A New York "5 Minutes"
The “Macy’s Department Stores” flagship store located at Herald Square in New York City was losing profits due to the ever fleeting ‘5-minute’ duration being truncated in the minds of its shoppers. At more than 39,000 square feet, 52 constantly manned registers can hardly keep up with the velocity of the mid-to-higher end consumers fixated on footwear. Patrons can be seen viewing their watches and cell phones to alert to the staff of their impatience. Upon having an enduring wait time of merely 4 minutes, these customers opt out of the lines, tossing the product into the already 6-foot plus piles of shoes through the store started by the previous, like-minded shoppers. In addition to the loss of revenues due to abandonment, these losses are often doubled due to the fines imposed by the NY Fire Department for the lack of visibility and other fire safety codes being violated.
Clearly, business stakeholders were convinced the solution was to have a more efficient register application, due largely to complaints of the cashiers.Too much time was spent on training cashiers to use the confusing user-interface. They complained of a slow responding, complex user-interface that got in the way of doing their jobs.
The solution? Build a cash register, user-interface system that is faster and more intuitive to reduce the length of the purchasing transactions, thus reducing long wait times.
Incorporate a UX Process strategy that will address the actual needs of Macy’s profit losses, and implement a suitable UX Solution for the end-users. To do this, it is necessary to overcome the following challenges:
۰  Identify the cognitive biases of both the stakeholders and cashiers
۰  ‘Factoring in’ logistical demands
۰  Overlearn and evaluate systematic errors of current process
۰  Propose (possible opposing) solutions to their dilemma
۰  Explore and suggest new technologies to ensure relevancy in today’s retail industry​​​​​​​
In order to get a full understanding of the dilemma, it was necessary to actually visit the site. A trip to the Herald Square Shoe Department would only prove how understated the dilemma actually was—it was far worse. People were tossing shoes everywhere and the attendants on the floor were spending more time trying to clear the aisles while customers stumbled and tripped over shoes. The lines were long and the clerks were under the immense stress of the impatient and often rude patrons. Viewing the actual register provided no ideas on how to expedite the process; it was the process that was in need of UX expertise. The following were identified as human variables to improve the process—not the registers:​​​​​​​
۰  Stakeholders
۰  Customers
۰  Cashier
۰  Floor Salespersons
۰  Shoe Stockroom Attendants
Next, non-human factors were considered:​​​​​​​
۰  Logistical Consideration
۰  Shoes
۰  iPads
۰  iPods
۰  Card Readers
۰  Work Stations with Shoe Boxes, Bags and receipt printers
At the conclusion of the ‘Learning Phase’, it had been concluded that Macy’s process for dealing with its customer-base was antiquated. Upon discovering personas of its employees, it was apparent Macy’s current Retail Business Model had become outdated. The average employee age was 31, all users of cell phone and other mobile devices. Trends to incorporate these channels into the Retail Industry were noted by Price Waterhouse and Coopers as early as 2001—it was now 2011! Fully embracing these trends would necessitate the retail giant to alter their process and ultimately their business model. To convey this to stakeholders, ‘wireframing’, ‘prototyping’, ‘user-testing’ and continuing to educate and advocate for UX were essential, chiefly focusing on the UX principles of:
۰  Eliminating End-User dissatisfaction and churn
۰  Driving down costs and revenue loss
۰  Maximizing profitability gains​​​​​​​
This strategy proved to be flawless in achieving Macy’s business goals!
The success of this venture was achieved by:
۰  Assessing the dilemma outside of the Macy’s Retail Business culture and paradigm
۰  Focusing on the end-users' dissatisfaction
۰  And bringing the Point-of-Sale ‘Cash Register’ model directly to the customer
Assessing the ‘live situation’ provided ‘real-life’ examples, allowing for critical solution thinking. The sheer magnitude of the size of the shoe department, the volume of customers, the long lines and the dedicated staff were all factors that needed careful consideration for a solution. Focusing on the dissatisfaction of the cashiers with the register user-interface wasn’t as bad as the stress born from the high volume of New York City, impatient and underserved customers. Fully-manned Floor Salespersons felt overutilized as salespersons while acting as intermediate janitors and restocking personnel. So too were the Stockroom Attendants becoming ‘aisle-clearers’ between making runs to and from the Stockroom—thus impeding the process of getting product to the customers efficiently. This had become the business culture of the Macy’s Shoe department—a system of disaster!
Using the iPod would give the Floor Salespersons the ability to scan the barcode of the product. Information would display immediately providing inventory on-hand, and information about shoe size or color. This greatly reduced the time spent on the tedium of manually searching for product on both the floor and in the stockroom. It cut the time of Salesperson-to-Customer from an average of 10 minutes to an average of 4 minutes. It also allowed for the Salesperson to provide service to multiple customers, simultaneously. As an alternative to the ‘cash register’, the Salesperson could also swipe debit/credit cards on the iPod device, box and bag the product right on the floor! This eliminated logistical issues, drastically reduced the amount of ‘customer abandonment’ and in turn reduced the piles of shoes which were creating the poor visibility and trampling over shoes in the aisle. This new ease nearly quadrupled the Point-of-Sale process and tripled the amount of revenue from 2011 to 2015.

As one of Macy's new technological innovations, shoe department employees use iPod Touches instead of cash registers to ease checkout

“Macy’s has also made its stores more innovative: The Herald Square flagship this past fall unveiled a 39,000-square-foot shoe department where associates use iPod Touch devices as cash registers, making checkout a relative breeze”.
Crain’s New York Business

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