Hellon becomes most awarded service design agency by SDN after third win for high level impact in the retail sector

In October 2018, Hellon received the “Best in Commercial Category” award at the Service Design Global Conference in Dublin. This was Hellon’s third award at the event making us the most-awarded agency by the Service Design Network.  The awarded project was conducted together with Irish grocery retail and wholesale company Musgrave, and was based around designing an improved experience for parents shopping for groceries with small children in order to attract and support the segment. The business impact of the project was estimated to be an annual incremental revenue increase of approximately €5 million through increased sales and footfall.

Read more about our collaboration with Musgrave:

Hellon’s client, Musgrave, had identified an ongoing price war within the parental shopping segment in Ireland, which had resulted in a competitive race on price in baby products. In some cases, products were sold at or even below cost.

Musgrave is founded on its strong values and are known for their high-quality products, great service and strong local community engagement. Staying true to the company brand, the objective of the service design project was to identify ways to compete in the baby aisles without being drawn into the price war with the competitors. In addition to increasing footfall and driving spend holistically, the aim was to drive significant revenue growth in this specific shopper segment both in the baby category and throughout the stores, by offering a superior parent shopper experience.

Over four months, we co-created a compelling value proposition for parent shoppers, that not only offers a competitive in-store customer experience but also meets and exceeds our client’s business objectives.

The project process was based on the Design Council’s Double Diamond model, with an emphasis on human-centric design and co-creation. A total of 45 customers were engaged throughout the process, along with a variety of important Musgrave stakeholders. Starting with a 4-week Insight phase, we followed ethnographic research methodologies to gather qualitative data from customers, through design probes and semi-structured interviews.

After analysing the design probe results, 8 out of 12 customers were chosen to take part in more in-depth interviews, to dive deeper into the experiences of parent shoppers. The customers chosen for this phase were chosen to represent a variety of different needs and life situations. Some were more concerned about finding the best quality food for their child, whereas others struggled with the shopping trip itself.

The data was then analysed, creating in-depth understanding of the needs and challenges of parent shoppers. Among the identified challenges was the checkout, where parents had to juggle packing, paying, and managing their child who was often distracted by the placement of impulse purchase items. All customers reported feelings of fear around whether their child’s behaviour would impact their ability to focus on doing their shop. All respondents also spoke of an aversion to branded baby foods, and a preference for blending up their own meals. From the analysis, 40 opportunity areas regarding how Musgrave might better support stressed-out parent shoppers were identified.

The Insight phase was followed by Co-creation and Concept Design, in which improvement ideas for a competitive parent shopper experience were co-created. Together with the Musgrave, we arranged 2 co-creation workshops with the objective of creating solutions and ideas for the identified opportunity areas. We then prioritised the most potential ideas together based on stakeholder interest, potential impact and concept value to the customer (is it functional, experiential, or emotional). A selection of 24 prioritised ideas were refined and designed in detail as a result of the co-creation workshops. The ideas then formed a total of 1 concept including 10 different prototypes proposed for the following phase.

The process finally culminated with Prototyping and Validation, during which the selected parent shopping concept was tested in a LiveLab in-store with real customers. Together with the Musgrave, we decided to focus on testing an experience that makes parents’ life easier, influencing where to do their “big shop”, giving them more head space to respond to offers and new products in the store. The ideas were refined into the Parent VIP Hour concept, a time of the day/week when parents of young children know they can receive preferential treatment in-store, including Flexible Parent Parking, Parent-Friendly checkouts, and Assistance from Till to Car.

The Parent VIP Hour concept was tested in two stores, engaging a total of 33 customers, all of whom were interviewed after testing the new shopping experience. Feedback was gathered from both customers and store staff to evaluate and validate the impact of the improved experience.

The LiveLab results validated the potential to impact revenue and footfall by reducing stress for parent shoppers. From the Parent VIP Hour prototype, we recorded an almost 50% drop in reported parent shopper stress levels when shopping with kids. There was also indication of increase in spend (18%) and reported likelihood of increased visits (16%).

The LiveLab participants reported being on average 90% likely to recommend the VIP Hour and 3 out of 10 ideas scored 92% or more for participant enthusiasm. Those ideas were Extra Parent Parking, Free Fruit for Kids and Parent Treat (free coffee). The Parent Checkout, in which selected checkouts were cleared of sweets and there was support for packing, was reported as the 2nd highest influencer on shopping decision and was met with great enthusiasm.

During the project, we saw an increase of 643% in social media reach and 512% in social media engagement. For the stores involved in the service design project and in the commercial trial, the total annual incremental revenue impact was as high as 678,000€.

The service design project outcomes fed into Musgrave’s 3-year plan in terms of opportunities and new routes to market for this segment. Based on the project, the improved customer experience and the new solutions, an incremental revenue of €4.84 million annually is expected to be achieved as a direct result of the work.

The benefits were multifaceted and can be split into three categories:

  1. In-depth insights on parent shopper needs and challenges
    For the client organisation, the project was the first to use qualitative research methods to deliver in-depth insight on a critically important segment for the business. Previously, the organisation relied solely on quantitative research in guiding development efforts. The project proved that smaller qualitative samples can give robust insight that is more suitable for identifying how to improve or design new services. The insight also unearthed new opportunity areas for the client that weren’t originally in their scope of development.
  2. Superior design for an improved parent shopping experience
    Through the ideation techniques, journey mapping and prioritisation of the most impactful elements, the end propositions developed were of a high quality and managed to effectively deliver solutions in a traditionally siloed organization. Musgrave valued the real feedback from consumers during the prototyping phase, which allowed them to go to market with a final service that worked right from the start.
  3. Culture change towards customer-centric service development
    The project kick-started a shift towards customer-centric development within the organisation.

By being engaged and gathering insights, Musgrave stakeholders got closer to their customers and developed more empathy towards their needs and challenges, making them aware that grocery shopping is an end to end experience. Due to the nature of the service design approach, the company saw a breaking down of silos - the cross-functional team set up for the project worked extremely well together and provided a great outcome and learning experience.

This project is a prime example of a successful Service Design project that had a positive impact on various levels. It provided Musgrave with valuable insights, an improved and competitive parent shopping experience and also managed to shake up internal processes, driving a shift towards customer-centric development.

The prototyped concept validated the desirability of the Parent VIP Hour, and allowed Musgrave to implement the new shopping experience with confidence that it will work from day 1, and supported in proving the ROI. Parent VIP Hour is now being rolled out to 50 stores during the year (2018), Free Fruit for kids is now nationwide and all new stores have been fitted with hotel grade changing rooms and doubled family parking spaces. The results of the Parent VIP Hour are a great example of proving the ROI of Service Design. Through service design, we were able to not only reduce the stress of parent shoppers and make their everyday better, but also create a competitive customer experience resulting in increased spend and a substantial increase in revenue.