How do we enter a new segment? What is most relevant for premium grill users? We have plenty of ideas in the pipeline – but are we betting on the right things? How do we achieve true innovations rather than incremental improvements? These were our client’s questions. The answers lay in understanding users’ perspective.

The Challenge

OUTDOORCHEF, a DKB (www.dksh.com) Household brand, is a leading manufacturer and seller of premium grills. Over 25 years ago, the company became famous for its invention of the gas kettle barbecue, which made barbecuing more versatile, healthier, and safer. Since then, its innovations have been driven by its engineers, who came up with new product feature variations every year.
Meanwhile, the competition – most notably, Weber – was catching up and it was clearly time to change gears. OUTDOORCHEF decided to take a new approach: start by building a deep understanding of consumers, then have end-user needs and pains drive innovations. The goal was to develop a new grill generation at a premium price. Using the Customer-Focused Innovation (CFI) approach, the company managed to achieve a quantum leap in customer and user understanding.

The CFI approach

Country: Germany 

Research scope: People who like to barbecue (= total market), broken down by gender, type of grill (gas or charcoal), and price segment.  

Key pain points

Besides a large spectrum of insights, three pain areas with major customer pain points were identified:

  1. With the growing diversity of tastes and of items put on the grill. a one-temperature solution does not work anymore. Meat lovers, fish fans and vegetarians all want their food at the same time, without any compromise to the end result.
  2. As cooking has become a lifestyle issue and consumers’ lives are shifting outdoors, the design of a grill has come to matter much more now than it did 10 years ago.
  3. Gas involves an inherent safety issue, in particular with children around – and the fact that gas grill accidents are extremely rare does not ease people’s worries. These three pain points were highlighted in the briefs to R&D.
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User discovery:

A deep and broad survey was conducted, based on a mix of one-on-one interviews and mini focus groups and using the jobs-to-be-done logic. The «job to be done» was determined simply as «having a BBQ» – starting with the actual idea of having the BBQ (with or without guests) all the way to cleaning the grill. To gain new insights, separating male from female respondents turned out to be very helpful. We also made sure to include a mix of different grill types. In the process, we identified over 200 user expectation metrics and selected 95 for validation.

The second part of the discovery focused on gaining an unbiased, validated user point of view, emphasizing the areas and single expectations where both relevance and dissatisfaction were particularly high. Putting all rated expectation metrics in relation and mapping the results in a CFI Customer Value Map provided clear guidance on where specific action was needed that would be appreciated by current and future customers. As the discovery phase was driven by user input only, internal preconceptions in customer understanding were minimized and cross-functional alignment was easier. 

Spin: 

To «spin» the results into most relevant innovation ideas and market concepts, a series of workshops followed to make sure clients understood the results and would embed them in the organization, as well as to revise sales narratives and sharpen the market communication. Specific R&D and agency briefings were developed based on the pain points discovered.

«Our innovations are all based on the results of the CFI project. We compare each new product feature to those results, and check whether it is really customer-relevant»
André Franz, Head of Marketing and Sales, OUTDOORCHEF

Insights part I

Peace of mind at last

The strongest pain point identified was a vague but ever-present fear of a potential gas explosion. The R&D team was initially hesitant to tackle this safety issue. However, as the results of the CFI project were so persuasive, a two-fold solution was developed: The new SLS Safety Light System indicates proper functioning of the gas grill; the ignition has been made child-safe.

Some like it hot — some lukewarm

Although people love having a simple BBQ, expectations to its quality are rising in the premium segment – so it is essential to provide the right heat for each food to be grilled. OUTDOORCHEF therefore developed a new line: the DUALCHEF. It includes the new DGS TM Dual Gourmet System, which allows to grill foods at different temperatures side by side: from as low as 80°C to a maximum of 380°C.

Steak for you, fish for me

When you have a barbecue for several people, you want to serve all guests at the same time – no matter whether they are steak or fish lovers. Now if you put different foods on the same grill at the same time there is a risk their tastes will affect each other. This pain point was particularly strong, so the company put enormous effort into product development to resolve it. The result is the new DGS TM ZONE DIVIDER (patent pending), which keeps different dishes separate and prevents their tastes from mixing.

The outcome

  • A new, innovative barbecue grill line, the DUALCHEF – successfully launched on the market and received very well by specialized retailers
  • Access to a new customer base, as the client managed to enter the top price segment: Average RSP for gas BBQ is € 500-750, DUALCHEF is priced € 1200 – 2’200 
  • Two pending product patents, underlining the client’s innovative power
  • Uplift of the brand OUTDOORCHEF in various dimensions through high-end looks, price, and product performance
  • Marked improvement in the organization’s consumer orientation

«You are the only ones at this fair who present something truly innovative for the BBQ market: the DUALCHEF» 
Retail specialist’s comment at the world’s largest BBQ and grading fair, the SPOGA (2016)

Insights part II

Less gas, less energy 

Nobody likes to carry gas bottles – and everyone knows how annoying it can be when they you run out of gas in the middle of a barbecue dinner. Most back burners in the market are very inefficient and consume lots of gas. This pain point became the topic of a specific brief to R&D. Eventually, they came up with the new DGS TM HEAT DIFFUSER (patent pending): not only does it reduce gas consumption – it also eliminates the traditional back burner system.

In the design, details count

A grill is not simply a grill these days, a mere appliance sitting in the corner. It is more of an outdoor furniture, which people like to place in clear view on their terrace. The bad news: As CFI results showed, most of the designs don’t go down well with consumers, as they lack top-of-the-line materials, a high-quality build, a love for detail, and top-notch looks. Realizing this, OUTDOORCHEF introduced the D-Line in a completely new, European high-end design. 

Women are from Venus, men are from Mars 

The gender-specific CFI Value Maps revealed that men and women “live in two different worlds:” While they usually make the buying decision for a grill jointly, women tend to want much more information up front. Realizing this, OUTDOORCHEF provided most POS with communication tools focused around FAQs.

Charcoal grill or gas grill? That is the question

Exploring the user perspective revealed a huge difference in pain points between charcoal and gas grill users – an insight that also enhanced our understanding of the competitive landscape. With OUTDOORCHEF being known for gas grills and the main competitor for charcoal grills, the insights gained provide the basis for a new strategy: By contrasting the downsides of charcoal grills with the upsides of gas grills, the strategy aims to get customers to switch.