How might we inspire time savvy urbanites with a shopping experience centred around their evolving purchase behaviours?

In April 2017 I entered the D&AD New Blood awards with the John Lewis brief. The task was to connect an audience who are open to John Lewis but not enthused by it. Understand what is it about John Lewis that isn’t clicking? We were to work this out and design a product or service to bring John Lewis into the lives of time-short urbanites. Be true to the brand. Identify where there is potential for it to add real value to, and become an integral part of, modern living.

How did we approach the challenge? 

We wanted to fully understand the challenge in front of us, we brought participants into the process and through a qualitative study we built a holistic picture of their daily lives. We spent time understanding their perception of John Lewis, their in-store experience and finally we created a future vision togehter.  

Understanding the experience

How time short are “time-short” urbanites? To answer this question we conducted a ‘day in the life’ study where we asked participants to complete a research kit over the course of a week that included diaries and photo tasks. We gained a unique perspective into their lives, needs, wants and motivations. 

  1. We were interested to see the amount of content noise this audience constantly puts up with, and just how many brands are fighting for their attention at every turn. 

  2. Our key takeaway was an understanding of how driven our audience is. The decisions, habits and rituals they exhibited all pointed back to their desire to constantly develop themselves.

  3. We discovered that a lot of shopping can leave users feeling unfulfilled. In this age of experience, expectations are high, but shopping often doesn’t excite, challenge or inspire this audience.

  4. We unpacked our audience’s use of time. Yes, their time is precious, but for the things that matter to them - like inspiration, self development, and catching up with friends, they will create time. This often appeared in short, frequent bursts of engagement. 


What isn't clicking?

Next, we shadowed, observed, and interviewed shoppers in both John Lewis and their favourite stores aiming to better understand what wasn’t clicking and why some purchases left them feeling unfulfilled. 

We found that our participants were often confused at John Lewis’s bigger purpose. While they say that ‘we bring quality to life’ this is no longer realised in their vision because the audience perception and expectations of what quality is has shifted. Our audience still trust John Lewis but in today’s landscape most retailers are trusted. Ever fluid customer expectations have shifted to a desire for support, expert curation and inspiration. 

What does quality mean to our audience? 

We wanted to understand what exciting, loved, and meaningful purchases looked like to our audience so we created an online hub where they could share them with us (check it out at here). 

We asked them to tell us the inner dialogue they used to convince themselves and sketch the item they had purchased. Analysing these stories we found some fascinating behaviours and audience requirements from purchasing that add extra value to the shopping experience. 

  1. Shoppers want their purchases to be emotionally significant, for example the dining table that will bring the family together. 
  2. The purchases that meant the most to them were ones that were directly linked to their identity, be it aspirational or current. This wasn’t just fashion. Today, everything from food to tech - short to long term purchases are tied to our identity. 
  3. Validation from friends and family not only helped them decide on items but made them feel supported, connected and appreciated. Constantly sense checking their evolving identity
  4. Even though they are “time-short” they will spend time hunting for the unique.
 Check out more of the submissions at

Check out more of the submissions at

 We mapped our finding into a customer experience map

We mapped our finding into a customer experience map

How did we develop it?

Our research had led us to the question 'how might we inspire time savvy urbanites with a shopping experience centred around their purchase behaviours?'. We explored this question through a series of brainstorms, creating a series of concepts with our participants that explored how John Lewis could add value to their lives. They were most excited with using AI to cut through the noise, John Lewis can leverage their lifestyle, brand and product expertise that they have developed over the last 153 years to bring quality to life. 

What was the outcome? 

We created Luna. 

Luna is an intelligence engine that uses John Lewis’ expertise to provide an inspirational shopping experience, helping you escape from the “noise”.

Luna will keep up with your ever-changing preferences, providing you with products, trends and content relevant to your life. It keeps learning from the data you choose to sync, and the way you interact with it. Overtime, it can understand the intent behind your searches, and can call on your friends, family, and the expert opinions from within John Lewis, to help you with your buying decisions. 

Luna is embedded within an app, which is organised into the 3 areas of John Lewis; home, tech and fashion, where you can also find content from “behind the scenes”, produced by buyers, designers and other partners. However, its knowledge can also be accessed through a multitude of channels, including personal assistants, online and in-store. With IBM Watson, Luna can sense personality, tone and emotions meaning not only can it engage in dialogue, but can make judgements before sending you recommendations.

Luna truly embodies the John Lewis value; treating every customer as an individual.

Website - Luna - screens.jpg
Website - Luna - iPad.jpg

This experience couldn’t be John Lewis without perfectly marrying human interaction and physical stores with Luna’s digital and predictive capabilities. In-store Luna will provide you with information on the product you are looking at, it can demonstrate how certain features work through augmented content and suggest another products that might be more suited to you.

John Lewis’ unfair advantage over competitors is it’s staff. Luna empowers them further, allowing them to provide the best service possible.  


Team credits: Hannah Steele & Sean McHarg