Emotion Design for Blended Customer Experiences, with Yasmin Borain

Episode 81

Yasmin Borain, Chief Experience Officer at Tribal Worldwide, explores the exciting field of emotional design, and how behavioral research can help you craft blended customer experiences in a world of both digital and physical services.

Episode 81

Episode Summary

Designing CX with emotion

Humans are multi-layered. We have many emotions, and they all play together in different, unique ways. Therefore, it's crucial for companies to consider the emotional status of their customers at various touchpoints, and how these might impact their behaviors specifically, rather than siloing them into broader, less considerate categories. Because this can lead to customer alienation and an insensitive experience, however unintentional that may be.

Likewise, emotional design should be multi-layered. When a greater array of human emotion is considered and implemented into your customer journey strategy, the ability to flex an understanding of human psychology is achieved. This enables CX excellence on a deeper level, and on a wider frontier of issues. Meanwhile, it can also improve the customer relationship, and thus, trust and loyalty.

Blending physical and digital

Emotion design is becoming even more important as the retail industry evolves. Retailers should now be looking to provide an integration of their products and services between the physical and digital planes of consumption, since most people research and/or buy what they want online before they visit the store - if they visit at all.

Though physical retail still has a role to play. However, the focus is shifting to providing customers with memorable, meaningful experiences instead - to create value beyond the product itself. In an increasingly digital world, blended experiences can be established through services like smart shopping, virtual demos and try-before-you-buy. Advanced customer flow helps those who engage with your stores have more autonomy over their purchasing decisions, which further encourages positive engagement.

To find out more and discover how emotional design can be fully utilised to craft blended experiences that evolve your retail structure, check out our full episode with Yasmin - available on all your favorite channels. Now including YouTube!


This article summarises podcast episode 81 "Emotion Design for Blended Experiences" recorded by CX Insider. For more information, listen to the episode, or contact Yasmin on her LinkedIn profile.

Written by Marcell Debreceni



Full Episode Transcript

Yasmin: When the data is seamlessly shared throughout all the touchpoints and channels, people just get experiences that are tailored to their needs, but they get that information and the ability to buy or interact with the brand anywhere. And I think it's just a really interesting time for blended experiences right now because the data is finally giving us the opportunity for more seamless experiences.

Marcell: Hey everyone, welcome to the final episode of the CX Insider podcast for 2022. Today we talk to Yasmine Borain, Chief Experience Officer at Tribal Worldwide, the Total Experience agency that creates personalized brand experience ecosystems. In this episode, we explore emotion, design its applications for customer journeys, and how emotion design can build blended customer experiences in retail. Enjoy the episode. If you do, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel for access to the best content that KC's Insider can offer? By the way, this podcast is brought to you by ACF Technologies Global Leaders in Customer Experience Management Solutions. They provide tailored solutions for the world's biggest organizations in queue management, appointment scheduling, event booking and much more. Check the link in the description if you want to find out more.

Valentina: Okay, so we should probably start with an introduction. We always do this at the beginning. So would you like to introduce yourself? Could you tell us something about who you are and your career journey?

Yasmin: Yeah, no, of course. So I think where to start is I have actually wanted to be an artist since I was two years old, so I was that child that was just drawing on anything that I could find. And for my BA, I did well. My parents encouraged me to study graphic design. So instead of studying art, I went into graphic design. And then after that, I actually studied for my M.A., and that's when I moved to San Francisco. And I lived there for 12 years and I think is just really interesting that in my master's program, because I truly believe that anything that you can imagine you can create. So while in my master's program, other people were just building websites. I was exploring how to merge the physical and digital worlds. I wanted our environments to like, adapt and flex to our conversations. And so I spent about 18 months building a smart and connected space that kind of really that experience, I guess, kind of redefined who I was as a creative thinker. And after that, I went into the agency world and I just haven't left. So in San Francisco, I worked with some really great brands like Nike and Philips at RJ and McCann. And then I moved to the UK where I just continued to work with other great brands like Bing and suddenly Burberry, and British Airways. And fast forward to today, I'm at Triangle where I'm the chief experience officer and I look after the X and X practice.

Valentina: Cool. So you did your master's in graphic design as well?

Yasmin: I did my master's in computer arts and what used to be called multimedia design.

Valentina: Oh, okay. That sounds interesting. So you said that you were always drawn to art since you were a little child, and then you decided to do to go into graphic design. What actually made you use like, bit of the more commercial side of art?

