CATEGORY

ENGAGEMENT

 

The art of designing attractive and effective digital engagement solutions

Are the rules of reality broken? We have become used to dividing areas or putting things in their specific boxes. Work is serious. Games are fun. Learning is serious. Creativity is fun. Problem solving – serious or fun? When we dive into the world of game thinking or game design, often grouped together under the term of Gamification, the well-defined barrier between serious contexts and play falls away. Why apply game elements to traditionally serious contexts? To get the most out of all aspects of life, sometimes we need to add more play!

Now, reality can be much more attractive and entertaining thanks to “Serious Play Experiences”.

“Serious Play Experiences”, are situations where fun narratives and game elements can be introduced without losing sight of the serious objectives driving them (for example: incentivising recycling across communities, reducing employee turnover, sustaining interest in learning materials). Often because of the serious nature of such contexts, applying fun elements can significantly enhance motivation, commitment and participation – resulting in a successful achievement of objectives.

Doesn’t sound like something you’d use? You might be surprised, as there are more examples out there than you probably think.

Mixed serious gaming experiences, not just digital

By adding face-to-face challenges, the experience can help to build social relationships or interpersonal skills in the process. This can be seen in educational contexts/scenarios, where the “escape room” concept has been adapted to provide a fun yet educational classroom learning experience. For example, Breakout Edu where as well as having an immersive game platform, players also have to work face-to-face collaboratively to solve a series of critical thinking puzzles to open a locked box. These experiences rely on a very collaborative narrative plot. When this dynamic is replicated within a digital context, the solution can include multiple communication channels and a virtual social area that further increases the feeling of community and positive group identity.

Serious gaming experiences in virtual reality environments

This is one of the most prominent emerging trends in Serious Play Experiences in the last few years. Virtual reality offers infinite possibilities due to its great versatility. A lot of use can be seen within training contexts, both educational and corporate, especially where very specific training or practice is required (such as unconscious bias training for example).

From a gamification point of view, virtual reality reinforces the weight of game elements such as avatars and non-linear or open plot narration, substantially improving users sense of freedom.

Gaming experiences in augmented reality environments

Many examples are also appearing in the market of this type of initiative. To name a few: “Zombie Run”, “Ring fit” and “Peloton”. These experiences rely on a mission structure. Each mission includes challenges that gradually increase the difficulty to increase participant’s sense of progress. To support this, other game elements are added such as the progress bar, badges and points, which reinforce the perception of autonomy and self-improvement.

So, how are serious contexts “seasoned” with the right amount of play, to ensure the objective is still met? And how could they work for you and your organisation? Let’s take a look at the solution-design steps required for taking users toward fulfilling objectives.

  1. User-centric analysis:

Before getting stuck in, it’s important to carry out a detailed analysis of the situation your target audience or objectives are operating within. You will need to understand information about the context and the users’ behaviours, characteristics, game preferences and digital skills, to be able to create a solution that will integrate easily into everyday life.

  1. Include effective components:

With client and user needs forming the foundations, you can next include the necessary components to build the actual journey or strategy of the solution. By basing or choosing components with an understanding of Behavioural Science, you can create a path that users will actually want to follow and that will feel intuitive to them.  The different parts need to consider user characteristics and preferences (collected from the previous step) as well as client requirements. The aim of the game is of course to deliver results and achieve the determined objective, but this will only be successful if you provide an experience that people feel able to collaborate in.

  1. Integrate game elements:

Making people want to take part, rather than feel they have to is a powerful motivation. Here is where introducing gamification is useful. It is no secret that people do better at something when they enjoy the activity itself. Applying game elements to a mundane or even dreary process (imagine if compliance training could be enjoyable) does not mean you simply turn the experience into a game or lose all sense of seriousness. Elements can be discrete nudges or prompts, or recognition of a user’s progress, spurring them to stick with the process or activity, boosting their motivation and commitment. To ensure a more fulfilling, engaging experience, you’re ultimately looking to weave together three interconnecting gamified structures: the narrative, the challenges, and the energisers.

Following us so far? Let’s look at an example to see how it all comes to life.

A large hotel chain was looking to reduce its high staff turnover by implementing new corporate values and culture that would hopefully encourage commitment to the brand. They needed an effective vehicle to deliver the information in a way that would stick with the employees, engaging them in the workplace and reducing feelings of detachment.

Digital solutions, either web or mobile applications, are easily accessible to wide audiences and often help to set experiences outside of the ‘real world’. In a digital solution, participants feel they can attempt challenges, immerse themselves in situations, and progress without the pressure of a manager looking over their shoulders. This means you can provide environments that resemble real life, with fewer real-life stresses.

Digital solutions also help ensure the same information reaches all people in the same way, standardising and centralising processes – such as the hotel chain communicating the new corporate values and culture. With all employees receiving the same core message, the next step is to help employees engage with this content and ultimately embody it.

