| by Foolproof

When the digital experience
IS the product

When the digital experience <br />IS  the productWhen the digital experience
IS the product

These days my relationship with my bank is almost entirely digital. Whether I’m checking my balance, paying a bill or applying for a new credit card, it all takes place through a digital interface. And that’s the way I like it. It’s the same when I want to book a flight, rent a movie, do my Christmas shopping or start looking for a new house. When I have a bad experience with a brand online I don’t switch channels, I simply leave them behind for a brand that has got it right. I know I’m not alone in this. We conduct thousands of hours of research with customers every year looking at how they interact with brands in digital and I find they are very similar to me in this respect. We are in an era where the digital experience IS the product. In this era, brands that fail to adapt will increasingly lose to competitors that are more attuned to their digital customers.

There have been plenty of casualties already. LOVEFiLM rode a wave of change in how we watch video and in the process rendered the business model of Blockbuster obsolete. Its parent company Amazon pressurises the leading high street retailers and arguably was a significant factor in the fall of brands like HMV and Game. In mobile, one time market leaders, Nokia and Blackberry have had their market share decimated by companies like Apple and Samsung, after missing several waves of innovation in the mobile experience. Google stomped all over Yahoo! by perfecting a search experience that brought customers and advertisers together in a mutually beneficial and non-intrusive way.

Two things stand out about the companies that are winning ground. Firstly, they really understand what their customers want and how their behaviour is changing. Secondly, they use these customer insights to drive valuable innovations in the design and delivery of experiences that make the most of current technology and live up to customer aspirations.

I see evidence that a growing number of clients understand this. There’s recognition that digital has become far too important to take risks with and as a result they demand that agencies demonstrate more sophistication in their approach to digital briefs. Clients want customers to be brought into the design process; they want to see real customer insight used to spur creativity and hard evidence driving design decision-making. In response many agencies have adapted their approach, becoming more user-centric, bringing user experience practitioners into their teams and building elements of research and testing into their project approach. This is progress for sure. But I’m not entirely convinced that these agencies have gone far enough. Too many are still wedded to an old world view of design in which big ideas, clever technology and visual appeal are the priority. Too many either use desk research as a surrogate for real customer insight or outsource their research to a third party. They are happy to take a gamble with their client’s budget and digital brand experience because they ‘believe’ their creative approach is the right approach. These agencies haven’t accepted yet that the practice of digital design has moved on. In this era where the digital experience IS the product, all digital design is now Experience Design.

This could be challenging for many agencies. The practice of Experience Design requires a very different set of skills and ways of working. In an Experience Design studio Psychologists and Ergonomists are as essential as Visual Designers and Creative Technologists. Data and observation fuel creativity, while research and design are so tightly interwoven that outsourcing research simply isn’t an option; it’s just too important, too baked in.

Experience Design requires real collaboration; client stakeholders and customers are active participants throughout the design process. It has to be iterative; it’s a process of learning where thinking is tried, tested and continually refined. It’s an approach that we refer to as evidence-based creativity. We do it every day for clients that understand digital is just too important for guesswork.

Ray McCune

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