Yasmin: It's like you're asking all the great questions. So my grandfather was an artist from when he was like 30 to the day he died. And my parents wanted me to follow in that footsteps because I had the talent, but they wanted me to make money. So. So it was that's why I said it was my parents that encouraged me. I would have gone and become an illustrator, but they encouraged me to go that route. And I'm so glad they did because it just explores... It just opened up a different way to express what I was thinking in a new format.

Valentina: And right now, you're at tribal. You're a chief experience officer. How would you evaluate the journey there in that company?

Yasmin: Yeah, I think I mean, that's why I always start with kind of like where my master's degree is because I think that when a lot of times when people look at designers and there are so many different shapes and sizes of designers, it's really about the way that we solve problems. And I feel very lucky that in my journey throughout my career that whether it was working on Nike innovation or whether it was working with the Singapore team on Philips or whether it was working on charities like Boys and Girls of America or even here working with the different brands. It's just I've been on this amazing journey to solve problems and I feel very lucky that the people I work with, it wasn't just about coming up with the best idea. It was really about how we solve a problem, how we make it meaningful, how we impact lives and influence brands to do so as well.

Valentina: So I guess we can dive into today's main topic. And first, I think it's good to define what you actually mean by emotion design. I know that it's your area of specialization and you're very passionate about it.

Yasmin: Emotional design is not a new topic at all. And emotions have always been really key because we as humans like we make our decisions based on our emotions. And I think sometimes even more than we'd like to admit. But most people would describe the emotional design as creating products that people love. But this targets only emotions in a one-dimensional way. And so for us to really design moments that matter and last, we need to experiment with an emotional lens that is multi-layered because we're multi-layered as humans. So today I think that emotional design isn't about creating products that people love. It's about creating experiences around people. And what I mean by this is like experiences that understand our emotional states and cultural context as well. They recognize people and their experiences that really look, I think underneath the surface and they design with compassion and curiosity. And so when we do that, that's when we connect people or connect with people.

Valentina: So this approach, how do you actually build it into the CX strategies and customer journeys? How is this implemented?

Yasmin: People's emotions actually should be considered throughout the entire design process, but I think a lot of times people only consider it when they have like a final product or a product or service that they're testing and so, for example, when you look at like the discovery and like define phase, when you're unlocking the right problem to solve, you need to not only understand customer needs and behaviors and motivations, which were at this point pretty good about kind of getting that data. But we also need to look at that from an emotional lens. And it's important to not guess. A lot of times when people sometimes people do look at emotion, but they make a guess it's important not to guess, but also important to map the emotions and tie those to the customer's actions and their mindset so that you can then identify where the biggest pain points and opportunities for change are. And then another area is like when you're looking at concepts, you need to remind yourself of that, of how people feel and why. And in that kind of in those beginning stages, that research that you had and also look to how you want them to feel. For instance, an example that I like to give a lot is if your book, if you're working on a booking experience for a train company, some people traveling will be traveling for a stage, a stag do, and so they'll be in celebration mode while others will be traveling due to a Death in the family, which is very different. Motion. So what we need to be mindful of is the variety of emotions so that we can create the right experience for individuals as well as groups.

Valentina: Yeah, I'm interested in what kind of emotions are you looking at because as you just mentioned, two examples. And based on that, how do the journeys differ? Because when somebody needs to make a booking online, I guess it looks the same for everyone, right? Or how does this make an impact?

Yasmin: And I think this is where this is a great question, by the way, and I just spoke at South by Southwest about this, and we're doing workshops with people and it's not about always designing for all the different emotions. It's about especially and that's why I loved your question about when do you it's about identifying in the beginning, when you're solving a problem, identifying what motions people have and then realizing how you need to flex. So for example, with the train, if you have you don't have information about why people are traveling on the train, then maybe you just have like an experience that doesn't necessarily celebrate or provide that you just act human, but say you have some information because you realize the stock do. Then you can even add little moments of celebration or if someone's, you know, a family member has died, then maybe you can offer them an extra coffee or tea or place them in an area in the train where maybe that much noise isn't so they can be on their own. So it's being mindful of those and the emotions that we use. So we look to we're not recreating emotions. As I said, we emotions psychologists have studied, you know, for years. So a lot of times what we do is just give the designers the emotional wheel and it can be confusing because there are multiple ones. But if you look at just the core emotions, you kind of look at those and just make sure to identify those and be aware of that and then leverage that. Like I said, not just the upfront research because what you're trying to do is in some cases think about how you can relieve someone of pressure or make a situation less stressful or calming. So it's what we do is we use those emotions, just the emotions that have been identified for years.

