A Rare Look Into Sainsbury’s Digital Experience Playbook The UX Crunch @ Sainsbury’s (Tues 20th September 2016) Review

The UX Crunch at Sainsbury's4 or 5 years ago, Sainsbury’s decided it wanted to do this “digital” thing correctly.

Not in the cartoonish way Digimon turned Pokemon digital. I mean in the business-savvy way Google turned the Yellow Pages digital, then made Yahoo Search, Ask Jeeves and several others obsolete.

So, when Sainsbury’s decided it would play the digital game to win it, the bigwigs sought advice from none other than Google (in its semi-mythical Silicon Valley base).

Google stroked its beard, white with wisdom (not age), and declared, “To elevate thine game, thou must create a team of digital experts.”

At the biggest ever UX Crunch event, we heard from the digital experience team, created by Sainsbury’s, about its strategy for winning at ecommerce UX, CX, data and all things digital:

  1. Building a brilliant customer experience by Clare Muscutt, Head of CX Design
  2. Building Sainsbury’s digital experience capability by Martin White, Lead Design Manager
  3. Anticipatory Design by Jaskharan Shoker, UX Designer
  4. Enhancing UX with analytics by Krzysztof Zawadzki, Senior Usability Analyst

Event organiser, Myles McMorrow, began proceedings with an inspiring, heartwarming and sweet-as-molasses business pitch for sponsors WhatUsersDo, Ecom Recruitment and Foolproof.

If any attendees disagree, they can drop me an email and I’ll make up for their disappointment with a free trial of the world-changing, life-affirming WhatUsersDo UX testing platform.UX Crunch beer and pizza

Building a brilliant customer experience – Clare Muscutt

Clare explained “how Sainsbury’s is breaking down barriers between channels and joining the dots for customers, using service design”.

I can’t find a universally accepted definition of service design, so I’ll just explain it in a way that makes sense to me.

Service design appears to focus on the non-physical economic goods we provide customers and how the components (human and non-human) that allow us to provide these goods can be improved.

For Sainsbury’s, this goes beyond simply making sure the sandwiches on shelves are of good quality – the shop floor staff, warehouses, drivers, stock-taking processes… everything comes into play. If it can ultimately influence the customer in a positive way, it warrants attention.

Sainsbury’s has envisioned what its future of customer experience looks like – to become a place where people love to shop – and is using service design to achieve that vision.

Clare stresses that the company doesn’t ask itself, “Which products do we need to build?” That would be putting the cart before the horse.

Instead, it asks, “What do we want to be to customers – which problems do we want to solve?” Start with customers – let their needs drive the direction of your business and its services.

To answer these questions and build a great customer experience, Clare says you need the right tools:

  • Customer personas – who are the types of people who might need your service
  • Customer missions – which goals are they trying to achieve when they’re driven to your business
  • Service proposition – a statement on how your business will help these personas meet their goals (for Sainsbury’s, this is “Live well for less”)

To illustrate the importance of all these tools, Clare makes the point that customers now expect a seamless experience across all channels – digital or otherwise. It’s also about how the digital experience team can enhance interactions that aren’t necessarily digital.

She uses her behaviour, when shopping for dresses to wear at weddings, as an example of a typical omni-channel journey.

First she finds a retailer to buy from.

Omni-channel shopping

*Spoiler alert*: she always goes for ASOS because she can pay with PayPal, which means she doesn’t have to enter card details during every purchase.

As she can also use Doddle (which has a store near her office), Clare buys dresses she likes in multiple sizes. That way, she can try them all on, keep the best-fitting ones, return the mismatches (via Doddle) and get a refund within a week.

As Clare described this process, many women nodded and laughed – presumably because they could understand why she does things this way.

And, presumably, when you understand your market this deeply, you can create a customer experience with which competitors cannot compete.

Building Sainsbury’s digital experience capabilityMartin White

Martin’s talk began with a bit of corporate chest-beating – a history lesson about Sainsbury’s and how awesome it is.

I think the digital experience team is recruiting, so it was forgivable (but still boring to anyone who wasn’t looking for a job).

Once Martin cast away the shackles of corporate etiquette, he described a truly heartwarming story (unlike my tongue-in-cheek use of the word at the beginning of this article).

Martin explains that Sainsbury’s digital experience strategy is guided by the words “trust” and “love”, then elaborates using the example of customer with OCD.

Digital experience strategy

Sainsbury’s remains the only retailer that delivers groceries to a lady with severe obsessive compulsive disorder – all other retailers consider her too much trouble to serve.

She buys 26 bottles of hand soap per week (among other things) and all orders must be placed on the kitchen table, in a particular position. Nothing must touch the floor or she’ll refuse the order.

Sainsbury’s drivers, from whom Martin learned of this customer, choose to see the lighter side of the experience – although it would be much easier to see the cumbersome side.

Martin also gives 4 case studies of instances where Sainsbury’s has enhanced the digital experience to make sure stories like these can keep happening.

Case study 1: Christmas ordering 2014

In 2014, Sainbury’s turned its paper Christmas catalogue into a digital one. Customers could order and reserve food without going into a store – at a time when we’re all pressed for time.

This led to a 20% uplift in sales.

