#InnovatorsMeetup In Review – Alexa: What are multi-modal experiences? Learn what & create one w/ WillowTree

Nate Wooten, Willow Tree, schools us on Multi-Modal Experiences.

We explored next generation digital and mobile from award-winning development group WillowTree Inc. Experience their design thinking-based innovation process with an interactive multi-modal design workshop designing the grocery experience of the future. Thanks Nate Wooten, a Principal Product Strategist at WillowTree, for hosting. You were an incredible guide into the great unknown.

The team at Willow Tree gave us a peek into their process and innovative experiences with big brands like HBO, Samsung, GE, Johnson & Johnson and Lidl.  We were all under NDA, but I can attest that their work was impressive. They are exploring customer experiences that handoff from Alexia and Google Assistant at home to a mobile experience to in-store interactives.

They gave us a quick tutorial on “multi-modal” and that it is the need for speed that is pushing the demand from text-based communications to voice-based ones. The team wrote a helpful blog post about voice-based experiences to give you a sense of what we learned.

Then the fun began – we broke into teams to do a user-centered workshop, where we explored the grocery experience of the not-too-far future. This workshop’s been given previously at schools such as U.Va’s Darden Innovation Lab and VCU’s da Vinci Center for Innovation.

We listened or watched real user research. Willow Tree asked several customer types to discuss their grocery planning and shopping experience. How they decided on their grocery list, couponing and navigating the store. We heard frustrations and imagination of what could be. Then we brainstormed as a team to come up with a user experience using any tech we could think of and why that would work for our designated customer profile.  Nate mentioned our goal was to find the friction point and build a problem statement and solution to overcome it.

My team pitched the “Everything Experience” to drive a seamless customer experience at home, on the go and in store.

My team went all in…we created the Everything Grocery Experience – where our target couple could have seasonal healthy meals using their CSA and thousands of recipes with great speed and ease. We imagined that they would have all their favorite recipes in an online database, then they would dictate to Alexia or Google Assistant what they received in their weekly CSA veggie box that would combine with the grocery store’s weekly specials. Then they would have an automated grocery list on their mobile phone with everything they needed to make the week’s seasonal meals, plus create an easy to follow way-finding map to get them in and out of the store in no time. There would be wine and dessert pairing suggestions presented on the in-store interactive displays as they shopped as a surprise and delight experience for the customers and an upsell opportunity for the retailer. It was so much fun brainstorming the possibility of IOT technologies combined with voice-tech, mobile and in-store experiences.

Thanks Nate and Willow Tree.


Join our Carolinas Innovators & Design Thinkers Meetup to experience similar innovation insights and practice real-live-no-jive innovation and design thinking. We meet the second Tuesday every month.




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K. Melissa Kennedy

Chief Innovation Officer, Founder, Intrapreneur. Entrepreneur. Enthusiastic leader and speaker. Teller of truths at 48 Innovate
I spent many years working for and building successful companies. I parlayed that experience into a unique process for harnessing hidden assets inside organizations and turning them into big-idea-generating, $1-billion-revenue-producing resources. (Spoiler alert: it’s the people.) I'm an internationally acclaimed expert, happy to share the not-so-secrets that have led to impressive outcomes for Fortune 100 corporations, major educational institutions, start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Working with companies like Cisco, Lancope, Arby's, Capitol Broadcasting Company New Media - WRAL, PRSONAS, Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog, REVO Communications, Erno Group, Focus Carolina, Madan Global, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, INZONE Brands, Albright Digital, Spring Metrics and NC State Kenan Fellows.

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