In the early to mid-2000s, the retail landscape was a constellation of fallen stars, lagging brands that stalled, consolidated, or fizzled out. From the moment in 1994, when Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in his garage, business changed forever.
With algorithms making smarter product suggestions, strategic flexibility, and devotion to user experience, Amazon became the gold standard—the new standard—for the retail experience. Unlike brick and mortar organizations, Amazon could innovate, iterate, and to an unprecedented extent, prioritize customers. The retail industry, as we knew it, was torn apart. Ecommerce became retail’s main storefront.
It is critical for companies to leverage digital to power the personal, touchless, and safe experiences that customers expect today.
Today, no industry is immune to disruption. As a pandemic suspends the global economy, a new kind of disruption threatens brands. It is more critical than ever for companies to leverage digital to power the personal, touchless, and safe experiences that customers expect today and will expect tomorrow.
Taking a cue from the digital disruptor playbook. Here are five rules—think of them as survival skills—to follow when you need to accelerate your customer experience in the face of disruption.
Develop Customer Obsession.
From the get-go, Amazon swam with a deep dive in customer focus, narrowcasting on the customer’s motivations, wants, and needs. With its auto-generated recommendations, perks of Prime membership, and consistent focus on the customer experience, Amazon’s digital smarts continue to generate momentum and define what’s next in driving customer convenience.
E-commerce has evolved to the point of extreme personalization, generating a new buzzword, what some call “me-commerce.” Today, people expect offerings of highly individualized products, prices, and services—transmitted seamlessly across their devices—that, proposed tactfully, anticipate their needs.
Invest in simple design frameworks to understand your customers and start collecting data about how they engage with you to inform business decisions.
There may be challenges to getting to know and gather feedback from your customers. You won’t gather the data-driven insights of Amazon overnight, but you can begin by shifting to a customer-centric point of view. Invest in simple design frameworks to understand your customers and start collecting data about how they engage with you to inform business decisions.
Create a singular view of your customer with design frameworks—customer journeys, user stories, and other artifacts that are research-based, rich with emotion, and that are shareable across your organization. These tools are the foundation for building customer obsession.
Launch and Learn.
Surviving disruption requires agility and a culture of innovation. Part of what helped digital-native brands disrupt traditional retail was their different approach to development. Using methods like agile, digital teams commonly break big initiatives down into smaller goals, with a continuous cycle of testing, iterating, and learning. Future-thinking brands have learned how to be nimble, treating products as prototypes that can be tweaked and continuously improved.
We have our own version of an agile approach at Teague we call Thinking Through Making. We combine our design experience with tools to help teams innovate and test solutions faster using lean prototypes. To be more iterative with a global team, we developed a new tool—Teague 3D Garage—using VR technology that allowed us to collaborate with our partners at Segway in real-time from different geographies.