Sutherland Innovation Labs Research and design. Improving everyday experiences. Wed, 20 Mar 2019 19:21:31 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2019, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Research and design. Improving everyday experiences. Global Banking App Benchmark: 7 Key Trends Tue, 12 Mar 2019 16:06:36 +0000 Global Banking App Benchmark: 7 Key Trends

We’re pleased to announce that this years Global Banking App Benchmark from the UXalliance has just been released. It was led by our South African partners, Mantaray, involves 44 leading banking apps, and is in its 4th year, so we’re getting some interesting data on trends and emerging features.

The days of a banking app that primarily features balances, transactions and some simple functionally seem to be over. Here are a few trends that struck me:

Functionality in unsecured areas continues to increase

mBank in Poland features a balance summary prior to login

mBank in Poland features a balance summary prior to login

We’ve seen features such as ATM finders prior to login before, but the demand for low-friction use continues. 30% of apps provided a balance summary before login.

50% support the ability to view notifications in the app and via push messages, with most displaying this feature on the (pre-login) landing page.

Payments are becoming more flexible

Bancolombia allows users to generate a virtual credit card

Bancolombia allows users to generate a virtual credit card

A range of payment types are supported by the banking apps. 36% have quick payment features (without login), via Geolocation, QR code or NFC to make or receive payments.

We’re also seeing 18% of apps allowing payments via social media (e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook, and Viber).

One interesting feature we noted for the first time was the ability to generate a virtual credit card to make online payments without bank details.

Apps are becoming more integrated with the rest of the bank

mBank in Poland provides easy access to chat support

mBank in Poland provides easy access to chat support

An odd feature of apps in the past is that they sat on a communications device but often offered little integration with the rest of the bank beyond providing a ‘Find Us’ feature, or possibly a phone number (often difficult to find). This year there’s some evidence of moving beyond corporate silos and joining up.

91% of apps also provide access to support within the app, with 43% providing online chat/chatbots – see mBank (Poland) as an example of online chat, but others such as BBVA (Spain) are using chatbots.

Yapi Kredi (Turkey) also allows you to book appointments with your local branch via the app when your needs require it.

Deep functionality is now essential

Sparkasse in Germany allows users to use their camera to make a bill payment

Sparkasse in Germany allows users to use their camera to make a bill payment

Banking apps used to offer a subset of the functionality supported by online banking, driven by both security and the mantra of mobile must be simple. As mobiles are increasingly central to our lives, expectations of functionality increase. Its increasingly common to access detailed functionality such as adjusting local terms on an existing product or managing/freezing cards, as offered by Standard Bank (South Africa).

There’s also evidence of mobile specific use-cases, such as using the phone camera to make a bill payment, as offered by Sparkasse bank, or use location awareness.

Personalization has reached banking apps

FNB in South Africa was one of the apps allowing users to personalize daily limits

FNB in South Africa was one of the apps allowing users to personalize daily limits

Personalization is evident in a range of ways in an effort to make the experience more compelling.

61% allow personalization such as renaming accounts and setting defaults, while 55% go further and allow users to set payment limits for their accounts, see FNB (South Africa) as an example. Personalized offers are also making an appearance, based on existing products and behavior (in the case of CMB (China).

Financial calculators have reached a majority of apps

ICICI in India provides calculators for a range of additional products and services

ICICI in India provides calculators for a range of additional products and services

Financial calculators have been increasingly evident within the benchmark over time and this trend continues with the latest version.

54% of apps now include finance calculators, for example for home and personal loans. This move towards greater dynamism within the app underlines the shift from a simple reporting and transactional tool to a deeper hub of personal finances. ICICI (India) offer calculators as one of a range of added-value services. BBVA (Spain) take an interesting and slightly different focus, by looking at life events, such as having a baby and providing calculators around this.