Here is where we could introduce a learning by doing strategy (or learning through play). First you plot what the strategy of the solution should overcome, with an understanding of what the users need. Feelings of detachment can be resolved through tapping into people’s need for mastery, purpose, and achievement. Presenting the disillusioned employees with the chance to prove themselves and feel they are improving, which in turn gives their managers the cue to recognise this improvement. The strategy helps employees feel that they contribute to the overall success of the company and their contribution is valued. So we can look at gamifying three core steps to the strategy: a) provide opportunities to overcome challenges and improve, b) provide content and materials for employees to learn from and train with, c) foster and promote a positive environment where good work is recognised and encouraged.          

Next: how to get people involved. A narrative structure always helps to increase individual’s interest in participating. This can be achieved by introducing an appealing plot that will engage participants and encourage them to follow and commit to the process. In this example, the employees of the hotel could be invited to join a virtual hotel (call to action) as virtual staff, attending to visiting customers. They are presented with different scenarios and opportunities (challenges) where they have to demonstrate the new brand values and behaviours, earning virtual currency or levelling up when they successfully overcome their challenges.

Designing meaningful “Serious Gaming Experiences” that make an impact or drive change is a complex but rewarding process, requiring the designer to consider a multitude of perspectives in the process. All of the elements have to work in harmony with each other to create a balanced experience, that drive the desired results. If the experience is too much like a game or too removed from reality, the core message becomes diluted. When an experience doesn’t take the participant’s needs and motivations into consideration it runs the risk of turning people off from engaging. Daily life is full of distractions and examples of innovation at our fingertips. Is it crazy to consider people’s expectations and attention need more stimulation in the experiences you offer?

Like most aspects of life and learning, you will get more out of any solution if you add a little play!

Written in collaboration by Marta Calderero & Andrzej Marczewski

Events of late created a “forced trial” of remote working for many companies, shifting the way we all think about collaboration and teamwork. In this webinar we look at how motivational theory can be used to maintain and increase engagement across businesses during such unprecedented times, where people feel disconnected, disrupted, unfulfilled, and uncertain of the future.

Tech solutions are not enough, especially in isolation. They need to have people’s needs at their core. In the session below we explored how understanding this can improve communication, productivity and overall engagement across teams and businesses.

For more background reading on the subject, check out our post on remote work and RAMP

 

 

The demand for remote working keeps growing, with technology enabling employees to balance personal life with their commitment to work. How can companies be preparing to meet expectations and adapt to a more remote workforce?
Check out the stats below or download your own copy of the infographic.

People are often quick to put themselves down. “I’m not creative”. “I can’t draw, I’m not a designer”. “I couldn’t do what you do”. We’d argue that, actually, anyone can be a designer and more people today are involved in design than what they probably realise. We all live in a world surrounded full of services, solutions, innovation, and transformation. Behind every product or solution, is a development process, with people working on the development – or design – that will make their offering stand out from the masses. The best way to successfully stand out is to create something that is wanted, needed, and enjoyable for the end users. Made with them in mind. For us, Design Thinking is the path to achieving this.

Design Thinking is essentially an immersive approach for creative problem-solving. It’s about looking at processes and products with a people focussed lens. It brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It offers tools for understanding, inhabiting, and moulding the end user’s experience, to teams who are not traditionally close to a customer.

By approaching product or process development through Design Thinking you change your immediate focus (create/produce item), reframe the challenges you’re tackling (what do we want it to do versus what the user will need it to do), shift the scene you’re setting development in – with simple values to bear in mind.
Empathise: think about how people will use what you’re creating, think about what clients need to achieve through it. Observe them, understand their needs. Looking at things from different perspectives and reviewing the wider data discovered from this, unblocks mindsets and identifies criteria that could have been otherwise missed.

If you use a narrow perspective, you will get a narrow result. The reality is different needs and pieces don’t always fit together neatly. Design Thinking guides teams to design and develop with all the pieces in mind, from the beginning.

Connecting the Dots

Though there is a determined set of steps, we wouldn’t consider it to be a rigid process primarily as it encourages flexibility and iteration. The guidelines help teams who aren’t trained in design follow a structure – starting by removing them from the embedded mindset of “this is how things are done around here” or “we are here to create a profitable solution” – taking them on a journey of innovation and improvement.

Once you have ascertained the drives and needs of the end users and match them with the environment it needs to operate in, you can paint a picture of the opportunities available to you for design and development. Based on the requirements and setting, basic, low fidelity experiments (sketches, outlines…) help you begin to test and ideate, gradually improving the ‘experiments’ fidelity and detail with your learnings.

It’s an approach where, for once, it is recommendable to get comfortable, generate lots and lots of possibilities, unleash ideas and go a bit wild. For the best results, trust and psychological comfort is hugely important.

