In the world of public tenders, especially for ambiguous topics, such as design, this appears to be common practice. Often these tenders expect participants to do a lot of the creative work, for free, just to see if the buyer likes it. “The tenderer submits a concept of the creative solution, which includes five creative examples and visualisations”, “the task of the test is to create a new design for an existing voter application” while “the payment for a fee [for the work] is not justified.” These are real quotes in response to payment queries held in the Public Procurement Register during the past few weeks.
Firstly, it is unethical. You cannot ask someone to do a job for free in the hope that, if you like it, you’ll pay them. In any case, all the other participants will be left with incurred costs and nothing to show for it. A lot of effort is just wasted. In the current crisis situation, where governments have promised to support companies and professionals, who because of the lock-down may not even be able to exercise their profession, asking for free spec work is plain cynical.
Secondly, there are no winners in this game. How can you compare the quality between paid and free work? Often, public procurements tend to be very bureaucratic and full of demands, that are neither negotiable nor very clear. The result is that participants are required to invest even more time to read between the lines and find additional information, to understand the actual needs and goals of the procurement. If this is unpaid work, the motivation to really get it right is limited.
Thirdly, the “let’s see what we like” approach to judging just the visualised drafts combined with the least expensive bid, often finally leads to a poor solution. What looks “wow” often doesn’t work very well and is a recipe for bad results. Designers will invest as little effort as possible to win the tender, not to do the work right. The customer will end up with a mediocre solution that was bought by ticking all the right boxes, but doesn’t compare at all to having done things the right way. At the end, everyone loses. The buyer loses. The tenderer loses. And the tax payer loses. Which is all of us.
During the Global Hack a small team from Brand Manual worked on a solution for this and created Tenderly. Tenderly helps procurers (whether they be public or private sector) to really think through the whole tender. With the support of helpful questions, they describe the actual problem to be solved and the context, in which it exists, the needs and pains of the target group and tangible deliverables they expect.
Based on this, Tenderly helps them set up the right requirements, the design team competencies they need to have for the project, relevant references of the team and the previous experience to look for. Tenderly also guides them through setting up the evaluation criteria so that they can have confidence in the results, that the best proposal wins and that the team behind it really can do the job. No more evaluations on price alone.
For the tenderers, Tenderly provides them a detailed design brief that includes relevant background and contextual information, describes the actual problem to be solved, the needs, pains and what they are expected to deliver, in the end. It helps them “tick the boxes” so that they know, whether they even qualify without making them do unnecessary spec work.
By making tenders transparent with the help of clear evaluation criteria, basing them on team competencies and methodology, Tenderly helps both procurers and tenderers get the right job done right. With fair compensation.
And it is true, that a lot of businesses are going out of business, because Amazon (and other’s like it), satisfy their customers’ needs better than they do. On the other hand, however, a lot of brick-and-mortar stores are thriving because the physical store excels at delivering something, that digital just cannot copy: serendipity and ambience.
How often have you stepped into a store and surprised yourself by finding and buying something, you didn’t even know you wanted or needed? This doesn’t refer to impulse purchases (like candy at the checkout), but genuinely finding something you didn’t even know existed? Like an exotic fruit or a pair of funny socks?
In some ways physical retail is like a physical magazine. Reading a magazine on an iPad is fine, but digitally you don’t happen onto articles. You have to choose them. You tend not to read what doesn’t seem interesting from the table of contents. Reading a physical magazine, however, you often just randomly pick your way through, reading articles that you would never happen onto, if you had to actively choose it instead of happening to look at it.
The experience of both buying things and reading things are completely different from online to offline. However, dismissing the offline experience as old fashioned, is shortsighted. A physical store can be provide feeling and individuality that an online experience cannot. However, this means looking at the physical experience not as an alternative to online, but rather as fundamentally different, where the value created is not in a more expensive transaction, but in a service.
Effective retail environments don’t try to compete with online sales for generic products. But offer an inherently fuller customer experience centred around service and ambience. As Steve Dennis pointed out in Forbes magazine, “physical retail isn’t dead. Boring retail is.”
To understand what matters to your customers (ie, understanding what is boring), you need to consider that customer behaviour is based on three factors: time, place and motivation.
Obviously, if it is very important then they’ll be willing to spend the time and travel to get it. If it isn’t important, then they won’t take a step out of their way nor invest more than a second. Understanding customers in this context allows you map their customer journey from need to satisfaction, and where you fit into their life. Retail can only go two ways in today’s online environment: down market to be cheapest and physically closest or up market to be best. The middle ground, where you’re selling stuff to customers that just want stuff, but don’t care where they get it, belongs to online stores.
The other obvious extension of the above logic is, that there is room for services in retail environments, that didn’t use to be there before. Grocery stores that offer you a glass of Pinot Grigio while you peruse the legumes may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but neither is it danger of being usurped by an online competitor. Finding opportunities for “symbiotic multi-tasking,” for lack of a better expression, offers physical retail environments means to extending their competitive advantage over online stores that sell the same physical product, but cannot offer a feeling to go along with it.
At the end of the day, it will be the customer experience that makes the difference. If the best a store can offer is the same as the competition, but with a different colour scheme, then beware that this store will be disrupted. But if there is a reason to visit it again and again, for something beyond the just the products on sale, you can rest reasonably assured, that it will stay in business and thrive, not matter what happens online.*