Dometic: Design Research for Future Innovations

www.dometic.com

User Experience, Service design, design research

A

Project Background

Dometic, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of climate control systems for RVs, motorhomes and caravans, was losing ground on the market. In their bid to regain their leading position, we were asked to identify opportunities and possible areas of short and mid-term innovations.

The market for climate control for RVs is comprised of a few key players, all multinationals companies, who compete on both aftermarket and OEM markets (selling directly to manufacturers). There is no clear differentiation, A/C units are sold mainly based on specs, not benefits or innovations.

On the other hand, the overarching trends of adventure-seeking experiences, back-to-nature escapism and constant self-improvement are driving the market growth for outdoor activities and gear. While technological advances make anything possible, implemented solutions were anything but user-focused. Therefore the moment was ripe for the industry leaders to jump from incremental improvements to radical innovations, which would only be successful if developed with users in mind.

Including all stake- holder groups to the research enabled us to look for opportunities beyond product innovations; instead, we were looking to ensure a holistic view over the entire experience.

Goals and Objectives

Including all stakeholder groups to the research enabled us to look for opportunities beyond product innovations; instead, we were looking to ensure a holistic view over the entire experience, from production, sales and purchase to use, servicing and repairs, and looked at these moments from different stakeholders’ points of view. The goals included:

  • uncovering low-hanging-fruits and among these finding possible “quick fix & big win” projects;
  • identifying pain points, unmet needs and motivations for every stakeholder group: what would make their lives easier?;
  • defining innovation directions and opportunity spaces for product / service innovations.

B

Process

In order to uncover users’ pain points, unmet needs and underlying motivations we went out of the building to observe and interview real users, in the context of use. Yet, observing only end user would tell just half of the story; that is why we included other stakeholders in the research, including experts (product managers, marketing professionals, service technicians, aftermarket salesmen and OEM manufacturers). This way we gained a comprehensive overview of the entire business ecosystem, and uncovered innovation and improvement areas which are not exclusively product-based with differentiation potential.

Step 1

Expert Interviews

In order to get a quick, yet comprehensive overview of the industry, we first interviewed regional product area owners and sales managers. We combined the acquired knowledge with a quick & dirty competitive analysis on a trade show and prior desktop research. The underlying themes of no clear differentiation between brands and pushing product on specs became more and more apparent.

First we interviewed regional product area owners and sales managers.

Step 2

Contextual End-User Interviews & Observation

Next we travelled to southeastern USA for field research in various campsites. Our goal was to capture insights on air conditioners usability, uncover pain points, discover habits and behaviour connected with the A/C usage. Using a guerrilla approach, which does not require prior user recruiting, we approached users in their RVs, interviewed them and observed how they were operating their A/Cs. The combination of ethnography and interviewing techniques enabled us to uncover insights which would otherwise stay hidden.

Our goal was to capture insights on air conditioners usability, uncover pain points, discover habits and behaviour connected with the A/C usage.

Step 3

Other Stakeholder Contextual Interviews

At the next phase we included service technicians, installers, aftermarket salesmen and OEM manufacturers to our field research, as they represent instrumental stakeholders in the system. Talking with them in their professional context — whether this is the service area, RV assembly line or in the shop — provided us with deeper understanding of their pains and motivations. As our research team included also a product designer, we could dive deep in specific technical issues as well, which are generally unknown to most researchers.

Field research also included service technicians, installers, aftermarket salesmen and OEM manufacturers.

Step 4

Insight Generation and Innovation Directions

After analysing and synthesising the collected data, we were able to uncover a total of 26 different insights from every stakeholder group in the business ecosystem. These insights were starting points for possible innovation directions.

C

Results

Our design research project resulted in 22 different short-term improvement areas and 21 identified innovation opportunities both for mid- and long-term R&D. We mapped out the opportunities according to estimated time & investment requirements. By uncovering improvement and innovation opportunities, we’ve helped the client define the direction for future innovation and differentiation based on real stakeholder benefits.

We’ve helped the client define the direction for future innovation and differentiation based on real stakeholder benefits.