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Makita Thinks Outside The Box With The Microwave EP13

Makita Tools is a world-renowned brand for its construction tools. This podcast episode explores why they leaped the cordless microwave. You can find this podcast episode on major podcast platforms: SpotifyApple PodcastsiHeartMediaAmazon MusicGoogle Podcasts, and Anchor.

Introduction

Makita was founded in 1915 as an electric motor sales and repair company based in Japan. It is now a global brand operating in over 40 countries with tools for use in small and large job sites around the world.

Makita over the past 100 years

While Mikata’s research and development team spent time on improving its power tools, the team also allocated resources on understanding the needs of workers. This is how long cordless cooking tools were born. The cordless line now has a coffee maker, a kettle, and a microwave.

Transcript

DeAnn/Larry
Hello and welcome to another episode of Retail Mashup. I’m DeAnn. I’m Larry. And we like to talk about the intersection of customer experience, and retail and help retailers generate, and improve their bottom line

Makita And The Microwave

Well, Larry, I was impressed today when I saw something pop up about Makita selling a new microwave oven through their tool line.

And this isn’t just a microwave oven. This microwave oven is cordless and comes with a carry strap and the batteries that power it are interchangeable with their tools. And I just was blown away by how simple and yet what I know had to go have gone into creating something that is such a departure from their typical line of tool products.

Makita 40V Cordless Microwave that is portable and light enough to be carried on a shoulder strap (Image: Makita)

I think it’s really interesting how a company that is as traditional as a large tool manufacturer, this is Maita we’re talking about came up with the idea of something that wasn’t tool related.

Taking Risks Through Customer Experience Research

I know brands invest a lot of time and money into research, but they typically research their products or their customers about their products. Makita typically would look at how people interact with their tools, and how they feel about using their tools. What do they think of the quality of the tools, how do they store the tools?

What are they frustrated about when they use the tools? What kinds of projects do they wish better tools for? That informs their design process. So somebody at Makita had to set all of that aside, go outside of the toolbox and look at the day in the life of a typical contractor or a typical person working on a job site.

Think about their life, not about tools, but just in terms of having lunch at the site or getting to and from the site, you know, things like that. So that was interesting to me as an innovative way to approach product development. And it’s something you don’t see very often, and the power of that to create customer loyalty is immense.

The Discussion

Larry
I love this story. I love what you talked about, and this is a universal component of building customer relationships. It’s not just about the build and creating a product and people will buy my product.

Beyond Branding

Beyond just branding, beyond marketing, it’s understanding what your customers are looking for. So if you are a tool company, perhaps our audience may think, Hey, why would anyone using tools would need a microwave?

But it would make sense if the brand has been listening to its customers, really thinking about their needs on the field and reading their feedback, and asking people maybe in surveys or at round tables about their day-to-day life so that they would be able to better create products and services and or new product lines in serving those needs.

And I think that’s an interesting idea. And then having something wireless, that’s a microwave. I certainly wouldn’t have thought of it. And maybe workers need to use the product.

Deceptively Simple But Difficult To Execute

Yeah. It’s deceptively simple. I think when you look at it and go, “Oh, microwave oven, that makes perfect sense. I get it. Why hasn’t somebody done it sooner?” But I don’t think people realize how challenging it is in this day and age. To go outside of the box in your thinking because it is a risk. And companies today are incredibly risk-averse because they have so many transformational things to focus on.

So you’re worrying about digital transformation and automating parts of your manufacturing, your supply chain, or your retail store. If you have a client-facing component. And you’re struggling to get staff. You’re trying to figure out unionization, you’re trying to deal with inflation and keep your prices down.

Makita’s Microwave MW001G in action (Video: Makita Products)

The shifting media landscape on where do you advertise and how do you get, how do you reach and communicate to your customers? All of that is in a state of flux right now and is changing so fast. And so brands, manufacturers, and retailers alike are all hands on deck trying to figure that out and just paddle hard to keep their heads above water.

So for someone to have thought not about optimizing and how can we take this tool and turn it into a new tool that we can advertise but still not have to change our tooling and change our manufacturing process too much, or change our restorative displays too much?

For someone to do that and go to the powers that be and suggest, “instead of making a tool, let’s make a kitchen appliance.” That’s a big risk. And with the risk aversion that companies have right now because of the profit margin crunch that’s what impressed me about this effort.

Even though it’s small, it’s a powerful message to the industry of what brand innovation could look like.

Listening To Customers/Listening Through Data

And also about listening. Listening does not mean that you only get feedback after your customers buy a product or service from you. Listening starts with engaging with them, acquiring them as a customer, onboarding them if they got a product or service from you, and then maintaining in building that relationship with them so that you can have honest discussions about ideas.

So with the microwave, they likely have some amazing discussions with their customers on what their needs are so that they can decide that it’s worthwhile. We see this quite often with car manufacturers as well as with some farfetched ideas. they decided maybe we should put in the seatbelt. Maybe we should put in mirrors because that would be useful as a safety device for people rather than just not having them at all.

But a lot of them came from data. A lot of that decision-making came from speaking to car buyers about what their needs are and why safety is important.
And so, in this particular instance, I am gonna do a little more research about this company. Look into what type of products they have and how they can potentially extend the microwave into a much bigger push into a product category that they were not in before that actually may be needed.

We have seen many companies that ventured into something completely outside of their wheelhouse and did an amazing job just because they saw an opportunity that no one tapped into because they didn’t listen to their customers.

Other Examples

Yeah, that’s right. You can see a little bit of thinking around creating service ecosystems with companies like Walgreens and CVS who are building healthcare ecosystems around their traditional pharmacy services.

Even adding convenient store items into that pharmacy element. I know 7-Eleven has been good about trying to innovate around their customer by bringing in Amazon pickup lockers and creating a beauty line.

I don’t think a lot of people realize 7-Eleven has a line of beauty products. It’s about 30 or 40 eyeshadows. Flushes and, you know, full beauty product fit out that they have on the endcap.

Final Words

That’s really based on trying to figure out how they can add value to their customer’s lives. But it’s not something you typically see at the manufacturer level or at the brand level.It’s more something that happens at the retailer.

Larry
Well, thank you very much. That was a very interesting story and we’ll put a little more information about the company that people can look into. I’m certainly interested in finding out more about the company as well.

DeAnn
Yeah, thank you.

Larry
And if you’d like this episode and the podcast in general, please subscribe through your streaming platform and we look to talk to you again soon.

* We made some modifications to the transcript to improve understandability and flow

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