Don't Design Sites - Design Everything!

By Tim Dunn, Director, Mobile and Strategy, Isobar

If there's one thing that's true about the modern consumer, it's that it's very easy to upset them. I experienced this first hand the other week, when, upon opening my bright and shiny new Apple Music app for the first time, Apple chose to recommend to me: Cher, Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and 50 Cent. For a company that has been hosting my indie-guitar-rock music collection for over 15 years, that's pretty insulting.

Likewise when signing up for email from my favorite sports brand recently, my welcome page featured a series of recommendations for garish neon sports bra tops. For me, that's not a good look.

The irony of both of these experiences is that both were structurally sound - all the buttons and images were in the right place, and it looked and felt good - but both were tragically undermined by the data used to populate them.

These days the importance of CX (customer experience) is of huge importance: and in fact, when you look at the success of Uber, AirBnB, and the rest of the sharing economy businesses, it frequently defines business and offers compelling competitor advantage. Forrester's recent report on the correlation of price premium and customer experience shows that across numerous sectors, half of consumers would be prepared to pay premium for an excellent experience.

And this new experience-first principle is having effect at the boardroom level. Early markers for this include British Airways, and large UK retailer John Lewis, who just this week announced new board positions of Customer Director (to replace the board marketing role) and Productivity Director.

But how do you design for everything? How do you create an entire experience at once? This is no easy feat when businesses operate in silos, and digital channels can take years to come to fruition. Yet in CX design, it's too often forgotten that everything is connected to everything else, and consumers float from platform to platform with ease, expecting things to 'just work' around them.

One approach I find useful is to start by creating an inventory of my basic customer types, and channels that connect to drive the experience towards them. This model is founded on the data layer at the bottom of the diagram, and it's only by specifying the flow of data into and out of this layer, that you can design the experiences that the customer actually undergoes higher up the chart. Each of these components need their role in the experience designed, with thought as to what they will do for the customer, how they will make the experience relevant and compelling, and how they will integrate with the rest of the ecosystem.

We divide this kind of structured ecosystem into:
  • People: which customer and internal actors are a part of the experience
  • Channels: which channels and media will they use to interact with us
  • Offering: what value or functionality will we bring to them
  • Platforms: which systems do we need to have in place to facilitate the offerings to the People via the channels
  • Data: what do we need to know about our customers and products to make the right connections

One way to start to visualize how these connections are made is to map out a general flow. This (very simplified!) example of a garment retailer shows how each of the brand's touchpoints works in harmony to take the use towards purchase. Note how, in this model, data and social media are used to tailor every aspect of the web site and app.

Individual experiences (scenarios) can be plotted in the same way and built into the ecosystem. Building individual journeys is helpful to identify week spots in related areas of a marketing ecosystem that aren't immediately apparent.

Here's one example of an individual scenario below: in this instance a retailer wishes to send a user a personalized message using Beacons in retail stores to incentivize purchase.

This is a great idea! Imagine turning up at a footwear store and receiving a message that not only do they have a shoe you have been looking at on the website in stock, but they also have it in your size, and will give you 10% off if you buy it today!

However, what the diagram shows is how an ecosystem approach across technology and brand marketing is required to make this happen:
  • In order for the phone to receive a message, there must be Beacons physically placed in the store
  • For the coupon to be redeemed, there has to be integration with the retail POS system AND have a messaging platform to send a message when the scenario is triggered by the user's phone entering the store
  • Beacons only work with apps, so the brand has to have an app installed with notifications switched on. A strong brand app will generally require a blend of content, offers and messaging, and should be maintained and run to be interesting and useful
  • In order to know what message to send, the brand must have a detailed picture of the customer in a database. Ideally it will have gathered information from the website, social media, wish-lists and previous purchases that can be used to recommend a particular product
  • The app and the entire experience should ideally fit into a branded CRM program which is closely related to the brand essence itself, and ideally supported by marketing spend
So, 'designing for everything' is indeed possible, and is to my mind the only way to offer the branded experiences of the future. Few organizations are currently set up to deliver it today. But I have seen that with strong leadership rallying teams around a shared vision, progress can be made faster than you might believe.