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The Retail Experience DNA designing the in-store experience through customer insights



NEXT > Activities

2 The In-Store Experience DNA Seven experience genes that forge identity What activities I can perform instore

What creates an in-store experience?

experience |ikˈspi(ə)rēəns| noun an event or occurrence that leaves an impression on someone: he had a great customer experience

An experience is not, in itself, a tangible thing. We are dealing with impressions, with the feelings someone has in a fleeting moment that becomes a memory they discard, or talk about. You can’t touch, see or hear an experience. Yet a customer clearly has an experience, and that experience is influenced by seven factors we call “experience genes”. These form a foundation that is constructed and designed. Each gene is an opportunity to innovate, to create a great experience and a positive memory – or to create a poor experience and to end up as a twitter rant. Here, as in life, whilst we may create sets of genes for different types of customers, each real experience is individual and forged by the unpredictable. Yet the opportunity is still there: to put in place the foundations that create the best chance of providing a positive experience, and maximising revenue from the encounter.

The spatial layout and feel of the store

The products that are available in-store and online The in-store technology I can use, or that staff use The interaction with staff and peers

The services that are on offer, and what they allow me to do

The process I have to go through for certain activities

NEXT > The Digital Risk to Physical Stores

3 Why Innovate Around Experiences? The case for change There are many reasons why you might look at investing in instore experience strategy and innovation, using customer insight research as your foundation. Here are our top five: 1 2 3 4 5

Amazon sells more than a quarter of your products, and at at a lower margin, too. Customers have more benefits from buying your products online – from you or your competition – than they do from coming into your store. Your competitors are bringing more technology in-store but none of them have really nailed it yet.

You are tied into bricks and mortar, with over 75% of your sales instore.

You're creating a new bricks and mortar proposition against established competition.

NEXT > The In-Store Experience

4 The Digital Risk to Physical Stores Evolution or Extinction An increasing variety of digital channels, from app to TV to web, are replacing elements of the customer experience that would previously have occurred in-store. The challenge to many bricks and mortar retailers is to evolve before they become extinct. The DNA of this evolution has three major strands: 1.  Stores need to offer experiences you can’t have in digital space Many activities are only achievable in the “real world”. Just as Runners World offer treadmills to analyse the best fit of shoe based on a running gait, stores need to innovate around the activities and services they offer. 2.  Stores need to become destinations

Placemaking is about establishing a place as a destination unto itself to browse and enjoy, not just buy. Apple are leading the way in this, and are showing healthy sales as a result. 3.  Stores need to blur the boundaries between digital and physical The future store may integrate digital and physical together in innovative ways to provide new types of services and experiences not accessible in the home.

Download our whitepaper, How the Internet is Transforming the Physical Retail Experience, that explains these concepts in more detail, by clicking here.

Critically Endangered Immediate Risk

Stores: Books, Music/DVDs, Computer Games, Electronics


Stores: Travel Agencies


Stores: Estate Agencies, Mobile Phone providers

Near Threatened

Stores: Clothes, Retail Betting, Supermarkets, Hardware stores

2 Year Risk

5 Year Risk

10 Year Risk

NEXT > Interactions

5 Activities What customers do How can what customers currently do when they are in your store be improved, and how can we find new ways of engaging them?

Design approaches can improve the experience of existing activities, such as check-out

Activities describe what customers are actually doing at certain points within their experience, such as Browsing, Selecting, Queuing, or Checkout. They represent a major focal point for innovation, which can be achieved in two key ways: 1.  Improve the experience of that activity Some activities are clearly opportunities to improve the customer experience. Queuing and Checkout often represent pain points in the experience which can be radically changed and improved, but all activities can see innovation. 2. Create new activities that enhance the experience The web has created the opportunity for many new types of customer activity within the buying process, such as reviewing other customer feedback. In-store experiences can also create new opportunities to discover, view, try, and share. For example, what if a travel agency focussed on innovating around the discovery experience to help customers find holiday destinations in a more accessible way than brochures or websites? Or what if a camera store had objects set up so customers could test different cameras and see the difference in both the user experience and the quality of the output?

