THE new age of commercial real-estate spaces is upon us now, one where properties and brands interact seamlessly with buyers, customers and other stakeholders to create very powerful experiences through Digital Transformation (DX).
Interestingly, the person spearheading this revolution is someone who’s neither from the retail nor the local property sector. Rather, she has spent her lifetime advocating powerful and impactful change for Philippine businesses by championing DX through the coming together of technology, space, and brand aspirations.
Micro-D International Inc. (MDI) CEO Myla Villanueva has embraced DX as a movement even before the entire process earned such term. As the visionary executive behind MDI, she has successfully led her company to become a pioneering technological design organization and the leading catalyst of DX here in the Philippines.
“Any design that does not prioritize the integration of technology within a physical space and aligns itself with the brand’s promise is an incomplete design,” Villanueva says. “Thus, the challenge for businesses today is how they can integrate their back end with their front to bring their brand aspirations to life. Every groundbreaking technology today should take into consideration the human element and interaction, and how it complements its surroundings.”
Armed with this kind of vision and “design thinking” for the past 30 years, Myla has empowered MDI to become the go-to innovators for some of the country’s industry leaders, such as Smart Communications and Globe, among many others. And, recently, she and her organization just presented what is perhaps the most impressive proof of concept under their name: Union Bank of the Philippines’s (UnionBank) The Ark branch along Ayala Avenue in Makati City.
Transforming spaces via DX
The entire design process behind a brand’s transformation, Villanueva shares, isn’t something customers can readily understand, but it should be able to trigger refreshing, revolutionary experiences from them when done right. This has been the idea behind MDI’s efforts to rethink how commercial spaces become catalysts of remarkable customer experiences through the coming together of the DX Trinity—design, the physical space and the brand’s aspirations.
It has become very important for brands to understand that technology is utilized within their respective spaces not just for technology’s sake. More important, it must serve a bigger purpose in their DX journey as an enabler of experiences.
MDI has partnered with the country’s leading corporations to do just that: recreate spaces and embrace the DX Trinity, ensuring that their brand’s promises are manifested across all contact points with their customers.
The first step in MDI’s DX journey is taking the time to understand the aspirations of the business. What is the bigger goal they want to achieve? How do they see themselves as innovators? How will their ideas manifest within their space? Afterward, the next item to tick off the list is bringing in their fellow DX and innovation advocates.
“We collaborate with the right partners in promoting true Digital Transformation to make sure that the DX Trinity come naturally together. This way, we can ensure that an enterprise can make a significant and lasting impact, while generating the ultimate customer experience,” Villanueva explained.
Redefining third spaces
The Ark is UnionBank’s groundbreaking retail and banking space in Makati. “The Ark is a bridge between the real-world banking experience and the digital experience, which we have made possible by teaming up with our partners, led of course by MDI,” said Ana Aboitiz-Delgado, deputy center head for Consumer Finance and chief user experience officer of UnionBank.
The ARK is a refreshing space that uses digital technology to augment an actual banking experience. It has been a very interesting project for MDI because of what they were able to accomplish given the kind of vision UnionBank shared with them.
“When we spoke to UnionBank President Edwin Bautista, he made their aspiration very clear to us: to be the leading digital bank by designing a brand experience like a tech company that has a banking engine,” Villanueva said.
What followed was a lengthy process of going back to the basics and understanding the intricacies and the details of every customer’s point of interaction inside the bank. MDI looked at every process, every engagement, every interaction a customer goes through their journey in a branch. Then, they researched and experimented how they could make each process more effective and efficient by maximizing the DX Trinity.
Banking at The Ark also does away with long queues, and the interiors look clean and very minimalist, yet comfortable. Within the space, there is very powerful technology that allows customers to save time, fulfill their usual routines, enjoy a more hassle-free banking experience and interact with the space positively.
“We’re very delighted at how MDI and our partners have interpreted our vision and brought our ideas to life at The Ark,” Aboitiz Delgado explained. “Look around you, and you’ll see that this is not just a bank anymore. It’s now become a ‘third space.”’
The way technology has evolved today, there really needs to be a strong synergy between technology, design and brand aspirations. This DX Trinity has become the primary pillars for the game-changing work MDI has been doing because, as Villanueva asserts, any DX journey will cease to make a difference if one of these three goes missing.