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Retail is about customers, not data – discover Design Thinking

Retail is a high-paced seasonally-influenced industry. It’s as changeable as a chameleon and as ruthless as a shark. If you don’t keep your eye on the ball, you can be in business one day and out the next. Attention to detail is everything.

Before coming to Innovation Booster, I spent 3 years working in fashion retail.  During this time I observed that this industry is defined by two major factors: Data and People. Factors which require very different approaches to measurement and understanding.

Let’s start with data. This is the easy one. In retail, store performance is usually measured in metrics such as turnover, total items sold and stock resale. Figures which often determine whether it’s worth keeping the store open another day. The question is: who is the main influencer of these figures? That’s right – the customers who purchase the products. And understanding their decision-making process requires a lot more than simply measuring metrics.

The full purchasing experience package

Having worked as a retail store manager, I have witnessed first-hand that customers don’t only buy products, they buy the purchasing experience. In today’s world of abundant choice, distractions and temptations, customers can quickly switch moods in terms of what they think and feel about any business. Online and offline. Nobody’s safe. And these moods can be influenced by everything from presentation style and store staff to reviews, website and … a whole lot more.

So, as a retailer, how can you gain sufficient understanding of your customers’ thought processes to optimize your offering and trigger their purchasing? The answer lies in putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Preferably the ones you just sold them.

Design Thinking is the key

This is where an innovation method called Design Thinking comes in. Design Thinking is a customer-centric approach towards problem solving which enables you to understand your customers’ behavior and uncover or verify their wants & needs. This methodology revolves around finding the intersection between what people desire and what is organizationally possible, technologically feasible and financially viable.

But where to start? This is where you have to leave the comfort-zone of measuring data and enter the world of real people. Start by observing the people browsing your store. Dare to ask them about their experience and listen to what they have to say. Make them the star of your stage and follow their every move as if you were guiding a spotlight. Immerse yourself in your customers’ minds and, with that, discover empathy for their decisions. Now you can plot your customers’ journeys.

Once you understand your customers, you can create a solid inventory of opportunities for improving the customer experience, both offline and online. And in doing so, your business will benefit on all levels. By becoming your customer, you take the first step in future proofing your business!

Enjoy the ride!

I’m Jasper Beudel from Innovation Booster. I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions about Design Thinking? Let’s chat!