Design Within Reach's knock-off reputation being discussed online.
Design Within Reach (DWR) is a high-end, designer furniture retailer known for selling authentic modern and European designs in North America. In the early 2000s, the company was a success, leading the new found appreciation for design education and taste making. However, due to change in management and poor leadership, Design Within Reach began selling knockoff products and plagiarized designs which ruined their reputation and trust with the design community.
Although the knockoffs have now discontinued and leadership has changed, Design Within Reach continues to be seen as a brand with a tainted reputation, diverging from their core value of authenticity.
As Design Within Reach is actively strategizing methods to educate consumers on both the values of their own brand and the successes of their products, we, as designers, saw this as an opportunity to intervene and develop a medium for the consumers. We wanted to give DWR a space to better communicate their brand and potentially interact with the customers in stores.
To first properly engage with the targeted group, we performed a series of consumer research by two methods: online research on mobile usage in relation to shopping trends, and user research at a local designer retailer, Inform Interiors.
With our research, we learned of a shift in consumer habits with increase usage of mobile devices. As we are entering a new era of mobile usage, consumers have turned to their smartphones for product information instead of sales representations. we also learned that customers often are intimidated by sales representatives at Design Within Reach and many similar designer furniture retailers. It was the leading factor for a gap in communicating product details and knowledge.
AIGA, in the 2008 Corporate Leadership Award, has identified Design Within Reach as a brand "with an unparalleled commitment to design education across all channels...[where it] has not only served a niche in the marketplace but advanced the conversation about design to new audiences". The core ideas promised by Design Within Reach are authenticity and storytelling of the designers and their products. Currently downfalls exist in their inability to properly communicate to customers their brand promise of authenticity and in their ineffective methods of storytelling for their products on their web and catalogue platform.
Some of Design Within Reach’s new customers, like many other consumers of designer furniture, see the pieces sold as just decorative additions to their homes. This was a key concern expressed by John Edelman, CEO of DWR. Therefore, how can we design to assist the consumers to better understand the depth of art, process and craftsmanship put into the pieces?
After extensive research on the Design Within Reach brand, we summarized their values and attributes to be authenticity, storytelling and education, which all inherently connect in a circular experience.
Within the existing ecosystem of Design Within Reach, from discover products to purchasing products, we decided to intervene in the aspect of learning, specifically learning of the products and their designer. Here, we believe that it provides the best opportunity to rehabilitate trust in the brand and knowledge in the authenticity of product.
How can DWR intelligently inform consumers about product authenticity in an environment of changing consumer habit?
“Our audience is luxury; it’s an urban environment, it’s people who travel. Most of all, it’s people who have an interest and a hunger for more knowledge about design.” -
Jennifer Morla, Creative Director (2008)
One of the target audiences of the brand we have selected to focus on are consumers unfamiliar but interested in design. We propose to target consumers that have already sparked an interest and entered in the Design With Reach store but are unfamiliar with the products displayed. We want to help Design Within Reach attract new consumers and transition them to loyal return customers, in aims to revitalize the company’s brand. I constructed the persona for our team:
She is a Lead Project Manager at a local advertising agency. At work, she is surrounded by creative individuals leading her to gain an interest in design outside of her own discipline. She wants to appreciate and learn more about furniture design as she respects meaningful decisions and values craftsmanship.
Initial ideation concepts
For this project, we completed the 5-day Design Sprint created by Google Ventures. In the sprint process, we mapped out the business and brand problems, ideated possible solutions and refined the strongest potential directions. Collectively as a team, we sketched various user scenarios detailing the experience, use case, and technological specifications.
We looked at the journey of the customer experience in DWR’s retail environment and identified the key frictions and potential touch points for intervention, specifically in the first interactions with products. The major pain points of the retail experience are perception of "overly pushy" sales associates and the lack of storytelling which we hope to alleviate through our app.
Initial ideation journey framework
Selections is an in-store, museum-like experience for new, design-curious consumers by allowing them to explore and learn about the authenticity of DWR products through an integrated app. The application is provided on a mobile device by the store or downloadable by the customer ahead of time.
Our journey framework of the proposed in-store solution of the customers.
This helps maximize the engagement between the brand, customer and product. The aim is to increase the brand's perceived value by the customers being able to gain a stronger understanding and appreciation of the product designs. Simultaneously, decrease cognitive overhead by improving the in-store experience for new consumer habits.