When people share ideas they need to feel they are in a safe, permissive environment, especially when trying to invent and innovate in radically different areas to what their own perspective or thinking usually sits. Hence why one of the key principles behind ideation is to suspend judgment in the team. Reviewing, refining, and selecting the wide range of ideas created can come later on in the steps, around prototyping and testing.

Testing a product before implementation seems self-evident, but Design Thinking helps teams take it one step further by prototyping before developing the end product or solution. Beneficial for many reasons, as it creates a safe space for failure and is a cheaper-than-making-the-real-thing way to understand and evaluate usability. It also means you start assessing the solution in a realistic setting long before it ever goes to market or reaches the end user.

You’re a Designer Too

More companies should turn to Design Thinking as a key to success. Structures, processes, traditional mindsets, pressurised management, can all end up absorbing and burying vision and creative problem solving. To develop a great product you need to keep the focus on the setting it will be used in and who will use it. This is relevant whether you’re developing software or a shoe or a system for signing into work. Empathise with the end user, let your teams loose on the problem with fewer psychological restrictions, and move rapidly and back and forth between creation and testing to provide something truly usable and user focussed. You’ll find that you’ll learn more along the way and make discoveries you would have never otherwise found until implementation.

At Motivait we have a well-defined process, founded in Design Thinking, but we never lose sight of the need to be flexible. It’s a process to remind us to ask less conventional questions, in order to get less conventional answers, often helping clients to get unstuck from how they’d been looking at the challenge themselves.

So, how do you convince employees that they are potential designers?

Design Thinking is not Design, any more than Agile is Engineering, or Lean is Business Management. Promote and foster a creative work environment beyond the virtual borders of design. Encourage knowledge sharing, be an open book and inclusive with your work and ongoing projects. By supporting employees to be connectors, collaborators, and facilitators, you may well find you’ve created teams of designers.


How to work remotely using Design Thinking 

  • Recreate the work environment your employees are used to: organise calls for brainstorms, set up catch ups where people can feel comfortable sharing anecdotes or stories – you never know where the next idea will come from
  • On fuelling creativity: Try to not lock people to their laptops. Ensure people are feeling able to take lunch breaks, go for walks, sign up to online courses, as well as meeting deadlines and performing well. Don’t keep people on a call “until the problem gets solved”. If ideation is going nowhere, then break up the session and regroup later. It will give people a chance to look at the problem from another angle.
  • Make sure everyone has access to the same tools and information: Digital ideation tools should be simple, accessible, and allow for unstructured creative freedom.
  • Promote Inclusion: Bring everyone together to solve problems, including necessary people in the tasks that are required, and people who may not usually be included in brainstorms.
  • Embed now for success later: Design Thinking should always be your primary toolkit, remote or not. Get people thinking about what areas they would want to enhance with Design Thinking so that they feel they are building to a positive future, rather than a return to old ways.

Written in collaboration by Begoña Repiso & Pablo Heydt

 

Developing an online professional development plan can enable employees of all profiles and situations. And the key to successful and sustained growth lies in Behavioural Science. 

 

The traditional workplace has changed dramatically in the last decade, and seems to be on a path towards even more change. Flexible hours have replaced 9 to 5. Virtual learning is overtaking the two-day training course. Remote teams are on the rise. There is evidence everywhere of businesses investing to keep up with the expectations of the modern employee – greener, brighter, stimulating office spaces or vast e-learning platforms being two common examples. But what about updating internal processes to match with the new practices? Consider remote workers and their professional development. For many years, companies have established professional development plans for employees, but these approaches are almost never tailored to the needs of remote employees. Too often people fall into the trap of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, or they focus efforts entirely on ensuring productivity rather than considering the growth of individuals.

If one were to update the design of these programmes, with remote workers or freelancers or any of the emerging employee profiles in mind, it becomes highly valuable to incorporate approaches founded in Behavioural Sciences to better understand the person at the centre of the plan.

Behavioural Science is the empirical study of human behaviour. It emphasises how people are different and hence need to be understood differently, how context matters, and guides us towards adopting new positive behaviours. It can tell us what works and what doesn’t and can help us design solutions that generate a desired change.

Behavioural Science has also experienced radical transformation in recent years in its application and delivery. Through technology, we can now obtain a lot more information and understanding about individual characteristics, habits, motivations, drives (or behavioural phenotype) and subsequently optimise interventions. Behavioural design then translates the findings of the behavioural studies into effective products and services.

So, how to apply this theory to the scenario of online professional development plans, designed with remote workers in mind? Let’s take a look.

  1. Personalised Planning

Any broad or widely applicable plan has to offer options and choice to employees. Options allow individual employees to feel a sense of ownership or personalisation with their experience.  Furthermore, allowing free choice when goal setting will increase their drive and intrinsic motivation towards the end objective.

