Case Study

Hoka captures new whitespace by leveraging insights to launch The Transport

Using MakerSights, Hoka was able to capture the critical feedback they needed from consumers to validate a big idea that would expand their product beyond the running category.

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Watch the video or read the transcript below

Hy Rosario, Product Director at Hoka

Product Director- Hoka

Sieze Whitespace

Hoka Transport

160% sales to goal
Instant sell-out of TransportX

The below transcript represents highlights from a recent conversation between Dan Leahy, CEO of MakerSights, and Hy Rosario

On the different stages and stakeholders involved in the product development process

Dan Leahy: So could you talk a little bit about the different stages of the product development process from start to finish. I know you're pretty intimately involved in all of them. 

Hy Rosario:
Yeah. I'd love to start with talking about what we as product people do. So this is not just product management, which is what I'm a part of, but also designers and developers and engineers. You know, our job really is to not just look into the future but also to try to see what's around the corner because it's those things around the corner that are the most intriguing to our brand. I think our partnership with MakerSights has been so invaluable because we've been able to look around the corner and gain insights to reduce our risk.

We do that through all kinds of phases, like the early phase of thinking about some new concept. Then we go into the briefing stage where we hopefully have some insights to bring to the table to help the design and development teams put their arms around that concept and start ideating on actual shoes.Then we take that into our marketing teams because, you know, they also need to be sold on the idea and why it's important for the brand to do this. And lastly, I like to say it's like the last five feet of retail, which is getting our sales reps to be equally passionate and knowledgeable so that they can land the product with the ultimate gatekeeper who's the buyer of a retail store.

So every person along that food chain, if you will, has to have the baton. And, you know, we in product are responsible to make sure that the baton pass goes very smoothly.

“A lot of this research really helped our internal teams understand what the consumer is wanting. And also to give our marketing teams confidence that it really was this unmet need Hoka was perfectly primed to solve for.”

On the challenges of expanding your brand into new product territories

Dan Leahy: Well, let's talk about that baton pass a little bit more because the degree of difficulty is even higher for folks like yourself who are pushing the envelope, who are being bold. Talk a little bit about the sort of added challenges of that process when what you're going after is something that you haven't done before and that the market hasn't even seen before. 

Hy Rosario:
Yeah. I think this is the part that is really fun because when you are looking around the corner, most likely it's an area that may or may not be adjacent to your business. So I think the first thing you have to do is make sure that there's some adjacency to the business you're in so that that leap you're making isn't such a chasm that the project stalls. So we work really hard to make sure that we can succeed with this thing that's coming around the corner and to do it in a way that is powerful for the brand and the consumer as well.

Getting your downstream partners onboard

Dan Leahy: So, I imagine product teams are quick to get excited about some of this newness. Maybe talk a little bit about the process of getting some of those downstream team members on board for something that's a little bit more risky, a little bit less certain.

Hy Rosario: Yeah. So the way to do that, at least from how we've done it recently is to really bring the consumer into the conversation. And so having insights like the ones we've been able to capture through MakerSights have been extremely powerful in giving us knowledge about where the consumer is. Building confidence within the team that this is the right thing that we're doing. It allows us to flawlessly go to market with less bumps in the way.

MakerSights data visualization panel. Results edited to preserve proprietary insights

On how MakerSights fit into Hoka's product development process

Dan Leahy: Well you've now been working with MakerSights for four or five years? Could you share a little bit about where MakerSights fits into your process from early creation to getting those downstream stakeholders on board? 

Hy Rosario: Yeah. We've used MakerSights in many aspects of the product creation cycle. We’ve used it to gut check some of those things that are coming around the corner. We've used it for testing our products against competitor products. We do simple things like checking color. Also, we sometimes are able to test things like is the product competing in a manner that we had hoped for? So there's lots of different ways that we've applied MakerSights, inclusive of things like gaining general consumer insights.

On how MakerSights helps align Global and Regional teams on choosing the right products to launch

Dan Leahy:  You’re a truly global brand at this point in time. With that comes navigating global consistency and regional specificity. Can you share a little bit about how you've used the insights you're gleaning on MakerSights to help navigate that tension that exists?

Hy Rosario: Well that's one of the things I love about MakerSights is that we are now able to do testing in different countries so that we can start to gauge whether the hunches we have are also globally relevant and not just a gut instinct about the US marketplace. And the fluidity of that testing across different markets has been amazing

MakerSights has the capability to do the translations for us, and then all the results get translated back so that when we're looking at the data it’s consistent and easily deciphered for decision making. For the last few tests that we've done in five or six markets, we handpicked those regions or those countries that we really want to zero in on with this product.

MakerSights data visualization panel. Results edited to preserve proprietary insights

On how Hoka influences retail partners with MakerSights data

Dan Leahy: And you're not just stopping with the regional representatives on the Hoka side as well, you mentioned the final gatekeeper in this process being the retail buyers. Can you share a little bit about how the insights are helping you drive that part of the process and making that drive to completion?

Hy Rosario: Yeah, I think there's so much that retailers want to know, but the amount of time they have with us, with our sales teams is finite. So we really try to give them the distilled version, if you will, of the key learnings. You know, this product, we created it because it does X better. And here's the research that shows that in this market.

So we're actually able to give that kind of detail in a very digestible format. You know, there's no spreadsheets, no bar charts, it's just a very top line sort of pitch that seems to resonate with our retail partners.

How insights from MakerSights were critical to the launch of The Transport

Dan Leahy: Well, we've talked a little bit conceptually about how you go through this process and how you've done it with MakerSights, but I'd love to go to specifics cuz you just had a really exciting launch recently that is lighting the world on fire and Hoka more broadly which is the the launch of Transport.I'd love to talk about that a little bit. Take us back to the beginning. What was that initial insight or spark that started the journey that's culminated into a super successful launch? 

Hy Rosario:
Yeah, so Transport is a great, I think the poster child for how insights specifically from MakerSights can make the process a much more powerful and successful one.

So we had this gut instinct that during the pandemic people found time in their lives to work out and be active. We also knew that, at some point, going back to work was going to happen and we wanted to understand what that would mean for the consumer and how their product choices around commuting might shift when that happens. And the research that we did in MakerSights basically showed us a couple of things.

One is that people wanted to stay active even after the pandemic would end. Two, they would struggle on how to do that because they have a commute to do now to go back to the office. And three, when speaking specifically about products that they wear in a commute situation, 90% of the consumers told us they were not satisfied with the current offerings either because of the versatility of the design or the comfort or the protection. 

So we learned that there was this opportunity to rethink what a commuter shoe was. A lot of this research really helped our internal teams understand what the consumer was wanting. And also to give our marketing teams confidence that it really was this unmet need that Hoka was perfectly primed to solve for.

Hy's overall perception on working with the MakerSights team

Dan Leahy: That's amazing. Well, now beyond just transport, you've had a chance to work with MakerSights on a number of different products. Could you share a little bit about what it's been like working with the Maker team.

Hy Rosario: Oh, MakerSights team is awesome. They are very customer-centric. Anytime we've had challenges, especially during the pandemic, we were partnered with MakerSights to help run our go-to-market meetings. And I loved that MakerSights just had a can-do attitude and got after it. And I love that MakerSights didn't even blink. They were like, yeah, let's do this. Kudos to you and the team, Dan, for making that happen.

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