Design thinking in the retail world

 Photo by  Jeff Sheldon

Photo by Jeff Sheldon


Design thinking is more than just a current buzzword. It has, instead, turned into a critical research strategy.

In the retail sphere, design expands beyond websites and planograms. Good design solves problems with a result that is actionable and emotional. And as Forrester’s senior analyst, Anjali Lai explains, the new reality of retail lies in consumer emotions.

“Businesses have to key into the emotions that are fuelling consumers’ desires to engage with a brand or product and play to them to pull consumers into the brand experience,” the analyst says.

Why retailers need to incorporate design thinking

A lack of empathy has a negative impact on sales as you miss out on the opportunity to better connect with your customers.

It’s challenging to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and see roadblocks from their vantage point. But when retailers are able to identify true consumer roadblocks and solve these problems, they can significantly improve the customer experience, earn their trust, and, ultimately, their business. From that place of empathy, retailers can drive major changes up and down the funnel — from marketing, into the product, and into the care experience.

Because the design thinking approach begins with consumer empathy, retailers are increasingly applying design thinking concepts in an effort to become more customer-centric.

Design thinkers are trained to design with empathy and weave together technology, research, spatial, visual creativity, and user interaction to create powerful ideas and transformation opportunities.

By introducing different ways of problem solving and methods for discovering what people truly need, design thinking helps organizations change their cultures to become more customer-centric and collaborative.

Omni-channel driving the retail change

We’re currently experiencing an evolution in the retail industry. Brought on by an increase in technology and an ever-increasing social connection. Individuals are sharing information — such as reviews and experiences – faster and more frequent than ever before. The consequence of this is that retailers have to adapt their business proposition to a constantly changing force led by their customers.

In addition to a connected shopper experience, consumers expect a holistic digital experience. Between 2014 and 2019, the total online sales are expected to grow by 82 percent. The new omnichannel customer is informed, empowered, and connected. However, gaps across online platforms show how little retailers understand consumer empathy.

But to truly create a comprehensive experience — one that crosses all channels, also known as omnichannel— then retailers must approach design comprehensively.

Designing the full retail experience with the consumer in mind means using design thinking to dive deeper into consumer psychology, user experience, and frictionless experiences.

Create brand value

Design thinking confirms that design, as a process and as an output, has greater opportunity to add brand value.

When design principles are applied to strategy and innovation the success rate for innovation dramatically improves. Companies with the topmost brand value including Nike, Coca-Cola, Google, and Apple have been innovating and launching products, features, and solutions that are immediately accepted by customers as delightful experiences. For online retailers, personalization, easy return policies, leveraging brick-and-mortar and in-store shopping, blending social media with websites are just some ways to build a sustainable brand value.

Due to the remarkable success rate of design-led companies, design has evolved beyond making objects. Organizations now want to learn how to think like designers.

Companies that intuitively understand and design products and experiences that are in line with market expectations are more likely to build mind and market share and have a sustainable brand value.

A truly engaging store

Retailers who use design thinking as a cornerstone of its product and customer experience innovation are more competitive in the ever-changing retail landscape thanks to the extent of personalization and brand value they offer to customers.

As Djamel Troubrienet, Marketing Director for Cegid Group, Americas — Retail explained, “Thriving retail brands nurture deeper connections with shoppers… tapping into the consumer's’ lives, including needs and wants for products, services, and experiences.”



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