Clas Ohlson develops customer understanding by visiting people’s homes

Companies deploy a broad variety of methods and channels to deepen and enhance their customer and market understanding. Online website visitor experience, in-store customer experience, and commonly changing macro-trends are consistently tracked and measured using surveys and different types of studies. Knowledge is power, and the type of insights required steer the selection on the methodologies deployed to source those insights. While digital tracking, automation, machine learning and AI are becoming stronger elements on sourcing insights every day, there are also companies that have set personal F2F interaction as the building block for their customer understanding strategy.

Clas Ohlson is one of these companies that trust in in-depth, qualitative insights. Established in 1918, the company has a strong presence in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK and Germany. The first Clas Ohlson store was opened in Insjön, Sweden in 1927. The company is dedicated to solve people’s everyday problems, and the company’s product range covers hardware, electrical, multimedia, home and leisure products. However, Clas Ohlson’s dedication to learn and help people in their everyday problem-solving challenges goes way deeper than just products. The company representatives visit regularly people’s homes to deepen their customer understanding, and also to develop their stores based on regionally varying needs.

Matching people’s needs with local offerings

In November 2018 we wrote about our collaboration with Clas Ohlson on the Lab Store concept development based on direct consumer insights. The article touched people’s varying needs in different regions, based also on different seasons. A student living in a student village faces different types challenges and needs at home than a private house owner who has a garden. Consequently, this means that the store location and its potential clientele in the vicinity need to be taken into consideration when developing the store’s locally refined value proposition.

“We have always considered personal meetings and face-to-face interaction as the key to learn and obtain in-depth knowledge on our customers’ lives, needs and challenges”, opens Anni Lestinen, HR Manager at Clas Ohlson Finland. “Thus we consider it important that our regional store staff visit people’s homes in their area to get first-hand experiences on customers’ lives and reality”, Lestinen adds.

Clas Ohlson Finland collaborates with Crowst to identify the people and homes for the visits, matching the company’s strategic objectives, customer segmentation and geographical characteristics.

Visiting homes

How Clas Ohlson screens the homes to be visited? The homes’ geographical location is one of the key variables. In addition, people’s age and gender, housing type (e.g. private house / bulk house), status (single / married / married with children) and student / employment status may be in the sweet spot for the preferred home visits. As the goal is to understand people’s needs in different stages and life situations, usually a mix of different types of homes are identified and selected for the visits.

“We work with Crowst to identify the people who are a good match with our needs. The Crowst Dashboard is a quick and handy way to identify the homes to be visited by running background mapper studies”, Lestinen comments. “We just outline the desired scope and attributes, and Crowst provides us with the contact list that matches our needs, naturally including the consent from the individuals involved”, Lestinen says.

“We just outline the desired scope and attributes, and Crowst provides us with the contact list that matches our needs, naturally including the consent from the individuals involved.”

Visiting people’s homes offers a brilliant opportunity to obtain qualitative, in-depth information. This information is invaluable when drafting value propositions, store concepts, product offerings and many more.

During the home visits, we aim at clarifying what is the person’s background. This helps us to learn what are the person’s areas of interest and life situation in general”, comments Tero Lahti, Regional Manager, Clas Ohlson Finland. “The interviewee shows the rooms in her/his home, and based on what our representatives see there are plenty of questions to be asked to better understand the context. We also map out what channels and media the interviewee uses, where the person gets information, buys products and how he/she pays for them”, Lahti summarizes.

On the visits the interviewees’ opinions and behaviours are on the focus; thus Clas Ohlson’s brand and product selection are deliberately avoided in the conversation. This results in more open, unassisted answers and results.

From people’s homes to enhanced chain operations

Based on the insights obtained, the store management teams craft concrete action plans on how the insights and discoveries are put into practice at stores. The topics, ideas and concepts are discussed in the company internal social media channels. The Clas Ohlson representatives who paid the home visits, as well as the regional company directors, are active in these discussions. Locally discovered and refined ideas are scaled nationally to all Clas Ohlson stores in those cases where they serve the delivery of the core customer value proposition.

“It is great to have the opportunity to have so close, direct and honest dialogue with our customers. After all, we go to work every day to deliver and redeem our promise to our customers. We do it to fulfill our mission; we help people to solve their everyday problems. What would the best place to learn how to do it than people’s homes?”, underlines Lahti.