Sutherland Innovation Labs Research and design. Improving everyday experiences. Wed, 15 Aug 2018 16:43:39 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2018, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Research and design. Improving everyday experiences. 5 Digital Transformations Coming to a Store Near You (Part 2) Fri, 10 Aug 2018 14:51:48 +0100 5 Digital Transformations Coming to a Store Near You (Part 2)

Part 2: A tale of two concepts

In part one of this white paper, we explored three ways digital technology has transformed traditional retail operations like checkouts, models like recommended retail pricing, and how online services are now developing into blended combinations of digital services and in-store experiences. These three areas of digital transformation are changing mechanics and operations of retail commerce, but in this paper we’re going to break out two concepts where digital technologies are changing the way we think about ‘the shop’ itself.

If that sounds like a grand statement, let’s take a moment to consider how digital technologies have transformed many of the traditional concepts in other areas of our lives. For example, there was a time when, if you wanted to chat with someone remotely, you used a telephone. It had a dial (no screen) and was attached to your house by a cable. These days, most chats are with our thumbs, text based, via apps and social media. Similarly, if you wanted to play Candy Crush on your phone, you actually had to crush candy on your telephone.

We used to work nine-to-five, we used to send letters and postcards to share holiday snaps or let people know our status. And lunch was something you ate, never photographed. And if for some bizarre reason you did photograph it and develop the picture at the chemist shop, you didn’t show everyone you’ve ever met, workmates and strangers saying “nom-nom”. Most people had to watch TV at set times to see their favorite shows, or record them on bulky, expensive VHS cassettes, sometimes accidentally recording over their wedding video or whatever. The point is, our lives have transformed, almost without our knowing it.

We take our digital lives, social media, ecommerce, email, Skype, phones that play movies, streaming media and all kinds of innovations for granted without acknowledging how in the bigger picture, our daily habits and behaviors have been transformed by technology. So when we look at the way retail shops are changing, it’s easy to focus on the processes as opposed to thinking about the bigger conceptual changes.

A store, after all, is a sort of hub for a community that shares interests and often have similar lifestyles, needs and behaviors. Similarly, in the same way the old butcher, baker and greengrocer merged into the omnipresent supermarket (and then re-emerged in the high street as organic, halal, whole foods and dozens of other variants) we’re now seeing the evolution of what a store contains, and how it can connect with us at home through it’s digital footprint. We’re seeing shops used as venues, or diversifying their in-store concessions to merge lifestyle businesses like gyms and restaurants with products and services in new and innovative ways.

Here are two ways that digital technologies are transforming the concept of a room with shelves and racks, using our tech-transformed social lives and the efficiencies of digital supply chains, making much more use of the brick-and-mortar on your local high street…

1. Store communities & hyper personalization

This idea isn’t particularly new, high end luxury retail brands have been doing it for years. Jeweler Bulgari hosts horology demonstrations for high end watch clients, department store Liberty hosts regular art exhibitions, and the Queen’s grocer, Fortnum & Mason, runs a program for Christmas entertaining and cupcake decorating. Using a store as a space and building customer communities extends quite naturally into today’s omnichannel world, with so many brands already using social media as a customer service channel. Nordstrom has created its own Reddit username and community, Galleries Lafayette and Selfridges also use social media to engage customers with in-store events and online communities.

Via Timeout

Via Timeout

Where this idea becomes really powerful, is when it combines with a customer’s personal shopping history and ideas like variable pricing, creating the next generation of loyalty rewards that don’t just offer generic discounts against how much you spend (like most rewards points schemes) but create personalized offers around customer interests. So, e.g., keen home bakers can attend the invitation-only after hours patisserie demonstration evening, and use their exclusive baking vouchers while they are in store.

For customers who don’t cook, that kind of offer makes no sense, so a digital system that can tell the difference between customer interests (shopping histories) and recognize opportunities to build customer communities (home baking fans) is key to making store community/hyper personalized shopping experiences work. We should expect all retailers to begin engaging like-minded consumers together using digital channels, and connecting these groups together in shopping experiences based at local brick-and-mortar locations.

2. Converging verticals

One of the UK’s most successful department stores – at a time when the old department store is an endangered species – is London’s Selfridges. This store features many brick-and-mortar innovations, like placing their clean eating Hemsley +Hemsley restaurant in their Body Studio (health spa) and putting hair, nails and eyebrow bars in amongst their ground floor cosmetics concessions, and putting children’s craft tables in the toy department. Exploring these shopping-lifestyle connections as a business model has been digitally supercharged by the world’s largest digital marketplace player, Alibaba, with their Hema Fresh experiment in Shanghai.

