We've been fortunate this year both to have had a lot of work we're excited to talk about, and a lot of people who have been eager to hear the stories of bringing that work to life. On Tuesday, I was fortunate to be joined by Stacey Howe of New Balance to share stories and learnings from the development of the RFID Shoe Wall that our teams built together for an audience at The Ad Club, as part of their Lures of Retail event.
The entire deck is embedded above, and we'll hope to give Stacey a forum here to share her perspectives on these seven points in her own words, but below are my speaking notes for slides supporting seven of our outlined tenets of next-generation digital retail experiences that I outlined in our presentation (and hope to give further shape to as we continue to explore the space).
1. ￼More than any other factor, the space in which an experience lives will shape technology decisions.
It’s really important to let the space re-shape your technology assumptions. Those we were initally really excited about ultimately faced significant human factors hurdles within the confines of the finished space. We had to be ready to completely re-think the solution (without re-thinking the problem).
This has enormous implications for scaling these experiences across retail networks. It’s tempting to build experiences that you can roll-out everywhere, but the downside of one-size-fits-all experiences is that they tend to suit all locations only adequately (and die on the vine).
2. ￼Local + Social is sexy, but is heavily- dependent on context in order to deliver meaning + value.
There's a lot of emphasis right now on combining social content with local filters to create something designed to deliver a higher level of engagement. While I think that this can be a useful tool for many retailers, when designing for experiences this has significant content management implications for local store management.
It's also worth considering the experience when highly-targeted social content wells go dry. What happens when our queries return zero results, and how do the displays or experiences respond. It's tempting to believe that hashtag-fueled content will last as long as the experiences we create to respond to them, but experience doesn't bear this out.
3. ￼The ability to scale an experience will be limited in-part by its capacity to adapt to evolving product mix.
The complexities of merchandising present a rather unique set of problems to the retail experience design project. It’s critically important to adapt not only to new products but new product types (not just footwear but apparel, for example). More significantly, as SKUs vary by retail location, limits in the ability to match store-by-store inventory will limit the reach and effectiveness of the execution by local market product mix.
4. ￼The success of a retail technology content management solution hinges on access, not functionality.
By access, we mean two things:
a. The complexity of the solution - how easy is it for someone not only to find and manage existing content, but add new content on their own (we know that when content management becomes cumbersome, content doesn't get managed).
b. Where can it be accessed? for the brand to manage content effectively, it needs to be centrally-available (via the web, ideally — and even better if you can bring the functionality to a mobile platform).
Another question worth considering: Are the people who craft really great digital experiences the best people to design a content management solution (they're fundamentally different skills)?
For each of these reasons, continue to believe that there's a lot of value in customizing existing content management platforms like Drupal and Wordpress for the management of content across digital displays for in-store experience.
5. ￼Increasingly, maintenance will mean adapting to evolving systems (not just fixing stuff).
More and more, the things we create are subject to external changes in 3rd party platforms. How does the experience adapt itself (ideally) when a dependent platform changes (i.e. FB migrating to the Timeline or Twitter's adoption of Oauth2), and who is responsible for helping to accomodate these evolutions?
To the previous point, does this happen instance-by-instance, or system-wide? The answers have enormous implications for experiences installed across a network of retail locations.
6. ￼Designing measurement must become an integral part of designing experiences.
Traditionally, many firms have designed experiences and reported on the measurable outputs of those systems. As retail analytics become more nuanced and valuable, we’re going to need to design the capture of measurements into systems in order to get the data that we want. To do this without compromising the user experience is going to require new kinds of design practices.
This is going to mean reporting through systems that integrate with existing platforms, so that measures and metrics can be made accessible to everyone who could benefit from them.
Ultimately, the greatest value of this measurement may be the extent to which it enables ongoing iteration.
7. ￼Iterate the experience, not the technology.
It’s fundamentally critical to abstract the experience from the technology. When we start talking about iterating ‘an RFID-powered shoe wall’, it’s far too-easy to examine opportunities to upgrade the technology while subjugating the idea that we are really trying to help people find more information about the product that they’re holding in their hands.
As technologies commoditize, this gets more challenging.
This requires a lot of observation - something that retailers are pretty good at (and, in my experience, marketers are less good at). Without observation, we can’t know whether we’re iterating the experience we desire or the experience people are actually having. They’re not always the same thing.
Finally, we need to make a concerted effort to iterate not only the systems, but the metrics we're employing. As our understanding of the ways people engage a system evolve, so must our means of continuing to measure.