The theory indicates that goals should be accomplished through various actions, rather than only applying one rigid path to achieve a positive result. To begin with, it can be as simple as setting a goal like “improving skills related to my role” for an online professional development plan.

The idea is to not define achievement purely through office-based actions, instead to allow more self-determination and for employees to prove their progress in ways within their control. This way, they will feel like goals are within their reach.

Simultaneously, some parameters need to be set for the employee’s benefit as well. The plan should be clear and supported by sufficient detail so that the employee quickly understands how to perform the necessary actions or behaviours in order to achieve the objective they’ve set. Behavioural Science theory explains that specifying the frequency, duration, intensity and context of an action makes it easier to achieve or replicate. For example, for the goal “improving skills related to my role,” an associated behaviour would be to take a 40-hour expert course. This behaviour in turn can be divided into smaller actions to make it easier to complete. So you can take what seems like a vague objective of proving you have improved your skillset, and break it down into tangible, provable actions like each working day between 3pm and 5pm for 4 weeks accessing your online development plan and completing different modules of your chosen expert course.

Within the plan, one can even apply gamified elements to reinforce commitment – such as including a button or box that will give employees a sense of accomplishment when they finally press or tick it. It sounds simple but can be highly effective. Research states that an explicit commitment (I want to tick off things on my list) increases the likelihood that users will complete their goal.

Behavioural Science, because of the name, can sound daunting when all you feel you need is a quick fix or an easy win

  1. Clear instructions & Multiple resources at your fingertips

As already mentioned, clear instructions or ticking boxes help to keep people on track. Especially when working remotely, as it enables employees to work through tasks and actions autonomously, knowing what they need to be getting on with.

Across professional development plans, previous studies have identified how employees frequently prefer to receive practical support from the company. This is when the company provides them with the resources and content required to carry out the actions necessary to achieve the objective they’ve chosen.

However, it’s important that companies strike the balance between providing information and resources, without oversaturating employees. Users of vast online courses often remark that they don’t know where to begin when there is so much information available to them. Rather than huge amounts of information, it’s more valuable to provide clear pathways employees can follow, especially for those sat in front of their desktops remotely.

  1. Social support

As well as having materials at their fingertips, being able to count on mentors or online advisors also makes it easier for employees to effectively and efficiently achieve their goal. Knowing they have a designated ‘someone’ they can turn to with questions regarding their progression helps employees feel comfortable within their plan. This is particularly useful for remote workers who are not able to simply turn around and ask a question to a colleague.

Employees also value the support of their teammates and co-workers during their development. Research supports the inclusion of virtual social areas for remote employees and their effectiveness for reinforcing recognition and feedback. With a timeline or wall element, similar to those on social media platforms, employees can post their achievements and colleagues can applaud their progress and celebrate those achievements. Rereading the wall’s history can help to raise self-esteem and increase the self-efficacy of remote working employees particularly when feeling overwhelmed or emotionally disconnected.

These online environments allow relationships between remote employees to be established and strengthened each day, reinforcing and creating a group identity. These contexts also facilitate the transmission of informal knowledge. Studies show that innovation and commitment flourish when employees have the ability to participate freely in “interest groups” or similar working teams.

Creating safe spaces to grow and fail is hugely important in any company – setting them online helps users feel removed from reality, and more likely to try and try again 

  1. Reinforcements and Self-Evaluation

Any professional development plan should include the employee receiving positive feedback from managers, because it avoids the employee feeling too scrutinised or controlled. Feedback should be balanced, and the purpose should be to reinforce the employee’s progress. If an employee is based from home or is remote to the team, feedback can sometimes be the main occasion the employee has contact with their manager or team, making the context of feedback even more valuable. Ensure feedback is given frequently, and in a range of contexts for remote employees in any development plan.

As part of those different opportunities for feedback, self-evaluation can also be included as encouragement that the employee records and monitors their own behaviours and progress.

It should be noted that multiple studies show how people react differently to self-monitoring. Some employees will stop participating because their motivation decreases when they perceive their results as negative. This can be avoided by ‘reframing.’ A behavioural technique that involves the correct interpretation and action the employee can take, alongside the negative result in the same message.

For example, “You got 5/10 and so you haven’t passed this module. It’s a shame, but this is definitely one of the more complicated modules in your development path, so maybe check out some of the reading links and come back soon and try again! We know you can do it!” This type of messaging prevents employees from associating their results with feelings of intense failure and demotivation. Creating a safe space to grow and fail is hugely important in any company, and it can be easily provided through the medium of digital solutions as they make the user feel somewhat removed from ‘reality’.

