Innovation is the lifeblood of all great brands. As the business unit responsible for the Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard (KCD) brands, we in KCD are laser-focused on delivering innovation and differentiated value that attracts exceptional interest from our members and customers.
Innovation does not come from any single source, nor does it take any single form. But, at the core of every great innovation are unique insight into unmet needs and a creative approach to solving those needs through design, function and/or experience. Accordingly, beginning in early 2012, KCD dedicated people and resources to create new avenues to help fuel innovation, and leverage the breadth and depth of Sears Holdings’ Shop Your Way® membership. Since initiating this effort, the KCD team has literally cooked, cleaned, assembled, shopped with and ‘talked’ to well over 100,000 members and customers across the country. In doing so, we have clarified our brand and product architectures, defined areas of innovation opportunity and identified specific needs and gaps to foster product creation and development.
In 2014, KCD began expanding more rapidly into new avenues for insight and innovation, initiating multiple programs with universities, design houses, and emerging product and solution providers. One program – focused on crowdsourcing ideas for product and go-to-market strategies – was built much closer to home.
In July of this year, KCD launched IdeaX (Idea Exchange), a fun and engaging forum for full-time Sears Holdings associates across the enterprise to fuel idea generation in categories like floor care, lawn and garden, consumer electronics and connected solutions.
KCD IdeaX connects with our community of associates to solicit feedback and to participate in ideation sessions in person and online. In-person sessions take place at our Hoffman Estates campus in KCD’s 36,000 square foot product development and test facility. These sessions range across a variety of topics, with associates previewing new products or concepts, watching live demonstrations, or even being put to ‘work’ testing new products. The overall objective is the same for each session – to share opinions and ideas with the KCD product, marketing and insights teams to enhance our products and the member experiences these products deliver.
Associate acceptance of this platform has been exciting, with more than 300 associates signing up during the first weeks after the forum was introduced and more being added weekly as word spreads about the sessions being conducted right here at SHC’s front door.
We have already completed five in-person ideation sessions with dozens of associates and received feedback from more than 150 through email. These first few sessions have already generated significant insights that are shaping new and improved products and services that deliver WOW member experiences.
One specific example of how IdeaX is having a direct impact on our brands is from our recent Craftsman Tool User Immersion. During this session, we asked DIY-active associates to use a variety of new, innovative hand tools, having them drive in screws and loosen fasteners to give the Craftsman team a more direct line-of-sight to the end-user experience. Our associates’ interaction with the products and resulting feedback helped drive specific and innovative improvements to the products, creating a more powerful solution that better delivers the ‘Trusted Performance’ for which Craftsman stands.
Collaborations like this help create a more intimate relationship with our members and drive more valued innovations and solutions from our great brands.
Michael Castleman is the president, Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard, SVP Sears Holdings.