It seems simplicity rules in our experience economy when it comes to creating new value from products and services. Everywhere you look, there are radical opportunities for simplification that help you delight your customers, disrupt your competitors, and create new value that can even garner a premium.
Bringing a unique and simplified approach to how information is consumed has contributed to Hipmunk’s success in the saturated and largely undifferentiated travel booking industry. The hot new travel startup believes that when it comes to booking flights, people don’t necessarily need more choices, but fewer. What makes Hipmunk unique is the way it displays flight search results. The result screen helps you visualize a lot of data at once and make your decisions in minutes as opposed to hours.
Simplification is also redefining the taxi experience. Instead of hailing or calling a cab, waiting for it to arrive and making sure you have enough cash in your wallet to pay the fare, Uber carved out a unique niche by greatly simplifying the entire experience. The company connects riders and drivers through a smartphone app, which identifies your location, shows you nearby cars and sends you a text message when your car arrives. Uber lets riders pick a driver based on ratings left by previous passengers and even pay through your credit card on file. Riders pay a premium for the service, while Uber collects a cut from every transaction.
Another example is the Nest learning thermostat. Introduced by former Apple executive Tony Fadell (best known for inventing the iPod), the intuitive thermostat not only saves heating and cooling costs, but also learns the temps you like, turns itself down when you’re away, and has remote control through Wi-Fi. With a price of 2.5 times the cost of a regular programmable thermostat, Nest sold out its entire launch inventory in just one week.
Regardless of their diverse focuses, these companies are on the path to success in ultra-competitive and saturated industries. They all have one common achievement: through simplification, they provided customers with a smooth, user-friendly experience and created value that consumers are willing to pay a premium for. How do you apply simplification to your own industry? Here are just a few ways to get started in achieving minimum complexity:
1. Find the right opportunities to simplify: Focus where you can get the most impact and create the most value. It could be that twelve page loan application or a key customer-facing business process.
2. Use interdisciplinary teams to rethink and reframe: Get points of view from people who don’t live in your business or industry, perhaps those who have never seen your products or used your services. New and fresh perspectives always help see things from angles that you may have not considered.
3. Put on the customer’s hat: Leverage design thinking techniques to empathize with your customer. Understand how they use your product and their emotional responses. Unearth those fundamental insights and incorporate them into your design.
4. Don’t mask complexity, be radical: Simplicity does not just equal esthetics. Your customers will see right through the veneer.
5. Learn to Say “No” and “Why”: It’s always easy to grow the list of features, but with every addition, complexity increases. Question the value of every addition and its impact on the experience you are creating.
There is little doubt we are living in an increasingly complex world. Winston Churchill once said “Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge”. In a world more complicated than ever before, perhaps the market needs us to focus on inventing solutions with unprecedented simplicity to open up new windows of opportunity. Being able to analyze complex situations, to see challenges from different perspectives and come up with simple and effective solutions may give today’s businesses a real competitive edge.