  1. Signs of action and habit formation

Whenever a person is asked to carry out behaviours or take action, we must recognise each of the steps they take towards achieving their goal. Behavioural Science emphasises the importance of reinforcing both the steps taken towards the milestone and the time when the user completes the objective. With the help of technology, this reinforcement can reach remote working employees in real time.

Behavioural Change research often advises the introduction of prompts and stimuli that encourage action. For example, automatic prompts or notifications can be effective because they remind us to perform the behaviour at the right time and the reasoning behind it. Similarly, by performing the behaviour repeatedly, it ends up creating a habit. However, Behavioural Science illustrates that habit brings habituation, which can cause the employee to become bored and abandon the experience. Maintaining long-term engagement and commitment requires the online professional development plan to include gradual tasks and changing or growing challenges. It’s very important to start with tasks that are easy to perform, making them increasingly difficult, yet achievable, until the result is ultimately reached.

 

With all these behavioural strategies and techniques, we can design a professional development plan (suitable to the needs of remote working employees or similar profiles) without it needing to be labour intensive or adapted several times across the company. Scientifically informed, it can offer multiple growth opportunities to those employees which will therefore result in enhanced company productivity. Behavioural Science, because of the name, can sound daunting when all you feel you need is a quick fix or an easy win. But really, it comes down to understanding the audience, the people you’re trying to connect to or gain something from. We’ve come a long way from expecting employees to carry out actions or behaviours “because I said so”. Consider the power behind “because I want to”. So, if offices are changing, if what we consider an employee is changing, along with schedules, routines, a day’s work – maybe we need to update how we support and structure all of that as well.

You’ve no doubt already seen a plethora of blogs out there about the most effective ways to successfully work from home. Good lighting. Clear workspace. Stretch out every so often. But even once we set up our respective workstations, make to-do lists, and take frequent breaks throughout the day – there may still be elements missing when remote.
Just because working from home isn’t a new concept, it doesn’t mean it won’t be new to a lot of people. Whether they’re new to the working world or their previous jobs never required or allowed it, we reached out to six people in various roles and occupations who are new to working from home. Despite everyone’s circumstances being unique, they shared some common challenges that may speak to you as well.

Human Connection, Communication & Collaboration

We have hundreds of digital communication tools at our fingertips to keep everyone connected. Facebook, Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet – the list is endless. Some companies even have several implemented for employees. So why are communication and collaboration persistently top issues for remote workers? It’s because of how we use them. This was something reflected in our interviews as five out of the six respondents stated that despite still feeling somewhat connected to their teams, it was hard to sustain throughout the day. It was specifically noted that it becomes much harder to gauge someone’s mood or tone, which impacted how the individuals felt able to contact their colleagues.

“I feel less connected to my team because of the lack of human interaction”

The issue of improving ease of communication and collaboration can be addressed by companies establishing best practices with their communication tools of choice. Where should employees chit chat? Where can they feel comfortable sharing a meme, a video or a funny anecdote? What is the best medium for feedback or high-level discussions? Very few tools can do it all unless they are specifically designed with remote teams or asynchronous communication in mind.

Regardless of age, when you first start a job, interaction can really influence how happy and settled you feel. Traditionally offices organise new joiner drinks, Friday breakfasts or similar opportunities for team bonding. This is the first thing lost when working from home. All of our respondents mentioned that they missed some social aspect since moving to remote working, be it being able to talk through an issue or question or even just missing the jokes. If you’re starting in a remote job it can be hard to find ways to bond or understand the team you need to collaborate and connect with. Perhaps more relevant to what people are facing in today’s world, how can you prevent team connections and bonds falling apart once everyone’s had to move to remote working? Especially at a time when businesses need their people to be pushing on more so than ever.

“I’m missing the jokes and the random spurs of out loud thoughts that lead to spouts of creativity in a collaborative environment”

We all need a nudge. When building our solutions, we firstly work to understand the user profiles who will be adopting the solution and then establish what nudges or prompts they might need to get the necessary work done, boosting motivation and productivity. It is here we use game design to implement the most effective mechanics to create these nudges. Activity loops which provide a prompt or call to action followed by some form of feedback are a simple way to keep people engaged. For example, the call to action could be a reminder to call someone that they have not spoken to in a while. The feedback would come in the form of the conversation that is then had. Or, the call to action could be a new goal set in a task that they must complete. In this instance, feedback could come in the form of progress markers or recognition within the team.

Staying on Track

Most businesses are well equipped with the previously mentioned communication tools for meetings, catch ups and follow ups, but what about project management tools? People new to working from home can quickly feel detached from the usual buzz of the office or feel that their day has been unproductive even when filled with calls. Helping people feel like they’re achieving something is vital for sustaining motivation and consequently, productivity. While many of us see flexibility as the main benefit of remote working, the flip side is if everyone is being flexible how do you ensure everyone’s flexible schedules and needs overlap? Feeling like you’re all on the same page can be hard when you lose sight of what everyone is doing. Something a few of our respondents picked up on was the lack of project management and collaborative working tools to ease the situation and improve motivation and the drive for teamwork.