Then in 2015, the digital catalogue was iterated on and tweaked. This led to a further 13% uplift in sales, thanks largely to a 60% increase in mobile traffic.

Case study 2: Driving change

Following the introduction of regulations (Working Time Directive) that limited the hours Sainsbury’s drivers could work, a new shift system had to be introduced.

Drivers used a laborious, paper-based system to book time slots, as they tried to meet customer demand.

To combat this, Sainsbury’s knocked out in 16 weeks a digital product that made booking shifts easy, visible to all and less time-consuming.

Case study 3: SmartShop

SmartShop is an initiative that involved changing the layout of physical stores and checkout options, as well as creating an app that made shopping and checking out, easier and quicker.

This increased in-store footfall, number of items added to baskets and the amount of money spent on items in those baskets.Sainsbury's digital experience feedback

Case study 4: Digitising daily in-store checks

Every day, many parts of a Sainsbury’s store need to work properly – from refrigerated shelves to light bulbs – for business to continue.

Staff previously needed to go round and check these items, then fill out paper forms. Martin showed an example of the tortuous form staff needed to fill in before being able to climb a ladder.

This process also serves as an audit trail, in case something goes wrong. By digitising the process of verifying and recording these in-store checks, Sainsbury’s

  • Increased the accuracy and frequency of checks
  • Reduced the time this took
  • Guaranteed a real-time availability of audit information

Anticipatory Design – Jaskharan Shoker

Jas (as she said we could call her, for short) delivered arguably the most passionate and least sterilised talk of the evening.

She began by sharing that modern humans, apparently, make 35,000 decisions a day. My daily indecision about what to have for lunch suddenly made sense.

The crux of her talk was that while UX today seems to focus on what users need/want, and how we can meet these, anticipatory design focusses on what we know users will need or want.

She uses Netflix and Spotify as services that foreshadow this idea. Both have libraries that are far too vast to be (realistically) exhausted by the average person.

So, when you sign up, these services collect information that helps them predict what you might want or like. That way, making a decision becomes easier and finding what you want, more likely.

Spotify Netflix digital experience

Jas then moves into the realm of smart or connected products, much like those that were discussed by Stuart Whyte during the UX Crunch @ The Bio Agency.

She talks about a future where you can unload all your washing powder into a special compartment in your washing machine. This compartment weighs the amount of powder and learns how much you use per wash.

So, when you’re running low, it can automatically order more washing powder for you, via Amazon Echo or another smart device.

An attendee rightfully questioned the challenges of holding so much data about customers, when security can (and likely will) be breached. Jas agreed that the biggest challenges for such a future are legal and data security.

She left us with a challenge – “How can you bring anticipatory design into the experiences that you’re building?”

Enhancing UX with analyticsKrzysztof Zawadzki

Krzysztof seemed to be making one salient point – qualitative data tells you “why”… but you need quantitative data to show where you should be asking that question.

This short and sweet talk pointed out 4 examples of how you can combine qualitative and quantitative data to create a weapon more potent than either individually.

1.) Finding methods

Collect data from your site search feature, then look at the pages from which people search for certain keywords. If trends appear, you may realise that you’ve miscategorised an item.

For example, if most people are searching “tomatoes” from the “vegetables” section, rather than “fruits”, you can run UX tests to figure out how this should be best categorised.

2.) Page health

This one is fairly straightforward – track from which pages users encounter errors and look for trends.

A high number of errors occurring from a certain page is your cue to assess and improve the UX of that page.

3.) Optimisation

No matter how much qualitative testing you do, you’ll still have to make some assumptions in your work – according to Krzysztof (and I agree).

To add another layer of validation to your decisions, test any assumptions against opposing points of view – in A/B tests, for example. The same thinking could be applied to a range of conversion rate optimisation (CRO) tools e.g. heatmaps.

4.) Segmentation

Finally, you can use segments in Google Analytics to get in-depth data about specific groups of customers.

Segments let you create filters that show customers (or users) who meet a set criteria you’ve defined. For example, you might want to see just customers who came via social media, viewed certain pages, live in a certain city and are of a certain gender.

You can then layer this segment over your analytics, to reveal data that’s exclusive to your chosen segment.

Armed with this depth and quantity of data about users, you can make very informed decisions about UX. For example, who your eCommerce site needs to do a better job of satisfying – and, by extension, who your users should be when running UX tests.

Biggest UX Crunch Ever

Overall verdict

As well as being the biggest, this was arguably the best UX Crunch ever.

So successful was this event that Luke Reed, founder of the event, has booked a semi-permanent space in Camden (which seats 200+ people) for future UX Crunch events.

The evening was interspersed with moments of the Sainsbury’s speakers proclaiming how amazing Sainsbury’s is. But when they did get round to talking about stuff you can actually learn from, there was much to learn indeed.

The pizza is becoming the stuff of legend – there was more of it than ever and it was devoured faster than ever. Drop by the next event and taste the glory.

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Timi is a London-based copywriter and full-time marketing sceptic – there are now more unvalidated opinions out there than ever.

He became a UX testing enthusiast after seeing its power while working at TUI – the world’s largest travel, leisure and tourism company. He then joined WhatUsersDo to sharpen his UX knowledge and work side-by-side with the field’s best and brightest.

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