You can play the lottery online using your banking app in South Africa

FNB in South Africa allows customers to play the lottery via their app

FNB in South Africa allows customers to play the lottery via their app

They’re not alone, 18% of the banks supported buying coupons, vouchers or lottery tickets. This seems unusual from a UK perspective, but not elsewhere, as Chinese apps offer e-shopping and a full 66% of banks support the buying of  products such as airtime, electricity or public transport vouchers. What it means to be a bank (particularly online) seems to be changing.

There lots more to tell, from design and navigation trends, to how phone cameras are being used. As ever, our colleagues at Mantaray in South Africa have put much work into collating this unique global view.

If you’re keen to know more about the Global Banking Benchmark, feel free to contact me directly.

Design Research as a Gendered Experience Fri, 08 Mar 2019 09:29:04 +0000 Design Research as a Gendered Experience

As it is International Women’s Day, it seemed like an opportune time to talk about the unique challenges that women can face in a design research agency. Not the regular challenges that all women face in every workplace – like potential discrimination, balancing a family with the demands of work and the like – but the unique challenges of our work.

Much of the fieldwork that we do is essentially anthropological, with a narrowed focus on the product or service that we are researching. As a female anthropologist, there are challenges that you encounter during fieldwork that (most) men won’t. While you may think of yourself as a professional gathering research data, a role in which your sexuality is irrelevant, the people that you build your fieldwork relationships with may see you in an entirely different light. In my case, as a single and interested young woman.

This creates ethical and practical issues during the course of research, particularly when immersed in  a culture where the rules of gender interactions and sexual reciprocity may be entirely different from those we’re used to.

For a long time, women anthropologists fought for academic recognition. In the beginning – and to an extent, still – women fought to prove that they could do a man’s job: that they could go to the same places as men, war zones or remote and dangerous field sites, talk to the same people and gain the same quality of insight. Ethnographic monographs suppressed stories of failure, of danger or sexual harassment because they suggested that fieldwork and the data it produced was compromised.

The rise of gender anthropology led to a focus on how being a woman in the field could be leveraged analytically. For example, only a woman would have the empathetic insight to effectively study child rearing and motherhood practices, as Margaret Mead did, and only a woman could gain the necessary access to study women’s experiences in Muslim societies.

While the field sites I engage with at Sutherland tend to be relatively accessible, that’s not to say that gender doesn’t affect how I gather data. It’s still important to consider gender dynamics depending on the environment you’re going into, and how your gender might affect your results. For example, I am presently conducting research on behalf of a global company looking for insights into how to improve gender parity in senior positions. We’ve selected a mostly female team to conduct on site research, anticipating that our female interviewees may be more candid about their experiences with us than with men.

Coinciding with a recent feminist wave, anthropology has begun to discuss sexuality and gender again. If feels like a moment where we can begin to explore how sexuality and gender impacts our experience of field research, for good and ill, and to examine how we train our researchers to navigate relationships safely. We may need to acknowledge that some field sites are too unsafe for women to work in, and that’s okay. Institutions and organisations also need to work harder to prepare female researchers to manage fieldwork situations where their sexuality and gender puts them at risk. An important step is to recognise that field research is a gendered experience, and to plan for this.


This post was based on a collaboration between Dr Imogen Clark and Dr Andrea Grant and their colleagues for the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford. Please find the full Special Issue on Sexual Harassment in the Field here.

Designing Agentive Technology: Part 2 Wed, 06 Mar 2019 15:46:10 +0000 Designing Agentive Technology: Part 2

Over the past months Natalie Jensen has joined us as an intern in the San Francisco Labs. In her last piece Natalie wrote about a meetup she attended, where Chris Noessel spoke about agentive technology and its uses. In this piece, she analyzes a specific use case to further explain the different elements of agentive technology.

Agentive Technologies

To provide a more in depth example of agentive technology, let’s look at Spotify. If you’re an Apple Music user or just not familiar with the platform, one of the main features that Spotify is known for are their playlists; more specifically the individually curated “Made For You” playlists. Everyday Spotify users get six new “Daily Mixes” all catered to different micro-genres of music with songs you frequently listen to, as well as a “Release Radar” playlist every Friday, and a “Discover Weekly” playlist every Monday. These playlists can all be considered “agentive technology”, as Spotify creates them for you based on your listening history. Instead of having to make a playlist of songs you like, Spotify does it for you; instead of looking for new music, Spotify presents you with 30 new songs every week. The Discover Weekly playlist is widely acclaimed for being uncannily good, and often mentioned in articles about what makes Spotify superior to Apple Music – so how does Spotify do it?

