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Design as a Strategic Business Tool

Introduction

A design is a plan or illustration in form of a drawing that shows how an object will look, work or feel once it is produced. It is essential for organizations to create designs before they introduce products to the market. Designs help examination and elimination of mistakes in the product and addition of detail to improve it. Even more important for a company, designs are used for product promotion to create a good image in the targeted audience eyes. The marketing department uses designs to work with focus groups to determine the likely result of a product being introduced to the market (Wheeler, 2006, p. 12). A design audit looks at the various designs used by an organization in various markets and identifies their effect on the general brand image of the organization. It assists the designers to fine tune the designs based on identified successes and failures so that the design efforts are not running contrary to other business development strategies of the organization (Whitbread, 2009, p. 73). A design audit involves collection of design materials published by the organization into a central area, then assessing the materials’ relation to the company’s goal and business strategy. The assessment should include all materials visible to the public and those not visible or forgotten.

Design is used by organizations to influence how their target audience view them and associate their product. Every design is meant to improve the likability of an organization in the eyes of its customers. If a design results in a negative brand image of the organization, the company is likely to suffer decline in business as they are edged out by their competitors. A bad design can be fatal to the organization as their revenues continue to fall and a lot of money is used to correct the damage done. An organization may never recover from its design faults introduced to the market. For this reason a design is a key factor for its business. On the other hand a good design can see sales and likability sore as consumers turn to the product. Not only does a good design attract the attention of consumers it also gives the sense of worth, in which case the consumer will even be willing to pay more for the same quantity of the product. Design is key to business development. Organizations with high quality designs have been found to have greater customer loyalty than those with poor designs. Customer loyalty in turn drives sales up even for other new products by the same organization. A good design can mean the success or failure of a new company. New companies can use design as a tool to drive up sales for themselves even though the customers do not yet identify with the product. A good first impression attracts the customers and if the product is good, loyalty starts to grow and with it comes sales. An organization should stick to a certain design long enough for it to rub off on the consumers (Pradeep, 2010, p. 149). Consumers tend to grow up with a product once they like it and only move on if the product loses quality or a better product with even more appeal comes up. The design strategy of an organization should relate to its development strategy. If the two have different goals, the organization will face distraction as the two stakeholders attempt to each find their way. Consumers often notice this disruption and will often move on to another product with better image.

A good design strategy must encapsulate marketplace changes, new trends and ideas, specific customer needs and existing problem areas (Milligan, 2010, p. 106). By considering these, the designer will come up with a design that fits the business strategy and assist in development. Design development is a process that involves:

  1. Reviewing the design objectives and goals
  2. Scanning for factors, internal or external, that impact on the design
  3. Forming a design that works to address the challenges
  4. Implementing the designs that have been developed
  5. Evaluating the effectiveness of the design and how it achieves its goals and objectives
  6. Maintaining the design in terms of changes and modifications whenever necessary

In looking at design as a strategic business tool, we take into consideration two pharmaceutical companies; Lloyd’s pharmacy and Alliance Boots pharmacy, both in the UK. These are both successful companies in their field and have had extensive image management for the years they have been in business.

Lloyds pharmacy

Lloyds pharmacy operates a chain of pharmacies in the UK and is the largest drug community retailer in the country. It was started in 1973 by Allen Lloyd in Polesworth, Warwickshire, England, UK. Since then, it has grown to 1700 stores 16000 staff and £1.8 billion turnover. Lloyds pharmacy, though not as extensive in network as the Alliance Boots pharmacy found a niche in the market. It sells pharmaceuticals to the communities and is the leading pharmacy for people in the community areas in most of Britain. Lloyds makes 80% of its revenues from filling prescriptions. With the knowledge of their affiliation to communities, they came up with a design strategy that would keep the customers coming.

Use of sophisticated integrated technology

In most busy pharmacies one would find exhausted pharmacists serving even more clients. They go around the back and start counting pills for the client, while the client waits at the counter (Kayne, 2005, p. 42). This is not the case at Lloyds. Having identified this as a challenge to customer service, Lloyds implemented a design strategy that freed up the pharmacists to engage with the clients while their prescriptions are being filled. By use of sophisticated technology, a patient’s prescription is fed into the system and the machine fills in the prescriptions for the client, freeing up the pharmacist to go back to the counter and talk to the client about their ailments (Kendrick & Vershinina, 2010, p. 63). This strategy has worked since it provides value for the client, who not only gets their drugs fast but also gets professional advice for free. This builds customer loyalty and will ensure Lloyds pharmacy’s business growth over the years as they roll out more store across the UK communities.