Thinking outside the box and utilising tools that encourage feedback, recognition and help track progress can help ease the difficulties that exist around collaborative projects. This can look like collaborative to-do lists, virtual timelines, progress bars or notification prompts to managers. Platforms and solutions can be designed to help everyone to stay in the loop with each other and on track with what needs to be done, as well as supporting the social need for interaction. When combined with a more conscious effort to update each other, even with non-work specific things, has positive effects as it will help to immerse the natural flow of activity that occurs in the office, into the online environment.

“Isolation is an issue because the office acts as a social space so being remoted from this has consequences”

We have the benefit of technology to help us tackle these challenges, but it’s vital to remember the humans at the heart of it. Users who will feel lonely even with 101 digital tools available to them, users who will feel untethered from their usual productivity and routine. Work communication needs to be functional to sustain overall productivity and performance, but communication is more than just ‘pinging’ each other work updates. We can all get better at making an effort to be there for each other. More meaningful and productive communication, finding more areas for collaboration, aiding in employee development and motivation. However, there is also an argument that companies could be investing in the structures and digital tools that will empower and enable their employees to be their best selves – wherever they’re logging in from. Current circumstances aside, if remote working is here to stay, practices and approaches need to be put into place to help employees work remotely, not alone.

The Retail Apocalypse refers to a stream of brick-and-mortar retail store closures originally across North America. According to Coresight Research, US retailers reported over 9,000 store closures in 2019, which in comparison to the 4,500 opening in the same period, felt like a startling figure. PWC then reported a similar situation in the UK, with 2,868 store closures in the first half of 2019 alone, marking to many the beginning of the end of the once essential high street.

In the UK there has always been historical affection for “high street brands”, so the growing closures are understandably provoking much debate around what is causing the Retail Apocalypse and to what extent it will continue into the new decade. Can traditional stores be saved, and what hope is there for brands who once heavily relied on loyal instore footfall? Again, it is something highlighted by PWC’s report, where they identify the potential that exists for retailers to restructure and account for the demands and expectations of modern customers. Some retailers are already making this leap, trying to engage consumers with more personalised, multi-channel customer experiences. With these offerings, they are edging towards the dynamics behind Retail 4.0.

So what does Retail 4.0 look like? 

It can be described as the provision of an integrated omnichannel experience. But it can entail much more.

It involves retailers moving to a truly integrated IT ecosystem that provides a continuous view of not only inventory, but each consumer and their behaviour across channels too. With mobile phone dependency soaring, it’s important to ensure ease of use and consistency between online and offline experiences. It means more innovation than simply providing a mobile app – Retail 4.0 strategy empowers the consumer.

Does your brand ensure a seamless way of placing orders online, via app or webpage, with in-store pick up? Does your brand make it easy to accurately check stock on the app for a particular location, and use that location to find your way to the store and buy the desired items? Retail 4.0 gives customers no reason to be turned off by the journey from browsing to basket to purchase. It should look like differentiated, meaningful experiences across all channels that sustain the consumer’s own personal preferences when shopping.

Stand out from the crowd

Afterall, the modern consumer is used to (and arguably tired of) brands vying for attention. We all remember the avalanche of emails from brands during the GDPR rush, many of them leaving us questioning when we last got value back from our relationship with any brand. Or even just a positive customer experience.

For today’s connected world it is imperative consumers hand over their personal data for one reason or another. So, it becomes more important than ever to demonstrate the value and personalisation they’d receive in exchange via your brand. If customers provide their information and you can see their habits, make sure you prove that you see them as an individual – beyond just targeting. Personalise communication with them, respond to their behaviours and history, highlight offers more likely to interest them, or partner with organisations that speak to their and your core values. The Retail Apocalypse has arguably stemmed from physical stores not being able to respond well enough to growing consumer needs, and brands not being able to keep up with innovative, engaging experiences at every touchpoint. These next steps towards recovery are vital for reviving consumer interest.

Recapturing attention and affection

Retail 4.0 is ultimately about placing the consumer at the centre of business operations so brands can respond accordingly to real-time trends and demands, resulting in exceptional and engaging experiences when executed correctly. Consider IKEA where through augmented reality (AR), app users can see what a life size item would look like in their home. It’s a great example of how retailers can harness the power of emerging technologies to create relevant, meaningful experiences for their customers – rather than implementing a gimmick for the sake of it. Apple stores are launching displays that invite shoppers to learn more about iPhones by scanning the devices with their own phone. They can then see the advantages or functionality of the different hardware or software – so you can personally interact as a consumer and find something that suits you. It speaks to the inquisitive side of consumers and works towards winning round hearts and minds.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to watch these trends develop. How will retailers leverage different in-store experiences as part of a multi-channel strategy? What advancements in the use of emerging technologies will we see, particularly as they become more easily attainable? It begs the question; will the traditional high street revive and make it to Retail 5.0?

