New strategies to improve the consumer experience

The needs of consumers are ever-changing and designers will need to respond.

As a designer, one strives to serve clients, improve the lives of consumers and shape the state of the world through design. Whether it be service redesign or problem redefine, design can make a significant difference to both the growth of commercial businesses as well as how public services and organisation can successfully provide their services. However, this often relies on designers and their work responding to ever-evolving social and economic trends and needs. Consumers are increasingly demanding different kinds of relationships with brands and organisations; the essence of design-thinking within either a corporate environment or a public institution increasingly lies in enhancing these relationships through consumer experience and optimising consumer engagement. By looking at two distinct examples of commercial and public design solutions, what can be learnt from these changing moments of interaction and engagement between consumer and design strategy?

Retail is a commercial environment that is rapidly changing, with retailers looking to stimulate today’s digitally-intuitive consumer by creating more engaging and interactive retail experiences. French beauty retailer Sephora are taking their first steps to harmonise the physical and virtual retail experiences by implementing a new digital marketing strategy within their recently opened concept store in San Francisco, the "Sephora Beauty Teach, Inspire Play Workshop". The store is host to twelve make-up stations which are equipped with USB ports, an iPad and WiFi, allowing for employees to communicate with customers in a beauty vlogger inspired interaction with their Sephora products. Beauty vloggers have proved a powerful force within the beauty industry with the most successful YouTube stars amassing millions of followers and acting as influencers for a whole generation of younger consumers. Looking beyond digitalisation, Sephora is bringing digital behaviour into the store to communicate more effectively with its customers.

An incredibly important environment that requires adapting to and understanding consumer needs is that of the healthcare system, where improving patients experiences is key to delivering high-quality services. By taking the NHS as an example, there is an active effort to involve design-led solutions to instil change. The UK Design Council were called upon to assist the NHS with improving patient experience and reducing levels of violence and aggression in A&E department throughout hospitals in the UK. With over 21 million patients attending A&E departments each year, increasing pressure lead to negative experiences for both patients and staff, frequently manifesting itself as verbal or physical aggression. With the implementation of design solutions in the form of a comprehensive package of information about the department, waiting times and treatment processes through environmental signage, leaflets, and digital platforms around the hospital, a noteworthy 75 per cent of patients claimed a reduced level of frustration during their visit to A&E. What seems like an intangible problem has been reframed through design thinking, enabling the NHS to have a more effective conversation with its patients from the point at which they enter the hospital within the A&E to the point at which they receive treatment.

Although Sephora sales targets and NHS healthcare systems are dissimilar in their aims and outcomes, their solutions lie in the impact of innovative design solutions and an overall unified consumer experience. Whether in the digital language of generation Z or in a non-specialised language of the ordinary hospital visitor, when it comes to the consumer experience, interactions and exchanges between consumers and companies thrive when conducted in the consumers own language. Communicating through a variety of touch points from signage to tech, corporate and public institutions can help shape consumer experiences by playing on emotional connections and the power of language in a simple but highly effective manner.

UK Design Council and GDR presented as part of the Future London Academy's Design Thinking and Innovation course. For more information on upcoming courses see the Future London Academy website.

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