Lloyds has due to this design, developed a culture of good customer relations. A customer will come in and expect to be served quickly if they are in a hurry but also be given time to talk to one of the pharmacists about issues that affect him or her. Issues concerning the client may include drug side effects and difficulties faced during their patients. When the client is next sick, he or she will most probably go back to the same store. Use of technology has also changed the structure of business for Lloyds. Now, even small stores are capable of serving more clients at the same convenience and comfort as bigger and more staffed pharmacies.

Providing private consultation rooms at their stores

Lloyds has provided for private consultation rooms in their drug stores. This way, customers do not have to go to a health facility to see a doctor for prescriptions. Clients see convenience in this and develop a habit of coming straight to the pharmacy instead of the hospital. The pharmacies now serve as the hospital and as the drug store garnering even more revenues and growing in customer base. The private consultation rooms also show that Lloyds cares about the patient’s privacy and is keen to protect it. This goes a long way in improving its image in the society.

Provision of this service has changed the structure of Lloyds’ pharmaceuticals business. It is now developing to a holistic service for the customer whereby, diagnosis, prescription and drug delivery are done at one location. This changes the business structure of the company from what was initially focused to a better model. Culturally, this design has changed how Lloyds’ is seen in the communities. Now patients expect the whole health service at the store. Even though this presents the challenge of being seen as a hospital rather than a pharmacy, which is their core business, it is earning revenues and improving communities lives at the same time.

Convenient store location: proximity to the communities

Lloyds pharmacies are located in most areas around communities. This gives them the advantage of serving people who are mostly straight from home as opposed to the location in cities where people are mostly working and may not have enough time to go to the drug store. Service designed and targeted at the people in their homes who usually pick up their prescription on their way home and the elderly who are always home and frequently require medication. Convenience solves the problem of travel to the city for the customers, most of whom are sick. This strategy has placed Lloyds in a unique position to collect revenues from most of the prescriptions given to the people in the communities they operate in.

Proximity to their clients has changed how they interact with them. In their stores, pharmacists are most likely to see the same people over and over again, building a rapport with the customers. This increases customer loyalty as long as the service is okay.

Design use and business strategy

The different designs used by Lloyds were developed with the business strategy in mind. Lloyds ‘healthcare for life’ motto describes what their business aspirations are. They focus on providing health products for communities at affordable prices while making money out of it. The designs discussed above have shown that they have worked in delivering this business strategy. As a result of this, Lloyds is bound to be at the top of the community healthcare for a long time. Lloyds image has improved as a result of this designs and loyalty from customers is high.

Advertising strategy

Lloyds has developed an array of advertising, most focused on their core customers, the communities. Their advertisements run on TV, the internet or outdoors near their stores. Most advertisements focus on a single issue and always feature their logo for identity reasons. There are advertisements for seasons such as Christmas and new years. They focus on specific problems that affect many of their clients such as erectile dysfunction among men. Advertising is carefully done to protect their image while improving how people see it. Lloyds’ logo is simple but visible: a crucible and mortar. This image is well ingrained into the minds of consumers so that whenever they see it they recognize and identify with it.

Advertising sometimes results in unexpected outcomes forcing an organization to change its business model. Lloyd has changed its business model to accommodate its clients’ needs that arise from their advertising. When they announced free blood pressure and diabetes testing at all their pharmacies, they had to change their model to allow for the pop in testing at no cost. In general, Lloyds’ advertising has had a positive impact on the image of the company.

Leadership

The leadership of Lloyds is dynamic in ideas and innovative. Their focus on technology has brought up the idea of automated prescription filling which reduced work on employees and allowed for the better customer relations. The leadership of Lloyds has had a good impact on its image, by making the right decisions on design strategy development and implementation.

Alliance Boots pharmacy

Alliance boots pharmacy was formed in 2006 when Alliance Unichem and Boots group merged. Boots pharmacy stores are mostly located in the cities and central high places. Boots stores offer a holistic service from the sale of over the counter medicine, cosmetics, vaccination and private consultation on some diseases such as Chlamydia. Boots focuses on the holistic nature of its business to attract customer loyalty and positive brand image.

Design strategies

Boots seeks to improve its brand loyalty through development of sustainable products to benefit their customers. It is focusing on corporate social responsibility towards the maintenance of the environmental impacts from consumer products. They have designed their product to ensure limited environmental disturbance from their use.

Location in high streets

Boots stores are located mostly in high streets, meaning that their prices are a little bit soar but their services are quality. They serve the working class group and the people who live in the city flats. This constituency includes a large number of people who find convenience in the city streets. The location of Boots stores in high streets is strategic for harnessing this niche population. Even though this presents the challenge of higher rents and other services offered to the stores, the revenue collected is sufficient for the business.

