May 13, 2016 / Andrew Brown

The Right Data Influences Product Design

When marketing teams research customer needs, they often find that environmental attributes rank low. This poses a problem for product stewards whose mission extends beyond regulatory compliance. “Product performance is first in our customers’ eyes. That’s the way it is,” says John Ortiz, director of product stewardship at HP. “In a lot of cases, customers don’t choose sustainable products because they’re sustainable. They select for some other reason. That data works against us.”

Data, for better or worse, drives decision-making. If product stewards want to influence product design, they need data to demonstrate the business value of sustainable practices. The solution is to gather data that supports customers’ interest in sustainability and the needs of the business. Those sources of data exist, and they illustrate the importance of sustainable design even when focus groups do not.

For example, HP has an environmental contact center, where customers request information about how products are made, including material selection and energy consumption. “It gets quite a few customer inquiries. We use that to generate data to inform R&D,” says Ortiz. Enterprise customers and retailers also will submit requests for environmental impact information, which the product stewards will pull together.

“When you’re trying to go above and beyond, that’s where you need the data to suggest this is important to customers or this helps us win business,” says Ortiz. He’ll detail sources of external data and organically created information that product stewards can use to influence design decisions during the presentation Using Information from Customers and Competitors to Drive Product Design Decisions​​, a session at Stewardship 2016. Ortiz will provide insights into what types of data and arguments work, and which do not.

One source of data is the Energy Star program, which publishes energy data publicly on companies and their competitors. “If you understand the methodology that Energy Star uses, they target the top quartile, and that becomes the limit for the next revision,” says Ortiz. What HP does is estimate where the standard will be and begin designing its products to the standard early on. “When Energy Star flipped to version 2.0, we had no inkjet models that needed design changes. That’s not only good for customers but also good for business because you don’t have to make changes to your portfolio. It’s risk mitigation.”

Andrew Brown

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