Involving people to measure the quality of experiences in physical places and their impact on brand perception: our project with Woolrich.
We often hear about omnichannel logic, levers and touchpoints, segmentation and KPIs. Beyond the observations related to a language increasingly aimed at professional virtuosity and less and less to the real experiences of people, the key theme here is that these words, in fact, delimit a perimeter of choices.
Choices that are too often made in aseptic rooms where brains, skills and roles work with great commitment to design something for a shapeless mass of profiled customers: they have an age range, a gender, an average income, and a specific place on the Eurisko synoptic map. Immense amounts of data are processed and what people want is deduced from rows of numbers that represent them.
We rely on artificial intelligence and, without even realizing it, we forget where real intelligence comes from: the people who are out there living the experiences that companies design for them, those who will have a positive or negative impression, hate them, or want to repeat them. Those that TSW brings to the design table as people and not as clusters, to help us design better experiences.
By virtue of these logics, we proposed Woolrich carry out an experiment to try and understand which values the Flagship Store in Milan is capable of generating. Therefore, going beyond the traditional measurements we use to create those comfortable data sets on which our decisions rely: number of entries, average sale value, retention rate, etc.
These are indispensable numbers, but from our point of view they are not sufficient enough to provide us with a deep understanding of what people are actually experiencing once they enter a store. How they feel, what excites them, what they pay attention to and the impact this experience will have on their thoughts every time they read the brand name.
The Woolrich team immediately understood how much value there was in finding answers to these questions. We are talking about answers capable of providing concrete outcome for all the investments and all the care that the company has placed in creating this experience, conceived as something that goes far beyond the point of sale and which instead wants to represent the brand, what it believes in and the value it wants to offer to people through its product.
The paradigm change we are referring to is a very simple return to origins: if what interests us is to understand whether a planned experience is a good experience, let it be lived and listen. We add the interpretation of experiences to that of data, and we use our skills not only to deduce, but also to understand.
With this principle guiding the various steps of planning, each methodology acquires a new meaning. And whenever we propose them, we happily explain that the value of these methodologies lies in the way that we use them, and not in the technologies, test plans, and reports themselves.
This project involved 40 people. Woolrich customers, people who knew the brand and recently purchased its products but who had not yet visited the Milan Flagship. Age, gender, income, it doesn’t matter. They are people who have experienced the brand and its products, and have something to say.
The first step was to understand these people’s current perception of the brand. To do this, we called up methodologies related to the world of neuroscience. We are referring to the BARTT, Brand Association Reaction Time Task: a test on how well the brand is able to generate associations with certain values. This type of test is useful for integrating what people explicitly declare – Woolrich is sustainable, Woolrich is in step with the times, etc. – with a precise assessment of the strength of these implicit associations through to the measurement of response times.
Once we understood what each person’s starting point was in their relationship with the brand, we brought them to live the in-store experience. Our researchers accompanied people inside, observed their behaviours, and interacted with them to investigate specific aspects. In this case, the technologies for psycho-physiological measurement helped us to have a more detailed picture of the experience that the participants were experiencing, what attracted their attention, which elements were capable of generating emotional activation, etc.
At the end of the visit to the store, people repeated the BARTT, and the difference between the final survey and the initial one provided us with an accurate snapshot of how the experience had impacted their perception of the brand. The values that were most strongly connected to the brand during the second test were those that people had experienced most intensely in-store.
A simple paradigm change, we said. We could have sought the answers to the same questions with a rigorous questionnaire sent to long lists of users fished from a CRM software or to a group of random email addresses with no name and surname, let alone a face, linked to identities that conform to a predefined set of criteria.
Instead, we chose 40 people and their experiences. And yes, we have used every specific expertise, method, and technology that we possess. But we did it without losing sight of the true meaning of what we do: observe and listen with the aim of understanding how to generate better experiences.
At the heart of our method there is also the intention of being able to derive the greatest possible value from the study of the experiences that people live. This is only possible by not committing one of the most popular mistakes: working alone once the analysis activities have concluded.
If the information we have obtained is intended to guide an effective redesign of the experience, we believe it is essential not to leave users’ experiences at the starting blocks. Involving them throughout the entire the project through participatory methodologies related to the universe of design thinking. From creative concepting and the design itself to validation techniques that combine the more qualitative insights with neuroscience, directly involving people allows us to ensure a virtuous circle of value transmission that does not suffer interference, losses, errors.
After all, the logic is really simple and transversally valid, whether we are dealing with digital environments, services, products, or physical spaces. How could any experience designed together with the people who will live it not be the best possible experience for them?
The virtuous circle we mentioned earlier finds its best expression in the participation of three key players: end users; the designers, who analyse, interpret, design; and, last but not least, the company team.
In fact, on numerous occasions, we have experienced the incredible value generated by the participation of our clients in the activities we conduct together with end users. In person or remotely, listening to and observing people’s experiences first-hand is a unique opportunity to make sense of every data sheet, performance reports or strategic roadmaps that fill our hard drives.
A moment that generates a different memory, capable of combining excel sheets and reports with feelings, words and opinions that are unlikely to remain relegated to a server.