IHA caught up with Richard Babick, president of Design Research, LLC, to learn how brands can differentiate their product assortments for specific retailers. Rick and Janine Michalek, vice president of market intelligence at Design Research, will present their latest findings at the 2018 International Home + Housewares Show. At the Show, the Innovation Theater will feature 21 presentations over four days. Topics discussed will include smart home, consumer shopping preferences, branding and global market trends.
Market research veterans Rick Babick and Janine Michalek return to the Innovation Theater to present their perspectives on housewares product differentiation in the fast-paced omni-channel retail environment. With more than 35 years of experience in the market research field, Rick founded Design Research as a boutique research agency in 1998. He led the company to its current position as a valued resource for more than 50 clients, including many housewares industry brand leaders. Janine began her career as a statistical research analyst and then as director of market research at Lenox, Inc., where she worked with senior managers in developing strategic business plans. She is a passionate trendspotter in fashion and home, as well as cultural and generational trends.
Rick, what is the most exciting or rewarding part of your work? What fuels your inspiration?
We solve problems for our clients. We’re called in either because our clients need help in creating or testing new products or because they are struggling with marketing problems they don’t know how to solve. While product testing is our lifeblood, problem solving can be great fun because of the intellectual challenges it presents. We can help our clients with difficult problems because of several advantages: our experience stems from work with many companies, product categories and problems, so our perspective is broader than that of our clients; and secondly, our research tool bag has many sophisticated capabilities.
Can you name a pivotal event or project that impacted your career or company?
Early in my career I took a job as research manager for Lenox China and Crystal. I was tasked with figuring out how to test new designs for new patterns in dinnerware. I didn’t know how to do that, so I did in-depth interviews with women who were currently in the market or had recently purchased dinnerware. I learned that while they could express which designs they liked, they did not have a language to express why they liked those designs. I concluded that I needed to do quantitative research to identify consumers’ favorite designs. That turned out to be the correct way to go. Over a 16-year period in charge of Lenox’s research department, I had the opportunity to compare research results with sales results. This meta-research enabled us to identify the most predictive questions to use to identify the best designs. We still use that methodology with great success for our clients today. As far as we know, we are the only research company with a design testing methodology proven to significantly increase sales of new introductions.
In the past few years, what has changed most in your business? How has your company met these challenges in the way you do your work?
What we’re seeing today – and the topic of our presentation at the Show – is the emphasis that retailers are placing on research. This is changing our business because our clients are saying that they must do research to earn space on their retailers’ shelves – they are being told that by retailers. The good news is that we can do that research quickly and cost-effectively without disrupting a client’s product development time lines. Usually less than a month passes between the time we receive products for testing and the time we deliver results. We’ve been able to meet these challenges through the shift to online research, which is faster and more cost-effective than previous research mechanisms.
Styles, Colors and Consumers: How to Create On-Trend, Retailer-Specific New Products
Sunday, March 11 10:30 – 11:20 a.m.
Innovation Theater, Lakeside Center, Room E350
Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
We’ve been members of the IHA for many years. The housewares market forms the core of our work and so it’s natural for us to attend the Show to give back to the organization that has been so helpful to us.
Tell us what you will be speaking about and how this topic is important for Show audiences.
Retailers are demanding new, desirable products that will bring better sales than their existing products and that will differentiate them from their competition. Easy to deliver, right? Actually, it’s not as hard as it sounds. We will explain how we help our clients to develop new products that are better than their existing products (or their competitors’) and to differentiate those products so that each retail partner gets something unique.
What are you looking forward to most from speaking at the Innovation Theater?
We’ve had the privilege to present in the past and were pleased with the great questions and conversations that followed our talks. We are proud to have many clients with booths at the Show, and with most of them we have on-going relationships. But what excites us most is making new connections – which gives us the ability to apply our talents, tools and experience in helping more housewares companies succeed.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products or how to shop for them?
Consumers are presented with a huge number of products from a huge number of sources. How to identify the best product for their needs at the best price from the most convenient resource can be a cripplingly difficult task. And while it is very easy to order anything from anywhere, it can be very difficult to get an unbiased product assessment from the proliferations of reviewing mechanisms out there.
What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals and/or retailers face in the housewares market?
How to differentiate products and assortments from the competition is an ever-growing challenge, especially with the large number of product resources and the large number of buying channels. Every product/brand is one voice in a very large crowd and it’s very difficult to hear any single voice anymore.
Thank you, Rick, for your preview of research about the challenges faced by makers and sellers of housewares products. We look forward to your presentation on Sunday, March 11 at 10:30 a.m. in the Innovation Theater. To learn more about Design Research services, contact Rick or visit the Design Research website.
Learn from experts about how to invigorate your new products and services by enhancing your innovation efforts. Critical issues such as global design trends, branding, the needs of distinct consumer age and gender groups, and questions about smart/connected devices in our home environments all impact the home goods market. Be sure to attend the free executive-level educational sessions at the Innovation Theater. These programs will give you a fresh perspective as you walk the Show and will inspire, inform and improve your business. All programs will be audio-recorded and will be available at www.housewares.org after the Show.