Valentina: Yeah, I guess the tricky part is to find out how the customers actually feel or what's going on in their lives. Right.

Yasmin: And that's what's fantastic that you said is because that's why what is so important is that you talk to real customers, that you go out and do surveys with real customers because that's where we get that lens of like why? And the why is just as important as the feeling or the emotion.

Valentina: When I go back to the example of booking a train, for example, and to find out you think it's worth maybe to ask them for a reason to travel or to kind of for how are you how do you find if I can ask?

Yasmin: Yeah. So this is where if you look at like just even like I'll give an example of finance. So when we did a payment in the past, you normally would never ask why you were making a payment. But what's beautiful is some of this more modern kind of, you know, banking apps and stuff. Now when you do a payment to someone, you can add an emoji or you can, you know, you can add. So this is what's happening is that there can be these small little things that we can add into the systems or into the experiences to actually add that. So I think when it comes to the booking experience, does every booking experience need to include asking people? No. At the end of the day, we still need to be useful, quick and easy, but there might be a question there just to provide a little bit more of that connection with people. And some people might ignore it, some people might engage and that's where you can then have a more emotional connection with the customer at that point.

Marcell: Now that we've explored the world of emotion, and design a little and learnt how Yasmin uses it to create more customer-centric journeys, let's jump over to functional brands and see how they can also benefit from emotion design.

Yasmin: One I think what's really important is it is really easy and simple is just, first of all, don't jump to conclusions or solutions right away and understand how people feel and why. As we just talked about and it's every brand today has to meet both functional and emotional needs. And when they do that, then we have truly more meaningful experiences. And one of my favorite examples here to talk about a functional brand that actually used emotion to create a better example, a better experience is Google Maps. So, you know, most people would look at Google Maps as very functional. You know, it gets me from A to B They did some research with commuters and they saw that many people, especially in big cities, were really stressed when commuting and through the. Research. They then relieve stress from our daily and overcrowded commutes, which we know in London. I think any of us that travel are quite aware of that stress. They added this feature that's called Crowded Crowdedness predictions, I think. But before you start your journey, you can now predict how crowded a bus, a train, or a tube will be based on previous journeys. So based on that data and this is a great example of a brand that I think most people would think is quite a functional brand.

Yasmin: But how Google evolved their existing functional experience to take in more emotional needs of people to relieve that pressure. And so again, this goes back to what we talked about before, which is that if in this case, we only looked to bring joy, we would have created they would have created a different experience. But because they did the right research, they understood that what was happening is that there were stress levels that were quite high and intense. And then what they were able to do is then what their goal from emotion was to relieve pressure, right? So that people can have more calming or enjoyable commutes. And so I just find that example so good to kind of showcase the importance of bringing emotion into your design process, but also making sure that the concept and the idea that you come to still stay functional. That adds that emotional kind of connection to people. That's the thing, is that people think that these changes are made just for fun, but what they're actually affecting is how you feel. And that at the end of the day is what actually makes people come back to Tesco or re-use the Google experience. Right.

Marcell: Moving on to our next topic, let's talk about blended experiences. Research shows that many customers still prefer to visit a store even if they can purchase online. This implies that blended retail experiences truly do have a place, but what actually are they and why does Yazmin believe they are so important?

Yasmin: Blended experiences are connecting connected ecosystems and journeys across human, physical and digital touchpoints. And I think it's really important to first remember that because there's that human interaction, there's that physical and digital, and those all become important. Like people just want to effectively, effectively shop anywhere at any time. And what happens is that the store experience today is less about that kind of product in hand. Let me look at it and it's more about entertaining and engaging people with like emotional and sensory experiences. And that doesn't mean that they don't go in and look at the product, but most people have looked at the product online. They've they know something about it. And I think that's where stores have become these environments with multiple modes. So whether a customer wants to just pick up an item or want to explore or create or learn, the power of blended means that the experience can start before they even step into the store. But it doesn't have to end there. So once they leave, the experience continues as well. And I think that's what's just really interesting. And what to your point earlier about what makes it attractive as well is that when the data is seamlessly shared throughout all the touchpoints and channels, people just get experiences that are tailored to their needs, but they get that information and ability to buy or interact with the brand anywhere. And I think it's just a really interesting time for blended experiences right now because the data is finally giving us the opportunity for more seamless experiences.

