NEENAH, Wis., Oct. 3, 2007 - Kimberly-Clark Corporation (NYSE: KMB) today announced the opening of its new Innovation Design Studio, incorporating use of a proprietary virtual reality system to help identify innovations, gain key insights and strengthen customer relationships. Located in Neenah, Wis., the facility represents a powerful addition to K-C's product, marketing research and customer development toolkits - further advancing those capabilities that touch customers, shoppers and users.
At the core of the Innovation Design Studio is a state-of-the-art visualization room with advanced virtual reality technologies and equipment, including a high-tech kiosk called the K-C SmartStation that simulates a person's shopping experience. Together, these help K-C research new product innovations and store concepts from idea, through concept testing to actual execution without the time and cost of physically constructing mock-ups.
"We are one of only a few companies in the world to have an innovation design studio with an integrated virtual reality system, and we believe ours may well be the most technologically advanced system anywhere," said Ramin Eivaz, Vice President of North Atlantic Insight, Strategy and Growth for K-C, who led the development of the Innovation Design Studio. "By engaging ourselves and our customers in this virtual world, we can spark better ideas to improve the shopping experience and collaborate on new product concepts and innovations."
Becoming an Indispensable Business Partner
Through using the virtual reality system and the K-C SmartStation, the company can create real store settings, down to retailer-specific color palettes, graphics and layouts. These 3-D, interactive store models allow K-C and its customers to explore hypothetical in-store design and merchandising concepts without having to move a single package of product, enabling K-C and the customer to test the impact of these concepts prior to launching them.
Additionally, the K-C SmartStation allows consumers to walk the aisles of the virtual stores, shop the store via a touch screen panel and react to virtual displays and in-store promotions. Through the use of sophisticated eye-tracking technology, the high-tech kiosk enables K-C to study consumers' engagement and reaction by tracking their eye movements and physical motions in a 3-D simulated shopping setting to determine how different shopping environments may influence their purchasing decisions.
"The K-C SmartStation allows us to see what catches the consumer's attention, helping us identify which aisle formats, shelf arrangements or in-store promotions are most effective at driving purchases," said Eivaz. "We and our customers can then transform these insights into real-world solutions to increase sales opportunities and shopper loyalty."
According to Don Quigley, President of Consumer Sales and Customer Development for K-C, the new studio and virtual reality system is a hit with many of the company's retail customers. "Those customers who have already experienced our virtual reality system immediately recognized its power to capture the essence of their stores and its unique ability to bring to life insights into consumer shopping behavior," said Quigley.
As an example of the effectiveness of the Innovation Design Studio and K-C SmartStation, K-C worked with Safeway to help the company create a new format for the supermarket's baby care aisle that encourages moms to spend more time shopping in this section. Safeway applied the shopper insights gained from the K-C virtual store environment to reformat actual baby aisles in three test stores. Over an 8-week period, the test stores experienced increased category sales for all disposable diapers, disposable training pants, baby wipes and toiletries. Safeway plans to leverage the learnings and benefits of the new aisle format in additional stores in the future.
Leveraging Proprietary Technologies to Gain Valuable Insights
Whether partnering with retail customers, or conducting its own research, K-C can also use the system to design alternative packaging, show how they appear on the shelf and compare their visual impact. Additionally, K-C can use the system to receive immediate consumer feedback on new product and packaging ideas - making product launches an expression of consumers' wants and needs, while helping K-C maximize its return on new product initiatives. "To open up new paths of growth, both marketers and retailers need to create innovative, differentiated solutions that address unmet consumer needs," said Quigley. "K-C's ability to collaborate with our customers in virtual environments will help elevate the way we design and deliver the right solutions for shoppers and users of our products."
Kimberly-Clark and its well-known global brands are an indispensable part of life for people in more than 150 countries. Every day, 1.3 billion people-nearly a quarter of the world's population-trust K-C brands and the solutions they provide to enhance their health, hygiene and well-being. With brands such as Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex and Depend, Kimberly-Clark holds the No. 1 or No. 2 share position in more than 80 countries. To keep up with the latest K-C news and to learn more about the company's 135-year history of innovation, visit www.kimberly-clark.com.