15 Minutes With Swathi Rocque | Podcast Episode #10

In our tenth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Swathi Rocque. Swathi is a Manager (Senior Consultant at the time of recording) with Deloitte.

Swathi is an experienced E-commerce business analyst with a long history of working in the information technology and services industry and has worked with large scale business and brands not only whilst at Deloitte but also when she spent time at both Accenture and KPS.

In this episode, Swathi explains in practical terms how we manage and balance the real world challenges that we face when user needs and business needs fail to align. Her unique perspective comes from her experience in both private and public sector digital delivery projects. Most recently, Swathi has been involved in the COVID-19 response technology commissioned by the UK Government.  

 

Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.

 

Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.

 

Transcript

Shelley  00:13

On this episode of 15 Minutes With we're speaking to Deloitte Senior Consultant Swathi Rocque on the importance of user centric design. Swathi explains in practical terms how we manage and how we balance the real world challenges that we face when user needs and business needs fail to align. Swathi has a unique perspective from her experience in both private and public sector digital delivery projects. Most recently, Swathi has been involved in the COVID-19 response technology commissioned by the UK Government.

Graham  00:45

Hi, Swathi. Welcome to the podcast.

Swathi Rocque  00:46

Hello. I'm happy to be here.

Graham  00:49

Excellent. Excellent. We're really excited to have you. So can you tell us a little bit about what a user centric design is?

Swathi Rocque  00:56

Yeah, definitely. So user centric design is more applicable when there is demand versus supply. When there is a demand from the users, this is where the user centric gets more important. User centric, has a lot of other derivations. So if you take a user centric design, from the angle of the public sector, or from the angle of private sector, it's a bit different because on the private sector is where the user centric design closely sit with actual audience and the feedback that comes into the actual use. But on the public sector, it's the same, but there's layers of approvals or things that needs to be done before it reaches out to public. So what I feel is user centric is really important, because that's where your starting point is to understand what the public needs and what the user needs. But sometimes this can get overridden from the business centric requirement, I would say, because the business will say, okay, user needs this, but we have a budget of this, we wouldn't be able to satisfy the customer demand. So that's when all the ifs and buts and trying to get the ties down comes into picture.

Shelley  02:06

So is it safe to say that two of the biggest hurdles in your experience have been budget, and also perhaps attitude of the business, particularly if that's influenced by whether it's private sector or public sector?

Swathi Rocque  02:18

Exactly. This is where things start sensing a bit different when you're working. So there might be a product example. So when you take in a private sector, you might have a module or example module that you can sort of envision and you can start building the user centric flow, because you're not starting from a blank page, you know, who is the audience, and you know, who are your competitors. But when you come to a public sector, this is where things a bit different, you might not have much competitors, no one competes for countries to countries, websites or demand, we do a user centric research. But you wouldn't be necessarily satisfying the end results, because that's where the complexity starts. Yeah, this is a user centric flow. And this goes to approval by the time you get approval, users could have moved into another at one stage, I feel it's a very different feel when you work on both sides, and things are treated differently.

Shelley  03:14

Private sector, is that much easier than to get that understanding at the end user and public sector, do you ever really get a true sense of that audience? Particularly like you say, if there are no real competitors, it must be really, really difficult to get a firm grasp of the user, if you're trying to create a user centric design, be it for a website, be it for an app, whatever it may be for?

Swathi Rocque  03:38

Yes, because that's where on the public sector, you start with an empty page, you don't know what the user needs here. You might sort of get the essence. Okay, this had worked before. Now, we are trying to draw some another line. So for example, we have the COVID application, this is a very, I would say, a very peculiar example, because we didn't anticipate that COVID is going to come and hit us in such a bad way. And taking that as an example. It was like an empty page, when things got started, the way the progression made was good, but we didn't necessarily have idea how the audience would accept the design or anything that we are trying to research on. And on the other end on the private sector, you know the demands, so based on the demand trend, you sort of start picking up, okay, this is what the user needs. And this is what the user has gone through. And this is what the other competitors are doing. So public sector, when you're starting with any new stuff, it's a blank page, you might have some information, but that's not really applicable to the end user. This is where you need to spend a lot of time understanding the audience and sometimes I don't think this efficiently happens. It happens but not an extent of how we do it on the other fence like on private sectors.

Graham  04:56

So is it safe to say that when you kind of compare them, Customer Experience somewhat takes a backseat to business need, right? We're going we need to gather this information. We want to gather it in this way, because that's how we want to look at it. And actually, people need to just figure out how to use it. And it's less about creating a beautiful, friendly experience and go, You know what, you don't have a choice, you have to use this thing. Just use it.

Swathi Rocque  05:21

Yes, definitely. That's something I would say is like a strong voice that comes out. In private sectors. If you've taken an example of any site, you have for each and every journey, you might get into like a feedback or someone saying virtual hello for you. So for example, you go to Argos site, you browse for two seconds or more than a minute, there might be a pop up coming. Are you looking for something? Can we sort of assist you? So this is where like, yeah, the user feels that they're not left alone, they have, there are some helping hands when they're trying to go through their journey. And you can ask for support when needed. But on the other hand, for example, you're filling up something on HMRC or any other forms, you will be lost, you will have so many questions. So you go to frequently asked question page and you start researching, taking an example of my experience. So recently, I had applied for my extension of my visa application. And visa application extension is such a big work like you have almost like 14 pages of forms to fill in. And it's an online form, I was pretty much lost, because the questions they asked were some like, yes, I do fall under this particular brand or category. But somewhere, I was like, what does it mean? What is there any alternate meaning for it? So this is why I had so many questions. And I tried to ring every day to the visa office to clarify my questions. But I was not like a happy customer at the end of the day when I finished my application. So this is where there's, I would say there's a clear difference, what you expect from each of the sectors.

Graham  06:55

That clearly creates an opportunity for people to go, how do we make this a better, more usable experience? Because ultimately, if you do that, theoretically, there's less of a need to have a whole bunch of people sat in a call centre answering phones or not answering phones, as the case might be. If you just built a usable, good experience in the first place, you would somewhat mitigate the need to have all these other support systems around it.

