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Industry Insights

Can Design Thinking Lead to Growth? Only if it Centers Customers

By OSG Team on August 12, 2021

Applying Design Thinking to Business  

Design Thinking, like the scientific method that you may have learned in school, is an iterative process for learning. For design thinking, the goal is to seek to understand a given user through the iterations, rather than working towards a conclusion to a science or research experiment. But in both cases, the process starts with a problem, ends with a solution to the given problem, and finds different paths to get to the conclusion. In terms of applying design thinking to business, by approaching a given sales or customer problem with a solution-based mindset, this approach allows business strategists to see how to best present their business as a solution to a customer’s problem. 

Organizations nowadays are trying to create new consumption behaviors to keep customers engaged constantly. This “customer habit formation” is at the heart of most successful enterprises. With greater access to customer data and context, businesses are employing design thinking to create unique and personalized customer experiences. The experiences serve as solutions to problems that customers may or may not even realize they have, thus consciously or subconsciously attracting them to spend more time interacting with the business. 

Case Study in Design Thinking: LinkedIn Holding Your Attention 

A great example is how LinkedIn uses well-timed email reminders, which serve as a nudge, to bring visitors back repeatedly to the platform. A click on the email opens your LinkedIn app with a dashboard view on who viewed your profile, your rank in “page views,” and more data that might entice you to read and learn more. Additionally, it’s possible to read up on the latest news and trends all within the same app, thereby stretching out a single visit of a few seconds, to a few minutes. 

While this sounds like a simple transaction, LinkedIn needs to work hard to keep you hooked for those extra minutes. LinkedIn makes every effort to personalize your experience. Other companies like Apple, Google, IBM and more – are adopting similar techniques to attempt to drive customer-centricity at their core. By bringing constant improvements and changes through design thinking and creating better customer experiences, they support organizational growth. 

The Stages of the Design Thinking Process 

Design thinking started as a creative strategy for designers to use, but the concept has been leveraged to solve issues in business and social contexts as well. Organizations use design thinking frameworks to meet their customers’ future needs in a way that is technologically feasible and viable to generate customer value and tap market opportunity. Simply put, design thinking helps in creating solutions that are realistic and executable but begins with understanding customers’ future expectations.  

The following is the five-step process as defined by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University: 

Empathize – Define – Ideate – Prototype – Test  

Organizations begin by empathizing with their customers’ needs and the problems they face along their journeys. This is done by analyzing historical customer data available with the company, as well as through surveys, interviews, and other methods of customer engagement. This information, which represents the “what” of customer behavior, is then analyzed to define a problem statement in a customer-centric manner, or the “how” and “why” behind their decision-making process.  

By identifying and defining the gaps that customers are looking to address, organizations can then ideate on products and features to address these challenges. This is followed by the development of a product prototype or an intervention such as promotional nudge, ideally in an inexpensive way. This prototype can be tested within a sample group, or with a limited set of target users, to gather feedback, and make further improvements. Finally, they arrive at a product, solution, message or promotional nudge that solves customer challenges. 

Taking Design Thinking Further with Analytics 

While many organizations are using design thinking to see customer-centric growth, the more successful organizations factor in behavioral analytics to get a complete, 360° view of customers’ profiles. Behavioral analytics provide a deep understanding of customer decision making by understanding how customers will behave in the future. Marrying historical data with future customer behavior trends gives you deeper insights at the Empathize and Define stages of your design thinking process and helps you craft better customer experiences. 

Take Apple for example. They keep customer obsession as their primary focus, developing not only products that address future needs, but also a comprehensive solution that ensures a holistic customer experience. Most other companies may be content with building new, innovative devices with the best equipment and features, but Apple strives for a holistic experience from support to service to software, in-store experience to online experience. 

So, can business strategy driven by design thinking lead to revenue growth? Definitely! But for revolutionary growth, you must keep the customer at the center and combine design thinking with behavioral analytics. Remember, behavioral analytics is not just what customers did in the past, it starts with understanding their current behavior to predict their future needs. As they say, it’s the customer that leads, and not the product. As a result, you must understand what jobs customers are doing and how the holistic experience can make those jobs better. 

How Can OSG Help with Your Strategy 

OSG’s solutions do exactly this for you. It begins with mapping your customers’ journey from awareness to consideration to purchase and reviews. By sourcing unstructured observations through customer immersion studies, ethnography studies, in-store camera feeds, and social listening, and analyzing them using Dynamo, our big data analytics platform, we can identify jobs, outcomes, constraints and benefits that customers seek along their journeys. This way, we can personalize and prioritize their needs through business strategy by identifying innovation corridors for addressing gaps and unmet customer needs, and come up with new, innovative and comprehensive experiences including product improvements. These are tested and validated, and market opportunities are sized. By constantly identifying future customer need patterns, our solutions also help you create a continuous stream of innovations that keep you ahead of the competition. OSG can help you operationalize design thinking and deliver great results.