By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator
At the International Home + Housewares Show in March, the Innovation Theater in the Lakeside Center (formerly called the Housewares Design Theater) will present 20 educational programs, every hour beginning Saturday afternoon and ending Tuesday afternoon. The Theater, which was located in the Level 3 Lobby, moves to Room E350 (near the entry to the Level 3 Lobby) where experts in new product development and launch will discuss critical and timely topics in our industry. Over the next few months, we’ll introduce you to the presenters with a series of blog stories. Be sure to mark your calendars for these exciting programs! Check www.housewares.org regularly for updates on the schedule of Show events.
Is Your Brand Left at the Altar? Bridal Monitor, the First Bridal Registrations Tracking Service, Sunday, March 11 1:30 — 2:20 pm.
Richard Babick, president of New Jersey-based Design Research LLC, studies what consumers are thinking and doing. He founded the company in 1998, after many years of leading the market research efforts at Lenox, Inc. Design Research LLC specializes in tracking consumer purchase behavior, design trends and guiding manufacturers and retailers to success. Clients include many tabletop, home décor furnishings and housewares suppliers, as well as retailers. The company offers custom market research as well as product optimization services such as its Assortment Styler™, a planning tool that helps retailers and vendors stay on trend by developing and selecting products based on style, color, brand or designer. In past years, Babick has presented at the Design Theater and addressed IHA’s CORE and Education Committee meetings. In 2012, he will introduce the Innovation Theater audience to his latest venture, Bridal Monitor™, the first bridal registration tracking service. Many brands see their first exposure to new households as wedding gifts. This is where true brand awareness and loyalty begin. Brand investments at this stage of consumers’ lives can result in decade’s long returns in repeat purchase and brand loyalty.
What inspires your passion in your work or area of expertise?
My entire career has been spent in market research. I think it is one of the most fascinating aspects of the business world. Clients often call us in with problems they don’t know how to solve. The best, most exciting projects are those where we find creative, new ways to solve problems for our clients, usually by providing consumer insights the client never had before. We succeed by helping our clients to succeed…by reducing their failures and increasing their successes.
Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
My goal is to tell the housewares world that we’ve made targeting the bridal market a lot easier.
For many categories and brands, first exposure to a brand is when the bride-to-be registers. This is an incredibly important moment for a brand. It can be the beginning of life-long brand loyalty. But, at the same time, it is very difficult to identify this person and this decision because there are only about two million brides each year, only about 75 percent of them register for gifts and they change every year. They are a nearly invisible audience to research and the only way to reach them is through the blunderbuss of bridal advertising, through which brands must compete with everything from dresses to honeymoon resorts. Today, through our new Bridal Monitor™ service targeting these brides is a lot easier.
Tell us what you will be speaking about and how and this topic is important for Show audiences.
I’m going to share Bridal Monitor™, a new bridal research and registration tracking service for the housewares industry. Bridal Monitor™ has three components. First, it is a research panel through which we can survey those elusive brides. We are the only source of brides’ names where we can select brides based on demographic, psychographic or behavioral characteristics for research as well as selecting them based on the brands or categories they registered for. Bridal magazines and websites have brides’ names, but they don’t survey brides in the depth we do and they can’t select say, a group of 25 brides with incomes over $50,000 who have registered for food processors. We can do that.
Second, Bridal Monitor™ is a series of statistical reports tracking what brides register for in 26 major product categories ranging from sheets to toasters to fine china dinnerware. We have detailed profiles of the brands they register for, the value of the goods registered for and the store registries they’ve used for each of these product categories. Essentially we are tracking market share of registrations. We can also reverse our data and show our audience the share of brides that each registry has in each product category.
Third, Bridal Monitor™ is a service website for brides seeking specific information about registering. In order to reach as many brides as possible we created a site where brides can learn what other brides register for and where they can ask questions of one another or of an expert in the product category. Brands may choose to be the “expert” on the site or advertise on the site.
You’ve presented in the Design Theater before. What are you looking forward to most from speaking at the Innovation Theater?
I presented a related topic in the Design Theater several years ago. Judging by the excellent questions I got after my last talk, I think I was successful in opening attendees’ thinking to new ways to use research and trends information in their product development process. If that’s the case, then I helped some companies to develop better products.
How does the Innovation Theater help you spread your message?
Bridal Monitor™ is all about directly targeting and understanding the bridal consumer. Every manufacturer at the Show is or should be targeting this consumer. Thus, the Innovation Theater forum is a perfect fit because it has a reach that extends across the many categories of housewares goods.
What kind of impact as a whole can the speakers of the Innovation Theater have at the Show?
I hope that my presentation will get the word out that there is a new service that enables brands to better identify their bridal audience and to reach out to that audience.
What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals face in the housewares market?
Obviously we all face a tough economy. The number of weddings has declined in the last couple of years and this has hurt the entire wedding industry, including the registries. It appears that both the number of registrations and the fulfillment levels against those registrations have declined.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products?
Competition and speed to market is at an all time high. Now more than ever, companies need to offer their consumers more than just a good product. Many consumers are packed to the gills with a house full of “products”. Today…they seek more. Strong design is no longer a key differentiator. Today, strong design is a fundamental must. Products that offer unexpected benefits or “value” are the ones that will be taken to the register and not just sit on the shelf. These unexpected benefits are endless…space saving, time saving, less work, easier to use, easier to clean, easier to store, made from environmentally friendly materials, locally made, handmade, recyclable, longer life span, products with a story.
What is the best advice you could give someone trying to get into your area of expertise?
Learn to listen to consumers and learn to translate what they say into useful products. The companies that listen to consumers (Apple!) are consistent winners. Their new products succeed and are craved and copied by others. Don’t let your company be an also ran that churns out copy-cat products – innovate by identifying unmet consumer needs and providing intelligent, well-designs products in response to those needs.
Thank you, Richard. In today’s market retailers and manufacturers need the information and resources you describe. I’m sure you’ll have many listeners who will pose excellent questions for how to apply your data and interpretations to their business.
Learn more about Design Research LLC by visiting www.designres.com