By Brendan Read

Traditional marketing will tell you that when developing a strategy for a product you should consider the product’s attributes on which it differs compared to competitors, e.g. market share, brand perception and price.

However, for companies selling software, mobile applications, web sites or any other digital asset, traditional marketing tends to lump the assets’ user (i.e. customer) experience (UX) into these differentiating attributes. But is this practice right?

DM Magazine recently talked with Litha Ramirez, who is executive director of the experience strategy and design group at digital tech consultancy SPR (www.spr.com) to get her insights.

DM Magazine (DMM): What marketing functions do digital assets provide?

Litha Ramirez (LR): From a marketing standpoint, a digital asset is a scalable, repeatable, trackable and self-serve piece of content that is consumed through an electronic device, such as an LED billboard, TV, smartphone, wearable, voice assistant and a laptop or desktop computer. Digital assets are useful for many parts of marketing and can create strong customer relationships.

DMM: The great Canadian media theorist, Marshall McLuhan, said “The medium is the message”. Is this the case with digital assets? Do customers now view the UX as the products?

LR: The saying, “medium is the message” has always held true, but perhaps we are revisiting this now due to the pervasiveness of omnichannel customer experiences. It’s difficult in our modern age for people to decouple the overall UX from the digital asset itself as they are now one and the same. This phrase means that companies must understand the customer’s journey and context of use and ensure that they are able to interact with the brands and/or digital assets in the way they want, with the content they want.

DMM: Is the way traditional marketing treats digital asset UX mistaken? And if so, how should marketers should look at it?

LR: Looking at UX as something done in channel silos without considering the overall omnichannel experience can hurt more than it helps. Today, customers see the experience as a continuum. Marketers need to leverage the power of UX to create a brand experience with continuity that emphasizes the overall experience, not just one channel.

DMM: What gains can marketers achieve by providing an excellent UX? And what makes a great UX?

LR: In a hyper-competitive market, a strong UX is an important differentiator that fosters brand loyalty. Great UX starts with understanding your customer’s journey.

Businesses may have the best intentions when imagining what their customers want, but unfortunately, they often miss the mark. This is because, although they may be customers themselves, they are ultimately the producers of the products, services or digital assets, and have different pressures and immediate goals that can take priority over their customers’ needs. These “producers” often develop their products or digital assets based on assumptions they hold about their customers. The problem is that their customers’ preferences often change or differ across different digital assets.

Because of this, a good UX can start with a set of assumptions based on past customer trends, but they should ultimately be tested with actual current customers. It is only through interactions with your current customers that you can develop a great UX, because then you can ensure it aligns with their actual articulated and unarticulated needs.

DMM: Conversely, what are the risks to marketers through having a poor UX? What are the common errors that companies make?

LR: A poor UX can risk you losing customers. If you are not making your UX across your channel’s digital asset useful, usable and desirable you can rest assured that there are hundreds of other brands that can step in and fill that gap.

The most common errors occur when businesses assume that their customers’ needs are the same as their business needs. Businesses should realize that framing the problems from their customers’ points of view can solve for many of their business needs. For companies in hyper-competitive markets with several similar products and services, they need to determine what, if anything, their products or services offer customers that makes it worthwhile for them to engage with the companies’ brands instead of their competitors’.

This is where UX can step in. You need to give something to get something in return. UX framed from your customers’ point of view gives your brand a competitive edge because it delivers something your customers will see as truly valuable.

DMM: What are your key recommendations to marketers in ensuring a profitable UX?

LR: First and foremost, marketers must know their customers’ needs, as well as their customers’ journeys. You cannot provide your them anything valuable if you don’t know their preferences and motivations. After this, marketers must align the customers’ journeys with their digital marketing funnels. This is only achieved through a build, measure and learn framework that starts with business assumptions, but ultimately tests these assumptions with actual customers before going to market.

Additionally, marketers must make sure that their UX makes their customers feel like they are getting more from the brands than they are giving it (e.g. time, money and contact information). Finally, marketers should avoid gilding the lily, meaning they must focus on the assets that provide the highest value to their customers without losing sight of opportunities to “delight” their customers through the UX.

Caption: Litha Ramirez, is executive director of the experience strategy and design group at digital tech consultancy SPR.

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