Designing a VR training experience for retail.

Virtual Reality Project — Study Case.

GROU·VR is a project from a hardworker team developed at the UXER SCHOOL in the Virtual Reality Design Immersive course. 
Members of the team are:
Juanma Prous — Strategic & Product Designer
Iván Santamaría — Visual Designer
Inma Ortega — Account Executive
Santiago Campayo — UX/UI Designer
Verónica Lezana — UX/UI Designer

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The VR and Retail training.

Retail is one of the markets that is making a big bet in Virtual Reality, either driven to support the final consumer or training the employees of the business itself. Our main objective was to find an experience that could enhance the knowledge to the customer support and the know-how of the mall/store/ supermarket by the staff.

We structured and focused our exploration and research on the following “market area” or “niche”: Retail on Clothing Stores.

That been said let’s begin with…

The Design Process

The Design process in Virtual Reality differs from any other design process only in some steps that are specifically and strategically placed in order to articulate the needs of an immersive experience.

Our process path.

For example, the Narrative(green box) or so-called Story-telling of the experience is actually one the most important phases or parts. Any lack of Narrative at a Virtual Reality Experience may cause less sense of immersion.


My Role on the Project (Juanfer Murcia): I worked collaboratively on the Research, UX Thinking and Visual Design.

My Team: Gema Gutiérrez (Interaction Design), Cristina Mur (Design Concept) and Carlos Ocaña (Unity Prototyping).


The Research

Group discussion about giving value.

Preliminary Hypothesis:

First, we came up with a preliminary hypothesis around how we could give and add value to the employees from a typical Clothe Store (no matter the size of it) with the Virtual Reality technology.

“Train employees on how to sell more merchandise thanks to a training program on Virtual Reality”

Now that we had something to start with, we went to make some guerrilla interviews and exploratory visits to different stores around Madrid, Spain. (H&M, Zara, Primark).

Left: Gema and me doing “guerrilla” interviews. Right: Some picture took from the inside at Primark store.

What we found was kinda disconcerting but somehow very interesting; most of the clothing stores we visited and the employees we interviewed gave us a totally new perspective.

The pattern we found when asking the employees (clothe sections driven) about the type of training they received at the store in the past and how they will feel to do a training program to sell more was pretty shocking!!

Primark Cloth Store, Biggest store in Madrid Spain.
“The company doesn't teach us to sell more. I don't need to be trained to sell. All my life I’ve been in this business and that depends on each one skillsets, I prefer to treat the customer very good before anything else”
Miguel, Primark Employee

We gathered ourselves again to discuss and analyze this information results and concluded some things:

From left to right: Cris, Gema, Carlos, and Juanfer
  1. We failed in our first hypothesis (why? see the next point).
  2. Clothing stores like H&M, Zara, Primark sells without the need of persuasion from the employee, never the less occasionally the employees can serve and support the customer when they ask for help.
  3. When speaking about massive selling clothe stores the main labors of the employees from cloth sections are basically: a). Clothes re-organization, b). Recollecting clothes from the dressing rooms and c). Found specific sizes and guide the customer in a fast and punctual manner.
  4. No need to train the employee to sell more was ever asked by the employees.

Fortunately, we discovered this soon and we needed more information to clarify all these points and hopefully get to a conclusive solution. That's when we started to do some basic Desk Research and a few Online surveys.


Desk Research

We research a little further over the internet about retail in fashion, employee tasks in clothing store companies, clothing store employee reviews and training in retail.

Two important aspects were found:

Number 1: 

50% of product managers from Inditex comes from their own stores.

Source: Inditex.com

Ewelina Pulwert — Product manager — Inditex

For those who don't know Inditex is the Spanish company that owns all of these stores Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, Zara Home and Uterqüe.

Employee — Customer empathy approach 

Number 2: 


 It’s a good job to develop customer service skills. You can learn a lot although selling the merchandise is just a tiny part of the job.

Source: Indeed Platform (Job reviews platform)


Survey

Continuing with our research we surveyed people under the following profile: Men and Women between 21- 36 years old, clothing store working record was mandatory (at least one time in their lives). Preferably: Zara, H&M, Pull&Bear,

The analysis focused on the survey results.

The respondents (about the 39% useless training) argued their negative to useful training under the following question. (See below).

What would you like to learn in the training that was missing?
  • More about customer service.- Employee.
  • Actually everything, and not to defend yourself with customers without the needed experience. - Employee.
  • Problems with clients.- Employee.
  • More about dealing with clients and clothing materials.- Employee.

Final Conclusions

  1. There’s a clear opportunity to involve VR academic formation in the training to retain talent and to let the employees develop their professional skills.
  2. In big clothing stores, there's a clear lack of training satisfaction results due to the absence of reality in the training facing situations with real customers.
  3. Clothing retail has a big impact on the relationship with the customer, and selling clothes on big stores is a tiny part of the process.

The Real Problem

Employees in big clothing stores don’t have the appropriate onboarding training mostly because it lacks on knowledge for facing the real day to day customer/store situations. 


Our Personas


Brainstorming

Some of the Brainstorming ideas Post-its

We had less than 3 weeks to make the prototype so we had to use the axis prioritization and find the best idea with more value and less effort:

Using axis-quadrants to prioritize the MVP.

Finally, we came up with two different ideas. (See graphic above). But we decided to make them co-exist in only one(See solution below).


The Solution

A ‘learning by doing’ Virtual Reality application (Game Type), that immersively emulates the situations of tension that the employee face in his/her real life day to day job activities.

So what's the added value from our VR solution?…

It's a practical immersion.

It allows the employee to experience the practice immersively, facing the real facts of their own day to day jobs (noize, rush hours, traffic of people, different customer personalities, etc).

