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From Living Spaces to Workplaces: Sonos’ Community-Led Journey Into Commercial Territory

Facing the challenge of understanding commercial users, Sonos partnered with Fuel Cycle to create an agile research community. This collaboration empowered Sonos to glean insights that shaped their strategy for success in the commercial space.


Sonos, renowned for its innovative home theater speakers, embarked on a journey into the commercial space by introducing its first product built for businesses, Sonos Pro. Recognizing the need to extend its seamless audio experience beyond homes, Sonos aimed to replicate its success in commercial settings. Leading up to product launch, the Sonos Insights team needed to conduct user research and gain a constant connection with its user-base to get insights that could inform decisions across the organization through the entire product journey. 

The Problem

Navigating the Transition: Sonos’ Quest from Home to Commercial Audio Domains

Despite Sonos’ widespread success in the home audio market, transitioning to the commercial sector posed a distinct set of challenges. What resonates with at-home users may not necessarily translate to the commercial environment. As Sonos expanded its product line and ventured into new territories, the Sonos Insights team grappled with deciphering the unique user journey within commercial settings. This entailed understanding factors such as new use cases, extended usage periods, and the involvement of multiple (and new types of) decision-makers.

Entering this new research era, the Sonos Insights team identified gaps in their understanding of commercial users. They sought to understand the demographics and needs of these users, examining how they diverged from those of at-home users. Transitioning to a business-to-business (B2B) model meant navigating the diverse array of decision-makers involved in purchasing audio solutions. With stakeholders ranging from CEOs to IT teams, marketing professionals, and beyond, Sonos recognized the need to get an in-depth understanding of these varied business personas.

Sonos aimed to leverage these insights to inform its strategy for the commercial space at every step of the process, from product design to marketing initiatives, all with the overarching objective of delivering the same exceptional user experience synonymous with Sonos’ home products. Crucially, the Sonos insights team recognized the imperative of continuous iteration and feedback from customers to ensure their offerings aligned with market demands and expectations. Unwilling to invest time and resources in developing products that missed the mark with customers; they needed precision from the outset.

Adding to these challenges was the pressing urgency to swiftly design and launch products to penetrate the commercial space. Sonos sought a market research solution that could match the agility and efficiency required to keep pace with the rapidity of product development.

The traditional customer advisory board approach posed too many logistical hurdles and would no longer suffice. Whenever a question arose, the team had to resort to manual methods such as writing emails, scheduling meetings, and managing incentives individually—a labor-intensive process for just a single query. Sonos yearned for a centralized platform where they could effortlessly engage with their community, posing questions and receiving responses promptly.

The Solution

Fostering Engagement: Sonos’ Collaborative Journey with Fuel Cycle

The Sonos Insights team partnered with Fuel Cycle to streamline its research efforts and enhance engagement with customers. Fuel Cycle’s community platform facilitated diverse research methodologies, including discussion boards, interviews, and focus groups. Sonos leveraged these tools to collect both quantitative and qualitative research. Sonos also leveraged the expertise of Fuel Cycle community and account managers to navigate the platform effectively. 

Beyond mere data collection, Sonos focused on building relationships with community members through creative engagement activities and direct interactions with Sonos executives. Recognizing the value of building lasting relationships, Sonos curated a variety of creative engagement activities like spotlighting ‘Member of the Quarter’ to hosting annual swag giveaways. These initiatives went beyond mere incentives as members found gratification in seeing their feedback and ideas translated into tangible actions, fostering a sense of ownership and contribution.

Moreover, with the community allowing members to engage at their convenience, Sonos departed from traditional methods that dictated specific engagement times. This flexibility empowered members to participate actively and authentically.


Su He

“With Fuel Cycle, we have an account manager and community manager, who’s support has been invaluable for us. Whenever I need advice running the community, I can always rely on their expertise. Their assistance has truly been instrumental in our success.”

The Results

Driving Innovation: Sonos’ Community-Powered Decision Making

Insights sourced from the community played a pivotal role in informing decisions throughout the launch of Sonos Pro and beyond, fostering a culture of agility and collaboration across the organization. By creating an environment where contributions were valued and feedback was acted upon, Sonos established a community that members not only enjoyed engaging in but also felt instrumental in shaping the brand’s trajectory.

Key to turning community insights to action were workshops and share-outs orchestrated by Sonos’ Insights team. These sessions synthesized findings from the community, translating them into actionable steps that propelled initiatives forward. In contrast to the traditional advisory board approach, where insights often stagnated after being shared, the community platform facilitated a dynamic feedback loop. Members found value in seeing their contributions translate into tangible outcomes, thus fostering a continuous cycle of engagement and improvement.

The research conducted within the community enabled the Sonos team to identify distinct customer archetypes for the commercial space. Armed with this nuanced understanding, Sonos was able to tailor its product development efforts to address the specific needs and preferences of its commercial clientele.

Lessons Learned

Innovating with Insight: Sonos’ Path to Sustainable Success

Sonos’ experience highlights the importance of agile research methodologies and continuous engagement with customers, particularly in transitioning to new market segments. Leveraging technology platforms like Fuel Cycle enables companies to harness the collective wisdom of their customer base and drive innovation iteratively. Moving forward, Sonos plans to further integrate community insights into its strategy across marketing, product development, and beyond, ensuring sustained success in the commercial space. With a solid foundation in place, Sonos is poised to continue innovating and delivering exceptional experiences tailored to the diverse needs of its clientele.

The Fuel Cycle Difference

Fuel Cycle’s award-winning Research Engine is the most comprehensive intelligence-gathering ecosystem that exists today. Our platform enables decision-makers to maintain constant connections with their customers, prospects, and users to uncover real-world actionable intelligence. By integrating human insight with critical business data, and through automated quantitative and qualitative research solutions, Fuel Cycle’s Research Engine powers product innovation, brand intelligence, and enhanced user experience.

Breakthroughs require action. We built Fuel Cycle to ignite it.