“It’s not a faith in technology. It’s faith in people.” With these words Steve Jobs brought Apples success in generating the consumers’ technology hunger to the point. To identify the accepted skincare application technology of tomorrow without being on the market yet, we had exactly the same challenge at IONIQ: To manage the conflict of a simplified lifestyle of consumers and the big choice of enthusiastic technologies.
It seems the beauty market has not changed significantly in the past decades. The big brands incrementally improve their products and sell it as a new breakthrough and smaller Indie brands want to conquer the market with their fast pace, authenticity and bold cosmetics. But still the way we apply skincare products has not been significantly changed for centuries – already Napoleon Bonaparte applied his perfume with some kind of sprayer. It is still squeak, pump or spray and then rub, rub, rub.
But let’s start from the beginning.
By the way, this fact is for IONIQ’s technology background at the WAGNER GROUP quite unbelievable, where engineers work for more than 60 years getting rid of the hand as the major tool in painting applications. But it describes perfectly the barrier of realizing the digital bathroom: people’s personal habits and idols.
So where does the courage to transfer such a technology out of heavy machinery equipment manufacturer come from? It was exactly the above described issue how functional innovations should start: The consumer pain point of using always the hand for any skincare application. Yes, this sounds obvious but believe me, it is not easy to ask consumers how he or mainly she wants to apply his/her skincare on the body or really understand that sticky hands are a problem it took years of consumer testing.
When you start with the rough idea of replacing the hand in skincare, you most likely have to face the challenge of having so many sophisticated product features in mind that could solve thousands pain points at once. Hence next level key challenge was to validate, prioritize and cut as well as not to forget the supposedly simple features according to the consumer insights. My team and I talked about all kind of technology related features as soon as we got feedback from consumers that they need a outstanding skin sensation. This leads us to third level of consumer study knowhow – to generate an experience. So thanks to all participants to help us developing this great product.
This is a real crucial part for us. Because it is rather a bizarre challenge having too many ideas for one product. After more than 8 years in developing, training and operating in Product Development Processes in a consultancy I know that this is really not the common situation! I truly believe that this happens when you have the courage to realize a highly innovative and purposeful endeavor like our total technology transfer. Then your creativity for further ideas never stops!
Nonetheless no matter how many people we talk to, we can never be completely sure what the right concept is using our device but we can learn in an adaptive way by choosing an iterative and open product development approach. Hence, the only reasonable and well-known approach developing a new-of-its-kind product is of course to work with consumer insights. Sounds easy? The tough thing is that most engineers like myself are educated in a step by step development process. To draft the mentioned overall experience aiming for a long-term and sustainable change in the cosmetics industry you need to choose a more flexible and iterative approach, to create learnings during the development process and keep adapting and improving on the way. Your only chance to select the right technologies first.
This is very challenging as it is not only skill-based approach, but also a mindset-based approach. Taking away learned habits like the solid structured development plan leads to frustration, irritation and uncertainty. The toughest thing is to manage expectations and disappoints. But having a purposeful task of fighting the skin health of the people motivates me and my team every day to take on the challenge. On the other hand you get paid back by a lot of creativity, fun and freedom to try out new ways helping to get rid of above mentioned frustration.
The above mentioned approaches and experiences are only the bases and functional part of our work. For me as an engineer the tough parts begins in the design by finding the right balance between simplicity and necessary complexity– a risky fight. Your only chance: Understanding and matching it to the real added value for the consumers. Luckily we have good fighting elements like in our long term vision and story. And here it comes: the emotional innovation part!
Usually everyone starts with the environmental fit. But to design your product properly you have to understand again what triggers your consumers and what you are you able to realize. For example one big challenge was the size of the sprayer. A crucial component for our magnetic skin technology is the ion source. We managed to miniaturize it from back bag size to chocolate bar size. This allows us to create a product size that is perfectly suitable for the bathroom, but may be perceived as too big for outdoor adventures such as hiking. We took the bitter pill, focus on other key assets postponed this challenge to the next gen development.
If you have made those decisions and are happy with your product including its technology and its usability it is time to think about viability – Is the consumer willing to pull his or her wallet out of his or her pocket?
Decide viability at this late stage this is uncommon, as we are all used to define target cost and sales price prior development. Yes, the right pricing strategy is obviously a crucial question. But we decided it is really the last one want to answer. Out of this experience I actually think that this should be a best practice for technology innovation related business models. What would you have answered if some told you about the concept of the first iPhone? Would you have told them to be willing to pay 1000€. Be honest most of you would have answered 300-400€. Still the product was a huge success. So really think about it: Would it be better to take the decision at the end of the day?
In our case we will and have to break with pricing standards of the cosmetics industry, as well. Why? On the one hand we received the feedback in our consumer studies that we have an adding value product for the society in an authentic way. On the other hand we want to create a sustainable company that will provide the best skin care experience long-lastingly. We believe that brand-driven high margin pricings will decrease but honest and sustainable economic pricings will win. Understanding IONIQ One as a platform and invitation to other cosmetic brands and considering the costly technology of our sprayer and for our technology necessary high quality ingredients it is something we might use to our benefits in the end.
In consequence that means of using classical razor-blade model like Nespresso (low cost machine, high price coffee capsules), we focus on more economical pricing approach. Starting a highly innovative premium product and scale down the technology over time to mass market access. That means we price the cosmetics reasonably and don’t punish the constant use.
Now we are standing here being in the last couple percent
or our development and all you read might result in being afraid to start such
an endeavor. So my last words will tell you what is in for me.
I cannot describe the feeling, but believe me: When you hand out a prototype or a more sophisticated version of your product and the person testing it for the first time is only smiling, getting goose bumps and simply cannot believe what just happened you will know it. Something I do not want to miss again: Having direct contact with consumer enthusiasm knowing you can really make a part of this world better.
Join us on our incredible journey – we are always looking for testers and feedback in any form!