Avoid epic customer-engagement failures by applying Human-Centred Design

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In all the excitement surrounding new technologies and the rush to 'be the first' to use them, it's easy to forget the people who will be interacting with them. To avoid epic failures, it pays to employ a few HCD tools.

Featured image credit: Creative Commons from avlxyz

While reseaching intelligent packaging technologies and how well (or poorly) they engage with customers, we found the following Sony Ericsson advert, a poster in a Melbourne subway station which targets younger consumers interested in music, whilst simultaneously promoting a  mobile  phone (Sony Ericsson K850i), a mobile network (Telstra), and a band (sneaky sound system).

On the plus side, the advertising team put the poster in a subway station, where undoubtedly there will be plenty of people with smart phones looking to be entertained as they wait for the next train. Also, the poster explains what people will get if they follow the QR code (download a ringtone), rather than hoping people will make the effort to use it without knowing what awaits them on the other side.

What's interesting about this example is that while the concept is sound-using QR codes to connect with consumers with several related brands-the implementation sabotages any hope of customer engagement because the designers failed to  apply  a few critical human-centred design tools which would have quickly revealed the key flaws: 

Position: the location of the QR code on the poster makes it difficult for people to take a good, clear photo of it. If you can't get a clear photo, you can't  access the content that QR code points to

Connection: most subway stations (being underground) don't have good mobile phone reception, which means people would not be able to  connect  to any content if they were able to snap a photo of the QR code

Compatibility: The QR code takes people to a Flash webpage which was not compatible with a number of  smartphones , including the one being promoted (Sony Ericsson K850i). So, even if people could get a clear picture and connect to the web, they wouldn't be able to see any content if their phone doesn't support Flash

Reward: If people finally make it to the website, their 'reward' is a ringtone, which may not be very exciting for the target market

These issues could have been avoided if they'd employed a few human-centred design tools to better understand the users and contexts of use. For example, they could have used stakeholder mapping to identify the different people interacting with the advert, interviews with the different types of stakeholders to find out what their needs are, and fly-on-the-wall-observation and contextual inquiry to understand the target consumers (the types of smartphones they own, how they use their phones in different contexts, etc.)

But even if they weren't able to use any exploratory HCD tools, they could use some evaluative tools to test their ideas, such as expert analysis, prototyping and in-context usability testing, which would have revealed issues with the position of the QR code, the lack of phone reception in certain environments, incompatible technologies, and the perceived enticement of the offer and subsequent reward.

In contrast, the Home Plus ( Tesco ) virtual store in South Korean subway stations is a great example of how human-centred design can enhance customer engagement and increase business profits and market share. The virtual store displays full-size photos of Home Plus's products, each with a QR code. Customers scan the QR code of the items they want to buy, and those items are delivered to their home the same day.

Image credit: Tesco PLC

Tesco was able to address a key business objective- expand market share without adding more physical stores-by deeply understanding their target market and designing a useful and enjoyable shopping experience. They accomplished this by identifying the key customer needs (busy lives, not much time for shopping) as well as the cultural and technological context of Korean consumers:
- More time is spent commuting to work as cities expand and workers move to the suburbs
- Government policies that encourage the population to use public transportation-the subway in Seoul is one of the most heavily used rapid transit systems in the world, serving 7 million passengers
- 91% of the population uses the internet on their mobile phone, smartphone penetration is nearly 40%
- Wi-Fi is available throughout most cities, including subway stations

Most importantly, they translated these needs into an enjoyable and familiar shopping experience. Rather than concentrating solely on a smartphone app, they built replicas of the stores, presenting products visually and arranging them as they would be in the store. They also tested the displays in a few locations to uncover any big issues before the official launch.

The result?
- Over 600,000 people downloaded the Homeplus App in the first three months following its launch in July 2011
- July online sales increased 200% compared to April 2011
- Tesco is now the number one store for online groceries in South Korea

A brilliant example of how human-centred design makes good business sense.


Innovation Training
For PDD's upcoming Human-Centred Design workshop dates click here.

Links of interest
Training in human centred-design
Tesco (Home Plus) video
Tesco Tests a Virtual Store in South Korea
Flickr group on QR codes in the wild (Images of QR Codes from over the world on objects, locations and products)

 

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Title: Product and Service Design Innovation Consultancy

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