We are living in a world where change is present, and it is forcing many industries to redefine or reshape themselves in the near future. Of all industries retailing as we know it today is for sure facing one of the biggest challenges through its existence. People´s buying behaviour and preferences are rapidly changing and, one of the biggest questions up in the air is what will be the future of brick and mortar stores?
In the Laurea´s Masterclass study unit called Design Thinking facilitated by a quest Professor Katja Tschimmel we familiarised ourselves with the design thinking concept and the Mindshake Innovation and Design Thinking Model called Evolution 62 (E.62). Practical exercises done during the 2 contact session days in September 2018 deepened participants´ understanding of the process and different tools, and it all also expanded my thinking beyond classroom walls. Since the E.62 model and related toolkit were developed in organisational context to promote Design Thinking and to show how Design Thinking tools can be applied in practice, could Design Thinking and its tool pack in general also be used for reshaping retail, more precisely brick and mortar stores?
In his book called Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation (2013), Idris Mootee offers Design Thinking lens as an approach to various business challenges. He does not stop there but presents a reader a concrete list of design thinking solutions that are matched to specific business challenges. I must say that I am usually little sceptic about these kinds of lists since they tend to oversimplify matters, but in this particular case, I think he managed to make his point clear: business problems can be approached with empathy, creativity, foresight, and last but not least consumer-centricity.
As I see it, disruption in retail business is mostly due to the fast and dramatic changes in the way individuals nowadays prefer to shop and retail´s inability to adapt to these needs (quick enough). Consumers of today like to play the game with their own rules and they want to decide how, when and where they shop. From retailers´ perspective constantly developing new technologies and all the possibilities they offer to business make everything even more complex and the future is anything but easily predicted. Essentially, it is all about the many individuals with individualistic needs and wants and retailers´ inability to predict the future.
The name of Mindshake E.62 model refers to six Es, six phases, one of which is called Empathy. As mentioned before consumers of today are more individualistic than ever and they like to set the rules, so we should study them and their rules. Empathy phase is all about deep and thorough customer (user) understanding. The E.62 tools that can be used in this phase for gaining the understanding are for example Empathy Map, User Journey Map, Persona Map and Cards (Personas), Field Observation and last but not least Interview. The idea is to be able to step into the customers´ shoes and understanding the wider context. Interview on the other hand, is an efficient tool to discover what people really need and desire. In general, the importance of this phase cannot be overly emphasized: in today´s world it is all about knowing your customer.
Predictability is also one of the business challenges Idris Mootee (2013) describes in his book. He states: “By studying, developing, and visualizing forward-looking scenarios, an organization can equip and prepare itself for tomorrow”. He continues: “Foresight is an iterative and cumulative learning process that employs design thinking tool kit.” In this case, according to him, the tool kit includes Weak Signal Scanning, Weak Signal Processing, Weak Signal Amplification, Context Mapping and Scenario Development.
Earlier in my blog post I criticised Mootee of oversimplifying things, and now I have to admit that I have committed the same crime when categorising all retail under one umbrella. Retailing, of course, encases a huge number of different sectors – grocery, electronics, clothing, home decoration and home furnishing just to mention few – with sector-specific challenges, segmentations, buying preferences and so on, and cannot or should not be treated as one entity. Personally, my passion lies within home furnishing and physical customer experience i.e. in brick and mortar, and I am itching to dig deeper into this topic when I proceed in my Service Innovation and Design studies. Please, stay tuned.
Liedtka, Jeanne. 2018. Why Design Thinking works. Harvard Business Review.
Mootee, Idris. 2013. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation
Tschimmel, Katja. 2018. E.62 Mindshake – Innovation & Design Thinking Model
Tschimmel, Katja. 2015. Evolution 62 Design Thinking Cards