As one of the longest serving UK retailers, our client had built a wealth of both online and in-store experiences. The assumption was that despite customers readily moving between different channels and touchpoints while interacting with the retailer’s products and services, this experience was likely to be fragmented and potentially confusing.
In this regard, they shared the same challenges as many other well-established retail businesses: how to deliver a consistent customer experience across all aspects of their services and products. As these businesses grow, so does the challenge to cross functional collaboration and complexity of consistent service delivery. Challenges that are reflected in the customer experience.
Consumers expect to shop in the ways that suit them. They expect easy access to tools and information that help them make decisions to complete their tasks. Regardless of how and where they choose to complete their tasks, they expect a consistent experience. This customer experience can break down when customers are forced to choose a specific channel in order to make progress. Understanding these friction points and gaps between services is the first step to uncovering omnichannel opportunities.
The goal of this engagement was to gain deep customer insight to inform their approach for a more unified and truly omnichannel experience. Through extensive customer research the UX and research team would be able to present to the business a definition of omnichannel and evidence-based opportunities to feed into the long term business strategy.
The Full Story
How do you navigate the ambiguity of “omnichannel”?
The definition of omnichannel wildly differs depending on who you ask in a business. To deliver true value we first needed to understand what omnichannel meant as a business. This would help us to effectively communicate our findings to the intended audience and deliver actionable recommendations. Collaboratively, we explored and mapped the relevant retail channels and touchpoints to that definition.
During these early conversations we identified a need for a deep and rich understanding of customer’s behaviours and habits over time, and the different triggers and contexts in which they shopped. To ensure we would be able to gather these inputs we selected what we felt would be the most effective method to do this: A diary study with follow-up home visit interviews would enable us to gain the longitudinal and context-rich insights this research required.
How do you research the entire UK population on a budget?
The scope of audience was huge. As one of the UK’s leading retailers it potentially served the entire UK population. We worked collaboratively on a rigorous recruitment process to ensure the criteria and quality of participants was satisfactory. To ensure our research wasn’t geographically biased we recruited customers across 4 major cities located in urban, suburban and rural locations.
Our first step was to immerse ourselves in the customer experience. We wanted first-hand experience of omnichannel in the retail space. With guidance from our client’s core UX team we identified direct and indirect competitors. We then took to the high street to walk in the footsteps of customers. We gained an initial understanding of where in-store and online experiences are cumbersome or potentially frustrating and all the touchpoints involved, such as in-store digital kiosks and online mobile apps. Our secondary research also included an extensive review of all the digital products available within the industry and the flow of information and interaction between channels and services. This knowledge formed the foundation for our hypotheses and the genesis of the design for our diary study.
Our early conclusions of this initial research was that despite there being retailers delivering interesting solutions with an omnichannel focus, the space was rife with opportunity.
How do you uncover shopping behaviours through ethnographic research?
Our next task was to design and structure the diary study, setting up the tools and documents participants needed to complete during the study. Our challenge here was to strike a balance of research scope.
The study needed to be specific enough to communicate the expectations of the study for participants so that the relevant moments shared with us. At the same time the study needed to be broad enough to avoid imposing bias. We also wanted to avoid excluding observations that weren’t in our initial hypotheses.
With careful consideration we were able to select a tool, ExperienceFellow, which we felt was flexible enough for participants to record any moment relevant to them.
The diary study helped us validate some of our early hypotheses and explore emerging themes that were of particular interest to our client. We could then incorporate these into specific discussion points for subsequent face-to-face customer interviews.
Working with our client’s core UX team team we then identified and reached out to the most valuable diary study participants to line up home-visit interviews.
We used these home interviews as an invaluable opportunity to discuss in more detail what the participants shared during the diary study. Visiting their home environment offered a depth of insight that a remote interview or lab testing could never offer, generating a wealth of rich discussion points and an understanding of the motivation behind their behaviours.
All interviews were conducted with a member of our client’s core UX team, to not only be able to disseminate first-hand observations back to the wider stakeholder group quickly and directly as needed, but also to provide the context from a business and service perspective to frame our learnings.
How do you synthesise and communicate insights effectively?
With six weeks of intensive research complete, we embarked on the mammoth task of synthesising the huge data set. With thousands of data points in the diary study alone this was no mean feat, however we had preempted this in our selection criteria when deciding on which tools to use and, as a result, we could easily generate a journey map prototype for all our participants at a single click.
Through rigorous analysis we sliced the data into various views and started to build themes across the online and offline journeys. Customer mindsets across the different segments started to emerge. Related to these mindsets were a list of key customer ‘jobs’ - tasks or activities - some of which were more difficult to complete than others.
To frame this new way of thinking about customers, we used an adapted version of Job Stories (from the Jobs To Be Done framework) to distil the customer’s context, motivation and expectations of outcomes.The opportunity for our client was to reduce the friction in completing these jobs and provide specific services for those who needed them most.
Our next challenge was to distill the insights and opportunities into a visual format that would engage the wider organisation: a series of customer journey maps. The role of these maps within the organisation would be to act a ‘North Star’ for any future omnichannel strategy. To effectively communicate the story of what we learned it was crucial for us to effectively articulate the customer mindsets and key jobs. We needed to provide ‘just enough’ contextual detail for those who needed it without rendering the map unreadable for those that didn’t.
We worked closely with our client to explore, shape and design the maps into artefacts that would be most effective for the UX team and wider business stakeholders who would be using and referring to them, creating nine large-scale printable journey maps; a separate online and offline journey for each of the three customer segments and a single consolidated map to ‘rule them all’.