Design approaches can create new activities that enhance the experience and increase sales

NEXT Space

6 Interactions Who customers interact with Can we improve the individual experience, support the group experience better and redistribute the staff experience? Some activities are naturally individual ones. Trying on clothes, for example, is not a group activity – although recent innovations in the changing room experience for females have seen a recognition that showing the clothes to a friend or group of friends can be pretty integral, and supporting this group experience better can create significant innovations around space (a catwalk in the changing room?) or technology (tweet mirrors). Some activities are naturally group oriented, but are difficult for groups to engage with. For example, looking at potential houses in an estate agency might be done by a couple or a small group of people, but is rarely an individual decision. Customers “hack” these activities, finding their own ways of sharing and disseminating information, yet rethinking the nature of the group activity can lead to a significantly improved experience. It is almost a given that an in-store experience will involve a staff interaction, somewhere. Traditionally, this was behind the checkout, but innovations by companies such as Apple have pushed staff out into the stores. If the question is “what parts of the staff role could be better served by technology”, we should also ask “where can our human capital be redistributed within the experience in a way that allows us to do things technology can’t do?

What activities within your store are currently individually focussed, but could be enhanced by supporting better group interactions? Which activities benefit from sharing?


Individual The individual experience covers activities such as browsing and checkout

Group The group experience allows sharing and creates a more social atmosphere

Staff Individuals or groups interact with staff for key activities

NEXT > Technology

7 Space How to think about space When engaged in an activity, where do customers interact? Architects create spaces, yet it is people that make them places. The space is a container for a hive of customer and staff activity, a series of dimensions that have a profound effect on the customer experience by engaging all five senses in a way currently impossible to achieve through virtual means. It is often tempting to start a project thinking about space, and how it can be changed. This rarely produces anything innovative. By considering the design of an experience, first, this can be translated into implications on space at a variety of levels, such as the Section, the Zone and the Setting (right) that can fundamentally change the way an experience takes place. These, combined with other factors that fall within the field of interior design such as colour, materials, lighting, and issues such as the use (or misuse) of sound, affect the atmosphere of an environment. Atmosphere can be critical in certain retailers in bringing in, engaging and retaining customers: the difference between a lively store and a dead store can be hard to unpick, but crucial to sales. In the same way, a customer prefers to go into a busy restaurant over a quiet restaurant, despite the fact service will clearly be more stretched.

Be careful what labels you use, and the impact they have on your thinking. Automatically calling sections “departments�, for example, presumes a form of organisation that may be a barrier to innovation.

Types of Space Sections

The physical sectioning a large store has into rooms or floors organised by product or service. Contains zones. e.g. the food floor, men’s clothing


The way the store is laid out to support different groups of activities. Contains settings. e.g. brochure zone, checkout, changing rooms


The way furniture is organised to support an activity. Contains furniture items and technology. e.g. changing cubicle, travel agent consultation desk, display shelf

A consultation setting at a travel agency, within a transaction zone.

NEXT > Services

8 Technology How to blur the boundaries between channels When engaged in an activity, where do they interact? Currently, in the majority of retailers, the physical, “instore” customer experience and virtual, “online” customer experience are separate and distinct. Converging these silos is critical to compete against online retailers like Amazon. 1.  Allow your customers to move seamlessly between physical & virtual channels Supporting consumers in moving seamlessly between in-store and online, for example by not having to enter the same information twice, creates a more convenient and hassle free buying experience for them, and will hence lead to higher conversation rates for the store. 2.  Anything that customers can do online, they need to be able to do in-store. Online, customers augment their purchasing process by checking

reviews, or integrating other information streams (e.g. the weather forecast for a holiday destination). Stores need to provide access to these kind of benefits, either through supporting wi-fi connectivity or providing their own in-store technology. 3.  The in-store digital experience must surpass the online experience Retailers are beginning to explore truly innovative interactive solutions that move beyond linking just to online catalogues, but create experiences of their own. These experiences may not be focused directly on transactional activities, but should enable and support the easy conversation into a sale.

"If we have 66 million different customers, we want to have 66 million different stores." Jeff Bezos, CEO

Download our whitepaper, Blurring the Boundaries, that explains these concepts in more detail, by clicking here.

