From digital disruption to design thinking, customer-centric design leverages digital technologies in new and innovative ways. Three case studies highlight the changing landscape of customer-centricity.


At the end of 2014, we published a beginner’s guide to customer-centric service design, offering lessons that could be learned from several companies that were effectively leveraging their customers’ mindset.

A year and half later, things have moved rapidly. Customer centricity – the reorganisation of a company’s structure or offering around the customer experience to anticipate and exceed expectations – has become the focal lens for many more businesses and organisations. More importantly, new digital technologies have only enhanced the capabilities of that approach.

Nowadays, to be customer-centric means much more than offering same day shipping on Saturdays or redesigning a smartphone app. It’s about leveraging groundbreaking new technologies, incorporating complementary strategies, and plucking up the courage to be a self-disruptor.

With that in mind, here are three more recent case studies of businesses taking customer centricity to heart and what can be learned from them.

Engage customers
using every digital channel

Based on their recent innovations, you could be forgiven for thinking pizza restaurant Domino’s had morphed into a technology company. After providing customers with the ability to order pizza hands-free from their vehicle in 2014, Domino’s upped the ante in 2015, unlocking pizza ordering using a Twitter hashtag or the pizza emoji.

Its ambitious digital strategy has only ramped up further this year. Customers can now order pizza through their smart television, from a Pebble smartwatch, or via a voice command to the Amazon Echo smarthome device. Seeking to beat Amazon’s 1-click ordering, the company even introduced a ‘zero-click’ smartphone app this year, which orders a (pre-programmed) meal as soon as the app is opened.

It’s not just the ordering process that Domino’s is augmenting with technology. To lower the cost of delivery, the company is also experimenting with robot delivery systems in New Zealand. Meanwhile, its Australian arm has trialed opt-in customer-tracking to align the cooking of the pizza with the customer’s in-store arrival.

The novelty of a pizza restaurant investing heavily in digital technology was not lost on its CDO, Dennis Maloney. In an April interview with AdAge he noted the restaurant was becoming “an e-commerce company that sells pizza”.


Aside from proving that investing in new technology remains a natural marketing tool, Domino’s digital strategy shows just how many different channels are now available to modern consumers. Crucially, it also demonstrates that it’s possible to tap into these channels effectively, turning them into functioning platforms for products and services.

Mix design thinking
with digital

In the world of fast-moving consumer goods, the pairing of digital with design thinking, a problem-oriented approach to product and service conception and execution, might not seem like a natural combination. But that’s exactly what PepsiCo has been refining for the last two years.

Using design thinking, PepsiCo realised that a suboptimal customer interaction was occurring with the manufacturer’s beverages around the world in the form of vending machines. In 2014, the company developed Pepsi Spire, an LCD touchscreen-enabled ‘digital fountain’ that allows customers to mix and match multiple flavours, displaying interactive video and touch games throughout the transaction.

Described as ‘smart equipment’, the machine is also capable of remembering personalised selections, tailoring its range based on its geographical location and offering real-time consumer preference insights back to PepsiCo. Its content can be remotely updated, and customers can even gift a product to a friend via social media connectivity. In 2016, Pepsi Spire machines began to penetrate the market further, with more than 3,000 rolled out across all Subway restaurants in Canada.


A customer-centric strategy can integrate methodologies such as design thinking. It is also important to understand every interaction a consumer can have with your product or service, and to know how these might be improved using innovative new digital technologies.

Your infrastructure can be customer-centric,
so invest

Closer to home, Victorian-based water utility South East Water is becoming a customer-centric digital utility. Earlier this year, its Managing Director described a project on the Mornington Peninsula that upgraded 16,500 homes from septic tanks to a digitally enabled network, where each property’s sewer pump and connection could be managed remotely and in real-time using data.

Using this technology, the utility – which has also been piloting internet-of-things technology in its infrastructure network – is better able to regulate waste flows throughout the network. It also saves on infrastructure costs as fewer assets such as manholes or trenches are required to provide the same service.

There are savings also for the customer. By receiving real-time data from these smart assets, the water company can detect irregular usage patterns, such as illegal sewer connections, burst pipes or even a leaking toilet cistern. Using this technology, any affected customers can be informed quickly, which means faster repair times and avoiding unnecessarily high bills.


Even for infrastructure-intensive service companies such as utilities, data continues to be a major asset. With the development of new technologies such as the internet of things, this infrastructure can be effectively digitised in various ways, improving data capture, reducing costs, and optimising the customer experience.

The customer
is always bright

While these case studies provide useful examples of modern customer centricity, there is a simpler reason to pursue customer-centric digital strategies: in Australia, the customer is likely to be more digitally savvy than your business.

According to a research paper released by the Productivity Commission in June, Australian consumers are notably fast adopters of new technologies, switching to new gadgets such as smartphones at a faster rate than those in the US, the UK and many European countries. Similar fast adoption curves can also be observed for the internet and wearable devices. This speed of adoption likely outpaces the initiatives of many businesses and organisations.

In today’s highly competitive business environment, in which fostering customer loyalty is more difficult than ever, businesses should treat each customer like a digital futurist, observing their changing adoptions of technology and centering around them accordingly.



Nick Spooner

Nick Spooner is a partner at PwC and the leader of PwC Digital Services Experience Centre across South East Asia and Australia.

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