Design a new connected product and service-based business enabler for GE Appliances by leveraging the opportunities in Multi-family Dwelling Units (MDUs) with a main focus on the 'Apartment Housing' customer segment.
Roles & Responsibilities
In each phase my roles were rotating,
- Research through ideation (Product Manager)
Understood overall market and landscape, ideating solutions, business assessment, and strategizing designs
- Concept Refinement (Design Manager)
Refined value proportions for our customer segment, and information architecture and built High fidelity concept screens to pitch the new business enabler
- Identified key partners, key resources and key activities for the concept selected (Operations Manager)
01 - Market Research
To understand the current trends, we researched into one public traded company called Mid-America Apartments. From the 10K report, we found that the property managers
- Concerned about effective governance of the property
- Strategize to locate their apartments in well-positioned areas of technology
- Include redevelopment program that is fruitful for business in next couple of years
- Go beyond in sustainability ie., energy and water conservation
02 - Technology Research
We researched current Internet of Things(IoT) technologies that are deployed across different industry verticals and in other MDU customer segments e.g, senior independent living community.
03 - Customer & Consumer Research
We recruited 5, apartment property managers around Indianapolis and 10 Tenants across the United States to gather insights on current products and practices in day-to-day activities.
To make sense of the insights we gathered, we used personas and empathy maps to understand the customer and consumer profiles.
04 - Building customer profile - Property Manager
To reinstate our understanding and map appropriate value propositions, we jotted down points in a customer profile canvas.
Identified opportunities for GE Appliances
Property managers are GE Appliances' direct customers. So, keeping them happy is GEA's way to retain their customers. From our research, we identified that Property Managers,
- Need help in managing maintenance requests
- Looks for better ways to communicate to their tenants
- Seeks return on investment
- Wants to provide convenient services to their tenants
How could GE Appliances help their customers by knowing the opportunities they have?
Based on the opportunities identified, we came up with three potential design directions for GEA's new business enablers.
We observed the current situation in apartment housing segment.
- Not able to manage tenants appliances efficiently
- Facing a lot of difficulties in resolving tenants problems
- Can only communicate through, call (urgent), email or written notices
- Not able to educate tenants on how to use appliances properly
- Not able to manage appliances properly
- It takes forever to get the appliance repaired
- Support tickets takes days to resolve
- Can communicate with the property managers only through call (urgent), email, or in-person
Using existing GE products and services to bridge the gap between property managers and tenants. We leveraged, GE Appliances' Kitchen Hub to act as a communication channel.
Value for property managers
- Increase in rental rate. 15%-20% increase on top of normal rent
- Save money and time from unexpected appliance failures
- Improve residents experience
Value for GE Appliances
- Sell more appliances
- Generating new revenue streams from subscriptions (property management software)
- Bring property owners & tenants into the GE appliances ecosystem
- Improve customer satisfaction
Value for Tenants
- Better community experience
- One application to manage everything
Using existing GE ‘NewFi’ bluetooth module to ensure faster and reliable fixes for the appliance repairs (Maintenance as a Service)
- Improved diagnostics
- Accuracy of repair
- Improve 1st time fix success ratio
Moving from Preventive Maintenance to Predictive Maintenance for Heat, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems in apartment housings.
What if you encounter issues with complicated systems like HVAC?
What if you get a notification earlier about the predicted anomalies? Technicians arrive early to diagnose the issue and provide a long-term fix
The tenants will have happier life and property managers will be at peace
Appliance owners will have better control of appliances and usage transparency
Keeping our client's feedback in mind, we combined concept 1 & 2. The comprehensive solution should be based on the primary needs of our customers (Property managers) and as well as the value proposition that the new business enabler offers to GE Appliances.
Building the concept architecture
Combining the two concepts we visualized the overall architecture
Business Model Canvas
With the architecture we envisioned, below are the value propositions and high-level business activities we summarized for GE Appliances.
Feature highlights of the combined concepts
Existing Kitchen Hub Features
- Connection with GEA’s home appliances with U+ Connect app
- Control home appliances like thermostats, bulbs, etc.
- Support for Google assistant
- Entertainment apps, Guided cooking apps, Dual camera, ventilation system
New Kitchen Hub Features
- Concierge Service eg. Task Rabbit
- Parcel notifications
- Rent payments
- Community wide updates
- Amenities reservation
We observed the styles and cards used in the GE Kitchen Hub and ecosystem. With our new features added, the users will be able to swipe to access all the available features.
Now that we made the tenants/residents happier with the connected services, we wanted to provide a way for property managers to monitor and overlook any service requests. So, we envisioned a dashboard for them.
Additionally, our client liked the idea of generating a new revenue stream by selling the GE New-Fi, a device to diagnose appliance issues. We designed a New-Fi mobile app for the property technicians covering the stakeholders in the ecosystem. Observing styles, and navigation patterns in the current SmartHQ App — used by customers of GEA to control appliances& use Kitchen Hub features when they are away from Kitchen Hub.
We crafted a press release and a marketing flyer for the new IoT-based product service and validated it with our customers for capturing insights on what they think about this innovation and what would they do if they came across this opportunity.
"The smart bridge is a great idea. We would like to see if we can do a pilot test by installing it in a few of our apartments.”
- Jacqueline Story Assistant property manager (VUE apartments)
“I like the notion of integration with the property management side. We’re always interested in testing new products”
- Brandon (Flaherty & Collins)
- Deep diving into research areas, techniques to gather current market trends
- Constant refining, collaboration with team and switching roles to think from diverse perspective
- Use business tools like value proposition canvas, customer profile, and business model canvas to lay out the research findings and make better sense of features that will benefit the customers, business, and other stakeholders in the ecosystem
I am thankful to one of the top 50 Industrial Designers over the last 50 years, Lou Lenzi F.I.D.S.A for providing us the opportunity to interact with clients and design a product-service business enabler and for constant critiques focused on tuning our skills toward product innovation and impactful pitching. Heartfelt thanks to our clients who helped us refine our understanding of existing GE Appliance products and services.
For additional details on the down selection of concepts and key partner, analysis feel free to reach out.