How Jenn-Air Used Data Beyond Ads

We keep hearing about the possibilities with regards to using data to inform ad messaging, but the real promise is much broader.

Take how Whirlpool’s high-end appliance brand Jenn-Air dug deep into its data and analytics to figure out its site redesign. It dug into customer-experience service ForeSee Results to find just who its online visitors are and why they came. The idea was to go beyond hunches and “loudest voice in the room” approach to Web design and let data be the guide.

The data told Jenn-Air it needed to drastically change its one-size-fits-all site approach to one that spoke to four different audiences. The first is pre-purchase consumers in the market to purchase or replace an appliance. The second is post-purchasers seeking parts or accessories and information on how to use their appliance. The third type is consumers looking for inspiration to kitchen design. And last are design consultants. There are now different experiences (split up using tabs) on the site to cater to these constituencies.

The new site has been transformed into somewhat of an interactive online product catalog. Visitors can view and compare products to see which best fits their needs. The search functionality has been revamped too; it’s now predictive. The move from Flash to HTML5 has reduced load times. There’s a lot more content on the site as well. The data showed Jenn-Air that people are using the manufacturer’s site to get additional product details like where a cord is located on the back of an appliance. So the company added this type of information and also added 360-degree view functionality.

“If I can give marketers one piece of advice, it would be lose your egos,” said Brian Maynard, director of marketing for Jenn-Air at Whirlpool. “It’s about what the consumer thinks. That sounds basic but there are a lot of decisions I observe where people take their own personal biases and make their own marketing decisions. I think one of the reasons the new site is already getting such good feedback from customers is the fact that we took the time to listen before we made any moves.”

Initially, the  company made the decision to redesign because it wanted to drop Flash. Flash is limiting in many ways. Consumers must install and enable a Flash plugin for the site to render completely. Additionally, Flash is slow, heavy and demanding. It doesn’t work on most smartphones or tablets. It’s no wonder then that brands are starting to move away from the “Flashturbation” that marked Internet 1.0 for more flexible technologies.

“Speed and the overall experience was more cumbersome than we would have liked,” said Jeffrey Kean, vp and technology director at Digitas, which built the site for Jenn-Air. “People weren’t getting the answers they want right away. And, Flash doesn’t help in the search realm. Search engines can crawl Flash, but everything is pre-rendered. So what we did in the past was you build an HTML underpinning for your Flash site. It’s effective, but not great. It meant that when you change stuff on the site, you’d have to update things twice.”

Next up for Jenn-Air, which already has a mobile and desktop site and a mobile app, is the creation of a tablet experience. Digitas and Jenn-Air are already in talks pertaining to this. Stay tuned.