Innovation in the durable goods industry doesn’t come cheap. Bringing customers into the process and getting their feedback on features, packaging, marketing and other aspects of products requires time and resources. Your approach to getting and using customer intelligence should also match the speed at which consumers expect new and better products.
To meet the challenges of innovation in this space, DEWALT, the leader in the professional power tool market and part of the Stanley Black & Decker company, engages with more than 10,000 active tradespeople for ongoing feedback and insight. The company does this using the DEWALT Insights Forum, the company’s award-winning insight community.
Shannon Chenoweth, market research manager at DEWALT, leads the team that manages this branded community. She recently sat down with us to talk about her career in market research, the surprising ROI of having a customer intelligence software and what surprises her most about DEWALT consumers.
What is your day like at DEWALT? What do you love about what you do?
I’ve been at DEWALT for almost three years now. In my role, I head up the market research department at the power tools group. Under Stanley Black & Decker, we have a lot of business units, and the professional groups is one of the areas.
I love the diversity of my job. Our team collaborates with many different people and does a wide range of research. In our group, we’re not focusing on just one product. We do research on all the trades and the tools that different trades use. We look for product expansion opportunities. The variety in my job keeps my role interesting and rewarding.
The DEWALT Insights Forum has been established for over three years now. What’s the best thing about your insight community?
One of the best things about our insight community is the speed at which we can get research done. Before establishing the community, we relied on other research methods, including sending customer surveys to an email database. However, the result that we got from ad-hoc surveys didn’t meet our expectations. The response rates were low. We had to send out surveys repeatedly so we could get enough responses, slowing down the process. With the old approach, we did have a tool to reach our customers, but it didn’t work for what we needed it for and didn’t have the speed at which we needed consumer insight.
The cost savings is also a big thing. Without our insight community, we’d usually hire vendors to do research for us. But as you get very specific in your requirements—for instance, if you’re looking to engage people in specific trades who use specific power tools within a specific period of time—the more expensive it gets to work with vendors.
So just how much do we save by having an insight community? Well, we looked at the activities that we did last year in our insight community and found that would have spent the equivalent of $5 million if we engaged a vendor to do those research studies for us. Considering the investment we’ve made in our insight community, we’re saving millions of dollars for the company.
"We looked at the activities that we did last year in our insight community and found that would have spent the equivalent of $5 million if we engaged a vendor to do those research studies for us."
-Shannon Chenoweth, market research manager at DEWALT
That’s great to hear! In a Vision Critical webinar, you’re talking about customer intelligence and product innovation. Could you share a specific example of how your insight community has helped DEWALT create better products?
One example that comes to mind was when we ran innovation challenges. We did four different studies and identified our members’ areas of interests. We then challenged members to generate ideas for their area of interest.
One specific area we looked at was the lighting category. We were very impressed with the many different options that people came up with. Some of the most actionable ideas we received involved enhancements to products that are already in our portfolio. For instance, our product team was debating whether they should add more features to one of our power tools or whether to make it more multipurpose (by offering standard plugs and also making it cordless). These ideas generated so much interest in our insight community, validating the hunch of our product team. Many other ideas from this challenge eventually made it to our product portfolio.
When we make changes to our products, we have many different decisions to make. Take colors, for instance. If we change a button from yellow to black, will our consumers understand what it does? Instead of guessing, we’ve used our insight community to confirm or deny our hypotheses about our products, helping us make more confident decisions about product enhancements.
Can you name a thing or two surprising things about DEWALT consumers that you’ve discovered through your research in the community?
The biggest surprise for me has been our members’ willingness to help out. We run contests regularly to offer incentives to our members. We provide prizes to people who win our innovation challenges. We highlight awesome members in our insight community. Recently, we even did a random drawing of people in Texas for tickets to a bull riding event.
But it’s not like people get a prize every single time they engage with us. What I’ve learned though is that incentives don’t matter as much as long as we show that we care about what our members are saying. We have to show our members that what they’re telling us is very important.
"Incentives don’t matter as much as long as we show that we care about what our members are saying. We have to show our members that what they’re telling us is very important."
Our insight community is very active, but we have a good number of people who complete 100 percent of the activities we send them. That’s surprising to me given how inundated everyone’s inboxes are. But I’ve seen time and time again that members of the DEWALT Insights Forum are always willing to offer their opinions and their time with us.
What our members have shown us is that companies must create genuine customer relationships if you want people to participate. The key is to build a solid relationship before customers even join your insight community. You also have to nurture that relationship once customers agree to participate.
It’s amazing to hear that some of your members complete every single activity that you invite them to. Why do you think they’re so engaged?
I think it’s because the things that we do in our insight community impact them in a tangible way. The tools that we make for them are tools they use to earn their living. Our members need these tools to work. People need our power tools to be reliable and durable. That makes them more passionate as far as wanting to give their input.
We’ve built a customer-centric environment at DEWALT, and that fuels our members’ passion. We’re committed to getting back to people if ever we hear of problems. If you have a complaint about something in the DEWALT family, we’ll help you reach the right team so they can address it. We’ve built a customer-obsessed environment where everyone cares about our brand, our products and the experience our customers have.
How has managing the community influenced your personal career development?
The research team is a really good and credible resource for our internal stakeholders. For example, while our product managers still rely on field research, they also know that they can turn to us and our insight community if they need a quick gut check. In some instances, we’ve been able to provide insight to our product managers about our customers within a few hours.
And because we have been a very good resource for many of the teams at DEWALT, we’ve elevated our influence and visibility within the company. More than ever, the research team at DEWALT collaborates with many people and groups who didn’t use our services previously.
To top all of that, DEWALT Insights Forum won an award from Vision Critical in 2015, and that has given our team prestige not just in our company but in the public eye too. I’ve also been able to do media interviews and speaking opportunities, including one from the 2015 Customer Intelligence Summit, and an upcoming opportunity at the 2016 SiriusDecisions Summit.
Our thanks to Shannon for sharing her time with us. To learn more about DEWALT Insights Forum, the company’s award-winning insight community, watch the video above or watch our webinar featuring Shannon and Ivy Boehm, senior director of consumer insight at Chico’s, on the human side of product innovation.