Swathi Rocque  07:20

Exactly. That's definitely I think that's something it can be in future implemented, or they can think about it. Because if you just go to any other websites, which is owned from the public sectors, you might feel the reviewers if the thing is the best thing is I sort of go through the review comments what the people have added, they could have said, Oh, it's not user friendly. I lost my time here, I sort of missed the application. And in fact, I was worried that my application would get rejected because there was so many questions, which was uncertain, like I said, okay, yes, for a couple of questions they asked, and I didn't know the meaning of it. The reason is, they hadn't given out enough explanation or justification, what does it mean? And the best thing is, I skipped a step. And I just went to the final submission. And I realised after skipping the step that oh, God, I missed the step. And I'm trying to go back and it says, error. So that was like, if I don't sort of go through the step, it means like, I'm not applicable to access any NHS funds or stuff, because as a visa application, when you're doing and UK, you got to pay certain amount for NHS, I think for the facility. So I don't know how exactly, it just got missed when I was doing my application. And I was like whole all over every place trying to call agents and the like the answer what I got from the technical support, or the customer support group was like, if you're missed, you just need to wait for a case officer to contact you. And then you can proceed with it. It took almost like two months for the case officer to contact me. I was literally lost in that whole process. I would say,

Shelley  09:00

Swathi, I can completely relate to the visa process and all of the un-user friendly features of it. I mean, it's just a black hole or a rabbit warren of poorly designed non user centric features.

Graham  09:13

But what's really interesting as well is that both Shelley and I have travelled a lot, right? We've been and you too Swathi, we've been all over the world.

Swathi Rocque  09:20

Yeah.

Graham  09:20

And it seems to be Well, I certainly haven't come across any government that's gotten this right, everybody seems to follow the same design idea of let's make it as difficult as humanly possible to lead people into corners. And nobody has thought, actually, why don't we look at what people are doing from an ecommerce point of view. And the experience has been built into that and replicate some of that on the other side it. To us, we obviously work in the industry. It seems like a really simple thing to do, but for whatever reason, no one's thought about it.

Swathi Rocque  09:52

Exactly. I think yeah, that's that's where is the actual gap lies in terms of understanding and the I would say It's more like educating the team itself like the the whole public sector, I wouldn't sort of point your point fingers on, the things are working fine here in public sector not. And in private sector things are a bit different. I would necessarily say like when you try to align between the private and public sector, that's where the experience is quite different as individual what to sort of go through each journeys, I wouldn't sort of solutionise yes things here, I think it's more like awareness, like if they sort of take a step to understand what the user needs, because user definitely needs the journey to be done pretty well on the public sector. So for example, visa, this is one of the complex thing, and it's a very essential thing rather than me going and buying a product from Gucci. And so I want my experience to be well defined, and I shouldn't face any sort of glitch or any back and forth, which I went through. So I think if they had done a bit of user centric research, they might have got a lot of information. And that could have been fed into the system. And it could have saved people's time, call centres calls, and also the back and forth messages or the anxiety, it's like when you don't get any response. That's where you start getting anxious. Oh, god, did I do it dry? Did I not do it? Right. So this a lot of things. It's not just user experiences, the emotion of the user also is tied into that particular thing. So that can be sort of looked after pretty well. That's what I feel.

Shelley  11:32

And they could have saved a lot of money, right? I mean, it's, it's easy when you look at a project and you measure it upfront, and you give it a budget upfront, but like you both touched on earlier, you're not measuring the after effects, and all of the knock on effects as part of that same project, you know, the cost implication of having to open call centres to answer everybody's questions, because FAQs and user journey is so poor. So Swathi, I wanted to ask you off the back of all of this, what happens when you have to continue you have to forge on and the design is being directed in a non user centric direction?

Swathi Rocque  12:09

That becomes challenging. So as a business analyst, or as I would say, consultant, it's quite hard when you don't understand what the user needs, and you get dictated from business. But that's a challenging, like, every time when you start doing analysis based on what business needs or user needs, you start questioning, what is the business impact? And what is the user impact? So this is the one of the checkpoint that always I tend to ask for the stakeholders understanding. Are they trying to drive any business needs here? Or is there anything that it benefits the customer. I have been in situation where it's not user centric, like it's not actually up directly applies to us or what features we are doing, it's more like business benefit. This is where complexity starts, because it is okay for business. But when it reaches to the end user, I'm not sure how it will be accepted from the end user. The thing is, there's a couple of things like experience that I can share, like there might be a fancy website that we are creating and one of the business user says "oh Gucci has done that beautiful USP on their website, can we get that here on our site?", but the background of it, we haven't done enough research, whether the Gucci's product, Gucci's website has got that USP, there's more users using it or what is the traffic? Like what is exactly influencing the product? Or is it sort of getting some benefit for them? If you sort of blindly copy what the other products have done? This is where the challenge starts. You're just borrowed the concept, but you haven't thought about the background of it, whether it is essential for user yes or no, you haven't researched from your product angle, it might be helpful for Gucci, but not for you for your website, because it's a different product. And it's a different set of customers who's going to use this. So this is where I feel sometimes when business is dictating what the user needs, sometimes it's misleading, they could have not done enough research. So that's why we need a more of user centric research, the understanding and the analysis, whether this requirement is really efficient, or it's fetches value as a team or as a product to our company.

Graham  14:26

If somebody is going through this process, and they're trying to kind of balance this out, and they're going look, you know, this is this is what the business wants, because it looks cool and shiny, and we think we know what our customers want, but we haven't really asked. What sort of tips or advice would you give to anybody going through this process that would put them in the right track and make sure that they don't end up in a situation where they build something that nobody wants to use.

