Studio Xfinity: Retail Design Through the Lens of Experience Design

Posted October 5, 2015

Most shopping today is done online, so brick-and-mortar stores need to reinvent themselves to survive. But what does reinvention mean?

This was the challenge with Comcast. When subscription sign-up, tech support, and bill payment can mostly be done remotely, why bother to come to the store? When a typical Comcast store offers only baseline services, with little to engage customers while they wait, why bother to linger?

Studio Xfinity is ESI’s solution. Using an audience-focused strategy, ESI first analyzed the needs of customers, employees, and the brand. Then we designed an experience so immersive, engaging, playful, and interactive that customers forget they’ve come to the store to do something they have to (like exchanging a cable box), and end up staying because they want to. An experience that pulls passersby into the store just to see what’s happening.

So what do customers want?

They want Associates to know who they are and understand them.

At Studio Xfinity, any Associate can use a tablet-based app called an “Associate Toolkit” to look up existing customers to see who they are, what their service history is, and what they need. No long explanations necessary.

They want to do the usual stuff at a Comcast store, but more easily and effectively.

Customers can now take care of simple tasks — picking up a remote, paying a bill — through a streamlined customer service process that enables any Associate to handle almost any need. They can also get more extensive help with their existing products in one-on-one, hands-on sessions with expert staff at Demo Towers, using the same kind of equipment that they have at home, which reduces confusion. These changes improve the usual transaction experience and introduce a new customer engagement experience.

They want to understand what’s available, so they can make more confidant decisions.

Existing and potential customers can discover the full ecosystem of Xfinity products through hands-on demos, workshops, and product launches that let them try before they buy. These experiences showcase key products, but also reveal cool features that customers might not know about, so they can get the most out of their system. Demos can also focus on what customers are most interested in and which products would integrate best with what they already have. This participatory, personalized experience—instead of one-size-fits-all—helps customers understand the products better and lets them feel understood as well.

What do the Associates want?

They want to know who their customers are, so they can build relationships and help them better.

Being able to quickly look up profiles makes it easy for an Associate to assess a customer’s current situation and probable needs. Knowing who someone is, how long she’s been a customer, what services she has, when she last upgraded, how often she’s contacted Comcast about problems, etc. — all this information lets Associates meet customers where they are, build trust, and help them more efficiently and effectively.

They want the tools to meet the needs of customers, and even the store as a whole, at any moment.

Studio Xfinity has an innovative, flexible technical platform with integrated digital tools, functional Xfinity equipment, and media. This empowers the staff to use and change the store as needed to support any conversation and promote any product. Associates can easily switch a multi-purpose Studio space from a workshop to a multi-player game, switch from a one-on-one session at a Demo Tower to a subscription sign-up, or switch the whole store into movie premiere mode. Being able to pivot according to customer needs is essential in a retail environment, and Studio Xfinity gives Associates exactly the tools and flexibility they need to do that. Plus, Studio Xfinity works as a “customer experience laboratory,” enabling Associates to try out new tools and strategies before Comcast flows them out to other stores.

They want to close the deal.

The Associate Toolkit and flexible technical platform work together to give Associates more independence and creativity in how they engage with customers. This makes them more effective at building relationships, addressing their needs, and ultimately making sales.

What does the brand want?

Comcast wants to bring Xfinity to life.

Studio Xfinity goes way beyond offering baseline services to invite customers into a fully immersive Xfinity experience — they can try out real equipment, participate in hands-on demos with expert staff, learn about product optimization in workshops, enjoy fabulous entertainment in comfortable Studio spaces, and discover what’s new at special events. The store experience will also evolve along with new products and media, so it always has the best of Xfinity right now. Instead of a passive, limited experience where Associates can only talk about products, the store creates an active, flexible experience focused on show, demo, learn, and play.

Comcast wants to get people excited.

Studio Xfinity is a retail environment that’s incredibly engaging, personalized, and, above all, fun. The sight of this technology wonderland pulls people in off the street, the excitement of the experience encourages them to stay, and the ever-evolving content brings them back again and again.

No one walks into a store saying, “I want to fall in love with this brand.” Yet that’s always what the brand wants to happen. Studio Xfinity is ESI’s attempt to create the love — or at least the environment where the love can happen more easily. It’s a store that wants customers to know they are understood and valued, that empowers Associates to have open dialogue with customers, and that shows the world how easy and enjoyable Xfinity can be.

ESI always approaches a project this way — empathize with the audience, create a fresh experience that offers both what they want and what they don’t expect, and give it the power to evolve so that it never gets stale. That’s how you reinvent retail.


Debra Everett-Lane

Debra is ESI Design’s former Director of Content and Activity Design.

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