Brands today are constantly fighting for consumer attention and profitability in an era of constant change, connectivity and competitive challenge. And of course, customers today have the ultimate power in all of this – the power of choice.

Choice isn’t entirely rational; it is as much about the emotions that customers feel at any given moment as it is about making a rational decision based on the product or service being offered.

With the variety of choice available to consumers in both the physical and online world, it is more important than ever that retailers invest in designing a great customer engagement and experience.

With next day and even same-day deliveries from online retailers, how do you convince potential customers that going to the store will offer them a better buying experience? And how do you convince them that your online offering is better than other, more established online retailers?

 

Strong brand loyalty takes time to build and grow, but small changes can have a huge impact. Studies have shown that an increase of just 7% in loyalty can have an 85% impact on profit per customer!


Omnichannel
The same way having one single view or profile of a customer is crucial for brands, having one perception – whether in store, online, or through a device – of a brand is important for building a connection with consumers. Loyalty schemes, prices, offers and ranges should be the same in-store as they are online (as far as possible). Stores that, for instance, offer a price match that includes online prices in other stores, will always have an advantage over those that don’t.

Seamless and Easy
Any difficulty the customer has either finding what they want or purchasing at the point of sale will put them off returning. 55% of consumers surveyed for marketing research in 2016 said that their top reason for satisfaction after a purchase was “Purchase experience (whether online or in person) is easy”. This was followed by “Purchase experience (whether online or in person) is enjoyable” (46%). Consider your employee engagement in store, or the user journey design when building a digital experience.

Personalisation & Relevance
Consumers want to feel that the experience is about them, not about making profit. Personalised shopping experiences can help. In fact, research suggests that 79% of consumers will make decisions on where to buy based on the level of personal service they receive from assistants. From greeting costumers online with their name, to creating custom offers that are unique and relevant to their shopping habits, to offering personal shopper services in-store can all help to make the customer feel they are the centre of the experience.

Enjoyment & Entertainment
Consumers are looking for something that is unique, be it online or in-store. You have to consider what it is that they can get from you that they can’t get anywhere else, be it the products that you sell or the level of customer service and personalisation that you can offer them. And make it enjoyable. 63% of people surveyed who were members of loyalty schemes said that they would modify their buying habits based on how enjoyable the experience is. Does your instore experience inspire customers? Does your app or website keep its users hooked?

Service
Nothing is more off-putting when in a physical store than surly uninterested staff. One of the unique points about entering a shop is the contact that you have with real people. If those interactions are negative, then the customer will be less inclined to return. An engaged, enthusiastic and knowledgeable employee is key to good customer experiences in-store.

Values
What values do you uphold that customers will feel emotionally engaged with. For instance, do you take a stand against plastic waste, do you support charities. These kinds of “extracurricular” activities are important to up to 70% of consumers!

A Two-Way Street

Lack of engagement in the workplace is an issue that isn’t going anywhere, any time soon. Everyone has days where they hit the brick wall or count the seconds on the clock until they leave; but the problem is when those days become the norm. Every year more research and statistics come out and cause concern as they reveal how the majority of employees feel unengaged at work, how even engaged individuals are at risk of burnout, and how just measuring levels isn’t actually helping anyone.

It was interesting to see in the recent NYT Smarter Living piece ‘Feeling Uninspired at Work?’ that the advice focussed on the individuals and employees: take some time to refresh your mind, send the email you’ve been meaning to send, find a way to tick something off your to-do list no matter how small. All positive ways to give yourself a sense of progress or accomplishment. That said, the achievements end up benefitting the employer as much as the employee. Which brings up another common frustration. The responsibility can’t always be on the individual to restart their motivation generator. Employers can also be providing the right tools and environment to make engagement in the workplace a possibility and a reality, rather than “something that would be nice to have”.

Employees today have endless distractions and opportunities just a click away, and in many cases face outdated management styles and frameworks that stifle motivation. Left unaddressed, disaffection, detachment and disillusionment are huge blockers for any company trying to roll out new objectives, embed values and culture, or retain talent. So, what do you do? Offer Taco Tuesdays for everyone? Redesign the office space to include more plants and natural light? Provide ping-pong tables? These are fine ideas and they can work as rewards, but they don’t move the engagement dial in the long term as they don’t address the root of the challenge – how to engage people in the uninspiring everyday processes or procedures they have to do.

No companies truly want their employees to be miserable. More than ever before organisations today are under pressure to craft modern, appealing offerings for employees, that stand out from the competition – attracting new exciting talent, developing employees into the best they can be, enabling the right work/life balance, supporting meaningful causes, offering more opportunities… It’s a lot to promise and consistently deliver. Where do you even begin?

