But there has been little innovation in designing products to last longer and resistance to efforts to make them more repairable, says Alex Lobos, professor of industrial design at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. “That could prevent them from cutting costs and requiring consumers to replace products often,” he says.
Last year, President Biden signed an order that would require mobile phone companies and technology companies to make their proprietary software, repair manuals, tools and other components available so that the products can be repaired by anyone. who.
“It’s a good step, but there has to be a way to make the devices truly repairable,” Lobos says. For example, most electronics and cell phones are made with glues and parts welded together for cost savings that are nearly impossible to disassemble. More sustainable design, he says, can only happen with legislation.
Skullcandy changed the design of its headphones for several reasons: durability and product differentiation. When Skullcandy founder Rick Alden launched the company on a Park City chairlift two decades ago, his startup was an industry innovator, among the first to put dual speakers in every helmet shell. .
But today, Skullcandy finds itself in a saturated $85 billion market in which headphones have become a commodity. Since its birth, the 300-employee company has strived to protect the earth and climate by choosing everything from suppliers and plastic components to the way materials are transported and the energy efficiency of its new headquarters. Park City social.
Fortiér admits that Skullcandy is taking a risk in an industry designed around recurring revenue dependent on sales from the launch of new models. Skullcandy, in essence, will eat away at its own revenue stream, the size of which Fortiér declined to reveal. There is also the risk that the company will ship devices with extra parts that may or may not be used.
But the “land and expand” strategy is smart, says Urvashi Bhatnagar, author of “The Sustainability Scorecard: How to Implement and Profit from Unexpected Solutions.” Rather than continually “going out” with customers with new products, Skullcandy engages consumers over a longer lifespan, allowing them to acquire a greater share of the consumer’s wallet. “Skullcandy saves money acquiring new customers,” she says.
In contrast, Skullcandy will not have the added cost and time of designing, building, shipping, and bringing new products to market. And sustainable products are in high demand: up to two-thirds of consumers say they want a company to take a stand on issues they care about, according to a 2020 survey by Accenture. And another KPMG report suggests 90% of customers are willing to pay more for ethical retailers, 50% consider environmental and social practices when deciding whether to make a purchase, and nearly 75% say they will leave. a brand if they feel it benefits them over people. This is particularly true for consumer electronicsin which consumer demand will continue to play an important role in forcing electronics companies to become more sustainable, Bhatnagar said.
Skullcandy’s own internal research found that about half of its customers purchase new products because theirs either didn’t work properly or didn’t have the longevity they once did. The other half bought new because they wanted a more advanced sound. “A lot of times people put these devices in a drawer, forget about them, and end up throwing them away,” Fortiér says, “but they’re great products and they still have a lot of life.”