What they sell couldn’t be more different. But they’re united by a common belief.

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Technology is the means to an end, not the end itself.

“We always use technology in the service of our values, not the other way around,” says Land Rover’s creative director of interior design, Mark Butler, when he describes the creation of the new Land Rover Defender’s touchscreen.

As in so many modern vehicles, the Defender’s touch screen controls hundreds of functions, from the seat heaters to the radio. But unlike many other vehicles, it also needs to help the driver control the vehicle’s off-road performance, such as descending steep hills and wading through deep water.

The experience of being in and driving a Defender, on and off-road, must be superlative: like all Land Rovers, it has to be the best off-road vehicle in its class, and the vehicle’s design and technology need to support that experience.

This is what Butler means when he talks about using technology as a tool: it’s the end result that matters to the customer, not so much the tech that gets them there. In a world where technology is all-pervasive, it’s easy to lose sight of this goal. And if technology makes it harder for a customer to interact with your business or your product, then they’re going to find someone or something else that’s easier to use.

Jaguar Land Rover Case Study

Like tech, data needs a purpose too

Butler and his team of designers knew they had to create a screen and interface that would improve the driver’s experience, not detract from it. Likewise, Susan Bloomberg knew that Marriot Hotels needed to get better at using its vast repository of data to improve the customer experience. When she took over as vice president of personalisation and product performance at the world’s biggest hotel group, she knew there’s no point in having data if you’re not going to use it for something.

“We’ve changed the way that teams think about data,” she says. “That means thinking about how it represents the user experience, not just data for the sake of data.” Giving life to data gives it worth, and it helps inform how the tech Marriott’s customers use should work for them. And it helps Marriott better understand its customers.

“When customers arrive using their mobile key, we want to know what makes that experience easy for them,” said Bloomberg. “The data is there to help us figure out if the experience is working. Are people using this feature? If so, we’re looking to the data to see what they like and don't like.”

Bloomberg used the data from features such as Marriott’s mobile check in to devise a better way of testing changes to the user experience. Instead of A/B testing, which tends to give binary yes/no style answers, Bloomberg uses multiple queries within each test to get detail on individual changes. Using Adobe Target Marriott’s teams can see how each change affects the way customers use the technology, and what works best.

Marriott Case Study

Blending digital with bricks and mortar

Topps Tiles, the UK’s biggest tile specialist, also wanted to improve how its technology served customers: specifically, its website. Topps Tiles wanted its site to complement and draw from the showroom experience: tiles are a big, one-off purchase that people want to see before buying, and its 332 stores are a crucial part of the customer experience.

But its site didn’t offer more than the ability to buy tiles online – there was little connection between Topps Tiles’ digital presence and its showrooms. And with much of its business coming from the trade, it needed to build experiences that would serve them just as well as its retail customers.

The new site, built on Adobe Commerce, is split into trade and retail areas, creating distinct journeys for different customers. The trade gets bulk buy offers, bespoke pricing and its own reward/loyalty scheme. Every store’s point-of-sale system is connected to the site so stock levels are accurate in real time, and once you’ve ordered online you can collect from the store. Tiles are heavy and costly to transport, making collection the preferred option for many customers.

Topps Tiles also developed a digital tool that allows customers to virtually place their chosen tiles into a picture of their room. The Tile My Home tool brings some of the certainty of seeing tiles for real in a showroom to the website, further blending the digital and real-life experiences. This is using technology to create a benefit for the customer.

It worked. The new site was launched just before the pandemic, then the country went into lockdown and everyone was stuck at home looking at their kitchens and bathrooms. Interest in DIY and renovations went through the roof and suddenly Topps Tiles saw a 30% increase in revenue, a trebling in sales and growth remained at a consistent +45% for the rest of the year.

Topps Tiles Case Study

Using tech to explain the vision

For Butler and his team of designers at Land Rover, it was a new piece of technology that helped them solve a fundamental problem in the design process, and as a result create a better product.

While the design team knew where they wanted to go, they didn’t have a means of communicating their ideas to the rest of the project – other designers, engineers and management. Collaboration between design and engineering is vital to a car’s development – too often both disciplines want incompatible things and are pulling in opposite directions, so getting everybody on side as early as possible makes a big difference.

When they create interiors, the designers use life-size mock-ups to gauge feedback. That wasn’t possible with the touchscreen, so they tried pictures. That didn’t work very well: the static images didn’t help users understand how the interface worked.

Then interface design manager Phil Higgs found an Adobe tool that solved the problem. Adobe XD is a UX design app that could have been built for Land Rover’s need. It allowed Higgs to create videos of the touchscreen interface, showing it in use, rather than just stills of individual screens.

Much of the designers’ work is done in Photoshop and Illustrator and importing this work into XD is instant and easy, retaining every detail and nuance of the designer’s work. In turn that makes it much easier and faster to convey the ideas and concepts to the stakeholders.

“Using XD, we can create demo videos with interactions in 75% less time, and we can spin up multiple versions showing different paths if we need to,” says Higgs. “XD gives us an expressive prototype that feels real. This helps us make the vision much clearer, and that makes it easier to get buy-in from stakeholders.”

The result is PIVI Pro, a user interface operated through the Defender’s touch screen. It’s mission control for the driver, controlling systems such as ClearSight Ground View which provides a view of the ground underneath the vehicle. That makes off-road driving easier, because the driver can see exactly what’s about to happen as the Defender moves over obstacles, and correct its course to suit the terrain.

When you know, you know

Like Marriott and Topps Tiles, Land Rover knows how to use technology to create better experiences for its customers – and the experience is in charge, not the technology. For Marriott’s Susan Bloomberg, refining how they do this has led to significant improvements in the way they operate.

She says company now uses data, not assumptions, to create better experiences. “We’ve changed from working based off what we think we know about the customer and what they want, to measuring what they think and want.” And that’s what helps Marriott build technology to meet a genuine customer need.

It’s good for business, too. Bloomberg’s testing regime has increased incremental revenue by a $250m, thanks to its ability to spot things that customers like (and those they don’t). In addition to increased revenues, Topps Tiles has also increased conversions of early interest into sales 0.7% to 4%.

For Land Rover’s Mark Butler, the achievement goes beyond the commercial. “PIVI Pro is an all-new system, and developing it has been a massive accomplishment,” he says. “We have a sense of pride, knowing the amount of effort that went into the Defender to make it just right.”