NEXT > Process

9 Services How to create new models Beyond “browse and buy”, how can we create new and alternative service models that fulfil customer needs and distinguish us from competitors? The usual service model for many product based retailers could be described as “browse and buy”. Customers come to the store, select products, pay for them, and take them away again. However, there may be an extended or alternative range of services to provide value to customers. For example, House of Fraser have recently launched virtual “buy and collect” stores, whereby customers can order from a wide range of stock online, collect in-store, and try on the clothes there and then, processing any returns on the spot. Some alternative service models, like personal shopping or returns, have been around for some time, and often require dedicated space. Innovation – the creation and design of new services - comes from improving the current service proposition around customer needs. Understanding those needs, and where different customer types experience pain points across their current experience, can provide insight into entirely new types of potential service propositions, some of which may be opportunities for new and enhanced revenue streams. These may in turn, however, require new types of space and technology. What customer types are not being fulfilled by your current service model? What needs do they have that no-one else is meeting?

Personal shopping base, Topshop

NEXT > Products

10 Process What steps customers have to go through How can we rethink the “traditional” series of steps we force customers to go through, from registration to checkout? Take, for example, the traditional checkout process used in many retailers, right. Customers and staff are comfortable with this process, but there are a number of potential “pain points” in the process, from having difficulty finding the till in a large store, to lengthy queues, to difficulty confirming whether the price is actually correct before the transaction is processed. This creates an opportunity to reimagine the process, which could happen in numerous alternative ways, using different technologies, taking place in different spaces, and potentially involving different types of interactions between staff and customers. Apple Retail stores, for example, are now promoting an alternative checkout model which bypasses all the pain points listed above, and lets customers self checkout for accessories and low value items. This works for Apple and their product set, but other retailers will need alternative solutions.




















What processes do your customers currently have to go through, and where are the pain points in these processes? How could these be improved or removed?




NEXT > Taking a Design Approach

11 Products How customers choose In a market overwhelmed by choice and options, customers seek a more cultivated and careful selection with access to greater ranges of stock beneath the surface. Once again, digital can support and enhance the physical environment in supporting customers with their selections. The Importance of Curation The typical consumer is flooded with choice. Customers still want choice, but are really looking for the best choice for them, personally. Curating and cultivating choices that are easily navigable provides a better experience. Bike store Roll in the US has built their entire concept around this, selecting the best few bikes around four lifestyles (road, family, mountain and trail) provides a vastly better experience than their competitors, who still provide hundreds of models of bikes. Use digital channels to provide greater access to stock Sometimes customers want to access that greater range of stock, however. If it is available on the web, stores should be able to support customers in arranging a pick up or delivery.

A range of retailers, from Sainsburys to Robert Dyas, are now trialling in-store terminals in special order and collect zones to provide access to the full range of stock when customers have not found what they want in-store. This trend will increase as apps personalise this experience. Ensure pricing is consistent across different channels A growing number of customers have smartphones in their pockets, and their ability to scan barcodes and compare prices means companies need to be careful about offering one price in-store and another online – or in particular, for reserve and collect service models. Ensuring the customer completes the transaction with you, and ideally there and then, means keeping digital and physical prices as in-sync as possible.

Speaking as someone who works for Walmart, I’m not quite sure they “get” online completely just yet. They’re tied to brick and mortar stores, so they are very much ingrained in that mentality. Take for instance online vs in-store prices. I can find a toaster online for $20, and it probably has the option to buy it “Pick Up Today” so that an employee will shop it for you after you’ve bought it online and you can just come in to pick it up. Even if the in-store price is $25 because there are no toaster retailers besides Walmart in the area of your local store, you still pay the online $20 price. However, if you go into the actual store and say, “Hey, I don’t want to pay $25! The online price is $20,” they cannot lower the price.You could literally order the toaster on your smartphone and watch the employee pick it up off the shelf and bring it to the back room to save for you, and you’d pay $20, but you cannot just pay $20 without going through the website. – Anonymous User, Web forum on



“Society has changed, but we look the same as two decades ago. We don’t even know where to begin to change.” – Interviewed Retailer, 2010


