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Service Design

Smollan and dY/dX Transforming Informal Retail

By In the news, Research, Service Design No Comments

Retail innovation can increase revenue, reduce plastic and serve consumers’ unmet needs.

Leading international retail solutions company Smollan and dY/dX, a global product and service design practice, partnered to deliver an innovative solution for the informal market that could both change how FMCG products are sold and reduce the use of single-use plastics.

The combined informal market represents 35% of all retail sales in SA. This market, however, is notoriously difficult for brands, as the unstructured distribution channels mean very little effective data can be gathered. Furthermore, due to low levels of affordability, brands have resorted to smaller packaged units to reach this market, mostly single-use plastics. This has created a gap between affordability for customers and brands’ responsibility to the environment.

The Gcwalisa dispensers, created by Smollan and dY/dX, allow customers to purchase food and home care products in values from as little as R1. Spaza owners can provide the amount requested by customers quickly, thanks to onboard computers with IoT sensors measuring volume while dispensing.

Goods are dispensed into reusable containers, allowing brands to deliver bulk into the informal channel and for the shop-owners to distribute in micro sizes without single-use plastics. This takes significant costs out of the channel and creates new opportunities for consumers to purchase their preferred brands, even at very low volumes.

The dispensers are connected IoT devices, providing brands with detailed sales data from each shop, giving data granularity and insight that could revolutionise distribution, understanding of buying patterns and price points.

Using a structured design thinking and innovation process, the joint team, headed by Rudi Nienaber, Innovation Executive at Smollan, supported by dY/dX, created a new way to sell products through the informal channels. “Innovation requires asking different questions and lots of on-the-ground research and prototyping.” said Nienaber, “Our starting point was to turn products into services which led to a series of new ideas, of which Gcwalisa was the best one.”

“We know that people have real affordability challenges, and price is often linked to distribution constraints of minimum-sized packaging. We wanted to change how pricing worked, allowing people to purchase FMCG products like they do airtime.

Another key factor is a positive social impact. By eradicating single-use plastic and packaging, we not only save brands and consumers money but also benefit the environment, which is critical. With major brands looking to reduce plastic usage but not impact sales this approach makes perfect sense,” says Mike Smollan, Chief Growth & Innovation Officer at Smollan.

Revealed at Smollan’s Inspire Evolve event, the project already has interest from a number of brands.  “Distribution into informal markets is not a “one size fits all” approach. While we can re-use the technology and approach, we are working with brands to understand both the unique dynamics of their market and the technical properties of their products to optimise the solution for them.” says Nevo Hadas, Managing Partner at dY/dX.


Vodacom boosts the pace of marketing

By Future of Work, In the news, Service Design No Comments

While digital marketing is changing the way we advertise and communicate, some marketing and advertising processes seem stuck in the ’50s. Many agencies still use physical job bags and processes that resemble the industrial age rather than digital age ways of working, including more collaborative approaches and video conferencing replacing face-to-face meetings. As more tools, automation, and bots impact marketing departments, those that don’t adopt a future way of working will not only be left behind but become alarmingly less effective as they waste time doing tasks that can be done more efficiently.

As Vodacom SA continues its digital transformation drive, a key goal is to increase the pace of commercialisation of ideas into revenue-generating products. An important component of this is the faster turn-around of marketing from brief to campaigns deployed in market.

Knowing that a new agile marketing approach would increase demands on their marketing eco-system, the Vodacom marketing team identified the need to transform their systems and processes to increase the pace of work. Partnering with DYDX, a global product, and service design practice, a human-centered design approach was taken to reimagine how marketing could operate.

“New tools and ways of working are often scary even though they may have great benefits,” says Nevo Hadas, Partner at DYDX.  “Behavioural psychology shows that due to loss aversion, people are very sensitive to what they will lose, even if what they will lose is not really solving their problem well. We designed the onboarding and training processes to be iterative and support change management so that the users felt they had mastery over their changing environment.”

Within six months, seven agencies and four internal teams were on-boarded. The results have not only enabled better communication and faster issue resolution with agencies but are also providing key benchmarks for how efficiently the eco-system works, wastage reports and managing key SLAs. Marketers and product managers have better control over the process and save significant time from automated status views and exception reporting. Compliance also improves, reducing audit complexities.

“By mapping out the processes using service design, we saw a significant portion of time was lost in briefing, scheduling, coordinating and approving of creative work. Our new processes centered around reducing this waste.” Said Lana Strydom, Executive Head of Online and Self Service at Vodacom. While the new systems have a number of objectives and outcomes, most important is to achieve a better creative outcome by enabling agencies to spend more time in the creative processes and less time in admin or waiting for approvals. Delivering a better creative product to the market quicker.

Are you designing a feature or a service? – why persistency matters in SaaS

By Product Development, Service Design

One of the by-products of a connected world is that the services (SaaS) we choose to use, having a greater value for us the more connected they are to other services/products. We are shifting from a product & platform (OS-centric) world to an ecosystem world. This has a huge impact on how you design products for success.

Take Slack as an example, Slack grew rapidly even though there were a number of competing services available at the same time. Slack did two things really well

  1. They designed the sales process to be focused on product qualified leads vs sales qualified leads (this is a topic for another post)
  2. Slack’s strategy was to be connected to as many other services in the User’s ecosystem as possible, and to become the launching point of interaction between these services.

Slack’s strategy was not just a customer experience, but also a simple API (even the their bot is an API) that enabled them to accelerate their importance in the user’s ecosystem.

Products/services that want to be truly engaging, need to aim at persistence. This means designing beyond user usability into a background connected data stream that feeds into other services. In a SaaS world, you need to think beyond your user interfaces to your application programming interfaces (APIs).

A Persistent user’s behavior is often invisible to them. Once you have the users engaged and using your service, your key aim must move to designing services that other services can consume in the background – thus deeply ingraining yourself into the user/customers ecosystem, which reduces the risk of switching and increases your power/value in the user’s ecosystem.

This means not only designing for simplicity of integration, it means having a strategic view of what the total ecosystem could look like, and where you fit into it.

This strategic analysis needs to consider whether you are a feature, a platform or a service.

A feature in the SaaS sense solves a very specific set of problems but does not own the data, i.e. it does not originate it, nor does it own the endpoint where the data is transformed into something else. Data includes users, source files, logs/analytics etc. a feature is continuously in danger of being designed out by its partners i.e. services upstream and downstream add the feature into their service and thus reduce the need for your offering.

A platform provides a base for others to develop services or features with it, traditionally they are technology-based, encapsulating a wide variety of reusable functionality that is generic but complex enough that recreating it is too hard to undertake on a project by project basis.

A  service owns either the input or exit points of data and undertakes a key set of transformations to increase its value via bespoke functionality. Sometimes, this data can be proprietary increasing its value, sometimes it can be connectors or integration points. Licenses, like banking & telecoms or preferential/exclusive access like Oracle’s data cloud, provide these services with long-term market power – even while they may seem to be becoming utilities.

While you could monetize at any point along this continuum, the drive should always be to increase market power through asymmetry of access to data you control. In a world where connection to other services is a key benefit – controlling this as tightly as possible becomes a strategic requirement. Where does this leave you?