Swathi Rocque  14:50

Understand the market demand first. So first, understand what your brand is because you need to understand whether your brand is strong enough in the market. And then understand how the other products actually managed this. I know it's a bit of research that you need to do with your competitors as well. And the next is your user, understand the types of user that you're targeting. And based on it, you can sort of do a lot of researches, you can send a feedback forms, you can do a survey, you can actually, I remember, actually one of our clients just literally standing in a mall with the handout sheets, like asking them to fill up the survey forms. So you have a lot of methods to cover. But the main thing is set your product vision and the audience, right. If the product vision and the audience are not right, then I think it's going to be a big failure. You're targeting incorrect or a different audience who are not supposed to be as a part of your target group.

Shelley  15:49

Swathi, thank you so much for your time and your insight. It has been incredible talking to you. And it's been so interesting hearing about the balance between public sector, private sector, and how that influences user centric attitudes.

Graham  16:03

Yeah, it's been amazing. And I think if the one takeaway that people get from this is to just think more about the users will be in a much better place.

Swathi Rocque  16:13

Exactly. Think more and also try to action it. Not just thinking, put it into action.

Shelley  16:19

That was Swathi Rocque, Senior Consultant at Deloitte speaking to us about user centric design methods, challenges and insights within private and public sector projects. Swathi shed light on the realities that businesses and digital teams face in order to deliver on both user led best practice and also tread the fine line that balances this approach with providing short term gains demanded by stakeholders. To everyone listening we hope you enjoyed this episode, and we look forward to welcoming you next time on 15 Minutes With


15 Minutes With Lucy Aitken | Podcast Episode #9

In our ninth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Lucy Aitken. Lucy is a UX/UI designer with booking.com

Lucy has years of experience, both from agency side and client side in the development and improvement of not only e-commerce sites, but also SaaS platforms. She uses this background to create experiences that inspire confidence from users and aids them, in a seamless way, to follow digital journeys and get the most out of each digital interaction.

You'll hear Lucy talk about the importance of design when creating exceptional customer experiences and how the rise of mobile has changed the customer expectation plus how it's our job to meet what the customer is looking for.  

 

Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.

 

 

Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.

 

Transcript

Graham  00:13

On this episode of 15 minutes with we're talking to Lucy Aitken, UI UX designer with booking.com. Lucy has years of experience, both from agency side and client side in the development and improvement of not only ecommerce sites, but also saas platforms. You'll hear Lucy talk about the importance of design when creating exceptional customer experiences and how the rise of mobile has changed the customer expectation and how it's our job to meet what the customer is looking for.  Hey, Lucy, welcome to the podcast.

Lucy Aitken  00:43

Hi, Graham, hi, Shelly. Nice to speak to you today.

Graham  00:46

Yeah, and you. So can you tell us a little bit about how important is design to the customer experience.

Lucy Aitken  00:53

So I am obviously a designer. So I'm going to say it's hugely important to customer experience, it's quite often the first thing that users see, or the last thing that they remember, whenever they have an interaction with a website or your product, it's very visual, something that can evoke a bit of an emotional reaction sometimes. So yeah, it's super important, not just how it looks, but also how it functions and everything that kind of backs that up. But that design is the first thing that they're really going to interact with, when your brand is kind of putting themselves out there.

Graham  01:27

So when we talk about digital design, what are the different types or what are the things that you need to consider when you're putting together design for a digital experience?

Lucy Aitken  01:37

Yeah, so I think one of the big things to think about is how and what medium your users are going to be interacting with your websites and products through? So is it going to be a desktop? Is it a mobile device, a tablet? Or is it potentially you know, like the dashboard of a car, it really is that broad of a range of sort of interfaces that users interact with. And I think most importantly, in sort of ecommerce and sales world at the moment is that mobile interface, it's just been increasing in popularity of how many users like are using mobile devices and smaller screens to access websites. So it's a real area that you should be focusing your design and experience on.

Graham  02:19

And that is interesting, because we've seen or we've heard that there's going to be a large uptake, in live commerce and live commerce essentially, is really using social in a way to put the purchasing journey into a video. And I've seen really good versions of that, where it happens all within itself. And I've seen really terrible versions of that, where you're watching the video, you click Buy and sends you to a website and you lose the video that you're watching. So yeah, it is it's incredibly important to kind of understand, like you say, where the person is doing, what they're doing, and ultimately what you want them to do.

Shelley  02:54

Lucy, you were talking about the various different devices that experiences now need to adapt to. And it's varied. You know, what you said about car screens? I mean, that makes so much sense. Increasingly, we're seeing people engaging with brands and digital experiences through car screens. It's not just mobile, it's not just desktop, how do you, as a designer, adapt these experiences to fit on all of these different devices to fit on all of these different screens?

Lucy Aitken  03:23

Yeah, so there's a few different ways that it can be done. So I think traditionally, and probably the most common way of working that most people have heard of is that responsive design. So taking what you have on your website, and making sure that each component, each section responds down to smaller and smaller screen sizes, until you have it potentially in a stacked view or something like that on a mobile device. But I think as we've seen that shift away from desktop, and into these smaller devices, what's really important when you think about that experience now is looking at your data, how many customers are accessing, they're accessing your site on a mobile device, I think like Graham mentioned, talking about like social selling people coming straight through from Instagram or Facebook ads, whether we're looking at ads potentially on their mobile device and coming straight through to your website on a mobile. Once you know that that traffic is maybe something like 70% mobile 30% desktop, you want to start thinking about something called progressive enhancement, also known as adaptive design. And what that basically means is starting with the small screens, the mobile devices first and scaling up that experience to a desktop device. And you can do that in a few different ways. You could do it by focusing about what the most important needs of those mobile users are and making sure that you have all of the features and all of the experiences and the content that they want to see on the screen. And then as you scale that up if there's anything additional that you wanted to add that wasn't important at a mobile level, you can begin to add those additional details to the desktop designs as you move up the screen size. But really, the main thing is to focus all of your attention on those mobile devices. And if that means potentially something like a shopping cart looks entirely different on a mobile device, it's not just a small version of the desktop device actually has a different functionality. Maybe it scrolls vertically, it doesn't have anything next to it, you know, the layout could be entirely different. And after it gets to a certain screen size that changes completely, rather than being those traditional same components just laid out in a different order that we've we've seen more commonly.

