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Rethinking CX

March 2019

By Claire Brooks, London

Now that consumers can access brands through many more channels than ever before, including Voice, strategists and marketers must think carefully about the consumer context and mindset for each purchase or consumption occasion, in order to increase brand relevance and share. Context can relate to channel, category, or in a wider sense, the human situation or cultural context. Empathy for the specific context is essential to meet changing needs effectively.  In this GlobalCultureBlog® we describe brands which are successfully offering new channels, products or service design to enhance consumer experience (CX), drive business growth and nurture brand loyalty.

IKEA Goes High-touch
Online sales now represent 8.8% of total globally (though nearly twice that in the UK and China), but, surprisingly, physical shopping is also increasing. Weekly bricks-and-mortar shopping trips increased 10% to 44% of total over 2015 to 2018.*1 IKEA has been capitalizing on the innate human desire for a sensory retail experience by opening city-center locations in London and elsewhere, to give shoppers inspiration along with a high-touch experience for complex purchases. After booking an appointment online, shoppers can sit down in-person with a design consultant to plan a new kitchen. Of course, an uptown shop-front is also good for brand saliency. At the same time, larger stores are being converted into distribution centers, to help IKEA cope with the continued growth of furniture shopping online. Now there’s inspiration for struggling mall-based department stores!

Where’s the Beef? Semiotics and Fake Meat
Designing a customer experience requires addressing the cultural context. This is perhaps especially true of food and drink; according to anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, “the cuisine of a society is a language into which that society unconsciously translates its structure”*2. Since the days of the open range, beef has defined American food culture, and in the US there are only half the number of vegetarians and vegans than in European countries like the UK and Sweden - where one in five adults does not eat meat. 2019 saw the launch of the Planetary Health Diet and even in the US, 39%*3 of adults are now trying to add more plant based foods to their diet.  ‘Fake meat’ products which look, taste and even bleed like meat have been carefully designed to bridge the emotional gap between metrosexual vegans and the American cowboy. Beyond Meat burgers ‘bleed’ beet juice and use gourmet burger and prairie iconography to drive brand love. This isn’t stopping ranchers from lobbying*4 to make it illegal to describe plant-based and lab-cultured meat products as ‘meat’. Wisely, they don’t want to lose control of category symbolism, like dairy producers did in the face of almond and soy milk.

Healthcare CX: Apps and Empathy
Healthcare experiences are being transformed in two ways: by apps which allow on-demand self-care and by a new focus on human empathy for in-patient experiences. Just recently, virtual healthcare hit the big time when mental health self-care app Calm raised $88 million in second round funding. Apps like Calm speak to younger consumers who prefer to use technology and manage their own health, but also reflect the World Health Organization (WHO) view that self-care is foundational to mental health.  Conversely, the value of hands-on human empathy in patient experience has taken root in healthcare institutions. In 2013, Cleveland Clinic produced a video designed to promote a culture of empathy among 40,000 employees. The response to it inspired Cleveland Clinic to start approaching patient experience through empathy for the human experience, instead of managing patients and their families through a healthcare process.  As a result, Cleveland Clinic shot up the service rankings and launched an Empathy & Innovation summit, now in its 4th year, to share learning and ideas.  

For more information on Self-care and empathy in mental health please read my Conference Highlights from the Universal Health and Mental Health for All Congress held December 2018 in Malta.


*1 PWC Global consumer insights survey 2018
*2 Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1966. The culinary triangle. Partisan Review 33: 586–595.
*3 Nielsen Product Insider, powered by Label Insight, 52 weeks ended April 7, 2018.
*4 New York Times Feb 9, 2019

Retail & Dining
Health & Fitness
Food & Drink
New IKEA store - measuring just 500sqft - is a destination for planning
The Beyond Meat Burger - Gourmet burger iconography - Mental health selfcare app

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