Enhancing the Every Day

We define engagement as an emotional and psychological attachment people have to a brand, product, idea or organisation. The feeling of trust you have towards a cosmetic brand because you like their ethics, their marketing, and the fact you can see results (albeit small) after using their products. Because of how they make you feel, you keep buying from them again.

So, in order to foster engagement in any environment, you need to start with the people. Understand their drives, their motivations, what they enjoy and what their pain points might be. Once you can better empathise with them, you will be in a much stronger position to work on impactful and meaningful engagement solutions. If your employees feel that you understand their needs and that your programmes empower them, rather than further complicate their day, they’ll then be more willing to adopt new approaches.

A lot of the work we do at Motivait comes down to helping companies enhance the experience of a specific area or process. A more exciting onboarding process, redesigning manager training and development, driving teamwork and collaboration. We use RAMP theory as a core part of our solution design process to encourage intrinsic engagement – a drive that comes from within – as this is what helps turn passive individuals into active participants. When their sense of Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and/or Purpose are reinforced, people willingly take part in specific activities and work towards objectives because they want to, rather than feel they have to.

More often than not, small changes that then add up to a larger impact over time is the best starting place. Seeing progression is important, much like the NYT article referred to when suggesting ticking off items of a to-do list. What is even more powerful is having the acknowledgment or encouragement come from colleagues or managers, rather than always being self-generated.

Simply developing mechanisms for positive feedback when tasks are usefully achieved can improve people’s motivation to continue. Creating an environment where employees can see the corporate values in action, rather than just listing abstract concepts, through champions and leaders leading by example. An engaged workforce will be more open to collaborating, committing, and representing, once they understand the reciprocity and value to their contribution in the greater scheme of the organisation.

Solutions and practices that reinforce the idea “we want to make your experiences with us better!” are all it takes to start shifting perceptions. Once they take root, they can then become vehicles for promoting and influencing desired behaviours and be a step closer to achieving company objectives, values and culture you’ve set out for success.

User Experience (UX) is the practice of product or service design that looks beyond the physical or visual design. It analyses, enhances and emphasises the way people could interact with the experience being created.

With the growing need to better understand how customers or consumers think, combined with the demand for clever, seamless interfacing, it is possible that UX could in fact be gradually morphing towards something like User Engagement Design. Good design, and particularly UX design, looks through the lens of the user to understand their view of the world, in order to connect with them, and hopefully enhance their daily routine.

As an approach, it puts user requirements in the spotlight from the beginning of any concept or project. And if the user feels something has been made with them in mind, the more readily it will be adopted.

Engagement as an outcome

Users tend to develop a personal affection when a product empowers or entertains them. Nowadays, most companies are vying to develop this emotional connection through marketing and customer engagement strategies. They produce eye catching apps, websites, communications and campaigns that reflect the trending designs people today respond to. For brands, a stronger emotional engagement will mean more likelihood to use their services, or even to perform better as an employee, which can drive higher profitability. However, a cool design on its own isn’t enough to encourage meaningful or long-term engagement. You need to put some thought into it.

 

It is here we like to place a lot of emphasis in our work. By prioritising the drives and needs of the end user, you provide a smoother route for them to connect with you, your processes or objectives.

And with the richness of graphic or visual design and the flexibility and potential that technology can provide, it has almost never been easier to reach target audiences today. Appealing to the eye, ease of use, accessibility at just the touch of a button – it all works together to invite users to start exploring. Beyond that, a solution’s survival then depends on the ability to successfully onboard the user and continuously prove its value.

 

To create meaningful experiences, and sustain the journey you want a user to embark on, requires complementing design with some of the principles behind human psychology and human behaviour. This helps us interpret emotions, reactions and motivations, therefore helping us to build scenarios that will provoke desired interactions. You want to minimise frustration – creating an environment where the user almost instantly knows where to find what they’re looking for. An engaging application or service will almost anticipate the user’s next want or need.

Connecting to the mind of the user

 

It may sound complex, but it doesn’t need to be. UX design principles help map how we most commonly interact with things around us, and provides the key to innovate the ways we could experience something. All coming together to surprise, satisfy and stimulate an engaged end user.

In the worst-case scenario, you want to stop a user feeling lost or stuck. Ideally though, you’re creating an experience so dynamic and enjoyable for the individual that they recommend it to others and keep returning out of genuine loyalty.

 

It is here that great UX design sits: at the intersection of technology and psychology. Providing the methodology to first hook an individual into engaging with something, and then anticipating the ways a user will want to access and interact, so that the overall experience feels intuitive and responsive to them personally. The goal is to make each user feel special – as though an application or product was designed with just them in mind. And replicating that feeling across millions of other people as well. Easy!