Being one of the few pharmaceutical companies that manufacture their own products, they are able to set the most competitive prices as opposed to other stores which have to by wholesale (Swarbrick, Lloyd & Hillery, 2001, p. 81). The location in cities has meant that the clients that come in have higher expectations of quality and speedy service. Boots has had to change its business structure to meet this kind of demand from customers. The employees also have to adopt the trends that cities set. Trends in cities are always dynamic meaning the boots culture has to keep adjusting to the customers.

Holistic healthcare approach

Boots has designed its services to be holistic in nature, targeting people who do not have time to move from store to store for a different service. Boots provides general health services to city dwellers and the working class, taking in emergency prescription fill up or a patient with allergies. Boots provides services such as a weight loss program available to patients with basal metabolic rate (BMI) of thirty or twenty eight for those with type 2 diabetes. The program usually involves a forty five minute check-up and consultation session where the pharmacist checks the BMI, blood pressure and glucose levels and gives healthy eating and exercise advice to the client. This program is available in all Boots stores.

The holistic healthcare design has meant that Boots change its approach to healthcare and also hire more specialized staff such as those providing beauty products and services. The culture of the business has also changed because now there is a continuous stream of people seeking an array of services other than pharmaceuticals, therefore the staff adapt and engage the customers as they come as opposed to a usual pharmacy’s clientele, who are mostly sick people or their relatives.

Environmental sustainability in the products

Boots has adopted the environmental care strategy in designing both their services and products. They advertise their product as environmental friendly targeting the growing number of British citizens and residents who are aware of consumer products to the environment. They tell their customers on how to dispose off their products after use, in a safe and environmentally way. The environmentalist advertising improves their image and likability by their customers (Fiore, 2010, p. 117). This increases customer loyalty.

Environmental product and service design means that the business structure of the company had to change. From design manufacturing to the store, the company has had to watch its carbon footprint to keep a good image in the eyes of the environmental conscious public (Simonson & Schmitt, 2007, p. 94). How things were done in the past have had to change such as how waste was disposed.

Leadership

Boots pharmacy is a subsidiary of the larger Alliance Boots. The leadership has focused the Boots brand in cities all over UK. The leadership has had a positive impact on the brand’s image. The innovative nature of the leadership has improved the Boots brand especially in the environmentally friendly packaging and formulation and the holistic approach to health care (Simonson & Schmitt, 2007, p. 94).

Conclusion

Lloyds pharmacy and Boots pharmacy have similar product and services but serve different demographics. This makes most of their design challenges different. While Lloyds experiences challenges of making money in new communities that don’t know their designs, Boots is faced by the challenge of high rent as they have designed their services for the high streets in cities. Some challenges are however similar to the two companies. Both face the risk of losing identities as pharmaceutical companies due to their wide range of services that has gone beyond pharmaceuticals. There is also the high cost of new technology to fit their businesses to their designs (Wheeler, 2006, p. 66). Innovation for Boots is expensive while for Lloyds automated prescription filler costs a lot of money especially in implementing it in all their stores.

An appropriate solution to design problem for both of these companies would be sample testing of designs before implementing them out in all their retail stores to avoid losses from designs that do not work. Design is among the most important tools of business. From the example of Lloyds and Boots, it is clear that the key to success of a business is a good design of product and services. Customers will be loyal to a brand that designs its products to suit their needs. Customer loyalty means more sales and hence more revenues and continuity of the business (Lindstrom, 2011, p. 28). In conclusion, design is a tool for business often used by successful organizations and ought to be used by others with a vision for success.

References

Fiore, A. (2010). Understanding Aesthetics for the Merchandising and Design Professional. New York: Pearson Kayne, S. (2005). Pharmacy Business Management. Washington: Pharmaceutical Pr Kendrick, M. & Vershinina, N. (2010). Management-International Edition. New Jersey: Wiley Lindstrom, M. (2011). Brainwashed: Tricks Companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy. Boston: Crown Business Milligan, A. (2010). Don’t mess with the logo: Tools to build brands with impact. New Jersey: FT Press Pradeep, A. (2010). The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind. New Jersey: Wiley Simonson, A. & Schmitt, B. (2007). Marketing Aesthetics: The Strategic Management of Brands, Identity and Image. New York: Free Press Swarbrick, J., Lloyd, A. & Hillery, A. (2001). Drug Delivery and Targeting: For Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists. New York: CRC Press Wheeler, A. (2006). Designing Brand Identity. New Jersey: Wiley Whitbread, D. (2009). The Design Manual. New York: UNSW Press