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User experience is now your business strategy

A Picture of Alex Robbio
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October 15, 2019 | Topic: Business  
User experience is now your business strategy

We’re all familiar with how companies such as Uber and AirBnb have wrought fundamental disruption to their respective industries. Taxis and hire cars existed long before the advent of Uber. But one of the core differences they offer customers is the user experience. The ease of simply clicking a button within an attractive user interface, following the vehicle as it comes to your door, and enjoying a smooth ride. For all the talk of their technology, their business model, their strategy – what ensures customers continue to use the service is their experience with it. This idea has brought me to the concept of “UX as strategy” – that today, more than anything else, your UX will determine the success or failure of your software and your business.

A killer UX creates deeper customer engagement and loyalty

Creating a product which has a powerful and engaging UX isn’t something which just makes your product easier to use. Rather, this is the core to engaging more deeply with your customers, and ensuring that they stay loyal to you rather than go to your competition. It builds brand loyalty, and increases the chances that your customers will become your most effective advocates. Your UX will also play a key role in enrichment, ensuring your customers purchase additional products and services.

Your UX now forms the heart of your competitive differentiation

I don’t believe I’m writing anything new in highlighting the importance of UX for software and applications. What is new however, is how your UX can form the basis of your competitive differentiation. Building long-term sustainable competitive differentiation is one of the toughest objectives that executives face. In today’s digital work, the UX of your products and services plays a fundamental role in this. People engage with brands and companies via their software, and thus via their UX.

It is your brand, plus highly satisfied customers and fans, that will result not just in your business growing, but in building competitive differentiation. For example, it’s incredibly hard for other companies to match the loyalty that people who love Apple’s products and services have. Even when other manufacturers build products that can compete on a technical and functional level, that may even sell at a lower price point, people remain loyal to the brand. Apple has been at the forefront of blending the concept of a brand with people’s self-identity, and image of who they are as individuals. Their UX is at the very heart of this.

User experience is now your business strategy

Making UX your strategy

At a high level, I recommend the following actions as you make UX your business strategy:

  • Link your design metrics to your business metrics. Those individuals responsible for the design of your software are now at the heart of the success of your business. As a result, we also need to ensure that their success, and that of your design, becomes linked to your business’ key performance indicators.
  • Use the latest technology to build hyper-personalized services. Increasingly to build these powerful experiences, organizations will need to be using the latest technologies, from automation to machine learning. Customers now expert such personalization as the norm, part of the overall experience of using your software. AirBnB’s personalized travel recommendations after booking a trip, such as offering a tour of a Boston’s live music scene just after you have reserved a stay in the city, is one such example.
  • Build design systems. Leading organizations, such as Adobe and Salesforce, have increasingly spoken about the need to create “design systems” to build these powerful user experiences. These are the systems and processes which enable them to scale their design best practices, rather than constantly reinventing the wheel. Forrester analyst Gina Bhawalkar points out they also play a key role in linking your design team to your development team – design systems should “also include the reusable code behind those design elements, and for this reason they should be created as a partnership between design and development teams”.
  • Foster a product-centric culture and mindset. If you listen to any of the founders of the UX-centric companies I’ve mentioned before, you will realize that they obsess about their product and the experience their customers have with it. I would argue that if it’s not their top priority, it probably ranks very high. This is something easy to achieve as a start up, but much harder when you are, for example, a large financial institution, that is used to thinking that your “product” is a checking account or a home loan, instead of the app or website your customers use to buy and manage those financial solutions. I wonder many times whether the top executives at large firms even use their software products because some of them are so bad.

The democratization of technology helps drive better UXs

Ultimately, this is all part of what many people have referred to as the “democratization of technology”. This is because, fuelled by cloud computing and new open source technologies, it’s not just large companies or tech giants that can create these compelling user experiences.

So while effective UX design is one of the hardest aspects of product development, new technologies, tools, and approaches are making it possible even for startup teams on a budget to build these compelling digital experiences. We’re seeing organizations take advantage of this to move nimbly, and build light, attractive, mobile-first experiences. This is what it means to make UX your strategy and in 2019, I believe it is the only way your organization will survive and achieve success.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

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