Breakout Store of the Future and Organization Studio

We partnered with The Container Store, the country’s leading retailer of storage and organization products, to reimagine its flagship store in Dallas. The project has revolutionized the in-store shopping experience and created a suite of digital products that will continue to add value to The Container Store for years to come. Working with strategic design and architectural firm, FRCH Design Worldwide, the project also includes a new architectural design and merchandising strategy.

The Next Generation Store concept is a result of extensive consumer research, bringing to life a customer experience that offers a balance of convenient and unique digital tools combined with personalized service to deliver on the brand’s purpose. The innovative new concept will serve as a test and learn environment to determine elements for eventual rollout to new and existing locations.

The Process

To begin the process, we did our research on the brand and their store performance to-date. We went into the field to research customers, the store environment in multiple locations. Digital assets in-store, online and in the IT infrastructure were identified, researched and checked for compatibility with APIs and modern technology stacks. We tapped The Container Store’s significant customer research and began to formulate a digital experience strategy that would fit perfectly with the store design work being done by FRCH. Co-creation sessions were held with focus groups in Chicago and Dallas, giving additional feedback on our initial ideas. Concept were then tested with current and potentials customers.

The digital components in the store were finalized after many rounds of customer testing, which showed that customers’ biggest hurdle in beginning a project was feeling overwhelmed. The store features 18 digital screens supporting customers as they shop, featuring everything from inspiration and tips, to an interactive design tool and even a new proprietary digital experience called The Organization Studio. The Organization Studio was developed exclusively for The Container Store and is currently only available at the Next Gen Store. It allows customers to upload a photo or video of their organizational challenge online, describe the challenge, and set an in-store appointment to meet with a store Organization Expert. The Organization Experts will then present the personalized solution they developed for the customer free of charge and with no purchase commitment.

“We know that countless retailers are building digital tools and using them to innovate the shopping experience, but combining the human element with technology is when things really get powerful. The Organization Studio offers the convenience of an online experience and marries it with a personalized in-store engagement that offers a curated solution created by a real person.”

Val Richardson, vice president of real estate at The Container Store.

Organization Studio: The User Experience

Early prototype user testing of Organization Studio showed us that the digital tool accomplished goals for user interaction and potential buying behavior. But the Container Store is renowned for a superior level of customer service from their sales associates. We had a hypothesis that we weren’t capturing the value of that expertise. So we created new prototypes that added the human element back into the customer journey, and the Organization Expert was born.


We originally envisioned customers taking photos, videos and measurements of their organization challenge, describing them in the mobile app or website, and sending them to a machine learning algorithm that would create a digital solution board filled with products that would solve the problem. Adding the Organization Expert back into that equation changed everything. The Organization Expert would receive the information from the customer and would put together a human nuanced solution, while the customer would reserve an appointment to visit the store and work with the Expert collaboratively on the solution. The warmth of that interaction, and the relationship created showed a much higher purchase conversion in subsequent user testing.

“We’ve found that physical retail environments perform far better when digital tools enhance human interaction instead of taking them over. Purely digital transactions are great for online retail, but customers appreciate one-on-one interactions with knowledgeable store staff in brick-and-mortar locations. It shows in their purchasing behaviors.”

Jeremy Duimstra, CEO of MJD

 

This also required Organization Studio to live in both a digital and physical space. Working with FRCH, we designed “The Arch” – a beautiful studio space carved into the center of the store where store associates and customers work together with the digital tools to create their own personal organizational zen.

The final area that we concentrated on was the Omnichannel experience. Before entering the store, customers were interacting with the brand by describing their organizational challenges. We brought them into the store with reservations and a unique, personalized service. After that appointment, we follow up with customers to make sure their solution was successful and we continue to offer new products that fit their challenge.

A beautifully organized product deserves a beautifully thoughtul interface.

Our Design Principles:

True to Container Store brand (of course)

Leveraging an already sterling brand reputation, we built on the Container store look and feel – adding new elements and styles while creating a fresh landscape to house a family of digital tools.

Invitation to Creation

We learned that customers expected this experience to cost money. But it’s all free! That finding placed an importance on the design tone to be inviting and explicit. Clear messaging & icons, stunning organization imagery, and simplicity in each step become paramount. We serve up a minimal, elegant design aesthetic – ripe for customization.

Fluid and Flexible

We created a living style guide and design system that scale with grace between personal mobile screens  to in-store 50” displays. From submitting and taking photos, videos and information on the customer side to creation tools for the organization expert; the design system provides consistency through oodles of action needs.

Create a Magic Moment

We chose to focus on the Organization Solution reveal between the Organization Expert and the customer as our “magic moment”. We dialed up the screen size, but also the visual impact, with a reveal interface that requires customer interaction to start the animation from their submitted challenge to the Organization Expert solution.

The Build

After our prototype testing in the early portion of this project, we began a two-week agile sprint cadence that delivered working, testable code at the completion of each sprint. The agile approach allowed us to continually user test the digital product and enhance the user interface and experience at each step. This gave us and the team at the Container Store a great deal of flexibility to iterate and ensure that we were creating tools that customers would love.

As part of the overall technical store strategy we also consulted the Container Store on third party reservation systems, touch screen hardware options, digital signage, system operations and IT, analytics, and overall digital product roadmapping.

Results

We are continuing our relationship with the Container Store, working on further digital experience enhancements to test and refine Organization Studio and the NextGen store.

The future is bright for the Container Store. They have a management team that is laser focused on building a customer-centric, modern retail experience that covers both online and physical stores. They are open to any and all technologies that can make their customer’s experience better, while making sure that the tech enhances their brand promise. I consider this organization to be on the forefront of the digital transformation happening in brick-and-mortar retail.

Jeremy Duimstra, CEO of MJD

 

Initial results include:

  • A successfully launched complex, omni-channel digital experiences on time and within budget
  • Successfully integrated our agile working team into the Container Store working environment
  • Established a long term digital product roadmap for future success and iterations
  • Beautifully merged digital and physical design into one cohesive brand experience.

Looking to jumpstart your own “Store of the Future” initiative? Visit our Retail Solutions page to get more information on our Innovation Workshops.