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Duracell VP taps into the power of CX research to inform the R&D of batteries

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Duracell VP taps into the power of CX research to inform the R&D of batteries

Duracell CX R&D

The customer experience of using a battery often happens once it is placed inside another company’s product.  Duracell, however, has found there is power in not only studying CX but applying what it learns to the earliest stages of product development.

Speaking in a recent episode of the Brainfluence podcast produced by neuromarketing expert and keynote speaker Roger Dooley, Duracell vice-president and Senior Research Fellow Ray Iveson discussed how consumer response to a product can change everything about how it is made.

Before working at Duracell, for instance, Iveson was brought in as an engineer at Procter & Gamble, where he helped build instruments to measure how well products like shampoos and conditioners worked on on hair, skin and other substrates. Those measurements were largely quantitative and based on objective data.

Although P&G got input from customers, however, Iveson said their feedback often didn’t tell the full story or line up with those objective measures.

“When you ask consumers about products, they generally reflect back what they’ve been told,” he said. “If I tell you a shampoo cleans your hair and gets rid of oil and I ask you how it performed, that’s what you’ll say it does.”

And yet, as Dooley pointed out, the consumer response can also be affected by factors that include everything from the appearance of a shampoo to the smell and even its packaging.

“It’s very rare that it’s a single benefit that will allow you to develop the best product for a consumer,” Iveson said. “Generally speaking, you will need to identify two to four vectors of performance that will give you 90 per cent of the response you’re looking for.”

In the battery industry, this matters because so much of the value associated with Duracell’s products has been how long they last — even though customers only experience the battery’s longevity by using it with another device. 

To complement the research it conducts with focus groups and surveys, Iveson said Duracell has been using a system provided by iMotions which integrates a number of physiological implicit consumer response measures into a single platform. This includes tracking where the eye moves, pupil size and ‘galvanic skin response,’ or how people sweat based on their emotional state.

Using the technology has allowed Iveson and his team to discover a second “vector of benefit” Duracell can focus on that might otherwise have been ignored. Consider that while consumers might expect a TV remote to last a long time without changing the batteries, there are other devices where the strength of the battery affects the device’s performance. Like a flashlight, for example.

Iveson described how Duracell has been able to conduct lab tests where measuring things like pupil size to show how the strength of a battery in a flashlight could help customers adjust to darkened conditions.

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“We can objectively measure the intensity of the light, or how wide the beams are,” he said. “But when you’re using it as a consumer, we’ll shine that flashlight into an area and measure their pupil size to gauge how the (strength of the battery) has changed their ability to see.”

Iveson and his team have run these studies with groups between 30 and 100 people. He said it was very clear that people could perceive the difference between battery performance across a wide range of devices — something he had been told was highly unlikely when he first joined the company.

This means Duracell can not only tweak its current products or design new batteries, but that it can work with manufacturers of devices like flashlights to ensure they are optimized to make the most of them.

“Now we start with the consumer, feed that into our product design cycle and then validate them in blind tests,” he said, adding those working in other functions across Duracell, such as marketing, are taking similar approaches to CX research.

“The company as a whole has embraced the idea that you have to also measure the things you’re not being told in order to get the complete picture of how to please the consumer,” he said. 

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