Case Stories

Bringing Omnichannel to Life

Connecting and building capabilities for competitive advantage

Challenge

A company acquired for its expertise in digital commerce had the opportunity to innovate new services within traditional physical retail and wholesale environments.

Result

Through a lean and nimble service design approach, we were able to guide the client into implementing a successful pilot service. Most importantly, the client learned new ways of working to create a family of related services on their own.

Connecting and building capabilities for competitive advantage

When a large company acquires a smaller firm with niche expertise, that acquisition alone isn’t enough to ensure the newly acquired company’s capabilities are merged into the parent company smoothly. How can the acquired company ensure its capabilities are leveraged by the parent company while keeping a consistent brand personality across all channels? Its parent company was tasking our client to stretch from e-commerce to omnichannel to create a more robust supply channel service for a larger and more diverse customer base.
Client
Online home improvement retailer
Sector(s)
Retail
Business-to-business
Innovation
Key Activities
Hypothesis Creation
Design Research
Service Vision
Service Blueprinting
Service Experimentation
Coaching

Creating a Pilot Service

Our first order of business was to turn the words executives were using to describe omnichannel into a tangible example of a service. Through a series of working sessions, we guided stakeholders through the process of exploring different service value propositions before landing on a leading candidate to further define–on-demand, just-in-time delivery for small-to-medium-sized home repair service providers.

We worked collaboratively to create a service hypothesis that included a refined value proposition and service features, operational capabilities, experience storyboards, and a service blueprint. After presenting the overall concept to the parent company’s executive team, we received the green light to design and pilot our client’s experimental service.

To avoid the common pitfalls of omnichannel initiatives—siloed work efforts, poor communication, inside-out thinking (rather than customer-centered action), and waterfall approaches (rather than iterative, nimble collaboration)—we steered away from business-as-usual. We guided our client in forming a cross-functional team that would follow a service design process. The team comprised members of the client and parent companies, product teams, store operations, merchandising, design, technology, a third-party delivery partner, and store employees. For many, this was the first time they had worked in a collaborative, human-centered process.

Iteration one: conduct generative research

For the first iteration of the service test, we conducted research to see how our new service would perform with target buyers and users. We went to existing warehouses and watched how customers shopped and employees worked. We mapped out the service ecosystem and charted the customer’s journey through it. We also tested the service with target customers to see how it would hold up in real situations. This work validated the customer problems we could solve and what service features would be most desirable.

Iteration two: define the north star and MVS

Our next goal was to define the service’s North Star. Over several days and sessions, we brought stakeholders from every stage of the customer journey together to co-create a more refined concept of the service system, including service features, capabilities, and customer touchpoints. We also developed approaches for connecting e-commerce, physical retail, supply chain, and the delivery partner into a seamless service. Not only did this work help us establish a long-term vision for the service, but it also informed the creation of an MVS (Minimal Viable Service) that we could now pilot.

Through multiple work sessions, the client made a working definition for the new service: “on-demand, just-in-time delivery for small-to-medium-sized home repair service providers”

Iteration three: design, launch, and measure MVS

Using the knowledge gained from the first two iterations, the team confidently began a two-track pilot. In the first track, the team designed and launched the MVS using the company’s existing capabilities. Doing so allowed us to quickly work through operational changes while continuing to test and measure the service’s success with target customers. Operating in parallel to the first track, the second track concentrated on developing new capabilities in mobile transactions and service integrations between the warehouses, e-commerce, and the delivery partner.

The resulting pilot service and processes

The pilot launched very quickly (within six weeks), rapidly delivering both economic returns and insight into how to improve upon the service for its next release. Customers responded favorably to the launch and said they appreciated how their suggestions and feedback were incorporated into the service.

But creating a successful service wasn’t the only goal. During this entire process, our client was able to practice the service design process, tools, and methods firsthand. Instead of being separate from the people they were serving, our client was able to work directly with their customers—both buyers and users—and front-line employees to co-design the service journey at every stage. Our client has the tools they need to replicate these same processes when they design future services.

Furthermore, our client’s parent company was both excited about the new service and supportive of future process changes. They also tapped Harmonic to define how service design could be incorporated into a new innovation team, including hiring the company's first in-house service designer.

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