October 16, 2020
To create the next generation of their retail experience, the American leader in storage and organization partnered with Valtech in order to combine extensive consumer research with unique expertise. A suite of digital products was created that delivers on The Container Store’s brand purpose and will add value long into the future.
What is MACH about?
Companies need to transform the way they do business, rapidly. In some cases, they need to transform completely in order to become more responsive, agile and to stay competitive. Faced with increasing competition, unprecedented disruption and constant innovation, brands need to invest in a modern approach to enterprise architectures and build next generation platforms if they want to stay above water.
Standing for microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless technologies, MACH is a set of architectural principles that put flexibility, agility and the pursuit of better business outcomes at the forefront of technical solutions.
- Microservices: Single pieces of business functionality that can be individually designed / deployed, leading to faster development and release cycles.
- API-first: Exposing functionalities through APIs, enabling the flow of data between microservices and acting as the ‘glue’ to link it all together.
- Cloud Native: For on demand access and unrivalled scalability. Making it easy to expand your reach across regions and channels and provide a better customer experience.
- Headless: The ability to deliver amazing front-end experiences without getting distracted by the back-end architectures. Freeing you up to respond rapidly to changing market conditions.
A short introduction to our work with Container Store from our VP of Technology, Lindsey Harris
There’s something really exciting about the thought of achieving organizational zen.
The Maria Kondo’s of the world have tapped into the fact that people everywhere have some serious issues when it comes to organization and when they figure out everything’s rightful place… it’s downright blissful. Their sub-conscience clutter dissolves and there’s rhyme and reason again in the domestic world.
This is not new to The Container Store. There is a hopeful-ness that the retail store instills when entering that they have everything you would ever need to achieve those space goals and more. I’ve personally felt it before. The challenge then becomes, out of everything you could ever need, what is it that they actually need.
The Organization Studio was born from three core principles.
The first being, throw a target demographic out the window… we’re connecting with people at life stages. Whether it’s graduation, new home remodel, downsizing or additions to the family, let’s create new ways for customers to share their unique organizational pain and challenges. Second, Container store products are multi-purpose. That clear acrylic bin could hold makeup, screws, or canned soup but I bet you never thought of it that way. Once Container store understands what customers have to organize, they can suggest products to be used in new ways for super relevant solutions. And last, customers enjoy talking with container store associates. They hold a mountain of knowledge on all of these products and know exactly how to fit them together for not only functional ideas but beautiful ideas.
It’s always fun creating something that rethinks the typical shopping journey and I knew we were on to something when everyone on the team wanted to use their organization challenge as the test run.
Visualizing the customer journey
Container Store customers find themselves in a tangle; arriving at the store in the midst of organizational conundrums and looking for simple solutions to help them streamline their lives.
These situations call for the clarity that only data can provide; looking at customer research and user testing allowed us to quickly visualize the customer journey so we could see what was working and what wasn’t. In-store performance metrics, brand analysis, a review of online + digital assets and some tech compatibility analysis provided the insight needed to develop a customer experience strategy.
Early concepts were imagined, built and delivered quickly with the best ideas propelled forward to deliver digital tools that immediately started reducing customer friction and increasing the positive feelings of solving organization challenges.
The Organization Studio
Digital tools thoughtfully support and guide customers through the store; offering everything from inspiration and advice, to an interactive design tool and a new proprietary digital experience. Unique to the Concept Store, The Organization Studio enables customers to upload a photo or video of their challenge online and set an appointment to meet an in-store organization Expert who presents a personalized solution, free of charge and with no purchase commitment.
The Container Store is renowned for a superior level of customer service from their sales associates. Whilst the data was showing that the Organization Studio was converting customers with product recommendations created with machine learning, we had the hypothesis that we weren’t capturing the value of the human interaction with sales associates. By developing new prototypes that added the human element back into the customer journey, it changed everything.
The warmth of that interaction, and the relationship created with “Organization Experts” showed a much higher purchase conversion in subsequent user testing.
Our Design Principles
Be true to the Container Store brand
Leveraging an already impressive brand reputation, it was important to continue to build on the Container Store look and feel – adding new elements and styles while creating a fresh landscape to house a family of digital tools. The data showed that customers expected this heightened level of experience to cost money. Instead, without the limitations of cost, the design tone was inviting and explicit. Clear messaging & icons, stunning organization imagery, and simplicity in each step become paramount, ultimately serving up a minimal, elegant design aesthetic – ripe for customization.
Fluid and Flexible
Living style guides and design systems that scaled with grace between personal mobile screens to in-store 50” displays elevated the experience further. From submitting and taking photos, videos and information on the customer side to creation tools for the organization expert; the design system provided consistency throughout.
Focusing on the Organization Solution reveal between the Organization Expert and the customer as our “magic moment”, the screen size (and visual impact) was increased, with a reveal interface that required customer interaction to start the animation and build the suspense from their submitted challenge to the final delightful solution.
This ‘quick test, learn and delight’ - approach led to a successfully launched complex, omni-channel digital experience that landed on time and within budget. This supported the establishment of a long-term digital product roadmap for future success and iterations and beautifully merged digital and physical design into one cohesive brand experience.
Winning with MACH
In order to provide a cohesive online experience for customers and employees in an environment of various independent platforms and services, information from product databases, inventory, ecommerce, CMS, appointment scheduling (to name a few) needed to be tied together for consumption by a new web app. The answer was a headless backend services to interface with the various infrastructure components and microservices. This allowed for the development of RESTful interfaces for client applications (the React web app), reporting tools, analytics, and internal system diagnostics and maintenance interfaces.
Keeping the application stack focused on consuming and vending headless microservices allowed to develop new features with minimal tight coupling, ultimately aiding agile development in conjunction with the Container Store’s internal teams.
Valtech and the MACH Alliance
Valtech has always been a MACH Company. Being a Digital Transformation Agency, the agile way of planning, setting up and then managing a MACHified technology platform runs in our DNA. We strongly believe in MACH. To underline that, Valtech has become one of 14 founding members of the MACH Alliance, a non-profit co-operative organization that aims to promote the benefits of truly open, composable ecosystems.