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Unlocking the Power of Empathetic Product Design

Unlocking the Power of Empathetic Product Design

Edwige Valsecchi and Andrew Washuta

84.51° is an industry-leading data science and CX company, known for pioneering Kroger’s direct-to-customer Loyalty Program. 84.51° leverages Kroger data from more than 60 million households across the U.S., enabling a more personalized connection between shoppers and the brands they love. To make sense of such an immense volume of information, 84.51° designs software products that blend advanced data-modeling technology with user-centric capabilities and data visualizations.

As a CX company, it is imperative that our products meet our customers where they are and provide the insights necessary for them to accomplish their highly demanding work. For the recent release of our new flagship insights product, Stratum, we committed to a user-centric approach to design and development. Stratum is a breakthrough analytics solution that enables our consumer-packaged-goods partners to uncover the meaning behind customer behavior and retail performance data, to drive measurable business results.


To understand the specific needs of the merchandisers and retail analysts using Stratum, our team embraced a holistic design approach, rooted in extensive user research and iterative development. Below are some takeaways of how to unlock empathetic design to deliver a truly user-centric product that we discovered during Stratum’s design phase.

Involve the Customer from the Beginning

Before the first line of code was written, the Stratum team involved our CPG partners. With a 20-year track record of delivering business insights, 84.51° has been well-positioned to develop hypotheses and assumptions of what users need. However, we also have the unique opportunity to rapidly validate and refine our understanding of what is most valuable to our users. To do so, we began an extensive discovery phase to uncover the jobs that need to be done with our insights.

Through a combination of user research, such as focus groups and interviews, we met directly with our CPG partners and dug deeper into their existing processes and pain points. As the discovery phase progressed, we crafted user personas from our research and mapped end-to-end journeys that detailed the core user needs. From there, we prioritized the work with our business partners.

At the core of empathetic product design is a solid understanding of the users for whom you are designing the product. Involving them from the beginning will allow you to identify your goal and stay on target.

Design a Product Built Around Research

There’s an art and a science to balancing what we want to deliver, designing for the outcome and applying it within our technological framework. Not unlike a commissioned painting, the customers describe the picture they want to see, the engineers provide the paint palette and the designers unite the vision and bring it to life.

By committing to a design journey where the user is at the center of the core functionality, we intentionally established new design patterns that address users’ needs. For example, one feature allows the user to filter the universe of the data, so it’s relevant and adapts to fit to an ever-changing industry. By testing with users, we were able to understand their thought process, which led to the creation of unique features such as this.

Another feature we custom-tailored allows the user to build advanced queries to target households, based on measures and a set of products, over a period of time. The key is in the details and nuances that can be gathered from user-centered research. By looking at our product from our users’ perspective with discipline in suspending “creator bias,” we ultimately designed and developed a product that resonated with our audience. We found that seemingly simple tweaks can make a world of difference in transforming a functional product to something that is elegant and intuitive, but getting to the magic of simplicity requires active listening and observation.

By integrating user empathy into our work, we designed a product that enabled users to quickly find relevant reports with an elegant, yet simple-to-use interface. The reports reveal meaningful insights and compelling visualizations that allow for a deeper shopper and business-performance understanding.

Researching your users and their pain points will help identify the specific functions that will add the most value to your product. Prioritize the design of your product around this research.

Empower User Success

When designing Stratum, we kept in mind what the user wants to achieve with the product and how they can most effectively learn to use it. Stratum includes a robust learning center, providing access to rich content and embedded walkthrough tours, which interactively demonstrate how to do the desired task while completing the work.

Identify where you can remove obstacles from—or contribute to—your users’ success and design your product’s functions accordingly.

Be Flexible with the Market

It is not enough to launch a platform that only meets the needs of users today. What is relevant for merchandisers now might look very different in 18 months. Incorporate in your product design the ability to grow and evolve with your users and the industry. As such, Stratum will evolve and grow as our user needs do.

Stratum delivers a holistic user experience informed through deliberate and disciplined research, which ultimately allows our clients to make business decisions and act with confidence—today and in the future.