LG Electronics (LGE), consumer electronics & appliances, is a home appliance, cellular and television company. The Styler, a newer LGE product only distributed in Korea, has sold well for over a year now. The Styler is a clothes cabinet designed to refresh, deodorize, sterilize and dry clothes in a fast, easy and efficient manner. The product was premised to replace dry cleaning and provide an in-home convenient way of cleaning delicate garments. Priced close to $1,800, it is usually sold as a wedding or engagement gift in Korea. Couples or newlyweds are commonly known to put this appliance in the living room to resemble a high level of wealth to visitors.
We were chosen to help LGE introduce this product to the US market by doing extensive research with experienced American consumers and researchers. The problem at hand was that LGE could not simply introduce the appliance as is, without doing extensive research before hand. LGE discovered that the product was priced too high and was far too large in size for the US market’s preferences and needed to be changed in some way. We were given the opportunity to improve the Styler by researching and asking American consumers what they thought about the product (design, usability, performance etc.).
Our first task of business from LGE was to compile a PowerPoint presentation full of useful information/research to begin the process of developing a successful US product. Researching would help the process of turning a Korean appliance into the perfect US LGE appliance. The research was relevant to the current Styler because it had to do with relevant questions in the US market. Some of the topics we researched include, dry cleaning facts, rainfall data (to determine climates in the US), detergents, demographics and laundry service statistics. The desk research was critical for success because it proved how Korea and the US differ culturally, which is important when creating a successful product for a different market. For research purposes we used the Internet and stores such as Best Buy to compare and contrast similar appliances.
We accumulated research over a few weeks and were able to create an essential and beneficial presentation for LGE. To be realistic, research would not be enough tangible information to complete the process of creating a product for the US market. In a way, American consumers would have to be involved in the process. We were able to recruit ten Americans of all different demographics. Five of these participants were from San Jose, California and the other five were from various areas in New Jersey. The participants ranged from the ages of 29 to 68, men and women, families with young children, single professionals, and couples. All ten of these participants had previously been involved in these types of studies, which made the experience for them familiar and comfortable.
In order to see exactly how this product worked, we started our “home journeys”. The home journeys consisted of installing the LGE Styler into the ten participants homes and asking them a series of in-depth questions. For each home journey we had a moderator (to control the interview process) and used the latest cutting edge technology. We used several forms of photography (Canon, Nikon, iPhones, iTouch), an audio recorder and video camera. Each home journey was transcribed in order to have the interviews in writing for records. Our team also took extensive notes and collected large amounts of useful data. The protocol that we used for the interview process was highly detailed and was made up of at least ten parts. The beginning of the protocol was an introduction for the participant to tell us about who they were and to build a trust and comfort with us as researchers. We were simply an audience there to learn all about how the participant did laundry and how they cared for clothes. During the trial process of the Styler, participants were able to try ou their clothes to see how it worked. We used a categorized checklist that was a before and after rating for each garment that was put through a cycle.
Our research was important to be done on the West and East coast of the US because California and New Jersey are different in many ways. Differences between the two states included climate, home layout, clothing and lifestyle, which gave us a great sample of information.
Alongside our ten home journeys, we also conducted three in-depth ‘expert interviews’ to broaden our research purposes. In California we interviewed two experts that gave us immense amounts of knowledge involving relevant data. One expert worked at Sears and had a considerable amount of experience with selling drying cabinets similar to the LGE Styler. The second expert worked at FIDM College in San Francisco and had a vast amount of insight into sustainable fabrics and strong opinions regarding environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. The last expert that we interviewed operated a New Jersey laundry mat for over 40 years. We were able to take an inside peek into how a laundry mat is run and what happens behind the scenes. This taught us all about what exactly goes into the dry cleaning process and how we could apply this to the improved LGE Styler.
After each home journey and expert interview, we composed detailed reports (google docs and PowerPoint format) that included photos, checklists, key insights and pain points (things to improve upon). These reports were created under high intensity deadlines that required efficiency and collaboration within our team. The reports were unique to fit each interview and provided LGE with useful evidence on how the Styler was performing within the US homes that we visited.
An ideation session was something that came after each set of five home journeys were completed. The ideation session was precisely an all day focus group that involved a full day of brainstorming. We invited each participant from the home journeys to join us along with experts owning a similar product to the Styler. The ideation sessions, one in California and one in New Jersey, had around seven to ten people involved. We asked the participants to come up with ideas of how they would redesign the Styler, based off of what they already knew. We had two people from our team sketching, as the participants described what they wanted the Styler to look like. Once all of the groups of participants came up with their creative ideas, we had a vote on the best creations and inventions.
The benefit of having ideation sessions was to get our minds working in order to design the perfect product for LGE, with all of the given research at hand.
We began our research in April in California and it came to a close in New Jersey at the end of May. It was a long process, but we learned a tremendous amount of information from all of our participants and research. As an ending result, our team came up with a successful design strategy and compiled a presentation for LGE with new design approaches.