Reducing stress and putting the party back into the in-store service experience
GROUP PROJECT | 4 WEEKS
STRATEGY, SERVICE DESIGN, ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN, 3D DESIGN, UX/UI DESIGN
I collaborated with the strategists on my team to conduct research, distill the insight, and create design objectives. I worked with Matt, fellow experience designer, to map out pain points and design new service offerings around them. Individually, I redesigned the in-store environment and designed/ prototyped the wayfinding interface.
Cinema 4D, Photoshop, Sketch, InVision, Keynote
Party City creates an oasis from the stress of party planning.
To customers, Party City feels like the opposite of a party
Despite their domination of the party goods category, Party City’s reputation among customers leaves plenty to be desired. The brand promotes a promise “to make any moment extraordinary,” but ironically, the experience consumers have in the store is anything but. While parties make us feel alive, the store feels lifeless.
“A nightmare trying to find the specific thing I was looking for”
- Mary Gray
“Super overwhelming and… sterile?”
“Where parties go to die.”
To make matters worse, the hectic in-store experience exacerbates party-related stress
Today’s party hosts are feeling the pressure to put on the best event possible– including both functional worries (“Will I have enough cups?”) and emotional ones (“Will someone ruin the surprise?”).
Unfortunately, Party City’s overwhelming in-store experience is only serving to increase the anxiety factor.
Make it easier for people to have less stressful, more memorable parties
In order to stay atop its category and fend off competition from Amazon, Party City needs to differentiate itself by delivering an extraordinary in-store experience worthy of its brand promise.
We set out to focus on the needs of its customers to help reduce in-store stress, and in doing so, make Party City a leader in what it means to throw a good party.
Party City: Don’t stress a good time
Planning a party can be stressful– but it shouldn’t be. We developed a revamped retail experience to better meet shoppers’ needs.
Because only 8% of Party City’s sales occur online and their e-commerce platform is far more user-friendly than the in-person experience, we focused solely on the physical service environment.
We’ll focus on the Party, you focus on the good time.
Identifying stress points
In auditing the customer experience, we identified three main areas for improvement in the store. These served as our north star in the design process.
1. Lack of Inspiration + Expertise
Employees are knowledgeable about their specific store, but not necessarily about what makes a good party. Because they’re not receiving help, guests get lost wandering the store and end up Googling inspiration on the spot.
2. Overwhelming Selection & Poor Product Quality
Shoppers are overwhelmed with too many options and disappointed with the quality of products, which feel cheap and disposable on the whole.
3. Wayfinding + Wait Times
Due to poor organization and lack of aisle labeling, it’s difficult to find highly specific items in the store– and long lines at the balloon counter and checkout were a common nightmare for all.
From overwhelming to inspiring
All design decisions were made to eliminate stress points from the shopping experience.
As customers walk into Party City, the storefront announces the tone for the whole experience. We transformed the store’s exterior from its stuffy, dark, and unimaginative current state to provide a bright and inviting peek into the redesigned retail space.
Rather than overwhelming and sterile, the store’s interior was reimagined as airy, vibrant, and modern. Since not all Party City shoppers visit the store for candy, we deemphasized the candy aisle in favor of a central hub that can meet all shoppers’ needs. In each aisle, we added labeling and lowered the shelf height to improve sight lines across the store and to help customers feel less overwhelmed by the selection.
GOOD TIME CENTRAL
The best parties create a sense of community and have a central gathering space where the magic happens– like the dance floor at a wedding. In this spirit, we created a centrally-located hub where customers can approach staff experts for party-planning advice and to get help finding specific items.
For customers who are trying to find highly specific items or who’d rather not interact with customer service, we designed a wayfinding app that helps guests quickly search by keyword and locate items in specific aisles and bins.
INTRODUCING THE “HOSTS”
In our research, we found that it’s not the decor or the atmosphere that make a party memorable, but the people. As such, we reimagined the role of Party City employees to be that of Hosts and Hostesses, party specialists whose job is to ensure that all guests have a great experience at the party (i.e. the store).
IN-STORE PARTY VIGNETTES
Hosts and Hostesses would take turns staging a featured in-store party vignette each month– helping them become experts in staging parties so that they can in turn provide better assistance to customers. For guests, the vignette provides on-the-spot inspiration to help contextualize products (rather than simply seeing them on the shelves).
Customers spend lots of money on party decor and accessories just to throw them away after the event. Party City will provide a new suite of rental services to help guests take their party to the next level without having to purchase premium specialty items like giant games, karaoke equipment, or witch cauldrons.
All generic party essentials would be grouped together on a single Color Wall in the back of the store. We added kiosks to help with the balloon-ordering process, as well as quick-checkout lanes to cut down on waits. Hosts and Hostesses would also be able to help with purchases at Good Time Central.
Extending the Service
Cultivating loyal, repeat customers
Party City Rewards
Party City’s current customers have little reason to visit regularly– but with the addition of a member loyalty program including special offers and benefits, customers are incentivized to stop by and see what’s new.
When new members sign up, they’ll receive a stress-free party favor bag. Contents include a candle, noise-free noisemakers, and a calling card for the stress-free party hotline– which provides customers the same expert service once they leave the store.