Recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with a top-notch team of user experience design professionals. I’ve enjoyed learning the fundamentals of an effective design process and have even picked up some of the lingo. I feel a natural affinity for what these folks do because their professional system is very similar to that of a marketer.
Done properly both product design and marketing are based on research that characterizes target users or markets and uncovers their needs. Testing is required to assess the effectiveness of both design prototypes and marketing concepts, and to guide refinements. Great product design leads to satisfied users and hopefully greater sales. Great marketing generates intent to purchase and hopefully more sales.
Designers speak a lot about user experience while marketers talk about brand experience. User experience refers to the nature of the interaction between a user and a product design. A user forms an opinion about the product based on this interaction. Brand experience is the nature of the interactions prospective customers have with all aspects of an organization’s brand (advertising, social media, editorial, word-of-mouth, celebrity associations, packaging, etc.). From these interactions they develop opinions about the company and its products or services.
The “aha!” moment for me was realizing that brand experience and product user experience are two aspects of something bigger: customer experience. Every interaction that anyone has with your business (advertising, news reports, sales calls, social media, customer service interactions, the purchasing process, packaging, product usage, warranty, etc.) alters the impression of your value and differentiation. This end-to-end customer experience is particularly important for companies that wish to form long-term relationships (and repeated purchases) with their customers.
So, rather than thinking of product design, marketing, sales and customer service in isolation, enlightened companies should worry about the overall customer experience; the journey a person takes from their first interaction with the brand to their point of repurchase. Ideally, it is actually charted out in a “customer experience journey map” that is used to understand and improve customer touch points. Just as user research leads to product redesign and market research leads to brand redesign, customer experience research can lead to the redesign of fundamental organizational structures and processes. The result is a more consistent and effective delivery of value to customers.
So start expanding your thinking about what your customers are paying you for. It isn’t just the product they get when money changes hands. That transaction is just a point in time somewhere in the middle of a much longer journey. If you want more people coming along for the ride, it’s best to have a clear idea where you’re taking them!