The Hema model combines four business models in one: It’s a supermarket; it uses the store as a warehouse for fresh food (sold direct to customers and delivered to homes); it is a tea house style restaurant (where the food on sale supplies the kitchens); it also sells semi-prepared foods (fresh prepared meals for home consumption) for pick-up and delivery. This blending of wholesaler warehouse, food retail and catering is serviced (like Amazon Go) with frictionless payment apps, and self-scan apps, Alipay and so on. What it represents is probably the future shape of brick-and-mortar retail, combining previously separate verticals and businesses into one location, to multiply the return on investment per square meter of floor space.

Where it’s really clever, is it means there’s a much clearer analytical picture of how the catering businesses consumes produce, how home consumers buy fresh and prepared food, and how the warehouse side needs to adapt to fit with the needs of its commercial clients (caterers and retail) and their home delivery customers. This enables greater efficiency and simplifies the supply chain and logistics, which means better margins and reduced costs.

A blended retail future built around communities

The digital transformations we’ve discussed here (and in part one of this paper) are all enabled by technology, but it’s the human factor, the need for real-world physical experiences, that is driving them. The end of queues, more active clubs and communities, a different price for everyone, and smarter ways to combine steps on the supply chain together to increase profits, these ideas can only work with digital technologies, analytics, and human-centric design to ensure each innovation improves customer journeys.

When everything had a stick-on price tag and everyone paid with cash and checks, where every customer was forgotten when they left the store (until they came back in) and orders had to be made in writing or over the telephone, there were physical limits on how flexible brick-and-mortar retail could be. Today, with a smartphone in every shoppers’ pocket, a social media ID an email address, the future of physical retailing is becoming a whole lot brighter that the doom and gloom high street news stories of recent years suggest.

And for a human-centric design practice like Sutherland Labs this is great news… because who doesn’t love a trip to shops?

Design that Inspires: Renegade Craft Fairs Thu, 09 Aug 2018 14:29:04 +0100 Design that Inspires: Renegade Craft Fairs

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the “Renegade Craft” fair. The organization hosts fairs across America and in London, presenting a “curated gathering of the designers, makers, doers, and dreamers that define today’s craft and design communities.” The basic principles are the same as any craft fair, but there is a layer of deliberate curation of the exhibitors that means that every time you visit one, you get to experience something new and special.

Image via

Image via

This was my third Renegade Craft fair; I find that seeing the work of local makers gives me ideas for my own crafty projects while also re-affirming my excitement about design, but if I’m being entirely honest, I think that my favorite thing about these events is actually the food and drink.

There are usually a few different vendors offering samples scattered around the space, but in keeping with the craft and design focus of the event, you don’t just get handed a drink, you get an experience.

One of my favorite examples of this was when Sipsmith Gin had a special interactive cocktail bar built at the back of the event. The bartenders would give you the base for a drink, a shot of Sipsmith and a flavored tonic, and then pass it over to you to add garnishes, flavorings and decorations. They even came with Instagram ready name-tags for you to title your creations as well as turn tables for you to make boomerang videos on. Sipsmith could easily have just offered up a tray of free samples and been done with it, but instead they chose to design their approach to suit the specific demographic that they were reaching out to. Crafty, creative people who enjoy making things as much as they enjoy consuming them. It was a great example of brand outreach that went beyond throwing money into advertising.

Image by Azuree Wiitala

Image by Azuree Wiitala

The bourbon company, Maker’s Mark were also present, and they weren’t about to be upstaged. While the free bourbon cocktails that they were handing out were made exclusively by their staff, they still found a crafty angle to play with the fair-goers. The company had made their own brand of candle-jars as free gifts in conjunction with a local crafter, but everyone who got one had to finish it off themselves with the company’s distinctive wax seal at a dipping station.

Image of the makers mark station

Both of these companies went out of their way to directly interact with their audience in a carefully designed way, and the response to both stands was overwhelmingly positive. Serving us all free liquor definitely helped make visitors a little more pliable, but as the social media surrounding the event showed, it was the experience that sold people on the brands.

For many people, drinking alcohol isn’t just about consuming the product, it is about the experience. Otherwise bars would be out of business and we’d all just sit at home drinking box-wine. For a brand that is trying to make inroads with a new market segment of customers with a specific interest like those that attend the Renegade fairs, it makes perfect sense to give people a sample of the experience alongside the drink.

