J1772 plug charging an EV Car

Breaking the Mold in Experience and Product Design: Lessons From the Rise of EVs

What can the meteoric rise of electric vehicles teach forward-focused marketers about breaking the mold of product experience and design in any industry?

Sam Moon

December 12 th 2022 | 7 min read

As an innovator, you’re responsible for identifying gaps in the market and positioning your company to fill them. This often requires you to operate in two distinct orbits: Continually assessing your company’s current state while also keeping your eyes firmly focused on the future.

To do this effectively, sometimes it’s helpful to look at a specific product or service and imagine how its lessons can be applied to your industry. Take electric vehicles. They may have started out as a niche product for the affluent or eco-conscious, but they’ve quickly captured a sizable share of the transportation ecosystem. And they stand to disrupt additional markets in a host of interesting ways.

Looking at the EV landscape with a critical eye can also illuminate growth opportunities in any sector — if marketing leaders are willing to put on their thinking caps and imagine what’s possible in their sphere of influence.

What Every Company Can Learn from EVs

New EV registrations in the U.S. increased by 60% in early 2022. And since many car manufacturers have pledged to stop producing fully gas-powered vehicles in the coming decades, these numbers will only continue to grow.

Still, there’s a long way to go before EVs become the first choice among the average consumer. And unfortunately, too many companies are so busy trying to retrofit EV-related technologies into an existing mold that they’re missing the mark of true innovation.

 This oversight presents an opportunity for those who recognize it. The sky’s the limit for companies to capture the public’s imagination and position their business at the leading edge of this emerging market. But in order to generate higher levels of excitement, they must be willing to break the mold and reimagine what’s possible.

This is true for companies across all industries. Imagining what’s next often means letting go of long-held systems, designs, and beliefs about consumer behavior.

To that end, here’s a look at three areas where we predict disruptive technologies will offer tremendous market opportunity for forward-focused organizations. Using EVs as our point of reference, we’ll help you imagine ways to break the mold and create the market impact you’re looking for.

Experience Designers Will Meet Consumer Needs More Holistically

There’s a misconception that making EVs more accessible is as easy as swapping out half the pumps at every gas station with fast chargers. But this is just not realistic.

Refueling and recharging are vastly different experiences. It’s not possible to fully charge an EV battery in the timeframe it takes to gas up a combustion engine. And that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

Even the fastest DC chargers require 20-30 minutes to deliver a complete charge. AC chargers — which are still more common in most places — take longer. Ultimately, this is less about the charger’s capability and more about protecting the battery. Recharging a battery too quickly burns it up and dramatically reduces its useful life, which is why EVs are designed to guard against it.

As a result, experience designers are asking a number of salient questions:

  • What should an optimal recharging experience look like?
  • How can charging solutions be distributed in a variety of ways to meet consumer needs (e.g. home charging; destination charging)?
  • How can companies influence and shape the EV infrastructure while also meeting consumers where they are?
  • Are there ways for companies to integrate recharging into consumers’ daily rhythms by adding stations to parking lots at grocery stores, malls, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.?
  • Could retailers and/or entertainment franchises create premium experiences that fit within a 30-minute charging window?

Destination charging is an interesting model to consider. While the EV gets its boost, owners can grab a bite to eat, take a walk, or do some shopping. Travel centers like Buc-ee’s or like those found on state turnpikes offer refueling and recharging options, clean restrooms, food court-style dining, outdoor recreation areas, and shopping opportunities with local vendors. As such, they’re a great model to work from.

EV specific travel centers have already begun popping up across Europe. A few auto manufacturers are even getting in on the action. This enables them to have greater control over their customers’ overall exposure to the brand. But there’s still room to iterate on this concept and make EV charging part of a larger, expertly designed experience.

This begs the question: What types of well-designed experiences will excite and energize your audience?

Designers Will (Finally) Break Existing Molds

Electric vehicles are a disruptive technology. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at the examples on the road today. An electric Corolla looks nearly identical to its traditional counterpart. Electric Equinox’s look a lot like the worst gas-guzzling offenders on the market. Even most Teslas blend in with other sedans on the road.

Where exactly is the design disruption?

Game-changing innovation will never happen until manufacturers stop forcing new technology into old designs. True, some companies are starting to “break the ICE” in terms of imagining what vehicles could look like without the need to design around engines and drive trains. For example, Canoo and REE Automotive have each made bold design choices that grab attention and generate buzz.

But there’s so much more to explore. Could designers:

  • Totally change the shape of vehicles as we know them?
  • Create sedans that can accommodate as many passengers as minivans?
  • Add solar panels to the top of the vehicle to provide a supplemental energy source?
  • Incorporate plugs and Wi-Fi hotspots to allow passengers to get work or homework done on the go?
  • Develop modular, multi-use vehicle options for a wider audience?

If EVs are truly a market disruption, it’s time to let them disrupt. Toyota created a distinguishable, impactful brand identity around the Prius and earned a loyal cult following as a result.

Again, there are lessons for every industry here. To create compelling, successful brands, companies need to get comfortable generating and considering wild, unconventional ideas. Developing out-of-the-box solutions begins by shedding your preconceived notions and trying to solve the root problem in a new way.

Are there opportunities for your company to break tired design molds in your industry?

The Most Successful Companies Will Create Visionary Product Development Roadmaps

As electric vehicles gain traction, companies will undoubtedly build product development roadmaps specifically for this growing market. For example, brands might develop a suite of products focused on the adventuring lifestyle, with camping equipment, accessories, and other products that can tap into the battery power EVs offer.

Conducting a “three horizons framework” exercise can help businesses determine how emerging opportunities intersect with their company’s capabilities. Using EVs as an example, this might involve asking questions like:

  • Are we creating products today that will become obsolete once EVs become commonplace?
  • What will the new normal look like when EVs outnumber combustion-engine vehicles?
  • Are there EV-related product ideas that exist on the fringe today that could become mainstream as EVs gain more popularity?
  • What does our company do well right now that could evolve to meet changing consumer needs and expectations in the EV landscape?

No matter your industry, it’s critically important for you to continually assess where your business risks losing market share — and figure out ways to stay relevant.

Just remember: Your product ideas should be firmly rooted in solid business strategy. A good product development firm can help you envision what’s next and create a long-term product plan that will take your company where it needs to go.

Will Your Company Revolutionize Your Market?

Staying up-to-date on trends and consumer habits is essential for marketing leaders in any industry. As new products emerge, companies need to consider where they’ll go next.

EVs are leading society into uncharted territory. But they’re certainly not the only disruptive technology out there. The questions you should be asking are: Where is my company’s window of opportunity? And how can I ensure it doesn’t pass us by?

You don’t have to answer those questions alone. We’d love to help you imagine what’s possible.

About the Author

Sam Moon – Design

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.”