Project Scope This was a semester long group project done for a client, Cognizant. While the prompt was very open ended, we were encouraged to explore the use of emerging technologies such as Internet of Things, telematics, and augmented reality. As a group, we explored a variety of areas from enhancing the user experience in specific environments, improving the quality of life in urban areas, wayfinding, and telecommunications.
Research Plan We planned to focus our research and semester long project on improving the customer experience within a community. In particular, we wanted to investigate how we might merge physical and digital user experiences when shopping locally.
Our methods included visualizing the topic area in a series of system diagrams and empathy maps.
During this stage, we considered how we could enhance the experience of a person exploring an environment; for example: schools, museums, new cities, or historic neighborhoods. We chose to pivot and refocus our research on retail and shopping experience because a lot of our research on urban living and improving the quality of life of people living in cities was pointing us in the direction of retail. Ultimately, we decided to narrow our focus to local businesses due to a perceived novelty of the problem space, and because a lot of our research on augmented reality as an enabler was pointing us in the direction of retail. We wanted to find ways to save customers and businesses save money, time and energy.
Our plan of execution was to sense intent by understanding existing ways of learning about a new environment, understand the people and context within this topic area, synthesize our research, and eventually develop make tools and other design provocations to help us find and create the most appropriate solution for this topic area. Our overall problem solving and analysis process included gaining insights of the problem space and understanding how we might to solve the business and usability problems.
Research Summary Through contextual interviews, literature review, and design provacations, we were able to access the current state of local businesses.
We travelled to the neighborhood of Lawrenceville in Pittsburgh to conduct contextual inquiry. The aim of this research was to better understand the point of view of the local businesses, with a focus on their goals and pain points.
While the initial research was heavily focused on the point of view of the small businesses, we felt that it was crucial to also understand the experience from the point of view of the customers. We conducted a series of design provocations, "make tools," to fulfill this need.
The first design provocation was card sorting, in order to better understand the preferences of customers.
The focuses of this research were the factors that influence the customer's decision to explore a particular neighborhood, the factors that influence their decision to enter a particular store, and the factors that influence their decision to buy a product from a brick-and-mortar store.
From this, we learned that customers choose to explore a particular neighborhood based on convenience, accessibility, curiosity, certain stores, and certain restaurants. Customers choose to enter a particular store based on the store display, the merchandise, as well as overall curiosity. Lastly, customers choose to buy a product based on their particular needs, interaction with the product, as well as their budget and price of the product.
Our second design provocation focused on the displays of stores. We created a collage activity to better understand what information will give customers a good first impression of a store. This activity targeted the point of view of both the customer and the small business.
Through literature reviews, we wanted to better understand the current state of integrated technology for retailers. We also researched the translation of community foot traffic into individual store traffic, how small businesses leverage neighboring businesses to get customers into their store, and how small business owners choose locations to place their business.
We delved into case studies of existing technologies that provide more engaging ways to enable customers to interact with the product either in store or at their own home.
We also evaluated the as-is scenarios for customers and local businesses, based on findings from earlier contextual inquiry.
We used journey maps to assess the current state of customers interacting with local businesses.
We recognized that there were opportunities in multiple areas throughout the journey, and along the way, we asked questions such as:
How might we merge the physical and digital user experiences while shopping?
How might we help shoppers save time and money?
How might we enable shoppers to make better buying decisions?
How might we help businesses improve the customer experience?
We synthesized our research findings through the use of concept maps and affinity diagrams.
Insights From our research, we uncovered several key insights:
1. Fear of exclusivity: Small businesses want to target a variety of customers without being exclusive towards a particular demographic.
2. Community collaboration: Small businesses want to facilitate collaboration between neighboring stores and small businesses.
3. Customer engagement: Small businesses want to increase customer engagement through unique experiences that attract new customers and cater to existing ones as well.
4. Varying customer needs: Customers are detail oriented. They take notice when a business puts effort into the product display in addition to the actual products. What customers want to see to help make a first impression about a store isn’t consistent across the board, but as it stands, stores can only have one display.
5. Time: People spend lots of time both online or in real world to wander around.
User needs The familiarity, human connection, and sense of community that customers used to feel when shopping locally is disappearing in neighborhoods around the country. This ultimately impacts the local economy, as well as the identity and character of the community.
We are designing for:
1. The local business owner who wishes to bring in new customers, as well as serve and cater to existing customers.
2. Customers who benefit from a more engaging shopping experience.
In addition to these, were are also considering the needs of community leaders who wish to improve the experience of tourists and visitors to their community.
After identifying these primary users, we created personas to get a more holistic vision of the needs and desires of our primary users.