July 2018’s Coolest Things Wed, 01 Aug 2018 16:45:44 +0100 July 2018’s Coolest Things

Every month the Sutherland Labs slack channel transforms from a pleasant and effective means of communicating across time-zones into a war-zone. The grand prize of this gruesome affair? Bragging rights, when you are the one who has discovered the coolest thing on the internet this month!

How AI Can Make Us Live Longer

We are endlessly fascinated with AI here at the labs, the concept, not the lacklustre Spielberg movie; so, when an article comes along talking about the way that AI is going to completely revolutionize the way that pharmaceuticals are developed, applied and produced it is going to get us excited. When you then proceed to tell us that new molecules are being developed by pitting two deep neural networks against each other, that professional excitement starts turning into a nerdy frenzy. If the phrase “Longevity Escape Velocity” wasn’t in your vernacular before, it will be after reading this.

Eternal Infographics

The infographic appears to be a very modern invention, optimized for the swift communication of information in a digital age, but the truth is very different from appearances. From a hanky that encourages hanky-panky to a cracking cranial contour chart, the Welcome Collection holds more examples of historical infographics from through the ages than you could shake an appropriately sized stick at. Some of them may seem comically primitive when held up to our modern standards of sleekness, but they are all undeniably effective in getting their point across.

A tool for pinpointing colour, published in 1809 via The Welcome Collection

A tool for pinpointing colour, published in 1809 via The Welcome Collection

Alexa and Lego

It seems a bit strange to think about little plastic building blocks in terms of Voice Strategy, but somebody in Lego has locked on to the idea, developing two skills for the smart speaker in quick succession, clearly aiming to capitalize on the extremely healthy sales that Lego is already making through Amazon’s websites. It is an interesting move not just for fans of Lego (of which there are many adults, don’t worry, you are not alone) but also in terms of business strategy. Lego aren’t just paying to run adverts on the platform, they are developing unique content that users need to use with their products.

River Reclamation

Have you ever looked at the filthy rivers that run through major cities and thought to yourself “I’d love to take a swim in that”? Well, apparently you aren’t alone, because 9 separate cities have begun the work of converting sections of their polluted waterways into swim parks. From simple pools, to more complex filtration systems, these different projects aim to reconnect the people of the cities with the water in a way that many would have considered impossible even a few years ago. This big idea is making a splash!

The Bassin de la Villette swimming pool on the Canal de l’Ourcq in Paris.

The Bassin de la Villette swimming pool on the Canal de l’Ourcq in Paris.

And so peace gradually returns to our Slack channel as the victors hoot and cheer and the losers slink off to lick their wounds and plot their revenge. Come back next time for another round of Coolest Things!

5 Digital Transformations Coming to a Store Near You (Part 1) Mon, 30 Jul 2018 13:22:00 +0100 5 Digital Transformations Coming to a Store Near You (Part 1)

Part 1: Three digitally transformed processes

One thing to remember about digital transformation is the fact it’s a constantly moving target. This perhaps most apparent in the retail world, where digital transformation used to mean adding a basic ecommerce storefront to your previously dumb website…  but today it could mean omnichannel customer services and chatbots. Or personalized offers based on your shopping history. Or ordering a pizza by shouting “Feed me!” at Alexa. The world of brick-and-mortar retail is currently going through wave after wave of digital transformation, affecting everything from the store front to the warehouse.

This is a global trend, in fact, over half of the world’s online retail transactions are now taking place through online marketplaces like Alibaba and Amazon. It has hit brick-and-mortar high street hard, with closures of once great brands becoming an annual occurrence around the world. There are many factors influencing this, but clearly the rapid growth of online shopping has made traditional retail growth and revenue strategies – fixing price models with producers and wholesalers (recommended retail pricing or RRP), sales promotions, and conventional marketing strategies – ineffective. The old world of conventional retail wisdom has found it hard to adapt to the online playbook, with its sheer abundance of online deals, offers, auctions, third party resellers, bundles, recommend to a friend, social media review sites, paid searches, native advertising, new discount subscription models and delivery options that are just a app, a click or a swipe away, 24/7.

The world of brick-and-mortar retail is currently going through wave after wave of digital transformation, affecting everything from the store front to the warehouse.

