The Why Factor

Make a big shift in focus and start transforming your business by answering this question–why us?

Why do you exist for your customer? Why are they really doing business with you? Answer these questions to get to the heart of what your customer truly finds valuable and to discover your Reason For Being. Delivering on your company’s Reason for Being requires a big shift in thinking that focuses on customer-centric experience design.question

Operating your business with a  Reason For Being provides a connection between what your customers want most and your ability to deliver. This is a critical step in designing the the kinds of experiences that your customers desire and will rave about.

But we have a Mission Statement?

A traditional Mission Statement is often a dry, colorless paragraph of lofty ideals that sound good. Sometimes they are framed and hang in a prominent area that only visitors see; sometimes they just stand alone in the corner gathering dust. This is because there is no connection from the mission statement to how the business operates or to what customers value. A Mission Statement usually represents only what the business values.

Your Reason For Being originates from what your customers value. A Reason for Being states what outcome of value you produce, for whom and how to keep the promises your brand makes.  The value is determined by your customer. You will not find a column on your balance sheet for this value but providing the value that your customer desires will have a positive impact on your balance sheet.

Finding out what your customers want most from your business will probably take some assistance from outside sources. Objectivity is key here.  Anyone that has already sipped the Kool-Aid probably can’t offer that point of view.

Ways to Uncover What Your Customers Really Value

  • Analytics and data
  • Interviews with customers and staff
  • Walkthroughs and Undercover shopping

You will also need to identify your primary customers and determine how promises will be kept, remembering that your business process should never dictate your customer experience.

Some of the outcomes for businesses that define their Reason For Being:

  • Greater Efficiency
  • Easier Management and Clear Purpose for Employees
  • Agility and Responsiveness

Getting clarity on your Reason For Being will benefit your business by ensuring that decisions are made that reflect what is best for your customers and your business. Clarity around the Reason for Being leads to value-added experiences that increase long-term loyalty and referrals. The internal changes brought about through an active Reason For Being result in stronger relationships with customers which ultimately show up on your bottom line.

We Want It Now and We Want Better In-Store Customer Experiences

Brick and mortar retail isn’t battling e-commerce; it’s battling itself. With e-commerce still only accounting for a single digit percentage of total U.S. retail sales in 2012, you can hardly blame online shopping for lagging in-store sales. What’s more, it turns out that most shoppers place immediacy as their top priority. You can’t get more immediate than going to the store and coming home with your purchase. So what’s up?

According to a recent report published by WD Partners, the most appealing attribute for the majority of retail customers was immediacy above all else, and this was true for online or offline shoppers. After immediacy, shoppers ranked sensory perceptions of a store second, and bargains or exclusives third in priority.

The exception to the respondents were the Millennials. The Millennials ranked instant ownership third in their ideal shopping circumstance, the rest of the respondents chose “get it now” at the top of their list.

This report was compiled from a broad demographic spectrum and here is how it broke down by demographic.

Millennials tend to seek unlimited options or the aisle that never ends. This may be due to the fact that Millennials have grown up in big box stores offering many options but very little in the way of personal assistance. The report showed that the younger the respondent, the less the physical experience mattered.

The Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers were more connected to the physical experience. They appeared to be longing for a past experience that can only come from a brick and mortar visit. Boomers, Gen-Xers and Milliennials all were looking for better social and emotional experiences in store. This is the area where brands could make a big impact through top notch sales associates.

With customer desires established, all design decisions should translate into the Customer Experience.

Knowing that customers want immediacy, endless options AND better experiences, this knowledge should translate into every aspect of the Customer Experience Design.  A design-based solution is necessary beginning with the greeting in store, the first expression of a customer’s online experience and flowing through operational details that let the Customer Experience happen.

They say you can’t please everyone all of the time, but you can get pretty close if you incorporate Experience Design, Service Design, Retail Design and Business Design in your strategy.

The data from this research points out the necessity for brick and mortar retailers to reinvent the in-store experience. This calls for design-based solutions that include the human element, the operational details and technology that works for the customer.  Real differentiation is going to come from integrating technology in the way that the customer wants and from outstanding sales associates supported by internal processes that work for the customer. This is accomplished by incorporating all four areas of design.

Retailers with engaged, service-oriented employees, armed with technology that provides the shopper with what they want have the competitive advantage today.



Retail Connections– Omnichannel Retail Executive Forum

Join retail executives at the 2014 Omnichannel Retail Executive Forum on July 16 to hear from experts on everything from integrating technology, the latest in merchandising strategies, protecting your enterprise from cyber attack, winning in today’s complex environment and how to create an innovation lab.

Store of the Future is Your Own Retail Innovation Lab

Mike will speak on how to create your Store of the Future for testing new store concepts, innovation and branding. An innovation lab is where a continual flow of ideas can be put to the test, safely, before rolling out to customers. Incorporate Experience Design, Service Design, Retail Design and Business Design to be most successful. By including all four areas of design you accomplish the look and feel of the brick and mortar, integrate the human element, create efficiencies and align the entire organization.

The forum will include keynote speakers, panel discussions, workshops, roundtable discussions and networking opportunities.

Hope to see you there!

Quick Start Guide to Building an Innovation Lab

Transform an Existing store to a Store of the Future

Trying new concepts and new ideas within retail is critical today. We are at a unique crossroad in terms of how shoppers want to make purchases and interact with brands. With Millennials as the most hands off– click and buy shoppers. Boomers and Gen-xers want better versions of brick and mortar experiences than they have had in the past. And they all want it now!