Shelley  05:43

That makes perfect sense, because when I think of responsive design, whether it's the right, you know, definition, I suppose but when I think of it, that's exactly what I think of as when you you know, you make it you minimise a little tab, and it sort of is the same thing that you're seeing, it just gets smaller. But it makes perfect sense that we need to think about design now in new ways that actually completely changes, depending on what what device that you're using. And does that link in with the whole accessibility conversation, you know, how different people are using different devices in different ways, because actually, their needs as an individual are completely different.

Lucy Aitken  06:21

Yeah, definitely. I think one thing that we often think about is the touch points that we have on mobile devices. So you know, if you're accessing a desktop, you're maybe using a trackpad or a mouse to do that, with a very precise point that you can click on different buttons, different fields, whereas when you're on a mobile, you've got your fingers and your thumbs. And we go a little bit further than that, even and think about actually the size of those people's hands. Where can they reach? Are they holding their phone in one hand? Do they have a coffee in the other hand? You know, there's so many variables. And that's why really drilling down to understand your users. So if you know that actually, this is something that's going to be accessed by children, or it's something that's predominantly accessed by women or men or somewhere you can break that down, you can start to then think about, can these people reach that top right hand corner of the screen? Or should we make sure that anything that needs to be touched is lower down towards the bottom of the screen?

Graham  07:22

So that's all great stuff. And for companies that are wanting to look at that and change and take some of these things on? Is it a throw everything out and start again? Or is there a way to kind of do it in a piecemeal approach and which is better for your for the end user? Really,

Lucy Aitken  07:39

Yeah, so especially if you've got a quite a loyal base of customers, you know that you've got a lot of returning visitors to your website, and you make a big bang change on to your mobile experience, it's more than likely that it's not going to go down too well, with your users, people are a little bit resistant to change, even if it is something that you think is going to benefit them in the long term, if they've been used to using something a certain way. And now they have to relearn it all at once, that can cause a lot of friction. So the best approach is to do small, iterative changes. The other great thing about this is you're going to get a lot of insight from actually which change worked, which changed didn't and that's just going to build and build till you have this experience that is constantly evolving. And you can keep and discard those changes and in how well they work.

Graham  08:31

And I guess the real advice here is don't be afraid to try new things, right? Because as you say, if it doesn't work, you can always turn it back.

Lucy Aitken  08:40

Exactly, definitely. And there's no such thing as like a failing test. If you are doing like A/B experiments, they are all just learnings. They're all insight. So from doing that, you're going to constantly be getting great insights from your users that you can bring into the next sort of experience that you want to put out there.

Shelley  08:59

So it's all about constant refinement, then I guess you could say. Intuitive design Lucy, is it safe to say that that actually isn't always the case that it's necessarily intuitive, but perhaps it's just what people are used to?

Lucy Aitken  09:13

Yeah, so I think there's a really sort of strong argument for using what users are familiar with. I think as creatives we always want to push outside of the box, do something new, something that other competitors aren't doing. But actually what might be the best experience for your users is using something that they're familiar with, so that they don't have to relearn how to fill out a form or make a payment. If it's something that they know how to do. They've already spent the time learning and understanding that process. If you throw in a curveball, even though you think it may be a better experience, ultimately, it can start to fall down because it's just not what users are used to seeing. And I think that just touches again on the idea of testing and doing those small, iterative changes. Just so that if you have really tested and worked really hard and think that you found a solution that is better than what's out there at the moment, there's a little bit of a learning curve to get the users on board with this new idea. And yeah, and getting used to this new and better experience, I think, to think of like mobiles, for example, when we are when we all first had mobile phones, we were very used to actual physical buttons to click everything. And there was a real transition period where we moved over into touchscreens. And I remember there was back before the iPhone came around those the touchscreens where you actually had to physically apply pressure to sort of generate interactions on the device that was a little bit sticky had quite a lot of friction with it. And it didn't at one point, it didn't seem like it was going to take off people were like, Nah, I'll stick to my Blackberry. But now I don't think I know a single person who doesn't have a sort of touchscreen mobile device.

Graham  10:59

And I guess some of the things you also need to consider is what other companies are doing, for instance, Apple Pay, right? You don't want to try and reinvent that experience, because Apple have defined what that experience is. And your job as a designer, it should be to integrate it in and make it familiar, because it's what people are expecting.

Lucy Aitken  11:17

Yeah, definitely. And I think unless you are potentially like Microsoft, or Google and you are at that level, where they are a direct competitor, the best thing for you is to use those integrations, the users are familiar with it, they trust those brands, it's already there, it's on their phone, and it just makes a nice smooth process. When you're making payments.

Shelley  11:38

How do businesses tread that line? How do they know? Alright, these are the bits that we copy, we mimic like you said, if it's a really big company, then obviously you just integrate it. But on a smaller level. How do they know when it comes to peer to peer competition? Do we recreate this and we go down the creative route, which has its attractions, but also it has its risks? How do you walk that line?

Lucy Aitken  12:01

Yeah. So I mean, you'll get bored of me saying that I sound like a broken record. But I think doing A/B testing and finding out those insights with real users or doing user testing and speaking to your users with maybe one or two solutions to sort of test the waters, see how that's working. But there's also loads of great resources out there already. So there's a website that I quite often like to take a look at called GoodUI. And on there, they will do reviews of tests that large organisations like Airbnb, Amazon, those big names, they'll publish results of tests that they've tried. So you can look at common design patterns and see what's one, what's worked for them. So you can use that as inspiration for your designs and your website.

Shelley  12:48

That is fantastic. So actually businesses and to anyone listening you they can use that resource to actually go and have a look at what current best practices based on what other companies are reporting in their experimentation. I think that is fabulous. And your advice is actually to dip a toe in the water to try these things. But to do it on a smaller scale.

