Around six weeks ago Masterly and the rest of design thinking class took place in the Kingston town centre market. This gave an opportunity to experience in real time how to communicate with outside-of-university potential customers. It was a great practice! Even though we have done one market before, we roughly knew what to expect. Nonetheless, it provided new surprises.
The whole MACE course, as well as some undergraduate teams, got together at 8 am in the morning to sign-in, to be allocated to a specific trading area and pick up a table. Despite the fact that we may have felt to slightly far from the majority of the course-mates, we were surrounded by our favourite teams which was fun. From that point onward, we were given two hours to set up the table. The appearance of the table had to go in line with the product. In other words, the ComfyEar had to go across both the product and the stall holistically. And that’s why a night before we staying up late making the props for the trade fair. I would say we were rather prepared in advance for the fair and that’s why those two hours seemed a bit much for preparation. However, we didn’t let the criticism get in the way of excitement. Especially, since there was a good chance that the reason why I was questioning the excess time for preparation was because I would’ve loved to stay in bed for that hour instead.
When we began trading the truth was not exactly how I had imagined it. As mentioned earlier we were slightly separated from the majority and were allocated behind a building away from the main square. It turned out to be a disadvantage. However, I see it as bad luck. Moreover, the market-goers seemed to be surprised to see us. Was it because they typically sell food at the market, and now we were there selling things? Even if it was a great exposure and experience, was it in the right context? I feel the market-goers didn’t expect to see us there. That’s why they would be unlikely there to buy non-food items. Of course, we made sales, and so did the other team but what interests me is whether everyone’s sales would’ve increased dramatically, had it been a different market. For example, where (original and unique) products sold on a regular basis. Then again, perhaps it was our fault… We should’ve checked the market beforehand, i.e. familiarise with the context.
It wasn’t our first trade meaning we had received some feedback from the judges in the past. Naturally, we took the feedback on board. I’d add even almost blindly. Which now I know we shouldn’t have done it. The feedback from the judges was tailored for the first trade fair only, the setting and environment of which was entirely different: it was indoors, quite tight room-wise, and attended by fellow students or other tutors. Hence, the context, the setting and the audience were completely different, yet we prepared for the market in Kingston town as if it was going to be the same sort of trade fair.
All in all, in was great fun. I learnt loads, namely that trade fairs outside of ‘safe’ university setting are without sugar-coating. No one pities you, and no pretends to be interested – no one cares – everyone just gets on with what they’re doing. And if you manage to show them, people know absolutely nothing about you, the value that your product or service can add to their lives, you’ve chances survive. I should also add, people’s attention span isn’t that great. Also, understanding the context in which you’re going to be in is key. Because it’s almost never one-size fits all. We should’ve built upon/ taken advantage of the properties of Kingston town square. Possibly co-creation could’ve been a good approach? Perhaps next time!