Tiny changes, big money. Design changes in existing products can mean big bucks for their companies, since they satisfy a need for consumers. In other cases, it's because they want consumers to buy an upgraded version of a product they already own. Minor design changes could mean a completely new set of consumers or an expansion in the current customer base. In most cases, many of these incremental changes have benefited their producers several times over.
Recently, Apple's iPhone 5 underwent a design tweak, moving from the 30-pin connector to a significantly smaller pin connector, which means its earphones could move down. Apple also hopes to to convince more of its consumers to start using micro USB devices that require less power. Older iPhone users may be disgruntled, since their speakers will now require adapters, as will many of the other devices that they used to connect to their phone. This could mean new and larger volumes of business for exclusive Apple accessory providers, such as Belkin. Older consumers are less likely to want to be seen with bulky adapters and connectors and are most likely to shift to the new smaller connector. They may also try other alternatives in the market that will not require them to do away with their accessories.
The war in Afghanistan has a special set of foot soldiers. Dogs. Mostly German shepherds, whose owners rely on them heavily for their heightened instincts to sense danger. As a result of war, these dogs are exposed to dust, dirt and debris on a daily basis. To protect their eyes, they use Doggles, or goggles for dogs. Ken di Lullo and Ronnie De Lullo developed Doggles by tweaking regular goggles to fit a dog's head. Initially considered a useless invention, it went on to make millions.
SEE: Ridiculous Ideas That Made People Millions
Clocky is an example of a runaway hit, selling as many as 350,000 clocks in 2011. Powered by a microprocessor and protected by shock absorbers, Clocky is a clock with wheels and a mind of its own. Clocky is meant to ensure that the person woken up by the alarm clock stays awake. Minor design changes to the regular clock means a clock you can't say no to.
In 2009, when online shopping was in its early adoption stage, first-time buyers for a major e-commerce site found that they had to register for the site at checkout. They were suspicious as to why personal details were being asked at such a stage and whether that information would be misused.
Furthermore, repeat consumers rarely remembered their passwords. Usability expert Jared M. Spool, along with some designers, changed the "register" button to "continue," while informing users that they could register during checkout in order to expedite the purchase the next time around. As a result, the site gained $15 million in purchases in the first month after the feature was implemented, and $300 million after the first year.
Spool recounted the experience to Luke Wroblewski, author of "Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks (2008)."
Spool goes on to say, "On my answering machine is the message I received from the CEO of the $25-billion retailer, the first week they saw the new sales numbers from the redesigned form. It's a simple message: "Spool! You're the man!" It didn't need to be a complex message. All we did was change a button."
In 2006, Crocs bought a company called Jibbitz for $10 million. What are Jibbitz? Well, they are tiny decorations developed by Sheri Schmelzer that people can put into the holes of their Crocs to make it their own. Kids loved it, and acquired as many as they could for their Crocs. No one would have believed that these tiny decorations could earn so much. Sheri and her kids took anything they found adorable to be plugged into the Croc sandals. Soon the company was churning out revenue of $2 million monthly and outsourcing production to China. Jebbitz is a tiny add-on to a strong brand that benefits Crocs and Jebbitz alike.
Rubbermaid has been trying to revitalize its 100-year-old brand. It aims to do this by taking established home products and giving them a new twist. The company made some cosmetic changes to its Clean and Dry plunger while keeping the basic design the same. The plunger model saw the wooden handle of the earlier plunger give way to a sleeker, gray-colored baseball bat style plastic grip. To prevent dripping, Rubbermaid coated the rubber surface of the plunger with Neverwet, a nanotech covering. The product is gaining quick acceptance by making an otherwise unpleasant task more efficient.
The Bottom Line
Sometimes reaching out to new customers or reconnecting with existing ones does not mean undertaking an entire remodeling exercise. They can be small changes that translate into big dollars. If consumers perceive increased usability and functionality, it means many a happy trip to the bank for the company.
SEE: 7 Products Under $5 That Made Millions
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