NEXT > Research

13 Taking a Design Approach What and why We are used to the idea of designing clothes, furniture, products, buildings and websites. Our life is surrounded by things that have been designed, and those that are designed well, whether it is an iPhone or a Boeing 787, do not simply leap off a flipchart into reality, but represent robust design approaches. The in-store experience often encompasses many of these aspects, such as furniture or technology. Yet we are less comfortable with the idea that a customer experience, or the service proposition, can be “designed”. We can’t, in fact, design one experience that will happen in the same way for everyone. But we can use the process of designing experiences as a mechanism for innovating around the component parts of the customer experience described on page 4: services, spaces, technologies, activities, interactions, processes and products. By using the customer experience as a basis for design, we can innovate

around these other components to, in turn, improve the overarching customer experience – and in doing so, improve sales. There is no one way of approaching design, yet the following process is an iterative model that will allow you to generate robust customer insights that lead to new solutions and interventions in the most low risk way possible. Starting with a research phase, each subsequent steps provides tools and approaches to create a more successful in-store experience. It is useful to focus on one or several pilot stores with different attributes: poor performers, high performers, recently refurbished, etc.


NEXT > Research, continued

Research Understanding the customer experience

Quantitative Research

Design research is focussed on one key outcome: helping you make an informed decision. When potentially investing significant money in making a change, how do you know it is the right decision? Many great ideas – such as scan-as-you-shop in supermarkets – have fallen flat amongst customers when implemented. The aim of design research is to de-risk the innovation process.

Quantitative Data driven, aims to understand mass behaviour shallowly


Story driven, aims to understand individual behaviour deeply

The two key types of research inform each other, and together provide a robust picture to gain insights into how your customers make decisions.

Tools: Surveys, management data, scale observations Use to: þ  understand customer segments and types þ  identify where problems are occurring þ  validating qualitative insights

Many organisations collect data, but few know what to do with it. More over, occasionally that data can be flawed by virtue of the way it is collected. It can make significant assumptions that undermine its validity. These assumptions are often revealed and exposed by qualitative research, which shows a picture of what is really happening, customer by customer. Yet, when collected properly, data can be a powerful mechanism for identifying broad patterns of behaviour, and where problems are generally occurring. This then allows qualitative research to focus on a much smaller window, providing better value and output. Data can be collected in a variety of ways, from general management reporting (such as cash taken or merchandise sold at specific locations), to physical or digital surveys, to social media data mining, to large scale observations of, for example, customer density at certain locations at certain times of the day.

Observe what happens during the 100 busiest minutes of the week in your best performing store and worst performing store. What are the key differences?

NEXT > Insights

15 Qualitative Research

Tools: Observation, Interviews, Focus Groups, Remote tracking Use to: þ  understand from the customer perspective þ  understand customer needs, behaviours, habits þ  identify pain points of the experience

Quantitative research is about telling stories. Taking an ethnographic approach – observing and studying human behaviour in real settings – is a very powerful tool for gaining an insight into the current customer experience. It focuses organisations on a small number of real life people – both staff and customers, and breaks down broad assumptions about customers to provide insights not available through brainstorming. Top 3 tips for gaining insights through ethnographic observations:


Create visual output Observations are chaotic, messy events. Breaking an experience down into component parts and visualising it graphically helps your insight team (see next section) move straight to identifying insights and ideas.

Make it real The power of ethnography is it is real, not theoretical. The output needs to capture that reality to help the insight team identify and empathise with the customers. Tell stories We learn and understand through stories that engage us and make us think, challenging our perspectives.

2 3

Active Observation

Passive Observation

In depth shadowing and inexperience interviewing of customers specifically selected to be observed

Covert observation and monitoring of multiple customers with no direct interaction

Identify key customer types to observe

Identify key customer types to observe

Find and recruit subjects of key types

Identify key dates to observe

Logistics and arrangements

Observe multiple customers

Pre+post interview, observation

Interview staff where possible

Insight Level: High

Insight Level: Medium

Use: when you want to understand reasons why customers are doing or not doing something

Use: in sensitive situations where Active Observation would be inappropriate (e.g. customer services)

