Beau Spinks, Design and Production Director at TiiPii, tells us how they developed their innovative luxury floating hammock
Taking an idea from a vague concept to a fully working, saleable product is both hugely frustrating and hugely rewarding. There is nothing quite like getting positive feedback from happy customers to give you a warm glow.
We've found TiiPii's development to be a continuous process - the product is always evolving. Fashion, needs, wants, consumer habits and costs all change and therefore so must our designs.
Of all the lessons we've learned, none is more important than the three primary rules we follow: listen to your customers; improve your user experience; and treat your manufacturer as your equal partner.
What are your customers telling you?
Positive feedback is great. It gives you an indication you're on the right track, but what you should be most interested in is the criticism. If we ever receive a negative comment from a customer, we take it on board. Criticism is a great way to find the issues with your product that you hadn't noticed or you had overlooked.
It's also important that you personally scrutinize each production run prior to shipment - a faulty or low-quality product can quickly damage your reputation. It's also easy to see your product through rose-tinted spectacles, so it's important to be objective, and perhaps overly harsh too. You can be sure that the smallest issue has the ability to become a major problem.
Improve your user experience
Understanding our customer's interaction with TiiPii allows us to improve our user experience, and identify areas where we can complement the range. Your customers will tell you what they want, they are often the best source of inspiration - and if an idea is inspired by a customer need, then it's far more likely to be successful than something you dreamed up on your own. For example, our travel TiiPii and our children's TiiPii were both developed through an understanding of how our customers used the product.
Also, look at what people are doing in situations where they could be using your product. For example, we've been studying how holiday makers relax around resort pools with a view to developing a range of complementary accessories to accompany our stands - making them easier for poolside use. Once you really understand your customer, you can hone right in on niche markets and develop products to fulfil a need.
Work with your manufacturer
While designing the TiiPii, it was crucial to remember that a minor variation during the fabric cutting process could have a major impact on the final product. A great deal of our user experience depends on the shape and size of the bed being just right. Too long, and our customers won't be lying on a taught, comfortable bed. Too short, and it becomes difficult for customers to install the ring system - resulting in customer refunds and negative reviews.
Fortunately, we had experience of working with dozens of manufacturers. After some very costly lessons, we understood all too well the importance of partnering with a like-minded, dependable manufacturer. We chose to partner with a boutique manufacturer with a dedicated design team who are endlessly helpful and knowledgeable and have been able to scale with us.
Leveraging off our manufacturer's knowledgebase has been crucial in understanding our range of materials. Knowing how each material interacts, where forces will increase strain, how long each material will last under given conditions, if the design will be too difficult to guarantee quality workmanship and of course, how expensive it will be to produce, has allowed us to develop a range which fulfils the needs of our market.
It is one thing developing a product which is aesthetically pleasing, but unless it is fit for purpose, fulfils a need and is cost effective to produce, it won't progress.
Beau's top tips:
- Listen to customer feedback and act. It's easy to look at the bigger picture and stop paying attention to the small things. It is these little things which often matter most to the customer.
- Take inspiration from your customers. By understanding how customers use our products day-in, day-out, we have been able to develop new and exciting additions to the TiiPii range.
- Work with your manufacturers. Brainstorming and fine tuning our designs in conjunction with our manufacturer accelerated our product development process and resulted in a far superior product.