ClasOhlson Lab Store – Designed in Finland, powered with direct consumer insights

Let’s face it; regardless of all the shiny new web-stores and online solutions, you can experience and genuinely try the product out only in certain physical locations. In order to make a well-informed decision you need to be there on the spot. Brick & mortar store concept design is evolving all the time, aiming at providing the best possible customer experience to the customers and optimizing the performance for the owner. Consumer payments handling, in-store customer flow and store lay-out, products display, campaigns, ambiance with sound and all that beauty… there are many things that have an impact on the operational retail excellence and sales. To know the consumer preferences you need consumer insights.

ClasOhlson is a Swedish company with strong presence in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK and Germany. Established in 1918, the first store was opened in Insjön, Sweden in 1927. The company has the mission to simplify people’s lives in all kinds of homes. Helping solve everyday problems is in the core of the company’s foundation. The product range of the company covers hardware, electrical, multimedia, home and leisure products. In the Spring 2018, ClasOhlson decided to introduce a new store concept in Finland that would enable quick and easy shopping experience, spiced with innovative services. This article is about the development of the ClasOhlson Lab Store concept, where consumers were welcomed to participate and influence on the design before the launch.

ClasOhlson Lab Store rollout

Have you ever visited a clothing store where you cannot find a nice belt, even if buying a belt would surge as a random idea after picking up your new trousers from the rack? How about going to a grocery store to buy quality meat, but not having a decent selection of marinating sauces nearby? These category and product positioning decisions are the very basics for any store owner or retailer to consider… and they need to be re-thought on a regular basis. The store layouts are constantly changing, in some product categories and industries more often than in some others.

“For the ClasOhlson Lab Store concept, we wanted to challenge ourselves to think about the customer. What would I want to buy as a customer and how? During the concept design process, we welcomed consumers to tell us what they would appreciate before the launch”, opens Marko Röytiö, the Managing Director of ClasOhlson Finland. This starting point brought ClasOhlson and Crowst together and kicked off the collaboration for direct consumer insights and ideation engagement.

“We wanted to establish our first ClasOhlson Lab Store in Otaniemi, Espoo. This is a hub of young people and students, who have a novel way of thinking, challenging and appreciating their in-store experience”, describes Röytiö. “Since the beginning, we considered this as our testing ground… and based on the learnings, our plan is to scale the ClasOhlson Lab Store concept also to other regions and cities”, Röytiö continues.

Consumer insights driven retail concept

Developing something new is always about matching creativity and wild ideas with hard facts of demand and operational constraints. It also includes that sweet element of shooting in the dark. The proportion of the latter variable is significantly higher if consumers and the genuine customer view is excluded from the development process. For this reason, ClasOhlson wanted to adopt the customer view in the store concept planning stage, enabling them to ideate and influence on how the concept could and should be like.

“Crowst provided us with the direct engagement channel to our target audience that matched one-to-one with the Otaniemi Lab Store clientele. We screened and identified our audience for insights engagement based on the people’s demographic background, physical location, as well as commuting routines and other behavioural patterns”, outlines Röytiö. The study mapping out people’s expectations and wishes for the store was structured in a way it enabled those wild ideas to be proposed and brought to the table. “We were able to ask questions and also show pictures as mood boards, challenging our future store visitors to ideate and contribute”, Röytiö describes. “It was so easy for us, and most importantly, the consumer engagement via Crowst didn’t slow down our concept go-to-market process, it only contributed to it”, Röytiö summarizes.

“It was so easy for us, and most importantly, the consumer engagement via Crowst didn’t slow down our concept go-to-market process, it only contributed to it.”

Around 600 responses were received from people who regularly commute via or nearby the Otaniemi Lab Store (located in the subway complex). These people shared their views on what things would make their lives easier and what they would expect from the store. These desired store capabilities and services included the ability to have expert advice on renovation at the store, rental of power tools, and 24/7 access to the store.

Seasonal products and campaigning at the Clas Ohlson lab store. Ultimately, consumers decide how excellent the retail excellence really is, thus consumer insights are a must.

“It was refreshing and eye-opening to concretely see and read what people think, wish and expect. This is the type of the linkage we wanted; our offering is designed to serve people and make their daily lives better. Only the people, consumers, can help us to understand how to make it happen”, comments Sara Langhoff, Merchandising Manager from ClasOhlson Finland.

The core idea of the ClasOhlson Lab Store concept is to serve people’s needs, and these needs vary based on many things, such as seasons. “We wish that our Lab Store concept would support people’s daily lives, bringing them joy and helping on those concrete tasks and challenges”, Röytiö underlines. In Finland the four seasons can be lived and experienced to the fullest. This sets unique requirements to the product and services offering available at ClasOhlson Lab Stores.

“Our daily lives are so busy, change and surprises are in the heart of it. In order to know what people need and want, we need to feel the day’s pulse. Crowst is the consumer heartbeat pulse meter that offers that knowledge to us, directly from customers”, Röytiö closes.