Spotify has utilized machine learning to build an algorithm that caters to each user based on their individual preferences. It’s a lot more complex than what I’m about to describe, but it mainly comes down to the playlists you listen to and your ‘taste profile’ made up of microgenres you repeatedly listen to. They take into account what you haven’t listened to from playlists with similar songs to the ones you frequent, as well as the categories those songs fall into and voila, a playlist “Made for You”. These playlists have been so successful other companies have tried to replicate them by building their own versions, but Spotify still has proven itself to be supreme with the user base of any other music streaming platform.

Going back to the original principles of agentive technology – the user needs to be able to start, monitor, tune, and stop the agent. The “agent” being Spotify’s algorithm that makes the various playlists for you. The start is simply creating a profile and listening to music. You’d monitor this by going on the app and listening to the playlists it creates for you, and if you don’t like what you’re getting you can tune these playlists by searching for new music yourself. The stop would simply be deleting your Spotify account. Remembering that the goal of agentive technology is disengagement, you can see how Spotify achieves by allowing the user to stop spending time on making playlists and searching for new music, instead presenting it to them and allowing the user to just click play.

This specific type of agentive technology can be referred to as a sort of “recommender system”. Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, Best Buy and many other companies have all created their own algorithms to recommend things to their users.

Whether it’s a show or a product, catering to consumers as individuals with these technologies has proven to increase company value and revenue. Making things “for you” is, and will continue to be, a growing trend – hopefully this gave you a little more insight about how “Made For You” is made.

Expand Your Horizons: Recommended Reading Mon, 04 Mar 2019 12:58:52 +0000 Expand Your Horizons: Recommended Reading

Unsurprisingly, the kind of people in the Labs are the same kind of people that like to read a lot. Recommendations fly every time you get more than two of us in a room at the same time and somewhere along the line, some clever person decided to compile a list of them all. So, without further ado, here are a few of the books that we think you might find enjoyable, enlightening or both.

Sutherland Labs: Required Reading

You May Also Like: Taste in an Endless Age of Choice

by Tom Vanderbilt

Given an infinite number of options, you might think that it would be impossible for anyone to form a preference but as this book, and indeed this whole list of books, demonstrates: that isn’t quite the case. This books covers the gamut of psychology, marketing and neuroscience in its pursuit of an answer to the eternal question of why we like the things that we like.

Evil By Design

by Chris Nodder

As a design practice, we have often taken a long hard look into the abyss of Dark Patterns, and seen the Dark Patterns staring back, but nowhere else have we seen the exact methodologies of manipulative design laid out so succinctly and so neatly categorised as in this book. It is a masterclass in tricking people into doing what you want, and a helpful little guide to keep you from falling into the same traps.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari

We love looking at the big picture when it comes to design, and you can’t get much bigger than a complete history of the human race. Covering every milestone in our species’ journey to world domination and delving into the role of imagination, religion, nationalism and economics in our development into the species we’ve become.

The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy

by Mariana Mazzucato

How is the creation of value rewarded in the current economic system, and how does that central question explain every economic crisis in living memory? This intense book aims to answer this question, and to look at methods to redesign the processes and structures of capitalism with sustainability in mind.

The Green Collar Economy

by Van Jones

On the continuing theme of sustainability and economics, this book takes a look at how we can tackle environmental and economic problems simultaneously. A two birds with one stone solution to a pair of the most pressing problems of our time. Providing not only a big picture overview, but also outlining pragmatic and practical policies that could be introduced.

February 2019’s Coolest Things Mon, 25 Feb 2019 13:30:32 +0000 February 2019’s Coolest Things

It is hard to believe that a month has already passed us by, but as we plunge headlong into February, let us all take this solemn moment to reflect on all of the extremely cool stuff that people were talking about on our Slack channel this month.

