Mobile Design Sprint

3 min Read Time

HBC Digital is a large organization. We are hundreds of technologists responsible for the retail experiences for many of North America’s largest retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks OFF 5TH, Gilt, Lord & Taylor and the Bay. Our breadth allows us to work on complex challenges with huge upsides. The number of opportunities available to us, however, requires commitment from our teams to ensure we are focused on the right problems.

Recently our mobile team took part in a week-long design sprint. The goal of the five-day process was to answer critical business questions through design, prototyping and testing ideas with customers, who are always at the center of our work. They wanted to make sure they were solving the right problem for our customers.

The design sprint was inspired by past exercises we’ve conducted with Prolific Interactive, however, this iteration was facilitated by the Senior Program Manager on our mobile team. The goal was to use the Saks Fifth Avenue app to “reduce shopping friction, unifying the customer experience across physical and digital stores”.

The Process

Each day of the five-day sprint had a particular focus:

  • Day 1 - Goal Setting and Mapping the Challenge
  • Day 2 - Sketching Ideas and Setting a Direction
  • Day 3 - Prototyping
  • Day 4 - Prototyping
  • Day 5 - User Testing

The exercise involved experts from across Hudson’s Bay Company including product, engineering, UX, business partners from Saks Fifth Avenue stores and our customers.


Any team embarking on a design sprint should outline their goal and opportunities at the start of the sprint. These help to keep the team focused throughout the exercise. We identified three specific opportunities for our team:

  • Refine the vision for the Saks app
  • Seek business opportunities of being a partner with other divisions in HBC
  • Quickly vet ideas in line with Saks’ business themes

What We Learned

The “expert panel” conducted with our business partners from stores was one of the big wins of the week. The group setting allowed for lots of interaction and Q&A. Everyone on the team had the first-hand experience of hearing about the pain points of our partners in stores which paid huge dividends during our storyboarding and prototyping sessions.

Day 5 was “judgement day”. We created a test environment in our Saks Downtown store to mimic the in-store experience we envisioned during our prototyping session. By demoing in-store with Saks Fifth Avenue shoppers, we were able to get real-time feedback from our customers as they interacted with the prototype. The ability to iterate based on customer feedback before entering production will help to reduce our engineering overhead.

An added bonus of the sprint was how it energized our people. The team decided what to focus on, experimented with new technologies and connected directly with our store operations team and customers. All of these opportunities boosted morale and engagement.

Some of the things we plan to change for next time include:

  • adjust the timing of some activities (diligent time keeping of activities will pay off when mapping out the agenda for our next design sprint)
  • involve more people from our engineering team to improve the fluidity of our prototyping sessions
  • invest more time in preparation ahead of the exercise to improve our efficiency

What’s Next

With the design sprint complete, we are moving on to the feasibility/technical discovery process and defining the MVP. The tech discovery process for the MVP will feature a hackathon next month to test and build on some of the themes and technologies we identified as opportunities in the design sprint. The user testing with customers in-store during the design sprint will also heavily influence our work during the hackathon.

Stay tuned to this blog or head over to the App Store and download the Saks Fifth Avenue app to keep an eye on what we’re building.

HBC Digital