However, these newcomer ‘everything store’ marketplaces haven’t killed the high street, and neither has digital. If anything, they are breathing new life into it. The current state of brick-and-mortar retail is a transition to new business models – and more human-centric customer experience design – enabled by digital transformations. Here are three retail digital transformations that are set to bring the high street bang up to date, and make more of the touchy feely world we used to shop in before you could order everything on an app in your pocket…

1. Frictionless checkouts

Frictionless is a useful word for the industry, but it sounds like jargon too, so here’s a better way to put it: No queues. Stores where you can walk in, take what you want, then simply walk out again are on the way. Amazon Go is testing this model already in flagship Whole Foods Market stores. It’s an example of a particular aspect of digital transformation called ‘blending’ – where you blend digital tech with physical customer experiences.

At the new Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle by Jason Del Rey

At the new Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle by Jason Del Rey

In this case, the no queue store experience uses an app on your phone to check you into the store. Sensors then track the items you remove from the shelves. When you leave the store, it adds-up your bill, charges and sends you a receipt. The reason this is a big deal isn’t just about avoiding the queues, it’s about extending store opening hours to wrap around people’s schedules, rather than people wrapping their schedules around the store. That’s also important for employees, because nobody wants to man a checkout at 2am in an empty store. So staff can work more sociable hours, and rather than merely operate checkouts, they can focus on helping customers in-store with more complex services, so it’s a better use of their time, and a better in-store experience for the customer. Win:Win.

2. Blended sales models

Yes, more blending. This idea is being trialed by Chinese giant, and also Amazon’s new Wardrobe service. In both cases, the idea is to make it easier to engage with physical products through digital channels, which is something that’s always been complex with products delivered to your home. Amazon’s own data suggests around a third of customers want to touch items before they buy (and even more so with food shopping) so the blended model is a response to a clear customer need.

The idea of blended sales is simple: use digital for what it does best, browsing and researching products, so no change there. Then the blending comes in, let’s say you select five tops to try on, you select them and get them delivered to a nearby clothing store, or have them delivered to your home. The items come with pre-prepared return packing, so you can quite literally try, buy or return in one simple step. This idea shows how important customer journey mapping is, because most people order clothes from an online retailer, knowing full well some of them will end-up being returned, but there’s no easy way to try things on. Again, it’s a friction point in the digital customer journey.

woman opening a package with clothes in.

Blending like this is really good news for brick-and-mortar retail stores, because by partnering with try-buy digital models (like Amazon or they drive footfall in-store, much like click-and-collect drop points. Most click-and-collect points report an upswing in sales, due to the fact visitors buy additional items when they come to collect. Blended sales models do the same. So for the business that’s enabling the try-buy service, they deliver a more useful customer experience. For the brick-and-mortar store with the customer fitting rooms and accessories, it’s more traffic and more sales. Win:Win, again.

3. Variable pricing

You might have already experienced this digital transformation, it’s a way of engaging customers more effectively through variable pricing. At this point, it’s important to know that retailers and brands used to fix prices – with mechanisms like the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) or Recommended Retail Price (RRP) and similar. This would often include schemes where the brand supplied point of sales marketing or advertising collateral in return for higher wholesale or retail prices. However, in the world of online marketplaces, which are accessible by third-party resellers, wholesalers, and all kinds of non-traditional retailers, price controls like that simply don’t work. This means surplus stock can sell at vastly discounted rates, and at times of high demand (like Christmas) certain items like must-have smash hit toys can sell for multiples of the MSRP.

Digital technologies however, can also help retailers use prices again as customer loyalty and engagement tools, not in a race to the bottom price war, but by initiatives like Walmart’s cheaper-in-store model (where items are offered cheaper if the customer collects rather than opts for free delivery and pays the MSRP). Similarly, US retailer Nordstrom uses systems to ensure in-store items are always price matched against their online discounts at the checkout, meaning if they do a sales promotion for an item online, the same deal applies in-store, even if the items in-store are marked-up at the old MSRP price.

In both examples, this uses more blending techniques; for Walmart, they reduce their shipping overheads and build customer loyalty by offering preferential pricing to customers who come in-store; for Nordstrom customers, their customer loyalty is strengthened by ensuring their shoppers always get the best price on offer. In both cases, there’s a boost for in-store footfall – which increases ad hoc sales, and smarter use of their online presence to drive sales using price promotions. It’s the digital transformation of the traditional sale, from a short-term price promotion to increase sales volumes, to constantly variable pricing to increase the lifetime revenues per customer.

Shopping represents a complex customer journey, and the digital world has transformed it in many ways.