NEXT > Design

16 Insights Understanding customer needs Good research, visually mapped out and well presented, provides a great foundation for generating insights. These are best developed by an insight team, and used to develop a series of quick win interventions, and an understanding of customer needs for further design work. An insight team is a small group of people who can help provide a good range of perspectives on the material presented from the research phase. This group is ideally small, around 6-10 people to be most successful, and should represent an interdisciplinary mix of people from throughout the company who are open-minded about change and doing things differently. These may include a mix of: •  Senior company management from different functions (e.g. marketing, sales, operations) •  Store managers •  Front line staff •  Customers

What is an insight, anyway? It may be a flash of inspiration for something obvious to change and fix, a quick win which can be implemented immediately. We call this an organisational insight. The deeper insight is into the nature of your customer, their needs, habits, turn-ons, turn-offs, expectations, preferences and behaviours. Since it is impossible to find this out for every one of your very unique, individual customers, a good approach is to develop personas representing 4-8 key types of customer that have significantly different needs to each other, and distil insights into those personas.

The Loyal Fan

What are her pre-set habits?

What frustrates her?

What keeps her coming back?

What gets her spending more? What does she expect from her experience?

Developing an identify for your personas – a name, age, background and history - this creates empathy between your insight team and the persona, although it can create a barrier to sharing the work with others in your organisation.

NEXT > Prototype

17 Design The ideal experience and design interventions You’ve developed detailed insights into your customers and their current in-store experience. You’ve developed some quick win solutions, but are now interested in tackling some of the more detailed issues and creating proper innovation. It’s time to design the ideal experience.

For each customer and scenario…

..what does the ideal experience look like? Scenarios A scenario takes a persona developed in the insight stage as a prospective customer in the future store, and sets up a reason for them to be coming to the store. It provides the context for the experience. Storyboard A technique associated with film-making, storyboards show key moments in the experience from the customer perspective. The storyboard should show what the ideal experience of the customer would be within the scenario, meeting the needs expressed within the persona. This may be done as simply as post-it notes, or as complex as a comic strip: whatever level of detail you feel is

necessary to drive the quality of result you are looking for. High Level Interventions A storyboard may tell a very different narrative to the type of experience provided at the moment, and needs to be distilled into big ideas falling under the seven categories, far right. Make or Break Moments A highly visual map of the ideal experience should be produced that shows what the customer needs at this moment, and what strategy you are going to put in place to meet this need. Design Briefs Key concepts should be developed into fully fledged design briefs, ready to be prototyped and undergo detailed design where necessary.

Activities Space Products

Technology Interaction



NEXT > Implement

18 Prototype Reduce risk, increase first time success Prototyping is about developing quick iterations of a new concept to test it will work before creating the final concept. Though it is often ignored, or seen as an easy one step operational change process that will either succeed or fail, prototyping is about lowering the risk of investing in costly solutions. 3 TYPES OF PROTOTYPING DEMAND


Prototype to determine demand and interest amongst customer base. IMPACT


Prototype to establish whether a concept creates desired business impact. USABILITY


Are customers getting a great user experience?

This is particularly important when creating new types of technology. Some significant consumer innovations to change customer experiences, such as Scan-As-You-Shop in supermarkets, have failed in practice due to a lack of user centred prototyping to identify how to actually encourage more first time users. Engaging both staff and customers actively in a prototyping process is an effective way of galvanizing people behind a change, increasing engagement, buy-in and adoption of new principles.

This is often called a “dirty� prototype, since the idea is to mock something up at the lowest cost possible. To the customer, things may look realistic, but systems may be manual behind the scenes at this stage. This is a slightly larger test that links into a business case development. It aims to establish whether the concepts will actually create an impact, whether financially on things like spend per head, or on other aspects like dwell time. This is a larger and much more significant process that goes through a series of iterations to ensure anyone using spaces, technologies or processes have a good user experience. This is very detailed and refined.

Holiday Inn new lobby concept prototype, build from foam core in a warehouse prior to implementation

NEXT > Evaluate

19 Implement Get it right slowly and first time Implementation can mean many things, depending on the nature of the solution. It could be a full scale architectural design and build, or a small scale app development on the iPhone. What is common amongst all implementation projects are the following principles: Pilot and rollout Do not succumb to the temptation of rolling out new solutions widely until they have been properly piloted and evaluated in several, very different locations. Only then can a successful rollout be achieved. Have zero tolerance for launch failure In 2011, Chiltern Railways spent ÂŁ250M on upgrading the railway line to improve train speeds, causing the line to be closed for several weeks and causing significant disruption for passengers. This was deemed acceptable until, upon reopening, passengers endured day after day of delays and heavily crowded trains due to poor timetabling. This caused more anger than the building works had. If you are going to disrupt an experience, keep testing until it works.

