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Improvement needed in medical/healthcare packaging, says study of arm amputees

Both one- and two-handed study respondents struggle with such packaging, but 'innovation platforms' suggest better designs.

Hp 20169 One Hand Smartphone
Healthcare packaging is ripe with opportunities for companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors by being easier to use with one hand. Convenience is the killer app, according to a unique new "One Handed World" study.

The study found that one-handed convenience creates delight and engenders loyalty in consumers. A product that is easy to use with a single available hand creates a tremendous competitive advantage for itself in the marketplace and can boost profits, since consumers will pay a premium for convenience. And with 79 million aging Baby Boomers, it's an opportunity not to be ignored.

The study, inspired by the proliferation of smartphones, aims to reveal insights about tomorrow's healthcare packaging needs in that this extreme user group provides a preview of the changing way humans interact with a wide variety of products and packaging.

While multitasking isn't a new activity--we eat while we drive, we open doors while holding a child's hand, we make dinner and talk on the phone--the dramatic surge in smartphone usage is driving a permanent change in human behavior that designers and manufacturers simply can't ignore.

The study investigated how arm amputees interacted with, and were challenged by, nearly 250 everyday products and their packaging across 18 different categories. Then, two-handed consumers were surveyed to explore how they spent their days and how they fared with the same items.

The survey found that two-handed consumers actually spent 40% of their day with one hand occupied. As a result, they attempt to interact with a variety of other products and packages using a single hand or finger.

Why amputees?

People are on the go and trying to get more done in less time. They desperately need items designed to accommodate that lifestyle. Yet precious little that we interact with on a daily basis has been designed to operate with only one hand. Basically, we are all living in a one-handed world, and who better to teach us than those who live elegantly and efficiently with one hand.

Arm amputees provide us with a preview of this shift in overall consumer behavior. With this study, smart marketers and designers have the opportunity to not only understand where the consumer is headed in the future, but also get there first with new designs to meet their needs.

Survey says

Overall, one-quarter of amputee respondents found everyday items difficult to operate with one hand, with the degree of difficulty increasing with the complexity of the task. However, two-handed consumers also reported difficulty opening or using, even when both hands were fully available. In some cases, two-handed respondents reported more difficulty than the amputees.

Of the top 10 categories identified as difficult, nine of them were identical between one-handed and two-handed people, indicating that the issue isn't with the consumer, it's with the item they are trying to open or use.

Health and medical categories both ranked in the top three most difficult categories, for both one-handed and two-handed consumers. The study provided statistics on items such as safety seals, pills in blister packs, and adhesive bandages.

Finding solutions

In addition to providing data on individual products and packages within specific categories, the "One Handed World" syndicated study identifies 17 innovation platforms designers can use to innovate better and easier-to-open packages.

For example, the "One Handed Stabilization and Manipulation" platform identifies products that require one hand to do two different jobs: stabilize an item and manipulate it at the same time, such as opening a jar. In the one-handed world, a product like that is a failure for the consumer.

Another platform is "Toothiness." Despite the objections of dentists, many consumers use their teeth as a sort of "third hand" and, when employed safely, can be a beneficial tool.

It's all about facilitating usage. People are changing, and companies that look to the future and change their designs can win big.

Article supplied by Kelley Styring, a consumer strategist and Procter & Gamble and Frito-Lay market research veteran whose firm InsightFarm consults with Fortune 100 companies. More information is available on the One Handed World.
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