Lucy Aitken  13:06

Yeah, definitely. So go out there, especially if you have got competitors that you think aren't doing as well as you in the digital space. Or maybe they are and you want to go and see what they're doing. See how you can apply that for your business. I mean, nothing is just a copy and paste because the people that are visiting your website are probably going to be different to the users on another site at but as long as you test those ideas, get some ideas of best practice, then you can't go wrong.

Graham  13:34

So are you noticing any trends or anything that's kind of coming up that you think people should kind of be looking at a little bit deeper?

Lucy Aitken  13:42

I think mobile trends is something to definitely keep an eye on. Just a kind of interesting thing that I've been looking at over the sort of the last two years now, I suppose is how that desktop and mobile market share has changed. So sort of for the last 10 years, when iPhones were released, we just saw a constant upwards trend for more and more users using mobiles. But around March, April in 2020, actually, for the first time we saw in the UK that just completely dipped and desktop actually started increasing in the number of users using that again, it was still up on the year before, but it had kind of had a big impact what was going on in the world. And we did see more and more users switching back to desktop as they were spending more time at home. And then if you follow the graph, that's really interesting, because you'll see that when the lockdowns end, we see users picking their mobile phones back up, they're out and about and then subsequently, when another lockdown came into play. We saw that kind of switch over again, it's quite a small amount really, in terms of the overall numbers but it is just something interesting to keep an eye on. And then in terms of other technology that's out there. I think searching by voice, a lot of like voice interactions and searching by image and the sort of new technologies coming out around those spaces is something to watch out for. So yeah, Google's obviously been doing search by voice for a long time. But I think it's becoming quite familiar with users now. So is that time where you can start to think about can I put VR on my website is there's some sort of AR that I could be doing or searching by voice or some sort of image recognition.

Shelley  15:25

Thank you so much for your time, Lucy, it has been an absolute pleasure and an eye opener and we can't wait to have you back to answer all of the questions that I'm sure will come out of today's podcast.

Lucy Aitken  15:34

Great. Thank you for having me.

Graham  15:36

Thank you.  That was Lucy Aitkin, UI UX designer with booking.com. Creating an experience that adapts to the user's device, rather than adjusting to the size of their screen creates an exceptional customer experience that allows you to stand out from the crowd. Small iterative change allows your users to adapt with a new design at a pace that suits them, rather than forcing them to have to relearn the entire customer journey. It also gives your business the opportunity to gather insights and continuously learn to understand exactly what changes you're making work for your customer base. Thanks for joining us for this episode of 15 minutes with and we look forward to having you along on the next one.


15 Minutes With Luke Frake | Podcast Episode #8

In our eighth episode of 15 Minutes With we're talking to Luke Frake. Luke is the Experimentation Lead - User Growth at Spotify.

Luke's interests are in the field of optimisation and experimentation, which are becoming more and more recognised within mainstream digital commerce as vital to any long term experience strategy. As part of the User Research Team at Spotify, Luke is involved in optimising digital experience for Spotify users.

In this episode we talk through the challenges faced when a scientific mindset is applied into a business setting, valuing 'failures' as learnings and understanding that in some cases, the failures are more valuable than the successes.

 

Ways to Listen

You can listen to it right here on the blog using the player below or you can head over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Amazon Music where you can subscribe or follow the podcast too, so that you never miss an episode. You can also check out the podcast website to find the other apps our podcast is published on.

 

 

Want to be featured on the Podcast?

We're always looking for new industry experts to speak to and if you think you've got some great insights that you'd like to share with our audience, reach out to us via our contact page and we'll get back to you to arrange an intro call.

 

Transcript

Graham  00:14

On today's episode of 15 minutes with, we have experimentation and user growth lead at Spotify, Luke Frake joining us. Luke's interests are in the field of optimization and experimentation, which are becoming more and more recognised within mainstream digital commerce as vital to any long term experience strategy. As part of the user research team at Spotify, Luke is involved in optimising digital experience for Spotify users. Luke talks through some of the challenges that come from operating in an emerging field as well as how applying a scientific mindset allows us to value failures as learnings. In fact, it would seem the businesses can actually learn more from their experimentation failures than their successes.

Shelley  00:52

Luke, welcome.

Luke Frake  00:53

Hi. Hi, Shelley. Nice to chat with you. I'm good. Thank you. How are you?

Shelley  00:58

Fabulous, so good to have you. We wanted to get straight into it and ask you, what does good experimentation culture look like?

01:06

I think there's quite a few different ways that you can summarise good experimentation culture, I think there's like a few different points that you can consider when looking at different companies and looking around. I mean, firstly, like, how data driven as a company, are they making their decisions, because somebody in some C suite office is saying that this is what they should do? Are they making decisions backed by measurable data, you know, user research, analytic data, anything like that? I think that's one of like the key ones that comes up first, I think people are encouraged to kind of think outside of the box, you know, people enabled to fail, make mistakes and try different things that kind of goes against the curve, what metric people are using? And like how, how are they measuring success in different areas of the business? Big one, I think, is democracy within experimentation culture, as well. So how are people allowed throughout the business to make these decisions that decisions and to make these mistakes? Are people C level making all of the experiment ideas? Or is it coming down to kind of every junior analyst and eveyone else around the company able to do these things? Continuing on - What happens with like results from experiments? And how do people perceive these sorts of things? I think there's like a huge list of like how people can consider and how people can think about these different like bits and pieces. It's a big one, it's a big question to unpack for sure.

Shelley  02:20

Absolutely, we could easily spend the entire episode talking about just that. In your experience, is that a utopian picture? Or is it achievable for businesses?

