Consumers Seek Functionality

February 16, 2010

Consumers want products and services which are simple, small and/or cheap, with a dash of sustainability, according to consumer insights firm calls these products and services “functionall,” or providing function for all. Often designed for lower-income consumers in emerging markets, they also have broader crossover appeal for more affluent consumers in mature markets. Look for brand manufacturers to produce more of these products, and for more global brands to try to penetrate mature economies.

Key Features of ‘Functionall’ Products

  • Smaller and/or limited number of features, to keep prices low.
  • Simpler, or easier to use, for inexperienced consumers.
  • Energy efficient (or not using any traditional energies at all) and/or easy to repair and/or waste-reducing.
  • Robust, as some of them are used in rugged conditions.
  • Well-designed (the democratization of design is a global phenomenon).
  • Aimed at helping owners to generate income, or allow users to create self-sustaining systems.

Reasons Why More Affluent Consumers Like ‘Functionall’ Products

  • Cheap: The impact of the recession and societal moves toward frugality and practicality as status symbols have made cheap products popular in prosperous societies.
  • Simplicity and Convenience: Small, simple products meet the needs of consumers who increasingly transient and live in congested urban areas. “Functionall” products have exceptionally strong potential in prosperous metropolitan markets.
  • Design: As design becomes democratized, consumers in more affluent societies are becoming more accepting of products from countries and brands not previously known for strong design.
  • Sustainability: Affluent consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of ecological concerns, and a new “eco-status” is developing based on ecological awareness. Therefore, sustainable products that consume minimal/no energy and produce minimal/no waste will hold high appeal.

US Consumers Prepare to Save
US consumers are creating aggressive savings plans this year in a possible sign they will be seeking lower-cost “functionall” products, according to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. Eighty-nine percent of the general population has set a clear financial goal for the year and 83% has a specific savings strategy in place, with a goal of saving on average $14,000 this year and $1,200 by the end of this month.

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