Outdoor Perspectives/02/08/2018

Outdoor consumers - innovations triggered by close customer relationships

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Outdoor consumers are difficult to define. An increasing number of people loves the thought of being close to nature. This makes the user group heterogeneous and difficult to predict. Only those with deep insights into the realities of the lives of the customers can meet their needs. Consumer insights are the key to success. They are gaining in importance, and the methods used to obtain them are becoming increasingly systematic. The whole industry benefits.

The product experience of the P. RIDE avalanche backpack was tested with the ISPO Open Innovation Community and valuable consumer insights for a complex product were generated.
The product experience of the P. RIDE avalanche backpack was tested with the ISPO Open Innovation Community and valuable consumer insights for a complex product were generated.

There is no typical outdoor sports enthusiast

Ski touring is a sport that has become increasingly fashionable over the past few years and is gaining rising numbers of fans. Initially a niche sport, touring is currently developing into an extremely popular sport and therefore reflects an evolvement that is typical for the outdoor market, as an increasing number of fans increases the user group’s heterogeneity. A target group in the classic sense is therefore almost impossible to define. From highly focused technology freaks to highly enjoyment conscious people, from success-oriented performers to deep snow purists, a wide range of different people love this sport. For the industry, this is a blessing as well as a curse. However, despite the fact that the user community is extremely varied and difficult to predict, the industry can nevertheless engage a great number of different user types, provided it understands the diversity of the user types in order to then tailor its products perfectly to match their needs. This calls for insights, and they can only be gained through understanding.

Consumer insights as a source of inspiration

Understanding what customers want is one of they key challenges for companies, as most development departments base their work on processes and value creation stages. If the focus is on customer needs, the processes have to be adapted to this. This triggers an insight management process, as the insights must gradually be made usable. “Customer insight management covers many areas; the generation, processing, analysis and interpretation of deep insights into the customer user reality. It is about behaviors; about the desires, needs, motivations and views of the people who actually use the products,” says David Badalec, who is responsible for the ISPO Open Innovation platform and helps customers to manage their insights. “You could also call this approach ‘insight mining’. We are always on the lookout for minor and major Eureka! moments; we are searching for something new in something we think we already know.”

Ready-made crowdsourcing solutions make management easier

Due to intensive individualization, everyone is now talking about focusing on the customer. Which leads to the question of why the inspiration source “insights” is frequently left untapped. After all, the idea of involving customers in the development process is not exactly a new one. “Many companies are loathe to address insight management as they believe that it is an incredibly complex process,” David Badalec continues. Many companies really do seem to find it difficult to manage this process themselves. “Our product was created in response to this need. We can rely on the entire global ISPO and Messe München network when we investigate issues, and also have access to a community with 40,000 registered members and their profiles. This means that we can bring our customers in touch with the right participants almost regardless of the details of the respective issue they are investigating.”

Product experience: Avalanche airbag P.RIDE

The spectrum of potential issues is almost unlimited. The investigations do not always focus on completely new development ideas. Often, a product is in the beta phase. At this point, the customer perspective is particularly important as there is already much to see but the product is still variable. “When it comes to these kinds of projects, we are interested in an honest opinion.” This was also the case in the product experience test which ABS initiated together with ISPO Open Innovation. In order to receive genuine feedback not just from athletes but also from totally ordinary sports enthusiasts  on its avalanche airbag P.RIDE, the manufacturer equipped suitable study participants with the latest product generation in collaboration with ISPO Open Innovation:

Michael Vogt, Marketing Director ABS Airbags, knows that high-quality consumer insights are not easy to gain when it comes to complex and specialist products, and therefore values the experience test results: “When it comes to the new product generation, user centered design is ABS’ top priority. Safety and technology are the ultimate benchmarks for the components we use. However, the functionality must be intuitive for the user; that is just as important. The insights from the participants and above all the extremely detailed descriptions from the use cases are genuine added value for us.”

Insight management as a key qualification

The insight process is not always triggered by a product. Salewa, for instance, has consciously thought of the bigger picture and beyond a specific product: Stefan Rainer, General Manager Salewa, explains: “We focus on the customers, their needs and what they want. Our personal enthusiasm for mountaineering is an additional source of motivation and stimulation – and makes it easier for us to understand the needs of the customers. We have learnt that there is no stereotypical customer. Mountaineers are individualists, but we must find common ground. Usually, the difference then lies in small, subtle details, so-called codes. As soon as we have analyzed these, we continuously address their integration in our individual product solutions.”

With its strict and comprehensive customer involvement, Salewa is taking an extremely future-oriented step. David Badalec is thrilled: “A visionary approach allows insight management to do so much more than just test products. I am thinking, for example, of the optimization of more general issues such as the whole brand experience or the identity that defines the core of a brand. We are always prepared to explore new approaches and believe in our customers’ ability to look ahead, and in all aspects.”

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