Brands are not taking into account design thinking in their customer approach. They need to, argues Robbie Robertson, director of consultancy MashUp.
At Good Design Australia’s Design as Strategy Forum, global product and service design specialists’ focus was simple – how could design help make people’s lives easier and bring about economic prosperity?
The solution seemed easy. Apply design thinking to enhance customer experiences. The ideology isn’t new. We’ve used it since the invention of the wheel and some of the earliest tools known to humans to building cities. But, the importance of applying design thinking to grow brand advocacy, deliver great customer experiences and ultimately, achieve economic prosperity is not as front and centre as it should be for brands.
Some of the most glorified business success stories are those that have used design thinking to create connected customer experiences that not only enthral, but deliver on bottom line. Apple, Nike and Burberry are great examples of brands that have kept customer experience at the forefront of their business strategy.
There are few who do it well, but for the large part, design thinking has not been used effectively to create many retail success stories out of Australia. Here’s a quick checklist to consider in the next year’s marketing strategy:
1. Design thinking is NOT design
Design is about the way things look, design thinking goes deeper and is about they way things work.
Product manufacturers that rely on design alone to differentiate their product have not gone far enough. Do as Apple does and ensure every aspect of the product has been considered; not only the way it looks, but the way it unpacks, feels, sounds and works. Products become intuitive, and customers form deep attachments. Intuitive products are the pinnacle of great design thinking.
It isn’t just pretty pictures, a cool brand or stunning visual appeal – although these matter too. Design thinking applies across different touch points and brings together various departments within a company.
2. Use design thinking for more than products
Design thinking can be applied to all aspects of life. By considering a customer’s experience, we are applying design thinking to retail.
We need to consider all touch points in a customer’s experience; that they work together and work well. We should aim to create intuitive experiences that make people’s lives easier and more enjoyable, because that is the most effective way to create deep attachment to brand.
Design thinking is about the individual (human centred) and not a function relegated to creative departments alone. It is an intuitive and collaborative process that combines human behaviour, product design, service capabilities and a host of other factors to achieve a solution to a problem.
3. Put the customer in control
Traditional product design is less relevant when most manufacturers can match functionality and efficiency – unless you are Apple. As its gets harder to maintain a competitive edge, using design thinking to create impact is the game changer.
Brands such as Fisher & Paykel and Philips are focusing on building a circle of relevance around the customer – beyond physical and digital shop floors. Fisher & Paykel’s Social Kitchen is rethinking assumptions about kitchen design and creating appliances that make this space more social.
The beauty of design thinking is that it helps companies build exciting experiences around the most basic products such as light bulbs. Philips did so with Philips Hue that allows customers to control lighting from their smartphones. They didn’t just look at how to remain price competitive in a market where customers traditionally chose cheaper products; they built a value proposition around how people engage with light in their homes by giving them a range of options, colours and experiences.
4. Engage all 5 senses
Great customer experience goes beyond product innovations and purchase process. It uses design thinking to look at customer’s lifestyle surrounding the product or service and delivers intuitive experiences.
From shop floor, delivery systems, packaging to even the parking spaces, every touch or conversation point is an opportunity to engage different senses. The challenge is in synergising all elements to deliver an immersive experience that gets the customer into the brand zone and have them coming back again.
5. Future proofing your business
In today’s competitive world, it isn’t enough to have a state-of-the-art experience centre with poor access or untrained staff. It isn’t enough to have great products, but poorly presented shop floors. As noted in Fast Company, global competition and technological diffusion mean that competitors quickly catch up with most improvements, while the transparency of digital and social media also prompts consumers to quickly switch allegiance with each new alluring offer.
While many car manufacturers are designing better products, Audi is leading through design thinking. By working with architects and planners to survey future urban planning concepts, they are future proofing their brand. They are looking beyond how customers will drive 20 years from now, to re-think the concept of mobility itself, and what that means for the way we live and how the cities around us function.
To get customer experience right, we need to apply design thinking to every touch point. By designing for people and the lives they live, we create intuitive experiences that connect them with brands – both online and in physical spaces.