Two of my friends’ recent experiences, which stand in stark contrast to each other, demonstrate why "interconnectedness" must run deep. Love grows from a beautifully simple transaction as well as from an emotionally charged TV spot.
Let’s start with the good experience. A friend needed to renew her driving licence. The renewal letter seemed a nightmare of "please write in block capitals and black ink". But there was a beacon of light: a gov.uk web address. And there it was, after putting in a single reference number. A beautiful bit of copy and a temptress of a button – would she like to simply use all the details and recent photo that she had used for her passport? Why, yes, she would. Card payment. Job done.
The other friend needed a new parking permit from the council following a change of car. There was a PDF form to download from the website… but surely the council didn’t need all his info again?
So he resorted to – gasp – the phone. He got through to a helpful lady who informed him that yes, she did indeed need the form. But surely, he asked, there must be a better, simpler way? Yes, he could use the internet – to download the aforementioned PDF, print it out, fill in the form, scan it in and e-mail it… a first-world problem, I know. But, seriously?
Related to this poor customer experience is the furore about ad-blockers. The digital marketing equivalent of my friend’s shoddy council experience is spammy and overly invasive advertising formats and e-mails. Some strands of innovation in digital communications have focused purely on an "interruption" model and made experiences so negative that it is no wonder the camel’s back is about to break.
The answer to all these problems is the deep embedding of customer experience into brands’ thinking. We are big fans of Russell Davies’ mantra: "The product is the service is the marketing." We must answer the challenge of rejected ads and failed website funnels by being amazing.
By offering a sign-up process that is so simple it charms or by delivering a customer journey sequence that is so spine-tinglingly appropriate that it delights. We should avoid simply attempting to counteract and work around the ad-blockers – being able to spam again is not success. That will come from joining up the data plumbing, connecting experiences across devices and platforms, and delivering great creative content appropriate for all stages of decision-making.
Agencies must step up their role as the voice of the customer, not just in terms of how the communications should be but in the whole shooting match. The effectiveness of the traditional bread-and-butter comms will wither if they fall on a non-mobile-optimised web experience or a strategy bereft of appropriate content to guide and woo the customer.
It is incumbent on agencies to help their clients move towards this nirvana. It is hard to achieve and will take time and money. But it is a resource well-invested as you are building for the long term.
At MBA, we are helping our clients work towards this connected world of wonderful customer experience. For example, Investec Wealth & Investment is launching a digital-first product and we have the privilege of helping to construct the product user experience and its communications ecosystem from the ground up – a rare blessing. For O2, we are honing a system that builds business with relevant content rather than interruptive e-mails trying to sell – an example is sending personalised holograms to the top prospects.
It is inevitable that you will need to overcome legacy systems and bureaucracy. But this is a journey worth embarking on, worth staying on and worth finishing. Total UX is the marketing world’s modern crusade. It’s a noble cause definitely worth fighting for.
- Total UX is today’s "interconnectedness" – thinking about the whole customer experience across platforms, devices, content and journeys.
- Too much digital marketing has gone the way of interruptive spam formats, providing a poor customer experience rather than delivering long-term effectiveness. It’s small wonder people are turning on ad-blockers.
- We must be more worthy of people’s attention. We must join up the data, connect the experiences and deliver great creative content for all stages of decision-making with even greater customer focus.
- This is difficult and will take time and money. But it’s a cause worth fighting for.
Stephen Maher, chief executive, MBA