A few months ago, several members of the SGW Designworks leadership team convened for a roundtable discussion that served as both a retrospective and a projection of where we see our company going in the months and years to come.
We talked about SGW’s humble roots — when our co-founders initially met at Starbucks to discuss projects and opportunities on the horizon — and about how our company has grown to become a premier product development firm in the Northwest.
Fast forward to today, and many around the world are experiencing a different reality than expected when goal-setting in January 2020. The economic (and socioeconomic) impact of COVID-19 has been great, and it has already led to fundamental changes in how we work, recreate, and interact with our families and fellow community members.
Additionally, we’re seeing major shifts in consumption — specifically, in what, how, and where people buy. In the immediate future and long-term, these shifts are certain to change how products are designed, developed, manufactured, sold, and distributed. These product development trends we see ahead may permanently change our industry as we know it.
We know this because, as engineers and product developers, we are at the earliest stage of bringing concepts of all kinds to life. And, as such, we are often the first to hear from innovators looking to prototype and develop their product for mass consumption.
So what product development trends can we expect to see, post-pandemic?
A New Era of Product Development — And Consumption
Already, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to sweeping changes throughout our industry and those in our periphery. We’re seeing several consumer trends that are currently impacting our work as product developers — and will continue to affect us in the future.
Here are a few shifts (and resulting product development trends) we expect to see in the months and years to come:
- More human-first products. Greater emphasis will be placed on the safety and soundness of consumer products (household products, in particular).
- More online spending. Over the past six weeks, we’ve seen a major increase in e-commerce, a trend that will likely continue as billions of people are spending more time indoors. This may not have a huge impact on product development (other than packaging and merchandising considerations), but it is possible that businesses with growth in online sales revenue will be more likely to have R&D budgets.
- Increased preference for diverse supply chains. Businesses are finding that having back-up or redundant supply chains would have reduced the impact of regional closures driven by COVID-19.
- A shift in consumer priorities. There has been an increase in the number of consumers purchasing products related to crisis preparedness, health and hygiene, and security. We expect this trend to continue.
- More work-from-home capabilities. As product development firms ensure their employees can work remotely, we anticipate this shift to affect our processes over the long-term. In looking ahead, we plan to continue ensuring our employees with health risks can work from home when necessary.
- Increased innovation. Many countries and cities around the world have issued stay-at-home orders, and this mega-shift has created disruptions and exposed challenges to overcome. We are seeing innovations driven by the ambition to solve new problems that are emerging, and we anticipate an influx of new inventor- and patent-related inquiries.
Innovation: Just the Beginning
For many these days, there is much uncertainty in their personal and professional lives. However, we as product developers are in a unique position to look ahead with optimism and hope. After all, within adversity lies opportunity, and our desire to “improve human existence” means we are poised to make the world a better place.
While some businesses are slowing down, others are looking ahead and ramping up for the future — a future that may look a bit different than we had imagined, but one that nonetheless presents new opportunities for innovation.
In fact, we believe bold innovation will not just continue, but increase — both at SGW and beyond. To help foster this spirit of innovation, SGW Designworks will be offering our experience and training to our partners and businesses in our community for the next two months via free, one-hour virtual sessions. When facilitating these discussions, we will use idea generation techniques to help teams quickly generate ideas and solutions to their most complex and vexing challenges.
If your business would benefit from a complimentary idea generation session, don’t hesitate to reach out.