Image source: The Telegraph

Image source: The Telegraph

Plastic Free Supermarkets

The world’s first plastic free aisle has been launched by an Amsterdam branch of the Dutch chain Ekoplaza. 700 products are available without the usual unsustainable packaging, and the success and popularity of the move is prompting campaigners around the world to ask for retailers to follow suit, including Thornton Budgens in London, which has already converted over 1700 product lines to be plastic free.

Image source: Unsplash

Image source: Unsplash

The Mandroid

In this age of rapidly advancing technology, the idea of a fully functional android strolling around at the yearly Proyektoria Technology Forum in Russia doesn’t seem terribly far-fetched. But after careful examination of the robot’s design, lack of external sensors and dance moves, sceptics quickly realised that it was actually a man in a costume.

Wifi Porter

We share everything with our guests – our homes, our food and even our wi-fi – but that last one has always been a bit of a contentious issue, not because we don’t want to share, but because it can be a real nuisance finding the darn password every single time. Luckily, someone has finally created a solution that is as simple as a tap.

Image source: Twitter @02ESyRaez4VhR2l

Image source: Twitter @02ESyRaez4VhR2l

Packaging Statuary

The art of kirigami, a subset of origami, involves cutting and folding paper and card to form intricate structures. Japanese artist Haruki has been using the packaging of everyday objects and snack wrappers to create delicate and beautiful statues, and gained quite the twitter following as a result.

Image source: Youtube @Lukey

Image source: Youtube @Lukey

Sims 4 Tiny Homes

The Sims series of video games have always been about low-scale wish fulfilment. Not the kind of abstract fantasies of grandeur that most games serve, but more down to earth hopes like a decent job, a good relationship, a nice house, or more cats than are entirely feasible. Just as people’s goals and dreams have shifted in real life, so has the digital replication; and the latest trend to cause a buzz in the Sims? Tiny Homes! The downsized digital dreams of the millennial generation.


Want to hear about more of the cool things that the Sutherland Labs team have found in their internet explorations? Come back again the same time next month for our latest round up of Coolest Things!

Design thinking to improve candidate experience Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:21:26 +0000 Design thinking to improve candidate experience

Our parent organization, Sutherland, asked us to experiment with new ways of approaching existing recruitment challenges through a Design Thinking approach.

talent acquisition workshop


In an extremely competitive marketplace, how might we better attract the right talent? How can we improve retention by better understanding the end-to-end recruitment and employment journey of our employees? These are some of the questions Sutherland Labs have been tackling in our own organization – working alongside our Talent Acquisition teams.


We used immersive research to ‘walk in candidates shoes’ to understand a candidate journey throughout the recruitment process. We created behavioral personas, helping to segment, identify ‘star’ target audiences and better understand their idiosyncrasies. We also created journey maps that gave a visual representation which help to articulate pain points and crucial insight that often lead to ideas for improvements and solutions.

Talent acquisition journey maps


The insights helped our colleagues to reframe the story during the recruitment process, which in turn impacted their messaging, advertising and social media activity. The results have included a significant increase in social media followers and engagement, following a reworked advertising campaign. The project also contributed towards wider strategic goals of improving employee engagement, and aided a change of mindset within HR functions.

Rethinking in-hospital entertainment Tue, 14 Jun 2016 10:17:09 +0000 Rethinking in-hospital entertainment

Our client, global provider of hospital entertainment systems, asked us to analyze customer experience of their current system and inform the design of a cleverly user-centric new one.

TV remote and tablet


TV, radio, games, other interactive content: hospital bedside entertainment has the power to positively transform patient experience. But many patients in this study were not engaging with our client’s current system and opting instead to use their own devices. We were called on to conduct deep analysis of patient needs. Our findings then inspired the design of a revolutionary new system – to make hospital stays infinitely more entertaining.


