User experience design (UXD), the science of structuring information and developing user flows, is breaking out of its native-digital niche, where it originated as a planning and architectural tool for developing website and apps. Now it’s a critical element in many different kinds of marketing strategies.
Understanding the full range of consumer experiences with a brand is a critical factor in building awareness, engagement, and advocacy — and in framing or evolving a value proposition that integrates and emphasizes features and benefits in believable and sustaining ways.
UXD is changing how brands approach strategic planning and how they develop customer insights. It promises to stitch together what consumers say they do with what they actually or habitually do. By using UXD, companies can find out how messages are framed and where messages are transmitted and received. The combination creates a measurable context to help us understand how consumers use brands and consume content.
In applying UXD principles to integrated marketing programs, consider these three key factors.
End-to-End Planning. It’s not just about the product or the transaction. People want to buy into brands, not just buy stuff. You need a longitudinal perspective on the process. Anticipate and plan for information needs, feelings, and functionalities at every step — from the first glimmer of an idea in your prospect’s mind through the completion of a successful interaction and onto the next one. Every customer takes a journey to identify and interact with your brand. Map it. Think about it and carefully decide when, where, and how you will have opportunities to shape the sequence, the messages, the offers, the incentives, the rewards, the confirmations, and the back-sell communications.
Frictionless Interactions. The holy grail of UXD is to make every interaction simple, easy, intuitive, and rewarding. It’s a very tall order that may require using all your resources to figure out where the likely hiccups might occur. Understand who your prospects are, what they are after, and how they go about getting it. Then design your engagement mechanisms.
UXD techniques such as ethnographic research, rapid prototyping, task-oriented testing, in situ observation, eye-mapping, and careful interviewing can deepen or supercharge a brand’s customer insights when they are used with focus groups, qualitative and quantitative research, and customer data. The more you get into your customers’ heads, the better. The more you understand their context, the better. The more you understand their workflow and coping devices. the better. The more you anticipate where and how customers may be hesitant, confused or doubtful, the better.
Create Visual Cues. Too many brand experiences are like driving in New Jersey; under-marked and confusing. Develop plenty of visual cues to orient and direct prospects and customers. You can never reinforce where they are and where they are heading too much. Think of the customer journey like driving the Interstate highway system. Anticipate where prospects will get antsy, where they need gentle reinforcement, where they need a big honking sign, and when they need confirmation that they’ve gone in the right direction or made the right choice.
By integrating UXD with traditional strategic planning, you can create a more accurate and powerful tool for brands to build deeper customer understanding, intimacy, and loyalty.