Suzanne’s story of creating global VM excellence

Visual Thinking’s senior retail specialist Suzanne Tanner shares her story of how we’ve helped to deliver VM excellence in fashion retail over the last six months. 


Suzanne’s Story… Harley-Davidson Digital Tool

Here at Visual Thinking, we’re often asked by retailers to support the communication of essential VM policy in ways that are simple, clear and easy to understand. Typically, this also involves working to build knowledge and skills, too.

Embedding VM best practice across many national stores is one thing. Doing it effectively on a global scale is something else. That was precisely the challenge facing world-famous motorcycle brand Harley-Davidson. To do this, the brand needed new thinking that would fundamentally change how it communicated best practice and developed the VM capability of its international dealer teams.

Having access to a trusted and reliable partner with proven experience that can share VM policy and principles in a way that’s best suited to the realities of retail life is vital. In my combined role at Visual Thinking/DSGNLAB, I work on many different types of client projects. It’s not about being an expert in any particular brand, but drawing on my broad retail expertise to ensure that as a whole team (client, our own people and key external support partners) we all deliver. It takes a cool head, meticulous attention to detail and the know-how to get the best out of people.

Putting VM best practice at people’s fingertips.

This particular project would see us launch a new online VM learning tool; building on the brand’s already successful global VM programme that we initially developed and launched back in 2012. This was about putting VM best practice at people’s fingertips in a way that would build capability and quickly improve the standard and consistency of VM execution. Above all, it had to be a borderless, 24-7-360 online solution. One that was highly engaging, intuitive and accessible to a truly global audience.

On this occasion the project timetable was driven by an immovable date – the site had to launch at the brand’s Annual Dealer Meeting in San Diego. That meant we had six months to design, develop, build and test the site from the ‘get go’. Working in Britain’s hottest summer for years, the heat was on. There was no time for missteps. Success rested on great planning, expertise, attention to detail, and an absolute focus to keep the team, and the project on track throughout the tool’s development. Though I’m not a biker myself, I love the buzz and complexity that comes with managing large projects; so this was an opportunity I was keen to jump on to.

A visually rich online VM learning platform.

To ensure best practice could easily be understood and followed by a ‘non-VM expert’ showroom team audience, we proposed a visually rich online VM learning platform that would remove both the language and adoption barriers that existed with previous guidelines in a single swipe. Enabling store teams to deliver the desired look ‘right first time’ can often the difference between success and failure. It’s all about what the customer sees, and experiences – bringing product, marketing, service and customer strategies together.

Having created the bespoke UX and UI, we then set about creating engaging content. The digital tool needed to cover a wide range of practical content from VM and retail ‘best practices’ to their own brand specific principles and techniques. Written and spoken language was replaced with ‘visual only’ guidance, made up of a vibrant mix step-by-step ‘How To’ step-by-step video content, detailed imagery, easy to understand animated store set-ups, and internationally recognised symbols. As a complementary reference resource, it would also feature a fully updated, global VM manual with all new showroom layout and VM technique photography.

Expert VM knowledge and best practice guidance.

Resolving how to integrate the new platform with the clients own pre-existing platform and with 100% secure login requirements was also a ‘big ask’ within the time we had. Working collaboratively, and remotely between offices in the UK and USA, we overcame technical issues one by one, and delivered.

The finished site simply works, quietly and brilliantly, delivering expert VM knowledge and best practice guidance to Harley-Davidson teams in eight global territories at the touch of a button. It proved to be the perfect tool, giving H-D teams the support they needed to start seeing, thinking and acting differently. The digital tool helped to create a deeper connection with H-D global teams, spreading the word of VM excellence while ensuring people could understand ‘the look’ and how to successfully apply it – regardless of their country, native language or dealership site and circumstances.

A master class in effective VM communication.

Make no mistake: this was a huge team effort. It’s just one of the many VM initiatives we’ve introduced for Harley-Davidson over the years that continue to help move the brand forward. In just six short months, our digital VM learning tool has transformed the way Harley-Davidson shares its information on VM standards and develops the skills of dealer teams. It’s proved to be a master class in effective VM communication and has raised the bar for VM standards in hundreds of Harley-Davidson showrooms in places worldwide.

Big ideas like this drive our business. I’m super proud to have played my part in this truly game-changing digital VM solution. It all adds up to a compelling message for anyone thinking of harnessing the power of technology to improve VM communication and learning and is just another example of why leading retail brands turn to us time and again, and trust us to deliver.

To read more about our digital VM tool for Harley-Davidson, and how you can rejuvenate store performance through better VM execution, download our latest report ‘Better Fashion Retail’.

Click here

By Suzanne Tanner

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