With rising entrepreneurship, more and more worldly problems are being solved by new companies with innovative solutions. However, the challenge lies in bringing a customer centric innovation that can help your business to stay clear of the competition. In this blog, we’ll discuss 5 case studies of customer-oriented innovation driven by design thinking principles that every business can learn from. 

 Over the past few years, surviving in the competitive world of entrepreneurship required more – more resources, more leadership skills, more zeal, and most importantly, more innovation and creativity. In the last few decades, companies have begun to realize the need for a paradigm shift towards building strategies based on customer centric innovation. And these are the ones who have managed to make their mark in this hyper-competitive world of business. What’s their secret, you ask? The answer is simple – employing design thinking principles in their innovations. 

 Design thinking is a customer-centric approach that focuses on bringing innovations that are creative yet solve customers’ problems. It allows you to solve conventional problems faced by customers in unconventional ways – by focusing on the solution after living in the problem space for a while to really understand it better. This customer-oriented approach has allowed startups such as OYO and Ola to stand tall as the leaders of their markets. Want to know how? In this article, we shall focus on understanding how design thinking helped 6 of the biggest brands in the world in creating customer centric innovations.  

Why Design Thinking Helps In Customer Centric Innovation 

what is design thinking and how does it lead to customer centric innovation 

Design thinking is now a buzzword within the entrepreneurship community. This out-of-the-box approach is a structured pathway to finding effective solutions. It has five major stages:  

  1. Empathise: As the term suggests, this stage is about empathizing with your customers. It involves comprehending your customers’ needs by being as honest as possible. During this stage, empathize with your target audience and their problems and ask them how their problems affect their lives. This stage is all about gathering data from your customers, which, in turn, will help you come up with more consumer-centric innovations.
  1. Define: With all the knowledge acquired by empathizing with your target audience, it is time to uncover deep insights that might not easily be visible and define the problem statement that your product will work towards solving. Your whole business will strive to solve this very problem statement. 
  1. Ideate: As you identify the problem statement, ideas will start pouring in. Begin to brainstorm and bring the potential solutions to the table. These will be more consumer-centric innovations as they will be based on what you learned and observed during the empathize phase.
  1. Prototype: Whatever ideas you collate in the ideate phase will now start to take shape as you start developing a prototype, a preliminary version of the product from which other versions may evolve. There could be as many prototypes as possible until the target audience is fully satisfied with the final version.
  1. Test: The prototypes that you developed need to be tested with the target audience to come to a certain conclusion. During the testing stage, you let your target audience use the product and give you feedback on their experience. During the testing stage, it is likely that the prototype might receive backlash from the customers. In such a case, be ready to go back in stages, and keep repeating the cycle unless you develop the right consumer-centric innovation that hits the right chord with the target audience.

Customer Centric Innovation Examples: 5 Successful Brands That Took the Design-Thinking Route

how Netflix created customer centric innovation

An essential question for entrepreneurs is how to outperform competitors through strategic customer engagement. By incorporating design thinking principles into your innovation strategy, you can carve your own path to success, similar to these renowned brands. Let’s explore how these brands applied design thinking in practice.

1. Netflix

Before Netflix, customers had to visit Blockbuster stores for DVDs. Netflix revolutionized this by delivering DVDs to customers’ doorsteps. It then adapted to the decline in DVDs by offering on-demand streaming and exclusive content, driven by customer needs. A prime example of design thinking is innovation.

2. OYO

OYO disrupted the hotel industry in India by offering affordable rooms through an online platform. They later adopted a franchise model, reducing costs and providing customers with better options. Customer-centric innovation transformed the hospitality sector.

3. The Life Saving Dot

A non-profit initiative, The Life Saving Dot, addressed iodine deficiency in rural Indian women by providing iodine-soaked bindis. This blend of cultural significance and healthcare saved lives.

4. GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare made MRI machines child-friendly with the ‘Adventure Series,’ improving the patient experience. The customer-centric innovation led to high satisfaction scores and increased sales.

5. Oral B

Oral B enhanced its electronic toothbrushes by simplifying charging and enabling users to order replacement heads through a phone app. These customer-centric changes stood out in a competitive market.

6. UberEats

UberEats’ Walkabout Program observed cities to improve the delivery process. This led to a driver app with step-by-step directions for delivery partners, addressing parking issues in urban areas.

Customer Centric Innovation with Design Thinking: The Bottom Line 

The above examples illustrate how a customer centric approach can deliver exemplary success for the brands, no matter how big or small the business is. By deploying design thinking concepts into your market strategy, you can get a deeper understanding of your target audience and scale your business to another level. As a final note, we would like to share a few more important things that must be considered while using design thinking principles: 

– Always consider the big picture. A small change can make a bigger impact. 

– Keep thinking about alternatives. Create as many prototypes as possible. 

– Don’t be afraid of failures; keep yourself motivated. 

– Keep an eye on competitors. 

About the author, Ajay Aggarwal

A Haryanvi by origin, an entrepreneur at heart, and a consultant by choice, that’s how Ajay likes to introduce himself! Ajay is the Founding Partner at Humane Design and Innovation Consulting (HDI). Before starting HDI, Ajay founded the Design Thinking and Innovation practice at KPMG India. His 16+ years of professional career spans across various roles in product and service design, conducting strategy workshops, storytelling, and enabling an innovation culture. He has coached 50+ organizations and 2000+ professionals in institutionalizing design and innovation practices. He loves to blog and speak on topics related to Design Thinking, Innovation, Creativity, Storytelling, Customer Experience, and Entrepreneurship. Ajay is passionate about learning, writing poems, and visualizing future trends!

We at Humane Design strongly believe in the human ethos and draw inspiration from humans and other elements of nature to design innovative solutions for organizations of all sizes. We will be glad to be your success partner. Email us your requirements at explore@humaned.in.

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