In early 2014, the sales and operations team at Victoria’s Secret brought this challenge to Stanford University’s d.School: they needed to create a high-performing sales organization. The d.School assigned this 10-week engagement to JR and one other designer.
The Victoria’s Secret team of five people comprised a mix of executives in the operations team and sales associates who work on shop floors at various locations. As always, we started with a basic workshop to get the team using the same frameworks, vocabulary, and mindset. The engagement was divided into three three-week sprints.
Sprint 1: Empathy – Get to know your audience and the problem.
Sprint 2: Prototypes – Showcase the top two to three rough ideas you have.
Sprint 3: Scale Up – How do you spread this solution to 150 stores?
At the end of Sprint 1, the team uncovered some surprising findings. Despite being so commonplace, the bra-purchase experience is fraught with body image issues for many women. Buying a bra can be analogous to buying confidence. Perfect the experience for an extreme case, and you’ve likely nailed it for the general audience. This sprint gave us Jacqueline, the breast cancer survivor who was a wreck when she came into the store and Jody, the sales associate that assisted her. It also gave us Elizabeth, the sales associate who loves picking out bras for brides. Most importantly, we learned that the best sales associates weren’t selling. They were listening, empathizing, enjoying the challenge of helping all kinds of women feel invincible.
Elizabeth and Jody became archetypes for the ideal sales associate for Sprint 2. Our challenge in this sprint was to provide tools and situations to make every sales associate feel like her client’s confidante, guardian angel, fairy godmother, and superhero. At the end of Sprint 2, the team tested these three prototypes in three stores:
1. The Victoria’s Secret story channel – With customers’ permission, the most inspiring stories would be shared, instagram-style, on an internal company network.
2. The Victoria’s Secret secret angel – Each week, sales associates were empowered to surprise one deserving customer and have the company pay the shopping bill.
3. The Little Black Dress – The idea here was that sales associates who looked and felt great would infect customers with that same confidence. Each sales associate would get a striking outfit or accessory that would make heads turn in and outside the store.
The team eventually decided to scale up The Story Channel idea in (1) above. In true design thinking fashion, the prototype was zero tech: polaroid photos and whiteboards of the accompanying stories. The challenge for Sprint 3 was to replicate this across 150 stores.
By the end of Sprint 2, the participating stores were reporting an upswing in performance and a desire to see these initiatives scaled across the organization. By the end of our 10-week engagement, the executive leadership had a blueprint for what mattered, and the pertinent next steps. They also opted to create an in-house innovation practice.