How might we create an inclusive retail experience that embraces culture and eliminates racial profiling?
Conduct a Decision Jam to develop individual solutions for senior editors and decide on a common purpose for the journal.
The potential impact of a service design project like this is customers reported an increase in comfort, confidence in what they were buying, and a closer relationship with the brand.
ZIGA is a fictional representation of a corporate department store that curates clothing from different brands to sell to consumers. Based on real surveys and interviews we compiled real problems shoppers of color faced in retail environments. In order to clearly address these problems we researched a collection of policies, procedures, and messaging from real retail brands and constructed a brand persona; ZIGA.
When we unpacked the challenges that ZIGA faced it was clear there was a disconnect. Following a viral video showing the discrimination of customers by several employees executives suspected they had hiring and training issues.
We started by speaking with the people most impacted in instances of discrimination by the retailer; black customers. Complaints of poor service were largely made by black customers and this held true to research we found. We interviewed black customers about past instances of racism in shopping experiences. We then asked them about previous shopping experiences at ZIGA specifically.
80% of respondents from a 2013 stay reported experiencing evident racial stigma and stereotypes when they shopped. In a remote empathy workshop ZIGA customers used words like embarrassed, ashamed, and angry to describe the emotions they felt while trying to buy clothing. ZIGA’s mission states that they wanted to evoke a joyful shopping experience for all customers.
We observed their recruitment and training program and found several gaps. Their training focused on three main things; product knowledge, sales, and loss prevention. Employees in interviews felt that loss prevention and sales were emphasized the most. They felt pressure to “perform” either with credit card sign ups or discovering potential shoplifters.
We wanted to approach this solution with both employees and customers in a co-creation role. So, we started with a coalition building workshop. We first wanted to give employees an understanding of the core issues at play. They took the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) and discussed the results as they learned about the impact of systemic racism on our day to day lives. Employees also discussed a 2004 study of 1,365 drug store shoppers which showed the racial distribution of shoplifters being not only diverse but skewed toward white shoppers being most likely to steal in the neighborhood where the study was conducted. However most reports or actions against shoplifters were skewed toward black customers.
Once employees learned more about implicit bias we conducted a coalition building experience between them and employees leading into a design sprint to identify problems, ideate solutions, and test prototypes. The design team identified several problems in ZIGA’s diversity policy, employee training, and disconnect from local communities.
The design team split into smaller groups mixed with employees and customers and went out to test prototypes with people in the community as well as other ZIGA employees. The solutions portfolio solved challenges with policy, training, and service. We boosted the fidelity of the top prototypes and moved forward with five solutions. First was a redesign of employee onboarding and training to include implicit bias, a research based approach to loss prevention training, and the repositioning of sales associates to style consultants. The rewrite of the diversity and HR policies were evaluated by scholars and practitioners for diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as business customers. The entire service blueprint was mapped and opportunities arose from the insights of analogous spaces where black people felt more comfortable and empowered. Black barbershops and salons were cited as the most culturally-centric customer experience. The gaps found in the service blueprint were closed using the experience of black salons and barbershops.
Destroy racism now.
Today is the day you assess what it will take for your business to create a product, service, or environment that closes equity gaps.