20 Feb Transforming customer experience
Global Opportunity 2015 | tangerine
Appealing to customers’ emotions and understanding their desires is key to transforming their experience, say Martin Darbyshire, CEO and Matt Round, Creative Director, tangerine
At the core of every successful business is a perceptive understanding of the consumer. For UK design house tangerine, the aim is to help clients around the world transform their customer experience through a combination of insight, expertise and innovation.
The company’s revolutionary lie-flat Business Class bed for British Airways, for example, was all about transforming the customer experience. Credited with not just turning around the airline’s fortunes but redefining the market, the design proposed a new way to travel.
Up to that point, business class cabins featured regimented rows of reclining seats. Consumer insight, however, revealed how passengers yearned for privacy and a proper sleep. So tangerine’s design team completely rethought the cabin space and came up with an ingenious yin-yang layout that opened up amazing possibilities.
Having seats paired in a forward/rearward formation, along with some very clever engineering and design, meant the cabin had just as many seats as before, but now passengers had their own private space and a seat that became a full-flat bed.
“The reaction was ‘wow!’ People thought this is amazing.” BA’s former marketing director, Martin George says. “It’s the best thing our company has ever done,” BA’s former Chief Executive Bob Ayling agreed.
That same combination of customer psychology and design precision also saw tangerine successfully transform the first-class passenger experience on the Heathrow Express train service in the UK. Again, it required thinking about the space in a new way.
The 15-minute journey between central London and the airport offered little time to make first-class passengers feel special, so tangerine proposed that, instead of three seats across, Heathrow Express would have just one on each side.
“Sitting in first class, I couldn’t help but notice there were lots of seats with no one in them,” tangerine creative director Matt Round recalls.
“So I thought – if we take out just two seats from the carriage and redistribute the luggage racks we would be able to provide a more comfortable, secure and private journey. We should trade carriage capacity for customer privacy and exclusivity.”
Clarity of vision
It was a truly radical idea – no British commercial railway carriage had ever been configured with just one seat on each side. Along with other clever changes to layout and signage, the redesign led to a big boost for occupancy levels as well as the Heathrow Express brand.
“Now people walk past First Class and think ‘I want to be in there’,” says HEX Engineering Manager Mark Chestney. “Before they’d walk past and think: Why do I want to spend the extra money for that?”
With studios in London and Seoul, an office in Brazil and design talent from every continent, tangerine seeks to transform customer experience across cultural divides.
“Our understanding and insight of consumer attitudes in different parts of the world means we can help businesses expand into new markets,” tangerine CEO Martin Darbyshire explains.
Tangerine’s 25-year association with the giant South Korean conglomerate LG is a case in point. In the late 1980s, LG was looking to move into Europe market but knew their existing offer wouldn’t cut it with Western consumers. tangerine helped them move from being seen as a low-value Asian label to becoming a desirable global brand.
“It’s all about clarity of vision,” Darbyshire believes. We’ve worked on more than 80 products for LG – from refrigerators and vacuum cleaners to mobile phones and tablets.
“The challenge was to create a ‘design language’ that would be applicable to different countries, markets, positions and price-entry-levels. The aim was to produce products that consumers want to own because they do what they want, not just what they need. Our long and happy association with LG is testament to the success of that shared vision.”
LG Vice-President and design expert Youngho Kim echoes the sentiment. “Co-working with tangerine, we started to break away from functional design to emotional design – focusing much more on the consumer’s perspective than the product styling.”
Tangerine has always encouraged its clients to see design, not as a last-minute add-on to an individual product, but a fundamental part of business strategy.
When they were asked to design corporate apartments for another South Korean corporation, Samsung C&T, the commission was really about devising a strategy that would transform the way consumer’s thought of the company’s Raemian apartments.
The challenge was to bring coherence and offer clear vision – even the client’s chief executive thought the brand lacked differentiation. Working closely with Samsung C&T executives, tangerine in London and tangerine & partners, in Seoul, produced for Raemian – a ‘design spirit’ for their apartments founded upon a strategy and philosophy that would set them apart.
The apartments are now the number one brand in South Korea and Samsung C&T have introduced a division dedicated to putting ‘design spirit’ into everything they do.
“Other rival companies have copied us and set up design teams and design divisions,” says C&T’s former Design Division Director Seung Min Kim. “But I am not offended. Raemian is the thing of which I am most proud.”
The word Raemian has become almost Korean shorthand for chic sophistication, and there is even a Seoul gallery dedicated to ‘Raemian style’.
The clever part is creating propositions that appeal to consumers’ emotions, transforming their experience in ways they could not even imagine. It is about true insight combined with attention to detail.
A good example of how this approach can revolutionise a product and a business is Snoozebox, a portable hotel room aimed at sporting events and festival.
When tangerine was brought in, the offer was functional accommodation inside shipping containers – just a place to put your head down. The proposal was to transform the customer experience into something akin to a five-star hotel.
“We worked closely with Snoozebox to create a sophisticated and extraordinarily flexible room,” says tangerine creative director Matt Round.
“It involved some innovative design thinking to create the engineering solutions but, above all, it is about transforming the consumer experience.” Everything from the design of the fixtures and fittings to the colour palette and the atmosphere was reconsidered.
Fold-down beds, hidden within super-sleek metal frames integrated into the walls, were achieved by exploiting specialist laser-cutting and folding processes.
The bathroom was designed as a luxury wet room with a flared wall giving a sense of spaciousness but also providing a dry hanging area for towels and clothes.
The accommodation came in three finishes to suit different clients, with flooring and fabrics sourced by tangerine from some of Europe’s top design houses.
Snoozebox is now a leader in its market, – a premium hotel experience in the heart of the action at sporting events and festivals. The company’s fortunes having been transformed since the redesign. Success is about both big strategic vision and the smallest hinge on a fold-down bed.
“tangerine allowed us to take what we wanted conceptually and actually see it realised,” says Snoozebox CEO Lorcán Ó Murchú. “They were just so clever whilst also understanding our commercial parameters.”
“One of the problems with conventional market research is that it tends to focus on the negatives – what consumers don’t like,” Martin Darbyshire believes. “What we try to do at tangerine is work out what they would like. Successful innovation is about unimagined possibilities.’
Inevitably, the secrets of success are often closely guarded, and much of tangerine’s strategic work remains hidden behind the doors of confidentiality.
Creative Lead, Yuichi Ishihara explains, “An example is in the automotive industry where we have been quietly working with Japanese automotive giant Toyota exploring the question; what will it be like to travel in cars of the future and how will automated driving technology affect the experience?”
With another Japanese corporation, Nikon, tangerine is running an annual “design immersion” programme in which company executives develop their capacity to take advantage of emerging shifts in consumer attitudes and technological disruptions.
“Thanks to the project with tangerine, I began to look at things and think about ideas in a completely different way,” says Hiroki Hosaka, the first Nikon designer to take the plunge with design immersion.
“I am sure my experiences with tangerine in London will have an enormous impact and inspiration on the future products and success of the Nikon Corporation.”
What all these projects demonstrate is the value successful companies place on ‘insight’.
Not just a shallow understanding of consumer habits, but a profound appreciation of the psychology and culture that drives consumer behaviour.
What tangerine does is translate that understanding into a business strategy – not only transforming the customer experience but transforming profit margins as well.
“I am proud that tangerine is a major exporter of design, with 80% of business coming from outside Europe, notably in emerging economies in Asia and South America,” Darbyshire says. “We believe we have much to offer businesses around the world.”