Marcell: Yasmin has mentioned data and the key role it plays in creating blended experiences and measuring customer responses. But which other technologies are essential and to what extent is technology inseparable from a good blended experience?

Yasmin: Technology is huge and it allows us to be able to experience and create the things that we do. And I think it's a big part of what allows us, even as a creative industry, to help push brands to not only create these great experiences but also think about their role beyond just selling products and services. And so creating these shared experiences, these living destinations that are adaptable and flexible and really kind of connect. I think a good example of without me trying to get into the techie talks of all the different technology and AI and all the opportunities. I think a really good example is Nike Live concept stores. So Nike has created these live concept stores. They are smaller in size. Eyes, but they focus on localization and community and so they tailor. Those stores are tailored products and designs and community engagements to what people want in that area. So they have one like in California, there's one in Oregon, there's one in Tokyo. But when you start to look at them, they actually are meeting the needs of that location. And the one in Tokyo is absolutely fascinating, especially from a tech perspective, because it's completely data-driven. So because Tokyo is such a large area for like sports and there are a lot of sporting events, depending on when sporting events are in the city, then the data feeds into different needs that people are interested in. So then they change their stores depending on that need. And it's just fascinating because I think that that really is the kind of great future vision that is actually happening today.

Marcell: In a time of generally decreasing footfall in retail stores, the focus is shifting to creating memorable experiences that draw the customer in and draw them back as opposed to just selling products. What advice does Yasmin have for retailers wishing to create blended experiences that take that step into the future?

Yasmin: First, this is the most important, and it's probably not even just for blended experiences, but I think the most important is just don't jump to conclusion and solutions right away. Data and research will like help you solve the right problems and unlock the right path forward. And this is the only reason why Nike is successful. In the stores that I just talked about. They have invested time and effort into research and data, and I think that what happens a lot, and especially for a lot of retailers like you mentioned, the last two years have gone through some hard times. But I think what sometimes is like during the hard times and during that, we always say that's when innovation can happen. But I think what's important to remember is that businesses have to make cuts, they have to make changes, but those changes shouldn't be on jumping to the solution faster. It shouldn't be to make assumptions like use your data, use your customers because they will give you the answers and then you will get there faster. You will save money, you'll invest in the right areas and you will grow. I think that as well, it's, you know, don't be afraid to experiment and fail. Like today. People don't expect retailers to have all the answers. They don't expect this like absolutely polished, you know, perfect answers.

Yasmin: Like, you know, I saw something even the other day that someone had set me with. I think it was Louis Vuitton. And this is like a luxury, you know? And they had like, painted the whole entire store lime green. And, you know, they're experimenting there. They're there. They're trying to kind of bring people in different ways. And I think that that's the thing is don't be afraid to. And I think also don't be afraid to use your employees because employee experience nowadays like you might not have the money to absolutely change your system right away or to leverage data. But in employees, like they are the face of your company. And the more that they believe in your brand, the more that they believe in your values, the more that they are empowered. Like, you know, one of my favourite examples when it comes to the employee experience is Pret. So I was it was raining one day I was, you know, coming inside. I think my umbrella had broken, you know, and they gave me a free coffee and I was like, No, no, no, I'll pay for it. It's fine. They had no idea that, like, my umbrella broke. They didn't know anything, and I had no idea that they were empowered to give a coffee away.

Yasmin: And I just love that it's not something that they shouted about. It's not something their employees are allowed to give, you know, one or two free things a day. And now that and how that affects your customers like I did not coffee at Pret I. The only reason why I bought coffee at Pret that day is that there was no other coffee store. I now feel such a connection to Pret because of that one thing and knowing that they empower their employees that way. So I think don't be afraid to leverage that employee experience and really look at that. And then the last thing is, is, you know, you look at your total experience. So we talk about this a lot. But I think that you know, that is one thing that was so interesting about COVID is that there were these really interesting, unexpected partnerships that came up. And so like, look at your total experience, like embrace your external partnerships, really look at your employee experience, look at your customers and what they can bring to the table. You know, it's not all it doesn't all have to sit on You look out to that ecosystem and. Where they can kind of help so that it is a relationship that you're building.

