What started as a small one-off project, comprised of a team of six doing tactical product design and development, has since turned into a team upwards of 45 full-time designers, developers, and delivery managers. Several minds working across the enterprise on large-scale organization-wide digital initiatives.
Meijer is a retailer that operates over 200 supercenters and grocery stores throughout the midwest. They pioneered the concept of the “hypermarket”, now duplicated by some of the largest retailers in the world. A $15 billion company, Meijer was ranked No. 19 on Forbes’ 2014 list of “America’s Largest Private Companies.”
In The Beginning (and still today): Web Design & Development
Digital Product Development
Meijer came to us in early 2013 with a desire to take a product stance versus a project stance with regard to its mobile and online presence, starting with early preparation of its suite of applications for the iOS upgrade scheduled later that year.
Meijer’s representatives laid out a roadmap with target dates regarding the company’s six applications, including Sandy’s Wonderland and mPerks. The goal was to have these applications created, updated and with a unified customer experience within a year.
The project’s first step was to create the Sandy’s Wonderland augmented reality app. This fun mobile experience allows users to take a picture of their children enjoying the iconic Sandy the Pony ride at Meijer stores, and then add a background, holiday-themed items, snow and other decorations using their smart phones.
One of the cornerstones of the engagement was designing and developing the mPerks application for iOS7. mPerks is Meijer’s loyalty program, which grants users access to coupons, rebates, cash-back offers, digital shopping lists and more.
In addition to designing and developing new experiences, fixing navigation issues and adding features based on the upgraded Apple operating system, Universal Mind was also tasked with simultaneously updating native Android apps and creating a responsive Web experience. The final piece of the puzzle was ensuring a unified, user-friendly customer experience across all platforms.
To this day, we continue to help Meijer with their suite of digital touchpoints, to include Meijer.com, SandysWonderland.com, and mPerks.
Just by focusing on customer experience, Meijer reduced their customer support calls by 45% in one year.
Pain Point Identification Leads To Business Innovation
At this point, Meijer wanted to enhance their service to existing customers. They recognized a friction point for their customers. Because the store was so large (the average Meijer store is approximately 225,000 square feet), making a quick stop on the way home for a carton of milk or dish soap was just too much of a hassle. What with trying to find a parking spot and then navigating through the store, and then waiting in line. Smaller stores tend to have more convenient parking options, quicker and easier access to items, and possibly shorter checkout lines. Without finding a solution, Meijer was risking having their loyal customers opt for smaller competitor stores for these “fill-in trips,” merely for the ease and convenience.
Meijer decided they wanted to enhance service to their customers that would provide for faster, more convenient “fill-in” shopping. Thus, the idea for the Curbside mobile app was born. The app would allow users to buy items using their mobile device and pick them up from a Meijer parking lot or drive-through, hassle-free.
Universal Mind’s Grand Rapids-based User Experience (UX) team was uniquely suited to tackle this project — most of them are Meijer shoppers themselves. Curbside was designed as an internal-facing dashboard for Meijer employees filling orders placed by customers online or on their mobile devices. As the project progressed, the focus shifted away from the technology itself and toward the quality of experience Meijer employees and customers were receiving.
Meijer was thrilled with the Curbside app, which has been wildly successful, since hitting the market. What began as a convenient new avenue for customers to shop at Meijer, and help eliminate “fill-in” trips to smaller retailers, turned into a full-scale customer experience facelift. Not only could Curbside be used for fill-in trips, but it could also handle full-scale grocery trips online. The enhanced consumer experience afforded by the app has driven more business to Meijer, encouraged further customer loyalty, and saved time for everyone involved. To date, Curbside has rolled out in 33 stores and is slated to roll out in additional stores throughout the year.
Enterprise-Wide Scaled Agile Takes a Seat at the Table
DIGITAL ACCELERATOR PROGRAM + LEAN-AGILE TRANSFORMATION
While continuing work on Curbside and ongoing design and dev work for their websites, we recognized a deep need for Meijer to learn and adopt agile. And so began our work showing and helping them with the proliferation of embracing enterprise-wide scaled agile. In the last several years, we were able to establish and lead a significant agile transformation program, where we trained over 140 Meijer leaders and team members, with a 98% pass rate on related certifications. We provided agile coaching, agile assessment, and agile training.
To date, we continue to help launch new agile release trains within their distribution program, merchandising program, digital shopping program, loyalty program and pharmacy program. Since adopting agile practices at scale, the program teams can predictably deliver against their committed objectives allowing Meijer the ability to create long-term plans with confidence. The team members have access to leadership in a way they’ve never experienced before, and the leadership has a new appreciation for how intricate the work is and their role in enabling the teams to be successful. With predictability, improved employee morale, and alignment between strategy to execution, Meijer is poised for future success.
Labs + Contextual Research to Uncover New Initiatives
Concurrent to the product development and agile work, Meijer approached our Innovation Lab team with several business innovation projects; among them, a new concept for a unique shopping delivery service, and a way to redefine the pharmacy’s customer experience.
Our Lab team got to work, rapidly researching the space and performing user interviews, then conceptualizing out experience visions that would play into Meijer’s strengths in their stores’ footprint. The visions included a combination of physical and digital interaction points with customers and employees.
Our Innovation Lab team exists to create and validate product and service visions, using a combination of human-centered design and lean startup methodologies.
The Meijer team was impressed with the velocity in which the Lab team created the visions as well as the engaging stories themselves. Each vision touched on technology that was accessible and impacted customers and Meijer employees in a positive way. Each service vision was provided with a way forward to begin executing on the products and services outlined. The next step for each would be a Field Test to live experiment, gather validation and move into production.
Meijer used the learnings from the Product Visions and Field Test to make informed decisions on their new grocery delivery offering and guidance on where to go next with their pharmacy experience, as well as defining its customer personas.
Teaching Meijer To Fish
Design, Development, and Agile Resources
Understanding the magnitude of a company-wide transformation, we knew it was important to empower the teams at Meijer in order to maximize the value from their digital initiatives. To get to this ideal state of digital value delivery, it requires tapping numerous people and teams at various levels of the organization. More than that, it means keeping those teams engaged and aligned. To achieve this, we’ve made it our mission to help Meijer employees to be more digitally proficient, teaching them how to fish, if you will. On an ongoing basis, we have a team of 15+ experts providing them with full-time expertise in design, development, and agile – any and all resources necessary to help them be more self sufficient, ultimately maximizing their digital value.
The Journey Continues…
Ongoing Digital Value Delivery
Meijer continues to engage Universal Mind in brainstorming new ideas, problem-solving potential friction points, implement new technologies and update existing ones, putting them at the forefront of CX trends and in the proactive competitive position they sought. What began as a small engagement has since grown into one of Universal Mind’s strongest and most successful partnerships.