...well at least not nearly as much as comfort. It's amazing what a company can discover when they actually do deep research about their products from the customer's perspective. Discovering such facts is fairly significant to your business model when you're in the shoe 'shine' business, like Sara Lee is (gosh, I thought they made great frozen deserts).
The Wall Street Journal reported today about customer research done two years ago. So what do you do when 'shine' is 17th on the list of 20 related values? You focus on satisfying higher-valued attributes, like comfort.
If I'd been the WSJ writer I would have questioned Sara Lee about Kiwi's brush with comfort products in 1992: "Kiwi to Market Comfort Insoles to Consumers." I'd want to know more about why they decided on the range of products they're now marketing (what did they throw out?) and how/why they hoped to differentiate these from existing comfort offerings like insoles.
I'd also want to determine how much they really valued the results of research by asking what they've learned about the adoption of the new products so far (from the consumer's perspective) -- that is, what's been the feedback? I'd ask this, because the original research was initiated and conducted as part of a media/campaign budget, suggesting that ongoing Design Research has not be adopted as a key strategic contributor to their business planning.
Having continuous access to such facts is critical to adjust a strategic business model: "Today's footwear is made less from leather and more from canvas and synthetic materials. Even the military, one of Kiwi's best customers since World War I, had been moving away from leather, partly because so much fighting now takes place in the Middle East, where desert sand makes canvas more sensible. Most consumers today are more likely to toss out worn shoes than work to keep them in good condition." This is critical information to prepare for a shift in demand for products.
Amazing that a company's web site can be read like tea leaves, to infer critical things about a business and their agility: Sara Lee doesn't leverage the Kiwi site as a strategic component of their business. How do I know?
1. Limited content
2. More importantly, knowing all of the above for 2-years, why are products still organized by: Leather, Suede & Nubuck, Outdoor, Sport, Multi-Purpose?
I'm buying comfort. Are you selling any of that today?
Hmmm...the new products are not ON the web site. Wouldn't you want them there first -- particularly since retailers need to know about them to want to order them INTO the stores? Did they miss the obvious when it stared them in the face?
"And when the Sara Lee sales representatives who call on big retailers like Wal-Mart and Tesco were told they'd have to sell the new products, "they looked at their sales directors like they were mad," Mr. Casa says. "They said, 'Kiwi is a round tin, mainly for men, and now you're coming to us with colorful products called smiling feet. It's not serious.'"
Indeed, wouldn't you want to 'feature' your new products (and the stories about why they were developed) on your main page as a teaser, particularly on the same day that you've made the pages of the Wall Street Journal?
What better position to be in than as a writer from WSJ to ask Sara Lee what percentage of their revenue is allocated to the online channel (seems like a reasonable business question). There's got to be a model we could come up with to 'guestimate' a range of investment based on the evidence of the channel as it speaks for itself.
Doesn't seem to me that Kiwi was ever in the 'shine' business after all -- just polish, and only for shoes.