypes of your product early, and as often as necessary. Experiment as you work to develop the perfect product. Prototyping requires low investment, so taking risks during the development process will reduce overall risks in the long run.

When you truly know your audience, you can customize your offerings to meet their needs—enhancing marketing effectiveness and increasing sales. Investing the required time and effort into the design thinking process will encourage customers to advocate for you, create new innovation through team collaboration, minimize risk, increase return on investment, give you a competitive advantage, and ultimately fuel growth for your business.