The Challenge

How did a mass market furniture manufacturer find out why in-home assembly of a bookcase product was failing so miserably?

The Solution

A furniture manufacturer turned to a research company for help in identifying the source of a nationwide problem with one of their popular bookcase products. The product was intended to be straightforward to assemble by the average person. However once purchased, retailers of all types who sold it were suddenly finding it coming back as returns. The manufacturer needed to pinpoint the problem because when their team assembled the bookcase themselves they were able to do so easily.

There were several possibilities under consideration. The first was a possible defect in the overseas manufacturing process that was not obvious. The second was the instructions for assembly – a paper brochure in black and white that was included in the box. The third was the possibility that the consumers were at fault in either following the directions accurately or were lacking in the basic skills of furniture assembly.

To identify the issue, the research company elected to work with Civicom’s service called Front Row, which enables the researcher to observe an individual remotely engaged in a live activity, while also conversing with them in a live, video-recorded interview. Customers who had returned the bookcase to the retailers were targeted from lists provided by the retailers. The Civicom CiviSelect respondent recruiting unit contacted people on the list and scheduled them into the Front Row interviews. The manufacturer shipped a new bookcase to each of the respondents in the study.

To pinpoint the issue each respondent was asked to set up their computer with a view of the assembly space. The entire process of assembly was then video recorded from the time of the furniture box was opened. Through the process of videotaping twelve consumers it was discovered that the problem was in the instructions, a possibility that had been overlooked by the furniture manufacturer. It was discovered that the overseas producer of the product had reprinted the directions and in the process an entire important paragraph had been left off a page.

Using Front Row enabled the researcher to view the assembly process and conclude the source of the issue. This was accomplished without the researcher ever having to leave their workspace, and at the time of day most convenient for the respondents. All facilitation was handled by the Civicom Marketing Research Services team, freeing the researcher to engage in the mobile ethnography study itself without worry about technology.