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Years ago – the word "Dieselgate" didn't exist yet and cars could still be sold with "Vorsprung durch Technik" – I listened to the exciting speech by a recently retired top manager from the automobile industry on the topic "Innovations management". And in a way that probably only someone who has just retired would dare, he spoke self-critically about his industry's obsession with technology that sometimes completely loses sight of the customer. His surprising statements ended with the sentence: "Did you hear me say the word "customer" even once?"
I often think about this sentence and ask myself: Do we really know what the end consumer actually wants or do customers' wishes get lost in the course of the value chain? Maybe however, the end consumer doesn't know exactly what he wants and looks to us – the industry – for inspiration and orientation?
Technology and design are – from our perspective as manufacturers – two essential factors for successful products. Technology for longevity and functionality. Design for emotion, aesthetics and well-being. But is the end consumer really interested whether we print our decor digitally or in the conventional way for example? The customer wants a surface, no rather a piece of furniture – beautiful, contemporary and with a cool look. How the surface is made? Who cares?! The technology must do its job so that in the end, there's a successful product. He's only interested in the result and not the complexity behind the product.
The furniture is also only part of the whole. It's communication with the end customer and product presentation combined with visual as well as functional solutions that really make the topic interesting. But what do you need for successful communication? How do you awaken desires?
The popularity of pinterest, instagram and other social media portals shows: the customer takes the living space very seriously and the design of a beautiful home is becoming more and more important. The consumer is extremely involved with the topic "space" and looks for individual solutions – and especially for inspiration. The number of solution seekers is no longer in the minority, just the opposite. All of this is probably also connected with the growing feeling of insecurity about "the world out there". Less people are interested in the longevity of furniture the way our parents still knew it. Today people keep furniture for a phase of life at most and not for a lifetime. As a result many are constantly looking for an "update" of their home. The price here plays a rather subordinate role – after all, rebates are not solutions for space. But where do seekers find things?
Various new web portals work on customers more and more intensively. They inspire us, but they also challenge our willingness to change and will accelerate the transformation process even further. I'm convinced: The key to success is a creative and conceptually strong presence in the minds of the end consumer. The coolness factor of communication plays a decisive role here. But first and foremost: the will and courage to change.
All of us in the "value chain furniture" must awaken a desire for our products in the consumer. We therefore face great challenges. And we ourselves might even be the greatest one. Do we have the courage to admit that we need to make changes? I'm sure many of us have ideas on how marketing could be done differently, more intuitively and closer to the consumer and his desires. I know from many discussions in our industry that the time for change has come.
I think that we should talk about the topic "customer proximity" much more openly and exchange ideas about this more, so that we can learn from one another. In the end we'll all benefit from it.
What do you think? Write to me: email@example.com
I'm looking forward to your feedback.
Your Salvatore Figliuzzi
(This guest comment has been published exclusively in the German trade magazine “moebelfertigung” no. 4/2018.)