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Why Luxury brands need Design Thinking ?

When I did my Masters in Service Design 10 years ago, convincing businesses to implement human centred tools was an uphill battle. Customer empathy was a nice to have, not a key business skill, as it is today.  I am encouraged to see the change, from start-ups to the big brands, the pressure to understand the customer is on!  

Moving from a product manufacturing and sales mindset to customer centricity can be challenging. Understanding the customer was relegated to one team – Marketing, and nobody else really thought about the customer. Delivering a customer experience requires harmonious collaboration amongst all organizational function and genuine empathy for the customer.  When I ask my clients how often departments get together, most say weekly or monthly and those discussions are usually operational or sales reviews.


Let’s step out and view how traditional ways of working impact the customer. How often do we actually hear back from a brand when we share feedback?  How often do we walk into a store and leave without buying, wondering why the sales professional didn’t bother to capture our contact?  How often do we have to deal with a separate customer service team that has no context about our situation ?  Quite often, I would say! 


So what is the solution? Building a Customer Centric Culture where Customer Experience is paramount is certainly the right direction.  However, there is a specific school of thought that serves as a game changer for organisations looking to break out of their old ways. It’s called design thinking – a human centred approach that infuses new ways of working in organisations.


Let’s break down the term human centred because it sounds like jargon. Human-centered design is an approach that prioritizes the needs, preferences, and experiences of people when developing products, services, and solutions. Simply put you learn to listen to others with an open mind, validate assumptions, make deeper discoveries, to make sure you are creating the right solution for the right problem. Empathy, Collaboration and Continuous improvement are the three pillars of this approach which are the building blocks of a superior luxury customer experience.



 At the core of human-centered design is empathy. It involves stepping into the users' shoes to understand their feelings, challenges, and motivations. This understanding is achieved through various research methods such as interviews, surveys, and observation to gather insights about the users' behaviors, needs, and pain points.


Why is this valuable in luxury retail?

 For Luxury Retail, building customer empathy goes beyond mystery shopping audits. It involves observing customers while the engage with your brand, asking them questions to know how they feel and the larger context behind their needs, analysing customer data to identify preferences, combing through feedback and reviews and focussing on how they would like to discover, purchase and use your products, that is the desired experience. New luxury customers in new markets, younger luxury customers means brands can't get comfortable.


Continuous improvement

Human-centered design encourages responsive and rapid problem solving. Designers are continuously looking for ways to improve the experience – they brainstorm, generate ideas and refine those ideas based on user feedback and feasibility. Creating prototypes or mock-ups of the proposed solutions allows designers to test their ideas quickly and cheaply with customers and soon the idea is ready to be implemented


Why is this valuable in luxury retail?

 Brands need to stay one step ahead in this competitive landscape. That means responding with speed to customer complaints and changing needs with new innovation and improvements will keep them ahead of competition.



Human-centered design often involves collaboration among diverse teams, including designers, engineers, marketers, and end-users. This multidisciplinary approach ensures that different perspectives are considered, leading to more holistic solutions, and also creates ownership towards the idea and customer across the organisation.


Why is this valuable in luxury retail?

Today the luxury customer experience is omni channel – one change impacts every department. I remember creating a diagnostic quiz for a brand in store. From identifying the need, designing the questions, linking it to personalised recommendations, delivering it digitally in store and on their website, training the staff to use, marketing it to customers, involved every department.



By prioritizing empathy, continuous improvement and collaboration in their daily operations, luxury brands can transform their culture and customer experience. If your ready to apply design thinking for CX transformation check out this workshop



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