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How does a forward-thinking company, eager to optimize their products’ designs to meet consumers’ long-term needs, learn what these needs are - especially if they typically have little, if any, interaction with their consumers after the point of purchase?

A well-known consumer electronics brand approached C+R to help them understand how consumers adapt to using a new smartphone– from ordering online to usage over time.
 

Problem

Our client wanted to optimize the design and functionality of two of their newly released smartphones to better meet consumer’s needs. However, they found it difficult to engage with consumers after purchase, and especially over a longer period of time to understand how consumers learn to use the product from initial set up through continual usage.  

C+R was tasked with creating a flexible research solution that would help our client to ‘immerse’ in their users’ smartphone experiences. They wanted to understand these experiences longitudinally, yet in-the-moment, to quickly identify needs, desires, and pain points to optimize the design and functionality of the devices.
 

Result

By creating a long-term online communi-panel of consumers, our clients had continual access to their smartphone users to engage with and learn from them on a regular basis.  We facilitated targeted projects both in person and online to explore users’ reactions to specific topics, ranging from design exploration to usability testing. In addition, we created a feedback loop for the client’s engineering team to help them understand issues and frustrations that organically surfaced during the interviewing period collected via open threads of delighters and pain points. The team was able to understand users’ product usage in the real world and how the functionality supported their needs or failed them.  Ultimately, by understanding their users’ natural experiences with the smartphones over time, our client was able to optimize the design and functionality of their devices to better meet consumers’ short and long-term needs.  

Reflecting on the project, our client wrote us a recommendation to a colleague, saying “C+R Research has been an excellent partner to [Brand] in the concept, creation, launch and management of our [Panel]. [Panel] has been critical to our product research over the last 12 months and this would not have been possible without the team at C+R. What I appreciate most about working with C+R was the close collaboration and their expertise in panel management, specifically in keeping the panel engaged and responsive. In addition, the C+R team's responsiveness was top notch. There was never a question that went unanswered or a need unmet throughout the duration of the project. This was our first panel experience and I could not imagine a better outcome. We look forward to working with C+R Research again in the future. 
 

Solution

C+R created an online communi-panel of 120 consumers to serve as “advisors” to our client over an initial six-month period, which was eventually extended for an additional 6 months. We recruited participants who were ready to purchase a new smartphone in two major markets where the client’s UX team was based.

To establish a context for understanding reactions to the client’s new devices, we had these advisors describe their lives before purchasing their new smartphone. This included exploring their likes and frustrations with their current phones as well as their expectations for their new smartphones. 

Next, we provided smartphones to our participant advisors so that they could document their experiences with it. For one product, we shipped the device to them. For the second product, the advisors were tasked with ordering and customizing their new smartphone online to understand their experiences with that unique process. Once their new smartphone was delivered, the advisors captured their unboxing process and initial set up and usage. The goal was to identify what was working well, as well as areas for optimization. The client’s goal was to develop a seamless onboarding experience. Additionally, to help with product positioning, we identified the features the advisors were most excited about. 

Once their phones were set up and in use, the advisors had an open forum to share their experiences in the moment – both what issues they experienced, as well as moments when they were especially delighted with their new phone. We archived and tagged these incidents in a live document shared with the engineering team to serve as a task list for optimizations. 

Furthermore, we had access to these advisors for projects while the community was live, which enabled us to be very agile with the research. We tapped into the panel for digital ethnography style projects to understand their daily lives, as well as to recruit consumers to participate in in-person usability studies onsite at the client’s offices.

In the end, this approach allowed our client to receive continual consumer feedback on their new devices, which enabled the team to identify key design and feature delighters and frustrations in real-time, and in each stage of the consumers’ experiences with the smartphones.