Rebooting user experience for growth

The latest issue of our Joined-up Thinking magazine has arrived, looking at the areas of our industry that are going through periods of significant transformation. One such area is user experience, which twentysix’s Liz Worsley explores in greater depth below.

The rhetoric for much of 2020 was that we were ‘all in this together’. And in one sense, we were. But, depending on where people live and work, who they live with, and what their job entails, they will have been hit financially and psychologically in varying ways. They’ll be developing new concerns and modifying what they see as important.

Adoption of digital has been accelerated through necessity, which means organisations now have new types of customers with different levels of experience and expectations.

All of this means our clients have to continuously learn about how effectively their products and services are meeting these rapidly evolving and wide-ranging needs. Our data, insights and UX teams seek to understand customer behaviour and motivation, and how this aligns with business goals and strategy, so we can design and test ideas that positively impact customer experience and business performance. The real value of UX is data-informed ideas that create growth.

What makes UX matter is the same as it’s always been, but a reboot in 2021 is more important than ever.

Think long term

Companies able to adapt to these kinds of challenges look and feel agile, but they think long term. Design-led, customer-focused organisations have long been proven to outperform the market and deliver greater value to shareholders. They effect long-term growth through brand building which depends on customer insight, creativity, and measuring what matters.

In this time of rapid change, there is a high risk of sprinting off in the wrong direction and not having the right data to be able to course-correct. Ideas informed by research, data science, and strategy are vital to avoid wasting time and money launching products that don’t fit what the market and customers need.

Revisit your research…

Think of research as essential groundwork, fundamental to setting people up to generate innovative ideas, and to reduce the risk of making costly decisions. Without research, any ideas you launch will be based on assumptions, which are prone to bias. But successful products are rooted in customer insight. Thinking about customers’ motivations and unmet needs points you to the right solutions for the right problems.

Start by analysing the current situation. Get everything on the table. Collect together and scrutinise your search and analytics reports, customer feedback, existing research findings, trends and insights data, and sales data. As you look at all of your data, you should ask questions about what you observe and why it is happening. Also note if you have a lack of insights in any area. For example, why are fewer users making repeat orders? What are the behavioural traits of users who continued to make repeat orders? What has been our most effective messaging, and why?

…And adapt accordingly

We saw a rise in demand for timely user research caused by coronavirus-related uncertainties. Rather than be an obstruction, the restrictions have enabled us to reach a diverse range of customers who are unlimited by their location to our researchers, and who have widely adopted video and screen sharing platforms such as Zoom. A lot of our methods are already remote, and we’ve adapted face-to-face research to online platforms, with equally high value outcomes.

Methods such as surveys and interviews are used to learn about how your customers are feeling, what questions and uncertainties they have, how they are using different products and services in your market, what motivations are driving their behaviour, and why they might not be doing a desired behaviour. It is likely that you’ll need to update your personas and create new ones, so you can be confident in future design decisions.

Together with desk research you should get a good picture of what is happening and be able to identify how and where design and technology can be used to improve customer experience.

Remap user journeys

Use learnings from desk and user research to map out each step in key user journeys. For each of the touchpoints where you need to communicate effectively with your customers, define its business purpose, the desired behaviour you want to see, what would increase the chance of seeing that desired behaviour, and what is preventing customers taking action.

In each of these moments there are opportunities to improve customer experience. For example, how to use personalisation to promote different products and messaging to risk-averse and risk-tolerant customers.

The insights you’ve gained from research, mapped to user journeys, will help you generate ideas that fit customer needs and create competitive advantage.

Measure impact and share learnings

It is more important than ever to demonstrate how customer experience impacts business performance, so you can target investments where they create most value. Measuring the success of your UX efforts should go beyond narrow, short term metrics such as conversion rate, and look to measure long-term impact across the full customer journey. This is why companies who have adopted a system for experimentation are able to test ideas, spot growth opportunities, and learn about their customers, so each release is better than the last, and all teams understand how they affect results.

How brands deliver technology and content fundamentally affects customer experience. Traditional analytics give you a historical picture; but you need to make decisions in a world where customer expectations and behaviour are rapidly changing. Frequent experimentation and shared learning are key to growth and remaining competitive.

For me, collective success in 2021 will mean redefining UX as the bit between data and impact. UX integrates research, design, and experimentation to generate breakthrough ideas. When data is everywhere and anyone can build things, it’s your ideas that will set you apart.

Liz Worsley is the Principal Experience Designer of twentysix

This article appears in the latest edition of Joined-up Thinking Magazine. Click here to read and download the full issue