User Experience as a Multi Channel Customer Journey
A few years ago, in the “desktop-centric” world of digital design, User Experience Designers focused on the user “visit” to a single digital destination, NOT a multi channel customer journey in which they may encounter several digital touch-points. To be fair to the UX Designers of that era, it probably wasn’t an issue of shortsightedness that led them to limit their focus to the desktop. The most significant limiting factor was likely due to a client budget that was geared towards a channel-specific implementation.
In a single-screen world, the journey seemed more like a short trip.
Has the number of connected screens changed “business as usual”?
Today, mobile and other connected screens are a fundamental component of a client’s total digital strategy; however, these platforms are still treated as if they were separate initiatives, budgets, and business units. This situation illustrates that digital strategy is still often led by the way businesses organise their departments and budgets rather than how consumers are likely to come in contact with a brand digitally.
Looking through the lens of the consumer life cycle
The process of UX Design involves understanding the needs of the end-user in order to conceptualise and create experiences. To aid understanding the UX Designer will need to document the likely context in which a user may come in contact with a brand. At first they may choose to depict this user journey as a series of phases in the “consumer life cycle”. The UX Designer can then illustrate this by mapping the phases of the consumer life cycle to digital tactics and touch-points along the journey.
The consumer life cycle has four phases
1. Discovery of a brand’s services – The “Discovery” phase of the consumer life cycle deals with how consumers first come in contact with a brand’s digital products and services. The paradigm case for Discovery is a user conducting a Google search. While searching may be a behaviour for those users who know what they are looking for, others will be discover products via input from their friends and followers on social networks, for example. As you can see, enabling Discovery of a single brand’s products and services in today’s noisy digital market requires a strategic set of digital tactics to deal with the multi channel way in which users source their information.
2. Engagement with brand experiences (online or offline) – When non-practitioners hear the term “User Experience” they often think of the engagement that a user has with an application’s user interface and content. The scope of “Engagement” in that context is limited to a single platform. The challenge of engaging a user along multi touch-points and multi channels requires the creation of a consistent set of experiences that fulfils on brand promises and is also appropriate to each digital platform. These experiences should not be limited to a single platform (phone, tablet, or desktop).
3. Conversion or brand service transactions – The primary goal of a business with digital products and services, is converting consumers into shoppers, or subscribers, of services. The “points-of-conversion” in UX Design (especially in E-commerce) are well studied and well documented. Digital tactics, when converting end-users, are mostly led by best practices so as not to confuse or frustrate the end-user at critical moments in their journey.
4. Reward for loyal and repeated patronage of a brand – Often overlooked, are tactics to engage the end-user, even after conversion. Digital brands build loyalty by rewarding loyalty. By rewarding users for repeated engagement, brands are able to turn customers into brand evangelists.
Examining the needs of behavioural personas
While the consumer life cycle is one way to represent the user journey, UX Designers need to get more intimate with the individual user – to design an experience that will satisfy that individual’s needs and not just the channel they will be using. To that end, prior to jumping into design, UX Designers should conduct primary user research to gain a deep understanding of the likely tasks and behaviour of the intended user segments.
Illustrating needs, based on the behavioural trends observed in research, requires the UX Designer to develop behavioural personas. Behavioural personas group consumers into archetypes based on major trends in their behaviour as observed in research studies.
Personas enable UX Designers to focus on behaviour rather than technology, so that there is less of a chance that thinking will be constrained to a single technical platform. Because persona needs are dictated by the context of specific situations, the type of technology and channel in different situations will vary.
Scenarios, or user journeys are another tool for UX Designers to gain empathy for the end-user. Scenarios depict “a day in the life” of a typical user by recreating likely events that bring consumers in contact with brands (offline and online). UX Designers can recreate likely scenarios by drawing upon qualitative feedback from actual or representative end-users who participated in exploratory behavioural research studies.
Scenarios help to identify the role, and scope, of particular applications that the user may encounter on their multi channel customer journey.
Get out of the mindset of designing for technical platforms
The design of applications must be tailored to the lifestyles of humans and NOT restricted to the limitations and capabilities of a single technical platform
It is important to remember that applications are intended to support the needs of humans. Therefore, the design of applications must be tailored to the lifestyles of humans and NOT restricted to the limitations and capabilities of a single technical platform. Humans are mobile, and their context is constantly changing. In order to develop the right applications for people, UX Designers must document the user experience as a journey and document the end-user’s likely behaviours and needs as well as digital tactics to support those needs at each critical moment.