From registering for the first time, to tuning in to the radio or finding a good film, we first identified key user tasks. We then conducted interviews with staff, patients and family members across different wards – Elderly, Stroke, Children, etc. – to find out how these tasks could be carried out most efficiently. Insights from discussions, interviews, focus groups and a visit to the client call centre were then translated into different personae and journey maps. The outcome? As many as 50 different propositions to guide development of the new system.


These propositions included: a friendlier, more accessible user interface; a promotional loop on the homepage to raise key feature awareness; a simplified VOC library structure to enable easy browsing; and extended account management features for families to enable them to make purchases on a patient’s behalf.

Hospital ward
Designing a better patient experience Tue, 07 Jun 2016 13:37:57 +0000 Designing a better patient experience

From billing and online payment to registration and insurance, effective healthcare requires effective administration. And, for a joint study by Sutherland Healthcare and its non-profit partner, this was a starting premise.

User on iPad


Our globally renowned healthcare client asked us to observe administration across its facilities and decipher what was working well, and where there was room for improvement – with a focus on billing, registration, online activity, signage and numerous other non-clinical issues.


Our starting point was to closely observe over 100 patients and staff in a variety of settings across its two hospitals and contact centre, considering factors such as environment, education and general operations in order to enhance day-to-day experiences. Our six main areas of exploration were as follows: transition from paper to online processes; online self-service; medical payment issues; education and awareness of costs in relation to healthcare; healthcare insurance; and the possible overuse of brochures and posters in medical environments.


Our research enabled us to identify pain points in the customer and staff journeys and to offer inspired solutions. These included: a new patient portal providing self-service registration and access to clinical information; text message reminders and late running notifications; a mobile app updating family members on patient status; cost estimator tools to make costs more transparent; online application and payment for financial aid; a loyalty programme; and a new strategy to increase awareness and uptake of health insurance exchanges.

Doctors walking in hospital
Designing a roadmap to customer loyalty Fri, 01 Apr 2016 13:37:40 +0000 Designing a roadmap to customer loyalty

Enhanced customer experience equals greater customer loyalty. And for one client, a successful pet services retailer, this is what we set out to achieve.

Pet store dog beds


What does the future hold? This particular client envisioned a future full of opportunity, one in which their loyal customers reaped the benefits of better services and experiences. But they needed our help in shaping this vision and transforming bright ideas into positive actions.


The challenge was to improve customer loyalty by identifying opportunities for innovation and better aligning customer experience, at the same as exploring the potential for moving certain services online. Sutherland’s ethnographic researchers sprang into action – observing and interviewing over 100 employees, partners and customers, at home as well as in store, to build up an-in depth picture of their experiences. Insights were then shared with the client through documentary film and behavioral profiles of common customer types.


Our research led to greater understanding of the drivers of customer loyalty, and provided the basis for suggestions on how to make pet-lover customers happier. These suggestions ranged from improved mobile scheduling and in-store product placement to the development of more effective employee training methods – illustrated through vision maps for a brighter, better future.

Dog check up
Bringing a health insurer closer to its customers Mon, 14 Mar 2016 10:16:54 +0000 Bringing a health insurer closer to its customers

A strategy for smarter, more concise digital communications and a refreshed, customer-centric mindset: this is what we achieved for this rapidly expanding health insurance multinational.

Journey mapping workshop


Our client, a global provider of health insurance, wanted to reconnect with its customers. Having grown significantly through acquisition, in order become a company that today spans cultures, countries and time zones, they asked us to help re-centre customer experience and restore coherence to their channels of communication.


You can’t connect with customers without understanding them, so our research team analyzed the personae of the company’s key customer groups, involving stakeholders across its business – from IT to sales, operations or customer service. Our creative team then presented initial insights via reports, films and journey maps, before validating them with customer focus groups.


We helped our client develop a customer-centric mindset internally, gaining deeper understanding of the needs and behavior of its predominantly senior customer base, while developing a brand new digital roadmap for the years ahead. And while education starts at home, we also delivered board-level educational sessions to raise awareness of the benefits of customer-centric design – leading, ultimately, to a more unified company vision.

Patient being examined