5 x 5 - Service Design in Retail, Carrie Blumenfeld

Interview with Carrie Blumenfeld, Director of Retail Experience Design at U.S. Cellular

by Thomas Brandenburg

One challenge that impacts all sectors right now is around the area of KPIs/measurement. The world is moving towards experiences and what that means in digital interaction is very different than within physical space.

1.What do you consider to be the disruptive trend(s) that are affecting the retail industry that seem most promising?

Within the omni-channel landscape, many retailers have first focused on tackling the inventory flexibility and accessibility challenge. Alternatively, the goal of truly delivering personalized experiences in brick-and-mortar is more challenging than in digital, particularly with regards to new customers.This, coupled with the rapid reframing of the role of the store, makes cracking the code on how to operationalize authentically personalized in-store experiences one of the more challenging disruptive trends.

2. What are the biggest challenge(s) of scaling services in your specific retail sector today?

One challenge that impacts all sectors right now is around the area of KPIs/measurement. The world is moving towards experiences and what that means in digital interaction is very different than within physical space. Within the digital sphere, interactions are measured by clicks, bounce rates, follow-thrus, etc. but analogous metrics in brick-and-mortar aren’t as easy to measure. So in an era where interactions are informing each other and are interweaving offline and online, it’s exciting and challenging to identify new metrics. Traditional brick-and-mortar metrics like return on square footage don’t give us an opportunity to properly evaluate engagement like digital measurements allow for, so we continue to seek new ways to evaluate interaction.

Within the wireless space of retail, evaluating how advisory services evolve within the omni-channel arena presents technical/infrastructure opportunities.  

3. What brands or retailers come to mind when you think about service innovation in this industry?

I love observing how retailers are reframing experiences at retail across all industry verticals, but I’ve been particularly intrigued by how service providers with intangible products have been playing differently within physical space – specifically e-banks, insurance providers, etc..

For example, State Farm Insurance created their “Next Door” space as a customer-research and marketing vehicle focused on connecting more authentically with younger audiences who traditionally reject relationships in this category. Similarly, Capital One Cafés offer things like “community rooms,” providing open workspaces for non-profits and organizations to reserve and utilize. Such innovations at retail are designed to forge stronger affinity to their brands by creating expanded use opportunities for their focal audiences.

4. Besides having a mindset and the skill set for service design, what other knowledge, experience, or skills do you see as valuable for a designer to have in his or her repertoire today?

Additionally valuable skillsets include an understanding of the principles of shopper marketing and buyer behavior, as well as a strong ability to communicate effectively with and within organizations. Having a service design skillset enables one to design the types of engagement or services needed, a spatial design skillset enables one to design the environment that will maximize such engagement opportunities, and a shopper marketing skillset enables one to effectively communicate and showcase product within such space. Thus, shopper marketing skills and buyer behavior expertise helps one effectively deliver a company’s priorities in a capacity that meets the needs of a shopper. Furthermore, an ability to apply methodology in a way that is translatable to mixed audiences and skillsets in a seamless way is also a critical capability.

I would like to see less brick-and-mortar real estate for lease as a result of brands and retailers reframing the purpose of physical retail further beyond transactional destinations.

5. What would you like to see happen for the future of service design in retail?

I would like to see less brick-and-mortar real estate for lease as a result of brands and retailers reframing the purpose of physical retail further beyond transactional destinations. As much as convenience drives more digital shopping and delivery than ever before, people will still seek places to go and things to do— for entertainment purposes, browsing and discovery purposes, etc.. Therefore, physical retail has an ever more powerful opportunity to rise to meet more of the experiential needs or destinations for fun and connectivity for communities.

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