When I was 19 I was involved in a serious car accident. It forced me to switch careers from one I’d fallen in to, hospitality, to one I was interested in, multimedia. This was a blossoming field, and CD-Roms were still cutting edge. But with websites I saw an opportunity to be involved in the future, and it excited the hell out of me.
I didn’t own a computer, I didn’t have the faintest idea how to do much other than type in a word document but I knew this was an opportunity that I wanted to pursue.
Fast-forward, and I’ve been in the industry for 16 years, and a lot has changed in that time. It’s been fun, heart breaking and given me more anxiety than I’d wish upon anyone. But it was beginning to seem a bit same old; I was missing the spark of innovation that had got me in to the industry in the first place. But then I was given a new challenge that awoke that same passion to chase after something that was new and unproven.
This opportunity was to design a digital interaction within a physical store. Not in the crappy “take a photo of yourself in a store and post it to social media” digital in-store solution. Rather, to create something that would attract and convert shoppers to customers by taking what we had learned in creating e-commerce sites, and applying it to the real world and to make in store shopping experience better.
The opportunity was with Nike Skateboarding.
The challenge was to create an experience that looked like the store shoe wall design we’d been supplied, and to create an experience that would lift Nike above their competitors in a multi-brand retail environment. We had all sorts of crazy ideas, but at the core of them all was the question: what was going to make sense to the customer? Why would they use this, and how would it deliver to them what they needed to feel empowered to complete their purchase?
We set about doing this in the same way as a lot of the mobile development we’d been doing for the travel industry. With a strong consideration for the part of the journey that a customer was in, and defining interfaces that would match their needs in that part of their journey.
Getting the solution to work was hard work, I was researching across the globe, building prototypes, driving around town to find the right RFID cards for our readers, and having more issues with systems than I’d had in years, and I was loving it.
The easy part was the integration in to Magento for content management, pushing content out to screens in stores across Australia and New Zealand. This allowed us to do seasonal content changes easily and push them to all stores to keep things fresh and on brand.
The biggest lessons – customers loved it, and the use of the technology drove category sales up in every store. However, because prototype technology is prone to unforeseen issues, wireless networks and iPads were our biggest pain points from a technical perspective. Staff training and not factoring in continual enhancements to the system, once we learned from customer and staff feedback, also overshadowed these technical issues. Change management is all about the people; the best software in the world is worthless if nobody wants to use it. The same can be said for expecting to have a “set and forget” system; you should always be considering how to make the interaction better. The best way to do this is through the use of testing and data analysis to look for insights to implement.
Over the past 2 years we’ve gone on to design a number of pop up spaces for Nike product launches. Some of those are the Nike She Runs events in Sydney, and for Hurley, the Australian Open of Surfing. However much like a marketing campaign, these spaces have a limited lifespan and are generally manned, making them quite a different design challenge to a permanent installation. However, our design philosophy works for each space as it considers the user goals first and foremost. These pop up spaces provide us with the opportunity to implement things that push the boundaries a bit further, in comparison to a system that needs to be operational 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.