It let us optimize the time. 

It accelerates the time invested in the old training due to immersions of only 10 to 20-minutes duration.

It’s measurable and we can learn from it.

By the use of Virtual Reality technology, we will be able to analyze the behavior from the employee at the act and making them learn about their decisions or mistakes before confronting these situations in real life.


Narrative

In order to lead the employees to their real situations of tension, we found an opportunity building customers as characters from their day to day and make the accurate narrative path that could end in an immersive training so the employees could face and learn from it. (See the image below).

Our narrative path for GROU-VR Training in Retail

In the above example, we use a customer as an antagonist; this one recreates a profile of a nervous woman been on a rush for buying some clothes while using the dresser lots of times and trying clothes from different sections of the store. 


Characters

Function: Welcoming the user and introduce him/her to the company as well to onboard him/her to the training course functioning.

Interaction: Only informs and doesn't interact in any other way during the experience.

Function: To help the VR user during the practices.

Interaction: User will be able to access the AI through voice commands.

Function: Understand the store brand, theories, store functioning and pass the practice tests.

Interaction: During the theory is a non-impact character, but during practice is the opposite.

Function: To put the VR user(Employee) in a risk situation by setting challenges like finding Clothes in different sections of the store under timing mode, due to the rush of the customer. These activities may vary depending on the customer type, also the customer varies depending on the Module training; but for MVP purposes we started with only one customer type.

Interaction: Communicate with the VR user by making a series of requests.


VR Information Architecture

For our VR application experience, we defined only 2 levels of navigation but we ensure to give the user training modules not only for learning the function of the clothing store (Green Box, See image below) but also modules of academic training (Yellow Box, See image below) so they could perform and feel the professional development of their hard skills, something that was actually pretty obvious in the research.

GROU-VR, MVP - Information Architecture

On the other side thinking on the future of the business as well the planning of it we considered the Phase 1 (MVP, Green one — see image below) will be the more added value phase to the business and store, therefore Phases 2, 3 and 4.


VR User-flow

Our User flow helped us to identify the possible “ins and outs” from the user even before the immersion since one of our concerns was: where exactly was this going to happen (the VR immersion) in the real world? and how does the store had to lead the employee from the hiring until the training immersion?

GROU-VR, MVP —User Flow


Sketching

We had all set and ready for the fun part!!!.

The sketching process was good for us to imagine and be creative on how the user scenarios and some of the UI ’s could be.

and more sketching…


Concept Art

While we had almost everything set and the sketching was a good help to establish some foundations; the design concept was still missing. 

How this will had to look like? 

Which color(s) we were going to use? 

What kind of vibe or mood does the employee will have to feel meanwhile training? 

How could this be fun even by being a corporative training?…

…Could be fun at the end? , or maybe we had to stick to some serious look by a company?

Those were some of the questions we realize we didn't cover in the previous process so far. This is when we decided to start digging with our first mood board approach.

General Moodboard for GROU-VR Training in Retail

Finally, some direction for the design concept came up by figuring out some colors and style but most importantly at this point we knew how we wanted to make it look by defining the following concept:

Our Design concept for the VR Training in retail.

Video Game

Since playing can foster effective communication this was definitely a good manner to not only make the employee feel in a different mood but to be sure the user will learn in a more efficient way.

Futuristic

Since doing Virtual Reality could be a high-cost performance for some devices we found very useful to apply the Low Polymeter 3D types to our experience attached and linked to the video game futuristic principles.

Low-Poly

Since doing Virtual Reality could be a high-cost performance for some devices we found very useful to apply the Low Polymeter 3D types to our experience attached and linked to the video game futuristic principles.


We also made some moodboarding process to find some possible concept art for the scenarios considering all of the above.

Scenery Moodboard for GROU-VR Training in Retail

After finding some futuristic and geometrical ideas in the scenarios we started to design the first approaches mainly in two different paths or moments of the VR experience: the intro scenario moments and the practice scenario moments.(See below image.)

Scenarios explorations concepts

This text will be about the first step of approach to the design concept of the VR experience….


StoryBoard / Interactions

In the above example, we use a customer as an antagonist; this one recreates the typical profile of a woman using the dresser lots of times and trying clothes from different sections of the “big clothing store” while asking different support questions to the employee.

Scene 1 / Introduction: The only possible interaction here is the Closing X at the front panel.

Scene 2 / Home Menu: User could select with the gaze pointer an option from the menu.

Scene 3 / Theory: Terminada la teoria podrá escuchar de nuevo el audio haciendo clic en el icono “Repetir”. Acceder a la práctica haciendo clic en la puerta situada detrás del guía.

Scene 4 /Practice Greeting: Saludar a los clientes dejando el punto fijo del mando durante al menos 3 segundos sobre los clientes, activándose así el countdown.

Scene 5 / Practice Store distribution: Mirando hacia arriba el usuario podrá acceder al mapa de la tienda. Una vez abierto este podrá seleccionar la zona de la tienda donde se encuentre la prenda para teletransportarse a ella.

Scene 6 / Practice Dresser room: we use a customer as an antagonist; this one recreates the typical profile of a woman using the dresser lots of times and trying clothes from different sections of the “big clothing store” while asking different support questions to the employee.

Scene 5 / Introduction: we use a customer as an antagonist; this one recreates the typical profile of a woman using the dresser lots of times and trying clothes from different sections of the “big clothing store” while asking different support questions to the employee.

Scene 6 / Home Menu: we use a customer as an antagonist; this one recreates the typical profile of a woman using the dresser lots of times and trying clothes from different sections of the “big clothing store” while asking different support questions to the employee.


UI Micro Interaction

This text will be about the Home UI interaction and why….

The Prototype