Marcell: Let's say you're a retailer with 500 physical locations. Your area of expertise is more likely to be in the product itself rather than a blended customer experience. And you capture all this data and feedback and information, but it can be difficult to properly measure and assess the success of your blended experience. How does one go about analyzing the performance of such projects?

Yasmin: I think what's interesting though, where we are now is that that question a lot of retailers actually asked 2 to 3 years ago. So, you know, while I don't love the buzzword but digital transformation and it's not just about digital, but that's kind of just what is transformation, right? Business and digital transformation. And I think a lot of retailers started asking that two or three years ago. And so a lot of times now within companies, they have started to kind of bring in leaders. And we know from working at agencies and stuff, it's not like you can consult out and someone else can fix your problems. It is everyone involved. I think what happens, though, with organizations still is that they work in silos the way that they have from a business structure been set up. You know, there is a marketing department that does X, there is a transformation, there is there's still working in silos. So I think one of the biggest things I think I think most bigger retailers, which smaller retailers are a different story, but you brought up the example of like a larger...

Adam: Something like 500 stores.

Yasmin: I think most of them have started the journey a few years ago. I think that there are things with COVID and other stuff that brought different types of challenges on needs. But I think one of the biggest things is that they are still working in silos internally, and that's where I think it's great that when you started, the question you asked about like tribal is like, that's why we so we have a proposition that we've had for 3 to 5 years about the total experience. And why that is so important is that it looks at the customer experience, it looks at the employee experience, but it also looks at all the organizational enablers. That is your system. That is everything behind the machine that makes the customer experience come to life, but more importantly, makes your business grow. So because without business growth, you won't have customer experience, right? I think that that's where and that's where like things like service design have become really important in the last few years, even though it's been around for years. Is that in the order you can't just look at the front end anymore and look at the experience, You have to look internally, look within your business and organization and really understand how things can be integrated and connected? So like you mentioned data, a lot of those larger retailers have tons of amazing data and in certain areas, they're doing great things with that. But what's happening is that it's not going across their entire business or ecosystem. So that's what they need to start to kind of look at where are we successful in gathering data, where do we have our gaps, how do we make sure that across the business everyone has like a point of reference for our vision and our strategy? And so I think it's it's complicated and there's no one size fits all either, because it depends on how the business is run, depends on how the departments are connected. It depends on so much stuff.

Marcell: Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed the episode. Why not subscribe to our YouTube channel for access to full-length videos, clips of chapters, and also YouTube shorts for our best moments? If you want to join our growing community of thought leaders, head over to LinkedIn and follow us at Inside the podcast to stay updated. Thanks again and I'll see you in two weeks. But for now, enjoy our rapid-fire questions. By the way, this podcast has been brought to you by ACF Technologies Global Leaders in Customer Experience Management Solutions.

Valentina: So my first question is who is your favorite artist?

Yasmin: Oh, easy. My grandfather, Hermann Geiger. Hmm.

Valentina: What's your favorite brand?

Yasmin: Oh, favorite brand. I don't have a favorite brand. I'm a little bit... The reason why I don't is that I think I love to travel. And people always ask me about my favorite country. I've gone to lots of countries and I try not to have favorites because I think that once I have a favorite, then it allows me to not kind of really understand or explore what else is around. So for me, if I picked one brand, give me a long answer. But if I picked one brand, then I feel like one that I'm not evolving. But they're not evolving either. So I just can't pick a brand. Sorry, but you know

Valentina: I get it. It makes sense. What is the strangest food you've ever eaten?

Yasmin: Oh, I love trying different foods when I go to different countries and even though I don't. I'm a pescatarian, so I don't eat meat. I still. So I think one of the weirdest things I ever tried was duck's tongue. But one of the weirdest that I enjoyed the most was there is a Japanese restaurant that I loved in San Francisco, and I used to always tell them to give me anything to try. And there is a fish that you eat the cheek muscle and it's delicious. And so that was probably the most interesting thing I've eaten that I enjoyed.

Valentina: That's super interesting. Okay. And last question. What did you want to become when you were a child?

Yasmin: The only thing that I've ever wanted to become was an artist and a brain surgeon. So those were the only two things. I've never switched away from that. Wow. And what I think is really interesting is that I love the human brain and like, I love studying people. And I think it's really interesting where I've ended from a customer experience perspective gives that side of creativity. It gives that side of like understanding people.