My life had always been planned for me for the most part, I had gotten very comfortable with the idea of having outsourced decision making, and I was happy with the perceived freedom. I always associated success mainly with intelligence all through student life and beyond, but gradually I began to see results that did not match that hypothesis. Once that realization happened, I knew I had to change something. For the first time I gave my a serious consideration and thought about what I wanted it to look like. Where I currently was in my didn’t show up in the plan I had for myself. I quit the next day.

I knew to get anywhere in life I had to skills I didn’t have, and there was no formal training for. Getting out of my was the top priority until I figured out what was next. The plan was to start with trying to make small talk with cab drivers. After three nail biting rides in utter silence and a lot of conversation starters in my head, I was able to start a conversation. Eventually I took up a job at Pizza Hut that involved everything from taking orders, dealing with hungry-angry customers, making pizzas to sweeping the floor (But that’s a story for another time!).

After the usual rest-reflect-re-align deliberation, system looked like a good starting point. Being a startup enthusiast I thought about what a good MVP (minimum viable project) to try this out would be. One Sunday morning on a friend’s birthday I was assigned the easiest task- to get a cake. To show off the new fitness freak I had then become, I decided to find a healthy option. A quick google search led me to the Zomato page of this bakery called Just Cakes. One thing you should know about me is that cake and I can’t exist in the same physical space. If I’m there, there’s no more cake left. I called them up to start a conversation and to introduce myself before being nosey in person.

The bakery owner being the charming lady that she is, answered all my questions about everything from how she began her baking journey, how Zomato fits into her business model, to how she was reaching customers. One consistent theme was the lack of orders she was facing which was discouraging her from pursuing her dream of opening a cake studio. Observing the disparity between their supply capacity and sales, I figured an immediate need they should be solving for.

Problem: Bakery lacks a front-end store that customers can discover offline and fresh perspective to match the needs of the target audience online.

Business goal: Find a way to reach customers- increase number of cake orders per day from 3–4 to 10.

Approach & Process:

I came up with SMART (Specific Measurable Actionable Relevant Trackable) business strategies by applying the double diamond design process framework. Here is the design process I followed-

Research and Synthesis:

At the heart of any design process is research. Research began with understanding stakeholders, their physical and emotional needs, and how cakes fit into their lives. To understand current and potential customer segment I went over Zomato reviews of customers and reached out to food bloggers who had reviewed to understand how they positioned Just Cakes.

Next I created a system map to get an overview of the different elements and how they interact with each other in a bakery setup. Interaction could be in terms of money, work, material, or information. Right side of the system map focuses on customer’s interaction with the business whereas left focuses on back-end operations.

Field and desk research highlighted two types of customer needs:

Want a special cake- looking for ways to personalize special events and make them memorable since celebrations are once in a while.

Want a healthy cake and willing to pay a premium for it.

To orient my research around customer needs, buying preferences, and behaviours I created a few user personas-

Customer Experience Map: Walking a mile in Anhad’s shoes

I got a chance to interview Anhad, a customer who had ordered a cake for his wife’s birthday. Anhad, while looking for options in and around Sarjapur area stumbled upon Just Cakes on Zomato. The variety of healthy cake options made him inquisitive; he called the bakery, spoke with the owner, and placed an order based on her suggestions.

I struggled to keep my bias in check and not choose just the traits that seemed obvious. There are a lot of research models around personality but for the purpose of quick user modeling, I used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

His discovery and order placement journey map is as follows:

As I was listing down Anhad’s thoughts and feelings during the decision making process, I had to fight the cake lover in me from replacing them with my own.

This helped me understand how customers are interacting with the service and identify areas of improvement moving forward. For the volume of orders that Just Cakes is currently handling, the entire experience starting from the customer calling up the bakery till the end is fairly smooth. However there are opportunities to get the bakery in front of a broader audience.

Immediate opportunity: Explore discovery channels to meet the target audience where they are. Invest in awareness regarding healthy cakes.

Ideation and Implementation:

Now I got a clear opportunity on which to base ideas and the gears shifted to designing things right from designing the right thing.

I designed my recommendation keeping in mind customers who

– Enjoy freshly baked, delicately designed cakes delivered to their doorsteps
– Are from high income households, more mobile and on the go than ever, have access to Internet
– Like to show care and surprise family & friends, have willingness to spend, are of both genders

While ideating to come up with strategies following factors were taken into account:

-Characteristics of cake: must-haves for special occasions; have self-promoting power (one cake to market can generate 10 leads as celebrations are in groups)
-Just Cakes: has a product people love to buy; average time to make a cake: 4.5 hours, bakery has 10 helpers so 20 cakes can be prepared per day in full capacity; shelf life of cake: 4–5 days
-Cake Industry: revenue realization in terms of unit volume is higher due to higher value addition; independent bakeries with fresh products remain preferred choice for baked goods

Recommendations that can be implemented immediately without much capital investment.

Problem: Their social media pages are highly inactive and monotonous

Solution: Variety and themed content can boost online presence

Direction & Plan: 
Cake is a very visual product, update new cake pictures weekly to maintain online portfolio across channels actively used by core audience such as Facebook (~2000 likes) and Instagram(~50 followers).

Start posting engaging content with monthly themes such as cake recipes, baking tips, polls for best cakes of the week, offers and schemes.

If I were her, I would start with trying out the indirect brand ambassador idea.

Sample content ideas:

Problem: This will help her reach her Facebook fans (~2000) but won’t be effective in generating leads. To reach new customers and influencers, she should start reaching customers offline but the bakery lacks a front-end store (offline discovery). Cake picking is traditionally a cognitive load because of too many options.

Solution: Cake slices for tasting can make or break decisions. It is difficult for people to trust a new bakery easily, it is a matter of making someone feel special.

Direction & Plan:
Just Cakes can start with focussing on corporates. Tech parks are in close proximity to this bakery, and the crowd is concentrated (~100000 employees in Manyata Embassy Business Park), so she along with helpers can target 3 offices in the tech park per visit and put up cake stalls during lunch hours. She can make 1 such visit per week for two months: 
3 companies/week * 8 weeks * 1000 employees/company = ~24000 potential customers.

This will broaden her audience, she can hook them to her Facebook page by by giving incentives to share about products among friends- friend referral, discounts to both referrer and referee. Also, attractive posters backed with nutritional comparison and accommodating special cases: allergen free etc. will make her stand out.

In month 2 along with continuing corporate visits she can start to network with other healthy restaurants, and fitness centers.

Lastly, while delivering the cake, Just Cakes can start giving small mementos that acts as a constant passive reminder of the fantastic experience they had, something as simple as a small attractive fridge magnet.

Things I learnt from my first design project:

  • Design is the art of solving specific rather than abstract problems. It took me a long time and ample research to formulate a specific problem that I could go after with a good sense of what I wanted the end result to look like.
  • To be involved in strategy is to be involved in the why — identifying real problems and prioritizing which of those are the most pressing to solve at the moment. It involves understanding what makes the business tick and what specific advantages the organization has. It also involves having a handle on what technical and people constraints are.

I would love to hear from you! Also, I am currently open to career opportunities and consulting in product thinking and experience design. Get in touch via [email protected]

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