Luke Frake  02:30

Absolutely, I think it's completely achievable. I think it's very hard to change, though, that'd be my my crux of it. I think when you speak to companies that that do not have a good experimentation, culture don't have, you know, have fear of failure built in within the company, and how kind of top down decisions and don't look at data, I think it's very, very hard to change, you know, purely by the fact that if you have a top down culture, the top is deciding what's happening. If the top doesn't want to change, it becomes very difficult, but it's definitely possible. I mean, you know, I've worked with so many different companies and variety, like varying degrees at this scale of good culture and bad culture, if you'd like, quote unquote. But but it's definitely there are companies that are absolutely smashing this I mean, look at like Spotify, I think is a great company. But I think looking outwards, you know, booking.com, and companies like this, where they really are just churning out experiments, churning out learnings, but also making different from these learnings as well.

Graham  03:27

And would you suggest that, if a company wanted to do this, they start small? And if they're going to start small, where do they start? Because you could go, You know what, let's just both feet in and see what happens. But I guess with that, there's a risk that you'll try once fail, and never go back. Whereas if you start small, you can kind of build to a crescendo, per se.

Luke Frake  03:50

Yeah I think when it comes to running experiments, starting small is one thing, and I think it's important, but I think you touched on a really good point, then it's like, what is the outcome of these experiments? And how do people perceive that and that that is a fundamental part. And I think that's something that's hard to start small. I think that has to be kind of educated in all directions of a company. And what I mean by that is the, you know, the most successful experiments don't always come from the biggest uplift in a metric or something, an experiment that fails its hypothesis, you know, we think we think a is going to happen, but actually it doesn't. And this happens instead, that's, that's a learning. And that's what's important. That's the important crux of experimentation, you're learning. I love when one of my experiments increases a metric  by 15%. And that's a huge win. And I give myself a pat on the back for that sort of thing. But at the end of the day, that's probably built on 20 other experiments that have decreased a metric that's built and 20 other learnings that have come from somewhere completely different that enabled us to get to that point, where do we get that huge win? So I think, I think that it's very good to start small in terms of getting people into experimentation, but really understanding that learnings and knowledge is what you've gained from experimentation rather than dollars. That's not the initial outcome at least.

Graham  05:06

What advice would you have for a business where experimental culture isn't part of what they do, but they're engaging with an agency or an external business that has that as part of the way they do things? And they potentially have two different versions of what success looks like. Ultimately, you would want to bring the company that doesn't have it closer to the company that does that. Is there sort of, you know, any advice on how to bring those two people closer together faster?

Luke Frake  05:37

Yeah, I think it's the same. If you have, there's two situations that are they're really the same here, you either have a company that doesn't have a culture of experimentation, you have a say, an agency that do or at the same time, you can have a company that doesn't have a culture, and you can have an internal CRO team that do. And that,  that's something I've seen all sorts of different places, throughout my time. And it that is the bit that's hard, that's very hard to do, being being the small trying to change the big in these situations is very hard to do. But it definitely can be done. And I think one of the one of the techniques that I would say is really good for this is trying to get some common ground trying to get some commonality, really try to, you know, as the experimentation side, really trying to understand what are the goals and key metrics that the rest of the business, the rest of this company, whatever it is, are really trying to achieve? And how can we explain how experimentation can help us get there. So for instance, if you've got say, you know, say some engineering team that might necessarily not want to run experiments, they think it's a waste of product time explaining how small iterative experiments can actually help them do more more work in the long run, because what they deploy will be more valuable. If you've got a, I don't know, a marketing team who are really focused on their average order value, explaining how using experimentation and failing a few times can help kind of increase that. And therefore it will, it will make all of their metrics at the top of the funnel look much better. So I think that that's something that I've seen people fall into traps with before is always explaining experimentation is like number of experiments running. And not necessarily talking that kind of common language, that, that that piece of truth, if you'd like that everybody can kind of get on board with and agree with.

Shelley  07:18

From your experience, then it's, it's about the process. And by the sounds of it, it's also to do with context. So you can zoom in as close as you like to one particular experiment. And if that fails, it can essentially freak people out, right? Particularly if you don't have data to back it up, or you know, it doesn't, you don't have the learnings that you can apply, necessarily. But actually, if you step back and zoom out and appreciate the fact that that's part of this huge, huge context of all these other tests that are running these experiments that are running that are actually supporting, you know, a much, much broader end goal, then that's kind of the perspective that you're getting at. But I suppose from the from the angle of being data driven, you know, to try and influence leadership to change that culture. How do you do that? You know, when it's such a such a complex ecosystem?

Luke Frake  08:12

Yeah, I think, I think that's the hard bit because like you say, if you focus on a single experiment, as soon as you get your first failure, quote unquote, failure, you're in the position then where people, people don't understand the process, I think what you start to be able to do though, is you start to join up into stories, take that example a second ago, you know, we have a huge weigh in on one experiment, don't tell that story on its own don't signal that one experiment that was hugely successful out, you need to tell the story from the beginning, you need to explain the journey. And we did this, we tried this, and it didn't work. But what that taught us was x y z. So we compounded that on the experiment again, and again and again. And what we had at the end was this huge win. So make sure when you're telling your stories about how you got to this, you know, this, this, when at the end, you include that journey of pains and frustrations along the way, because realistically, that is the journey, that that's what happened. And that's how you start to get people away from this fear of failure, because they understand that nothing, you know, no failure is without learning, and we can move forward and take that into kind of the next and the next and the next and come up with something much better.

Shelley  09:16

Because we tend to understand the research process in an academic setting, you know, we get it and we go, Okay, leave the scientists to it, it's, you know, it's an iterative process, but then applying that mindset, within a business setting. It's sort of like, you know, we're not we're not joining, joining the dots fully. So I think that is such a brilliant explanation to actually say, you know, you need to look at the whole thing and don't even your own, how we present our own successes. We need to be, you know, more honest about it so that people actually understand that we're not undercutting ourselves, it makes perfect sense.

Luke Frake  09:50

Absolutely. I mean, we we so for instance, on our side, we have all of our experiments when they concluded they go into our knowledge base, and that's something that Spotify we share around the entire company everyone can see, that isn't just a pot of winning experiments, that is a pot of experiments that were run successful experiments, inconclusive experiments, failed experiments, because that is the learning. And we really push that as well.

