By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs + Services
Learn how to develop and launch the right products for the right customer—with the right methods!
The four days of the 2014 International Home + Housewares Show will be packed with events as well as educational sessions. To help you plan your time at the Show, we give you a preview of the presentations that will take place in the Innovation Theater in the Lakeside Center.
Today we are speaking with Richard Babick, who tracks consumer behavior and attitudes to verify the present and forecast what’s ahead. Be sure to mark this program on your Show schedule.
The American Living Survey: Kitchen Life
Date: Sunday, March 16, 10:30—11:30 am
Location: Innovation Theater, Lakeside Center, E350
Richard Babick, founder, Design Research
Janine Michalek, vice president of market intelligence, Design Research
Design Research is a boutique research and consulting company whose specialty lies in helping companies that make products for the home reduce their risk by aligning products, packaging, advertising, messaging, branding and marketing strategies with consumer desires, wants and needs.
Rick Babick has spent his career engaged in research relating
to design-intensive products and brands. Prior to founding Design Research 15 years ago, he spent 16 years as vice president of market research at Lenox, Inc., supporting more than six divisions and 15 brands in multiple countries. At Lenox, he led his team in conducting more than 75 studies per year and became an expert in design testing. The design testing system that Rick created while at Lenox led the company to the number one share position in multiple product categories.
Janine Michalek’s experience in improving products and brands couples
comprehensive market analysis with a deep understanding of American consumers. She studies trends in the home market as well as cultural and generational trends. Her insights help companies understand and manage the dynamic consumer marketplace. Prior to joining Design Research, as director of research and strategic planning at Lenox, Inc. Janine worked closely with senior management in developing strategic business plans to align consumer desires and market demands.
Rick, what inspires your passion in your work?
We are inspired by the ever-changing American consumer. In today’s marketplace the consumer is king. Understanding what drives them, what thrills them, what motivates them… yesterday… today… and tomorrow… has always been the driving force behind what we do at Design Research. We are privileged to work with a wide variety of companies in the home and housewares markets and we get to witness the fruits of our labors. We continually see products brought to market that we have played a role in developing – and it is exciting for us every time.
Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
Our company is unique in the research field in that our focus has always been home products, home furnishings and design-intensive products related the home. Our client list includes many of the prestigious companies present at the International Home + Housewares Show.
Tell us what you will be speaking about and how and this topic is important for Show audiences.
Design Research will present the latest wave of our on-going design and lifestyle trends survey—The American Living Survey™ (TALS™). Each wave of TALS offers a unique look into how Americans are living, with each wave focusing on a different topic area. TALS: Life in the American Kitchen will be shared at the 2014 International Home & Housewares Show. Design Research believes successful product development and marketing is grounded in a comprehensive understanding of the target consumer; how is he/she living, what drives him/her, what motivates him/her, what are their wants, needs and desires? What are their challenges/problems? TALS: Life in the American Kitchen will share trends in kitchen design and décor, colors, styles, entertaining trends, cooking trends and details on consumer desires. How can your company make life in the kitchen better?
You’ve presented in the Innovation Theater before. How will your 2014 program differ?
We have had the pleasure of presenting at the Innovation Theater at two prior Shows. Our first presentation shared results from our Bridal Monitor™ survey, providing key trends in the bridal market as related to home goods. While marriage rates have been declining, this is still a significant target market that we feel is often overlooked by housewares manufacturers. There are 2.1 million weddings in the U.S. every year. Bridal registries are thriving – with 8 in 10 bridal couples completing a bridal registry.
Our second presentation shared results from our American Living Survey™– one that explored design trends in the American Kitchen (colors, styles, materials, etc). We will be presenting the next phase of the American Kitchen study. While some of the questions will be the same, we always seek to explore and learn new insights.
What are you looking forward to most from speaking at the Innovation Theater?
First, sharing consumer knowledge and helping marketers understand how Americans are living so they can improve their product development and marketing efforts, increase their profits and make Americans a bit happier at the same time. Second, we enjoy seeing all our friends/clients at the Show, and making new friends/clients too.
What kind of impact can the speakers of the Innovation Theater make at the Show?
The goal of all the speakers should be to arm and inspire manufacturers and marketers with actionable tools, information, data, knowledge, strategies, tactics or services to help them improve their businesses thus improving sales and profits. We live in a society of information overload – face it, information on any topic is just a few keystrokes away at any point in time. But we all work hard – and our time is valuable. Presentations that don’t provide succinct and actionable information serve no purpose.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products?
The housewares market has become a sea of options/choices – so “finding” a product is not an issue. In nearly every category there are also “tiers” of products – giving consumers choices on price, features, aesthetics, etc.
The question becomes what are consumers’ biggest concerns, period. What problems/issues/concerns do they face in their lives? Looking at macro-lifestyle trends offers many answers.
To give just one example…What is one of the biggest macro-trends of the new millennium? Time pressures due to overloaded, overactive lifestyles. Americans discovered that there is more to life than simply a successful career. We want it all. A good job, a beautiful haven to call home, an active social life, a network of friends, involvement in the community, charity work, continuous new and different “experiences,” nurturing of one’s “self” in body, mind, and spirit, etc. The problem is a lack of time to do it all. This led the way for another macro-trend – Simplification. Consumers seek to make their lives easier. Housewares manufacturers need to focus product development not only on the visual design, but on the practical/usage design. Consumers want products with all the bells and whistles….yet they still want it to be simple – easy to assemble, easy to use, easy to clean, easy to store, etc. Consumers lack time, so products that save time offer tremendous value.
What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals face in the housewares market?
Beyond looking at macro-trends it is important for marketers to understand the growing importance consumers have placed on feeling GOOD about their selections – they want to feel they made a “smart” purchase. What influences purchase decisions for today’s consumers? Non-traditional communications continue to become more important and influential. A Nielsen report released in September 2013 reported that “recommendations from people I know,” “brand websites” and “consumer opinions posted online” are the top three most trusted forms of advertising – ranking ahead of all traditional ad forms such as TV, newspaper, radio, billboards, etc. If your website isn’t stellar, isn’t touting your brand values and strengths and doesn’t offer consumer ratings/evaluations…you are losing business to those who are.
What advice could you give someone trying to get into your field?
Never ever think you know it all! You may be an expert, but your expertise is based on history. One thing is always certain in any market, in any industry – CHANGE. Never believe what works today will work tomorrow. Never assume what delights consumers today will delight them tomorrow. Understanding the consumer is what Design Research is all about. It is a continual process, as the consumer continually grows, learns, adapts, lives and changes.
Thank you Rick, for this informative and inspiring preview! We’ll be eager to hear more at your presentation, Sunday March 16 at 10:30 am. Learn more about Design Research by contacting
Rick Babick Rick@designres.com 609.896.1108
Janine Michalek Janine@designres.com 609.896.8074
Be sure to make time in your Show schedule for FREE executive-level seminars that will help build your business—at the Innovation Theater, located in Room E350—near the entry to the Level 3 Lobby, the gateway to the Lakeside Center exhibit hall. The Innovation Theater will present 20 educational programs beginning Saturday morning and running through Tuesday morning. Check www.housewares.org regularly for updates on the schedule of Show events.