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.

Online Shopping
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's Plunger
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

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    Are Kelley Blue Book Values Accurate and Reliable?

    It’s the most popular used-car buying guide. Here’s a look at just how trustworthy it is – plus a comparison with the competition.
  2. Stock Analysis

    Why Facebook Will Never Charge User Fees

    Understand why Facebook is unlikely to ever charge users; the site's business model of leveraging free users to charge advertisers is highly profitable.
  3. Taxes

    Internet Sales Tax Vs. Brick & Mortar Sales Tax

    Learn about the differences between sales taxes and Internet sales taxes, and the goods and services that typically incur each type of tax.
  4. Entrepreneurship

    How an Internet Sales Tax Will Affect Your Small Business

    Learn about how the Marketplace Fairness Act may impact small business owners should it pass in the House and what the act requires from business owners.
  5. Investing Basics

    Internet Sales Tax's Effect on Interstate Commerce

    Find out how a national Internet sales tax could affect interstate commerce, and why some bigger online retailers are lobbying for such a tax.
  6. Entrepreneurship

    3 Ways You Can Support Small Business Growth

    Discover a number of different options available to support small business growth, including crowdfunding campaigns and shopping locally.
  7. Professionals

    Advisors: Do You Need to Tweak Your Marketing?

    Advisors use a variety of marketing techniques to attract clients, but they don't all work. It may be time to evaluate what is, and isn't, successful.
  8. Stock Analysis

    Does TripAdvisor Offer Upside Potential? (TRIP)

    Will TripAdvisor's downside risk outweigh upside potential in 2016? It's most recent SEC filing offers some strong clues.
  9. Personal Finance

    Wal-Mart vs. Target: Which One Is A Bigger Threat To Amazon?

    Walmart and Target both revealed multi-year plans to grow their businesses. Which of these two retailers is the biggest threat to Amazon?
  10. Stock Analysis

    Are the Brands Millennials Love a Good Buy?

    Millennials make up a very big — and thus important —c onsumer generation. So if they love a brand, its stock is likely to outperform, right?
  1. Does QVC charge sales tax?

    QVC, an American TV network, is registered with states to collect sales or use tax on taxable items. QVC is also required ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Does Walmart take international credit cards?

    Foreign visitors to Walmart locations in the United States can use their credit cards issued by banks outside of the U.S. ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Is QVC publicly traded?

    QVC, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Interactive Corporation. It is attributed to the QVC Group tracking stock, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Is a financial advisor allowed to pay a referral fee?

    A financial advisor is allowed to pay a referral fee to a third party for soliciting clients. However, the Securities and ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How can I invest in electronic retailing (e-tailing)?

    Electronic retail is one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. Every year, more people are choosing to purchase ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does a long tail become profitable?

    A long tail becomes profitable because the costs to produce, market and distribute a product or service in a niche are low, ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Cyber Monday

    An expression used in online retailing to describe the Monday following U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. Cyber Monday is generally ...
  2. Bar Chart

    A style of chart used by some technical analysts, on which, as illustrated below, the top of the vertical line indicates ...
  3. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  4. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  5. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  6. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
Trading Center