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Navigating Uncharted Experience Design Waters with Best Buy’s Matthew Doty

Matthew Doty breaks down the inspiration and execution of Best Buy's future-forward vision for experience design.

Words by Mac Hasley, Visuals by Emi Tolibas

As far as trailblazing goes, experience design is more like an ocean than a jungle. 

We navigate our audiences toward an optimized experience. We read the current along the way and adjust our course. Success necessitates flexibility and fast reflexes. 

Matthew Doty, and the "crew" he leads at Best Buy, have developed fast reflexes.

Matthew was brought on to build a new strategic team—with the human-centered capability to envision strategic, future-facing, multichannel customer experiences. As he steers a group of nimble experience-design generalists, Matthew and his team have their eyes on the horizon—helping those who stand at the helm of company-wide initiatives bridge the gap between stakeholders and customers. 

In an ever-evolving march toward progress, Best Buy uses a steady stream of customer feedback as their North Star. From the robust insights gained from Diary studies to the real-time participant reactions gleaned through Live missions, dscout plays a critical role in helping Matthew and his team get that feedback.

We sat down with Matthew to learn more about how he and his team are helping Best Buy navigate the sometimes uncertain waters toward the future of experience design—one that keeps human connection at the center of every move.

Instead of just using research to uncover pain points…let it inspire new ideas for what’s possible

“The experiences that we design are visionary, conceptual, and future-facing. They’re rooted in customer intelligence and specifically designed to help the organization understand the realm of possibility for each initiative. In addition to understanding today’s pain points, we’re trying to figure out what our customers are likely going to need, want, expect, and enjoy in the future.

To do this, we engage in design research, developing strategies and creating design concepts that illustrate what the future could look like from the customer’s perspective.

All of this allows us to help take a step back to say, ‘Okay. Where are we headed? Where have we been most successful? What do we see as our biggest opportunities?'

Our goal is to try to generate not only alignment within the organization, but also enthusiasm for what could be possible. This helps Best Buy hone a common vision and make incremental progress.”

Our job is to try to generate not only alignment within the organization, but also enthusiasm for what could be possible.

Matthew Doty

Instead of taking interview notes…take note now, and analyze later

“We need to test the concepts that we're creating by gauging customer responses and emotional reactions to our earliest conceptual models. We start out with two-dimensional things that are very easy to show people via a Live mission. This provides real-time feedback—observing their facial expressions now and analyzing later.

Live missions and remote interviews lend themselves so well to representing a story of what the future could be. It allows us to ask forward-thinking questions, and put our customers in that mindset. And we have a dialogue based on what they’re seeing, and how they’re reacting to what we’re building. 

That allows us to probe in real-time and get into questions like, ‘You mentioned that you liked this certain aspect—but what would need to be true for you to actually engage in that way?’ We can get a lot of rich feedback in the moment.”

Instead of drafting reports…write the whole team into the process

“We actually sit in a room and go through each study, looking at responses, talking about why we think customers might be doing certain things. We're watching videos and looking at their pictures. It’s a very similar process to analysis and synthesis.

We come out of those sessions with a really good idea of what we’re going to be recommending and why. One unique thing is that we don't really create research reports. We actually include the teams within Best Buy in the research as we start evaluating these concepts.

If you can help people experience what others do, it goes so much further than a research report that says, ‘Because people said this, you need to do this.’” 

Instead of sticking to your participant base...expand your foundations.

“It became really clear upfront that since we’re designing things for a company with a national and international reach, it doesn’t make sense to only talk to people here in Minneapolis. 

The natural solution was to do discovery research all over the country, in Canada, and in Mexico. But from a cost perspective, we have to be smart about where we invest that time and money. The question became: how do we get national reach? How do we do that as a team, independently?

dscout allowed us to very quickly start interacting with a broad spectrum of people. This happens both asynchronously through diary studies and synchronously through Live missions, and we get types of insights we need from a discovery and evaluative standpoint.

Even as we expand our reach, we have a very focused primary persona. They’re fairly tech-savvy, caught up on what’s going on with technology, and passionate about it. Because dscout is a platform that requires people to be savvy with smartphones, we naturally come out with a better quality of participant. We get the type of people who are comfortable engaging in that way. 

It’s a side benefit that the type of people who are naturally drawn to engage with something like dscout are already 50% of the way there in terms of aligning with our target audience. This is who we’re designing for. I actually do not see a future for my team where dscout is not playing a critical role in what we’re doing.”

Instead of defining your customers...get your stakeholders to fall in love with them.

“We recently participated in an internal transformational summit where we facilitate key sessions. As prework, we asked all 180+ leaders and decision-makers in the organization to view 11 hours of mission inputs as an hour-long highlight reel—walking customers through a conceptual model of how things might be in the future. 

To our astonishment, every leader came to the summit intimately familiar with all the different customer reactions and perspectives. Attendees were even using the names of research participants they connected most with. It was a game-changing moment! Everyone who watched this video effectively fell in love with these customers and became energized by them. It’s a huge callout to the quality of participants we get.

One guy we work with regularly came to this summit and said, ‘I came here thinking I knew what I wanted to do for the year. When I saw that video and we walked through all the workshops, I thought, “Wow, I need to rethink this!'”

That’s what I’m talking about: helping people see how to adjust their ideas in a way that’s inspiring versus diminishing or tearing it down.

Change. That’s what we uncover when we research, gather insights, and connect all the different dots. Research is a means to an end, and that end is the vision of the future.

Matthew Doty

Instead of setting a vision in stone...prepare to sail into uncharted waters.

“We’re stepping into the darkness and trying to make educated guesses about what we should be going for. As we start to make meaningful progress toward what we’re recommending, we’re going to immediately start learning things that challenge that vision. 

Yes, we have this future-facing, North Star vision for whatever initiative we happen to be working on, but it is not set in stone. As we learn things that challenge that perspective, it’s okay to move that flag as long as we always are marching toward something.

A part of what we do is say, ‘Hey, look. This isn’t working, and here’s why. Here’s what we need to be going for.'

Change. That’s what we uncover when we research, gather insights, and connect all the different dots.

Research is a means to an end, and that end is the vision of the future. We go from gaining these insights in real-time, to developing strategies, to developing concepts. The feedback we hear from customers along the way is baked in and called out throughout the process.”

Mac Hasley is a writer and content strategist at dscout. She likes writing words about words, making marketing less like “marketing,” and unashamedly monopolizing the office’s Clif Bar supply.

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