Graham  10:13

So once you've got all the information, how do you get it out into kind of the wider teams on the wider business to get sort of other people excited about what's happening? Because having the information in a single place is one thing, but how do you get people to engage with it?

Luke Frake  10:25

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that's, that's one of the most important parts of a CRO team, or in any kind of experimentation team, but often one of the hardest things to do, or most overlooked things to do. So for us, we, all of our analysis is compiled into some kind of deck. So each experiment has its own deck associated to it. And then that is contains all of the analysis and kind of all the details for that experiment. And then what we'll do after that is, if we, in this example, we have kind of a story of experiments, we might create something that's bigger that contains that whole story. So you can see you can drill down into the snippet into the singular, or you can kind of see the bigger, but having these things is only one part of it, right? If we have 1000 decks for the 1000 plus experiments that people run, then who's reading them and who's looking into them. So there's a few things we'd like to do around that. One is just sharing it as broadly as possible. So using kind of internal communication channels like email, or Slack, or Teams, or Workplace, or anything else that people are using, just to make sure that there's like a constant stream of this information being shared out to people, but also doing more, doing more like in person or virtually in person sessions, where you have people presenting these ideas, and really opening up to the floor of this isn't just me taking these ideas and giving them to you, this should be conversational. Challenge, the outcomes, challenge the questions like let's continue this learning and continue, there's bits and pieces of like, how can we improve, because out of those sessions, then you really start opening people up to there is no one right? That's all continually challenge and ask questions, which gets you back to kind of improving the overall culture and pushing those bits and pieces forward. So I think, trying to play as many channels as possible, but also trying to talk directly to people as well. And getting those outcomes is the best way to kind of disseminate that information.

Shelley  12:10

Well, definitely, I guess people in their different roles, respective roles within a business, they will have a completely different perspective of that business. And so to be able to voice their ideas, their questions and challenge exactly what you've been talking about experimentation, different learnings, is a way to enrich that process and also get them buying in to the whole to the whole process behind it.

Luke Frake  12:35

That's it. And I mean, that part earlier on trying to understand people's metrics, having those conversations opens up to that, because when you can say to somebody, this experiment has reduced the bounce rate of this page, and you can literally have the conversation, somebody can ask, well, what does that do for this metric that I care about, then you can start to explain it, you learn what they're interested in. And you can also explain kind of the joint between the two. So it just helps continue that process of conversation around experimentation, which ultimately leads to a better culture internally for experimentation to so I think it's very cyclical.

Shelley  13:05

Absolutely. And a better culture overall, when people are collaborating, communicating. So surely, that's part of how you also get senior leadership excited about this process as well.

Luke Frake  13:15

Exactly. Yeah, spot on.

Shelley  13:16

Luke, thank you so so much of your time, is there anything else in terms of tips and insights that you think people listening might be able to apply?

Luke Frake  13:25

I think I hope the main thing that people take from this is to is to communicate too many times that I go into different companies like when I when I was working within the agency, or when I'm working in companies and different teams aren't communicating. So I really hope the one main thing people take from this is talk to other teams, don't don't be that standalone silo, talk to your agency, talk to the team in your business, whatever it is, understand what people are thinking and how these different bits and pieces work and how they can come together to be something better than the sum. That's that's my main takeaway.

Graham  13:55

And that's good advice overall. So to be honest, outside of experimentation, we encourage everybody to talk to each other because it's, it's always those things that come up in surveys when you know, people ask about business satisfaction and employee engagement. Communication is always the thing that comes up is something that needs work on so yeah, we'll take that. Thank you.

Luke Frake  14:17

Most welcome. Yeah, most most welcome,

Shelley  14:19

Luke. It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for your time today, I know that this is going to be an episode that people can really really learn from. It may be a case of I imagine there will be loads of questions off the back of it. So I'm sure we'll get you back for a follow up episode at some point in the near future.

Luke Frake  14:37

Awesome. Lovely speaking to you, Graham and Shelley, thank you so much for your time. We really enjoyed it. Thank you.

Graham  14:41

That was experimentation and user growth lead at Spotify, Luke Frake. By shifting our mindset and not looking at experimental failures as failures, but more as learnings and then sharing them with the wider business in an open discussion, we're able to fully utilise the benefits of experimentation within our business. And remember, communication is everything. Thank you for joining us for this episode of 15 minutes with we look forward to having you along for the next one.


What Happens When You Ignore Your Customers and Define Your Own Journey?

Necessary or Not?

Customer experience and ‘experience journeys’ are very topical in business at present. The common vein running through expert opinions is that a central focus on experience is key to good business practice. Understandably, it can get confusing when it comes to deciding upon whose advice to heed on achieving this in practice. Knowing your customers and giving them what they want is the crux of this philosophy. But what if you were to ignore all of the advice? What happens then? We take a look at some examples of when big brands have gone against the experience advice and how it panned out for them.

Is Ignorance Bliss?

If you are considering going against the grain, you’re not the first. Remember that Snapchat update? Its aim was to improve navigation and user journeys - but it didn’t include any user research. Changes included how stories were categorised, with friends, celebrities, brands and media messages being separated out instead of presented as one combined interface. Further changes also affected how content was presented on users timelines, where previously content was displayed chronologically, the updated version displayed content based on interaction levels.

 

The intent? Good. The result? Disastrous.

Snapchat stock lost $1.3 billion after Kylie Jenner, one of the most influential celebrities on the platform, tweeted about her frustrations with the changes. They lost 3 million daily users after this tweet.

A petition on Change.org was created by Snapchat fans to remove the app redesign, which achieved over 1.2 million signatures. But the response from Snapchat executives? They stuck to their guns. They believed that the update was necessary to expand Snapchat's user base. They insisted that the previous app design was confusing, and that this old format underserved older users and advertisers. In fact their CEO stated "Snap is doing the right strategic moves but needs to manage this process well".

