By George Aveling, CEO of TACK TMI Malaysia


As mentioned in my Part 1 of this series, design thinking is taking a centre stage role in designing product and service experiences.

In this article, I will show you how apply the principles of design thinking to one part of the retail experience.

The end-to-end retail customer experience journey can be broken down into a number of touchpoints, from when customers begin to search for products through to paying and then leaving the shop.

At each of these touchpoints, customers have a moment of truth – that is, they form opinions, positive or negative, at each step on the journey.

So, let’s become design thinkers for one important retail touchpoint – the Cashier Experience.

“Counter Closed”

There’s a large department store a few kilometres from my doorstep.

This is not a “wide aisle” department store. Rather, as you walk each floor, you will encounter different sections, jam packed with merchandise. They certainly are getting a lot value per square metre, from their floor space!

As you would expect, there are several cashier counters located on each floor.

I went to Men’s Apparel, selected an item of clothing and walked to the nearby cashier counter. It was closed.

I was in a rush.

I looked around for another cashier counter, amid the jam-packed merchandise. I could feel my stress levels rising. I wanted to be out of the department store as quickly as possible.

Have you had a similar experience?

Applying Design Thinking

So, let’s apply the principles of design thinking to the Cashier Experience.

1.      Empathise

The first stage is to EMPATHISE with the desired and current experience of the customer.

How can you do that? You can observe customers, interview them and talk to cash-counter employees. In doing so, you will get a rich set of findings and observations.

Without going too deep, let’s just say that our research finds that the customer wants a Quick, Easy and Friendly experience. Let’s call it the ” QEF Cashier experience”.

It’s important that the ” QEF Cashier experience ” be delivered at all times – whether the cashiers are not busy or busy, and definitely in “exceptional circumstances”.

One of those “exceptional circumstances” is when a cashier counter is closed.

2.      Define

Once we have EMPATHISED and understood the customer, experience, the next – and critical stage – is to clearly DEFINE THE PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED (or, in the words of Harvard innovation guru, Clayton Christenson, the “JOB TO BE DONE”).

In simple terms, the job to be done is to make it QEF for the customer to navigate to the nearest cashier counter.

3.      Ideate

The third stage in the design thinking process is to IDEATE. We could ideate on how to create a QEF experience when a counter is closed by asking for ideas from customers or from employees. We could research how other companies do it. Then we would get together, with a diverse range of views and ideas, to brainstorm the options.

We could come up with a range of ideas e.g. having coloured footsteps on the floor leading to cashier counters, have signs visible throughout the store e.g. hung from the ceiling, indicating, “counter open’. The cashier counters could be clearly and prominently numbered, and when one is closed, there would a simple sign saying, “the nearest open cashier counter is Number 12”.

There are lots of possible ways of making it Quick and Easy to navigate to the next counter. The “Friendly” would be built in through the colour of the printed footsteps on the floor, wording on the signs, etc. A set of selection criteria would be established to shortlist the ideas eg cost effectiveness, visibility etc.

4.      Prototype and Testing

The next stage is to PROTOTYPE and test out the selected or shortlisted ideas. The idea or ideas would be TESTED under real conditions where shoppers encounter closed counters. Feedback would be obtained through observation, asking customers about their experience or testing under controlled conditions with a group or groups of customers.

5.      Refine

Based on the feedback from Testing phase, the experience would then be REFINED and re-tested, looking through the lens of QEF before finally making it a Standard Operating Process.

So, there we have it. We have used design thinking for a key retail touchpoint – the Cashier Experience. We have used the principles of Empathy, Define the problem to be solved, Ideate, Prototype, Test and Refine.

And, when that happens, the next time that customers like me find that a cashier counter is closed, we will still walk away from this well-designed experience with a smile!

YOU can become a customer experience architect using design thinking. My personal experience is that this process uncovers ideas, opportunities and issues to address that traditional brainstorming-implementation-based approaches would totally miss.

Until next time.

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