The Warehouse Group

Customer-First Transformation

The very best project in each discipline at the Best Design Awards is awarded the supreme, Purple Pin for work that truly raises the bar for New Zealand design.

Purple Pin 2022
Value of Design: Customer-First Transformation
Studio: The Warehouse Group

Judge's comments

Their objective was to build Design Thinking capability right across the organisation, creating a collaborative framework for cross functional teams to innovate and align customer and business needs. No easy task at this scale of organisation and the results over the last 2 years are simply stunning.

This is impressive, systemic and deep change across every part of the business. Investing in time, fantastic tools and total commitment to upskilling everyone. It was a brave, courageous approach that clearly got everyone focused and working better as a team. Everything they do now, every change, every innovation, every new product goes through this process with the customer designed in at its heart.

Jonathan Waecker their Chief Customer and Sales Officer puts it very well "Design thinking has made our organisation and our talent more customer-centric, more resilient, and more effective in every way."
Incredibly impressive performance! Well done.


Design thinking has made our organisation and our talent more customer-centric, more resilient, and more effective in every way.


Early in our Customer-First Transformation we realised Agile on its own was not enough to ensure we were putting the customer first in every decision. We needed Design Thinking, to be the brain to our agile delivery muscle.


Agile was a new way of working for the business and as a delivery mechanic on its own it was not enough to ensure we put the customer first. Agile helped to mobilise our teams around a customer need or mission, but cross-functional teams still needed a way to guide day-to-day collaborative decision-making (both strategic and execution), so that our activities were in service of both customer and business outcomes.


Build Design Thinking capability across the organisation to complement our agile way of working, as it provided a collaborative framework that led to decisions that aligned customer and business needs.


TWG’s customer first transformation required and investment in both an agile way of working and design thinking. Return on this investment in this transformation can be measured by looking at our response to the rapidly changing needs of our customers throughout the pandemic, and how this has resulted in improvements to our product and shopping experience, as well as an uplift in share performance.

Fast forward two years and Design Thinking has created a safe way for cross functional teams to innovate. The quotes below outline the difference Design Thinking has made for team members.

What challenges are tribes facing when being a customer first retailer?

“An action-oriented culture + workload pressure makes slowing down to collaborate to think about the customer counter intuitive.” Ben Hatch, Store Operation Support, Chapter Lead

How has Design Thinking been used to overcome those challenges?

“Design Thinking acts a circuit breaker to get people out of the day to day, to think differently about the customer and prioritise what’s important to them.” Jo Hempstead, Finance Chapter Area Lead

What material difference has it made?

“Design Thinking bridged the gap between strategy and execution, enabling the squads to plan and deliver the innovation our customers expect in a safe way.” Debby Watts, Better Living Tribe Lead

"Design thinking has made our organisation and our talent more customer-centric, more resilient, and more effective in every way." Jonathan Waecker, Chief Customer and Sales Officer