What’s needed is a place to try out new ideas and concepts that will support the kinds of experiences that customers are looking for. This would also be a safe place to work out operational details, give employees an opportunity to provide input and to garner support from employees for new programs.

The best part is that the process of building a Store of the Future can begin quickly by using an existing store as a prototype. Develop a well-defined project and begin to see benefits in as little as three months time.

Here is a quick start on turning your current location into a Store of the Future.

  • Define your Initiative- Set team requirements and boundaries. Determine the performance and learning objectives for the initiative.
  • Find a Sponsor- This could be the CFO, the CEO or President or a combination of marketing and operations leaders.
  • Determine the Location- Depending on your resources, you may have a defined space where prototypes can be built and customers can trial run what you have built. This can also be as simple as a whiteboard in a stockroom or an online service like Basecamp or Trello to track assignments and organize ideas.
  • Design Your Dashboard- There will be those that will want to see how you’re doing, what you are spending and the results from the investment. Set up the Dashboard from the beginning to show hard data from your efforts.
  • Pick Your Team- Choose people with a “we can overcome” mindset but don’t choose people that all think alike. Diversity in your team will yield better and more ideas.

An innovation lab provides a place where many ideas can be tried simultaneously. There is freedom to try new ideas in a controlled environment and the details around the various elements can be worked out before innovations are presented to the public.  Design the future you envision with an innovation lab.

Retail Mobile Apps Integrating With Brick and Mortar

Retailers working to integrate mobile apps with brick and mortar locations will benefit from this excerpt from a recent report compiled by NetWorld Media group. Here, find insight for non-technical leaders making decisions affecting customer experience and their brand’s ultimate success.

The earliest mobile apps from retailers focused merely on selling to their users. Mostly they replicated the features already available to shoppers on the retailer’s website. Over the last couple of years the number of consumers using mobile retail apps has grown significantly. Demand has grown for a broader range of functionalities and a higher level of sophistication. They want overall greater range and sophistication of services providing greater value from the retailers who serve them. Mobile apps that create value win attention and adoption faster than those that don’t.


Apps are either sales focused or service focused.

Sales focused retailers make decisions around the fact that “the cash register must ring” and encourage and fund projects that are geared toward increasing sales of products.

Service focused retailers practice “service before sales” and believe their goal is to create value for their customers; profit is the logical outcome of doing that well.

Regardless of which camp retail leaders may live in, several best practices will help them focus on the important details that will accomplish the simultaneous goals of increasing revenues, improving efficiencies, enhancing service (and customer experience), collecting real-time stats and engaging employees. These best practices have one theme in common: They are design-based, which means they are capable of creating value for more than one party at a time.

The best practices:

1. Apps should be about functionality and what you can do. Apps should be tightly integrated with the physical store and its supporting systems.

Example: At the Apple Store, customers can schedule shopping, support and training at a time that’s convenient for them. It’s brilliant service design. Customers have better experiences, while utilization and sales metrics go up. Waiting times and employee stress are reduced.

2. Apps should extend the customer experience outside the store and enhance it on the inside. To be relevant to customers, an app should do what they need, where and when they need it. After all, the shopping process (according to human shoppers) doesn’t happen only in the stores.

Example: The Home Depot has an app for contractors that lets them measure walls and windows to figure out how much wall and trim paint to order.

3. Apps should serve first. This is one of the most overlooked best practices. Customers want to know that they’re buying the right product. Apps that give the customer the necessary information they need to validate the purchase provide value.

Example: Wardrobe Journal (found in Apple’s App Store) lets you see what’s in your closet, which pieces go together and what you’ve worn each day (if you have taken the time to take a picture). If a retailer were to offer this functionality alongside its traditional catalog, it would make buying new wardrobe pieces much easier and might instill greater confidence that the new piece will go with an existing one.

4. Apps should be relevant and easy to use.Testing and coding should progress together.

Example: Nordstrom has a mobile “SWAT team” that goes into a store department for a week, sets up a mini prototyping/programming shop on the store floor, watches customers, makes hypotheses, codes them, receives feedback on them, improves them, launches them and then moves to the next location. Instead of getting only one thing just right, they are failing quickly and finding out what customers care about most and which apps to develop further.

5. Not all apps are for customers. Making the associates jobs easier (even more fun) can have a positive effect on the store floor.

Example: Older retail systems are difficult and expensive to change. Building an app with an API (application programming interface, or software that lets one piece of software talk to another) can be faster and cheaper.

6. Put the apps that create the most value for customers at the top of the priorities list. Remember that customers include more than cost and product in their definition of value.

Example: Wouldn’t customers prefer an app that helps plan their whole hunting/fishing trip (providing ideas, locations, deals, gear suggestions, magazine articles and videos, etc.) to one that just pushed bait and ammo?

7. Apps should extend the web, store and brand experience, not reinvent it.

Example: Alternative Apparel’s app looks and feels just like its web counterpart. It has the same colors, features, vibe and special extras. Instantly, shoppers know they’re with the same company and can expect the company to keep their brand promise.

With some imagination, diligence and patience, retailers of all kinds can profit from the exploding consumer dependence on mobile devices for their shopping experience.

You can access the entire report, 2014 Mobile Retail Apps and the Engaged Consumer, here.