Engage staff in the change Staff may need retraining to ensure that they understand new initiatives. There is nothing more revealing than when staff admit they cannot use new in-store technology. They need to be inspired and motivated about the changes. Celebrate and share Successful implementations are good news, and should be shared with both staff and customers. Take staff from other stores to see new initiatives and spend time talking to their co-workers about how it could work in their own stores. Provide a rollout timeline Customers may quickly come to expect that features available in one location will also exist in others. At this stage it is important to rollout quickly, or provide a timeline as to when changes will take place.

Holiday Inn final lobby concept prototype, post implementation (Continuum)


NEXT > About Flywheel

Evaluate Did it work?

Activities Space

Evaluation seeks to understand how any interventions have succeeded in improving the customer experience, then allowing further tweaking or redesigning if needed. There are similarities to Research, as various types of ethnography can be used to assess quantitatively and qualitatively whether objectives are being met, whether these are revenue or target based, or whether they are around the direct assessment of the customer experience. Potential techniques used in this stage include: Customer Journeys Running customer journey analysis post implementation is a great way of seeing whether customers are having a better experience, and whether the changes have introduced any undesired “side effects”. Surveys Surveys can be used to directly test change in customer perceptions. They gather more data on a wider range of participants.

Utilisation Analysis Look at how many people are occupying what areas for how long during the busiest periods of trading in the week. This gives an indication as to whether customers are spending time where we want them to, for example, browsing instead of queuing. Data Analysis Data can tell a great story, and whether the focus is on if the intervention has improved spend per head, or how many people are logging onto new self service terminals, the numbers (and how they’ve changed since implementation) are a useful indicator of success.


Technology Interaction



Are they now having ideal experiences?

For each customer type

NEXT > The End

21 About Flywheel We design experiences within physical environments Flywheel is a design consultancy that specialises in innovation and strategy around customer and staff experiences within physical environments, from shops to restaurants to theatres. We have a decade of experience working on the design of innovative environments across sectors. We believe space and technology should be designed around people, and we do that by: 1.  Identifying the diverse needs of particular customer types; 2.  Designing the ideal customer experience to meet those needs; 3.  Translating those experiences into design solutions Our founding directors: Tom Weaver has a background in strategic design of environments, as a former Associate Director of DEGW, and has led a variety of large scale project around innovation and space for the government and private sector. Chris Evans has a background in technology and operations. With experience of developing large scale data management systems in both large and small organisations, Chris specialises in the impact of technology on the design of physical environments. We have a range of associates that we bring in on a project by project basis. These include service and product designers, specialising in user centred design processes, as well as space planners and interior designers. We also have partnerships with other organisations, including technology consultancies, that allows us to bring the most appropriate team together.

We specialise in projects that fundamentally challenge the way environments support experiences, and thrive on challenging briefs and the opportunity of innovation. Recent projects include: •  William Hill: we worked with one of the UK’s largest bookmakers to help them understand the nature of one of their four customers types of horse racing punters, and how they could improve their experience. This forms the cornerstone of on-going strategic and implementation work. •  Delfont Mackintosh Theatres: we worked with the Prince of Wales Theatre to identify the current experience of Mamma Mia customers, and how that experience could be improved in order to generate a higher spend per head. We identified over 35 concepts, half of which were no cost changes, that could increase spend per head by an additional 55%. •  Access Croydon: we worked with Croydon Council to identify an experience led spatial strategy for the design of a new public services access hub. We created a customer centred approach that radically shifted the kind of experience they were providing.




Copyright © Flywheel Ltd 2012

The Retail Experience DNA: Designing the In-Store Experience Through Customer Insights  

A customer experience is not, in itself, a tangible thing. You can’t touch, see or hear an experience. Yet a customer clearly has an exper...

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