One of the most powerful ways that a brand can deliver on their promise is through relevant and innovative ‘signature moments’ that engage and delight customers, positively influencing their emotions and behaviours.
Achieving this balance of relevance and innovation comes from translating a customer insight into a compelling idea, delivered as a distinctive experience through service, environmental or digital touchpoints.
Sounds simple, but it takes a lot of understanding, design-thinking and creative nous to achieve. A collaborative approach between client and consultant is important. A process of exploration, testing and iteration is key – try things, and be prepared to fail.
It’s probably for these reasons that apart from a few notable exceptions – think Adidas’ adiVerse digital wall, Apple’s Genius Bar, Sephora’s perfume/cosmetic charts – retailers tend to be poor at delivering distinctive signature moments. What these brands share are connected touchpoints that not only respond to real customer needs – be it personalisation, expert guidance or curated knowledge – but by doing so they transform the experience and reset customer expectations in their sectors.
If you’re not continually challenging and transforming your retail experience in the interests of your customer, your brand will go backwards.
The principle of ‘insight into idea into experience’ is incredibly effective, especially in high-pressure ‘big purchase’ sectors. For important, big ticket purchases such as furniture, cars and home electronics, being informed is key. Take mattress shopping, for example. Typically customers are faced with what looks like a sea of identical beds, with complex information describing the technical characteristics of the product instead of the benefits that matter to customers. Customers are usually afforded around five minutes to test the product – which is miniscule, given that most people spend nearly two million minutes in bed over the course of their life. Then there is the cost of all the ‘innovative’ memory foams, box springs and other features.
Aiming to alleviate these pain points, US retailer, Tuft & Needle, set out to transform bedding retail. The idea was simple and relevant – to deliver a premium mattress, without frills, at a fair price, through a thoughtful customer experience. Instead of the sea of beds one typical finds in bedding stores, Tuft & Needle sell an edited selection based around one product type. Mattresses are displayed in modern spaces that combine openness for easy circulation and intimacy for testing. Staff are not incentivised by sales but focus on the 10 years after you buy the mattress.
Customers have a 100-night return window, which they are reminded of as the 100th night post-purchase nears. If not fully satisfied, they are refunded in full. The return rate is under five per cent, and those beds that are returned are donated to a local charity or not-for-profit.
This combination of innovation and elegant design has led to Tuft & Needle to being widely recognised as disrupting its sector. And the big players are taking note.
The ‘insight into idea into experience’ principle is just as relevant in low-pressure small purchase sectors. Prepd Pack is a modern take on the classic lunchbox that turns intelligent design and delicious food into fresh, healthy lunches. It came to life on the back of recognition that, while many of us try to bring lunch to work everyday, often we don’t have the time to prepare and pack it, and instead opt for more expensive and sometimes less healthy alternatives.
This understanding provided the impetus for Prepd Pack – beautifully designed bento box lunches featuring magnetic cutlery, an integrated placemat and food containers that can be frozen or microwaved. On top of this, Prepd Pack offers an innovative companion app that provides fresh recipes as well as nutritional and calorific advice.
Great ‘signature moments’ should always respond to unmet customer needs. They should be designed in ways that are innovative and infused with your brand’s DNA; doing so will allow them to become synonymous with your brand and transform customer experience.
Simon Stacey is creative director of experience design at Designworks. James Sterling, who co-authored this column, is creative director at Designworks.