Digital vs the high street: A complex relationship

The high street shop once looked like an endangered species. Look back over the last decade, as online shopping really began to boom, and it’s easy to see why. People love browsing and shopping for certain kinds of items, but nobody likes traffic congestion, parking, or queues, or returning items to stores (with more congestion, parking and queues) or finding items out of stock after they’ve been through all that. Shopping represents a complex customer journey, and the digital world has transformed it in many ways. We’ve seen a boom in home deliveries, premium services like Amazon Prime, and 2017’s fastest growing supermarket was the digital-first brand Ocado, despite the success of cheaper discounter brands like Aldi against the brick-and-mortar giants like Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.

However, brick-and-mortar retail is bouncing back, as digital technologies enable smarter real-world customer journeys. And no matter how tough things get on the high street, there are some things that are only frictionless in-store, like trying-on five new outfits but buying one; feeling your fruit and veg to gauge the ripeness of the items you buy; or just getting a feel for the weight and texture of an item before you buy it. Humans are hands-on, sensual creatures, and the one thing you can’t do with a computer, is put your hand inside it to feel what’s on the screen.

In Part 2: A tale of two concepts, we’ll look beyond digitally blended sales, customer service and operational processes and consider the way digital transformation has created new shopping concepts that are changing the way we think about shops and the communities that coexist around them.

Signal to Noise: The Evolution of Omnichannel Wed, 25 Jul 2018 15:25:37 +0100 Signal to Noise: The Evolution of Omnichannel

Omni-channel contact options are widely considered to be the future of customer service. Omni-channel is the reason that organizations ask for a mobile number, email address, home number, business number, fax number, invite users to visit their website and to install apps on their smartphones.

The intention is to give users the information that they require through their preferred medium, which is admirable. Unfortunately, many adoptions of omni-channel have a sort of “buckshot” approach. When the organization wants to contact a user, emails, SMS, phone calls, follow up phone calls, follow up emails and push notifications will bombard them.

This sort of thing was probably a lot less noticeable before the digital revolution, because users wouldn’t get notified that they were receiving all this information simultaneously. A mailer might arrive any time over the course of several days. A phone call might not get to its intended recipient until the call-centre caught them in the house at the right time. Checking email was a daily ritual rather than a live experience. Each message would arrive as a little reminder of the previous ones.

End to end process

Now, with a smartphone; every single one of these attempts to contact you can be simultaneous, instant and reach you anywhere in the world. Instead of a few gentle prods and whispers, you are treated to a harmonious scream.

The most obvious reason for this is that these omni-channel communications have been strapped on to the regular methods with no thought as to how it was going to impact the customer’s experience. The customer experience wasn’t designed at all, it accumulated over time in a pile-up of redundant systems and exciting new innovations that were implemented to chase the current trend.

It is simple, when gathering the information required to contact customers through an omni-channel set-up, to ask them one more very simple question; which channel would you prefer to be contacted by? While self-reporting is never going to be 100% accurate and a user’s preferences will invariably shift with time and familiarity with the alternatives, it can at least give a hint as to what the primary mode of communication should be at the beginning of that customer’s experience.

Communication is a two-way street, so a vital component of a good omni-channel experience is providing users with a means of responding to messages that they receive within those same channels. If they receive an email, they should be able to respond to it by email. If they receive an update through an app, there should be a chat channel or at least an FAQ to handle any follow up questions. Of course, the system is also going to require a degree of adaptability based on the situation. Users prefer to resolve simple enquiries through self-service systems, while more complex issues will require a phone-call.

vitruvian man representing the many different channels companies use to reach out to their customers

On a similar note, even if a user has stated a preference for telephone communication, a responsive omni-channel system will take other factors into account, emailing step-by-step instructions for technical problems or simply emailing a response because that was the method that the user made contact with. Beyond that you get into the minutiae; if an email is opened on a smart-phone then offering the user the option to communicate back through sms, chat, a dedicated app or a call might be the best option – and all of that can change based on the information about the users’ communication preferences that are collected over the course of the relationship.

Getting rid of a legacy system and replacing it with a bespoke set-up designed to serve the customers information in a more constructive way can seem like a daunting task, but with a dedicated inhouse UX team or a UX consultancy to guide you through the process, you can transform a pain-point that customers are coming to dread into a smooth and seamless experience.

Design thinking to improve candidate experience Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:21:26 +0100 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 +0100 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 +0100 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 +0100 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 +0100 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