 

 

Ambition Isn’t Enough

Facebook recently rebranded to Meta, in its unwavering belief that the future of the internet is in the Metaverse. But what if it’s wrong? What if people don’t want the Metaverse? Tidio recently released a survey showing that 77% of the sample population believes that the Metaverse will prove harmful to its users. Common concerns centred around addiction to the simulated virtual world (46%), privacy issues (41%), and mental health (41%). So early indicators would suggest that public opinion does not fall in favour of the move by Meta to push for such a future.

Facebook is dead - it just doesn’t know it yet”.

- Jared Brock
Image Credit: Jared A Brock.

Still, Meta executives show such steadfast dedication to a future that users say they do not want. Their new values of “move fast”, “build awesome things” and “live in the future” seemingly enable this worrying trajectory. Do we need to live any faster? Do we really need to be more immersed in technology? Do we really believe that living in the future is in the best interests of the end user?

 

Resistant, or Just Plain Wrong?

Resistance to change is a part of human behaviour. And most effective user experience iterations, though positive evolutions overall, begin with a bit of resistance to the change. But then how is it possible to know when users are genuinely and unfalteringly against change? How can brands tell the difference between fear of change, versus a true hate for the update? Brands can be ambitious and also balance their users' needs and include them on such journeys of change - instead of leaving them behind. Brands must also consider the impact of big bold changes on their user base. Changes to customer experience journeys are almost always best introduced in small, iterative steps. This helps to navigate through the inevitable resistance to change from current users, whilst gently and unthreateningly introducing them to new and improved features in a more piecemeal fashion. According to The Drum, only 31% of people surveyed confidently think they know what the Metaverse is. The majority had little to no understanding of the concept, or what it offers. Meta seems to be missing a bit of a trick here. Why not include their users on their journey?

 

Summary

Not all brands follow best practice when it comes to user-focused customer experience journeys. Snapchat and Meta are two brands that have seemingly boundless resources with which to research their user base, and experiment with new methods. Despite this advantageous market position, they too are capable of getting things wrong. A bit of gut instinct is usually no bad thing. But a whole lot of it (without any actual user input) can be disastrous. Favourable share prices, user bases and reputations can be swiftly undone when brands fail to serve the needs of the customer. The lesson? Don’t be afraid to try new things, but include your users on that journey. Listen to them. Make small changes and take small steps. Don’t shove your new gospel down their throats. Because if they don’t like it, trust us, they ain’t buying it.


Brand Trust Biggest Customer Experience Indicator

The X Index - A Trust Indicator

As a barometer for brand trust, the X Index measures customer experience across globally recognised brands. This assessment considers how trust is built, maintained, and broken in relationships with consumers. This includes brand image, customer service, relationships, purchase histories and product & service experiences.

In their research, it was found that only 40% of customers globally feel that the brands they interact with truly have their interests and needs at heart. To assess and deliver on customer needs, actions, perceptions, and narratives must align to provide the ultimate experience for the end customer.

Key Findings:

  • Commit to Trust
  • Build an Exclusive Experience
  • Always be of Service
  • Provide for the age of extra

Actions relating to these elements in turn help to produce or refine customer experiences that are just that - experiential - not simply mechanical. They help brands to narrow their efforts towards goals and the avoidance of common pitfalls, maximise their X Index rankings, and ultimately their measure for brand trust.

 

Brand Trust

According to action-perception theory, people perceive environments in terms of their ability to act within them. In other words, customer accounts of brands rely on their experiences with them, and these experiences stand the best chance of success when they are immersive and productive.

Primacy and recency effects also dictate that brands that people encounter early in their search for a product or service, and similarly, late in their search, will naturally outperform those brands that are stuck in the middle.

Psychologically speaking, these brands are innately mediocre compared to the first and the last in a search. So how do all these techniques help pave the way to a better level of brand trust? How can techniques such as advertising ensure that your brand is the first or last (or in a perfect world - both) that a potential new customer might see?

How can experiences be recreated to ensure they are more immersive, inclusive, and satisfying?

 

Goals and Pitfalls

Combined with other elements, action-perception (positive immersive experiences) and primacy & recency (early or late search advantage) can be combined with strong ethical stances, a ‘customer is always right attitude’, and the balance of well-struck humour.

Externally controlled elements such as reviews, or user-generated content also tie into the overarching category that is brand trust. But brands need to start with the internal elements with which they can exert some control. This also aids in limiting the potential for damage to be caused to any established level of brand trust. Cyber security, system hacks and data breaches are becoming increasingly common and paint brands in a negative light.

Poor internal or staff culture eventually makes its way to the public eye through disgruntled past employees on platforms such as Glassdoor or LinkedIn. Poor taste in humour, public sympathy or even collaborations with the wrong influencer has been known to backfire on brands and impact trust.

 

Summary

Brand trust is gaining increasing levels of coverage and exposure in mainstream marketing as a feature that is central to business and customers. No longer is it a complete dark art, lacking any sort of definition or measure. Thanks to the X Index barometer of brand trust, a measure of perceptions is available globally for businesses and brands to leverage.

As supported in both research and theory, actions and perceptions are intricately linked. Customer perceptions of brands are linked to the actions that they have experienced with those brands. These experiences can refer to a plethora of potential actions - Google searches, advertising exposure, website purchases, return of goods, etc etc.

The aim of building brand trust is to ensure that these actions produce positive perceptions of the brand. A tool for achieving this is providing interactions that create a sense of inclusion and investment for the customer.

Where a brand features in a search journey for a potential customer is also important in the initial impression of a brand. Those that feature first or last in a search are psychologically considered to be more trustworthy and preferred than those in the middle.

Tools for benefiting from this effect heavily rely on paid advertising. Finally, ethical, customer-centric and brand personality goals can aid in improving an X Index score, as can a focus on the avoidance of damage-causing elements. These include, but are not limited to poor internal brand culture, data and system breaches, and poor choice in collaborations, personality, and public sentiment.


Are You Ready for the Travel Boom?

Demand

Traditionally, the travel industry has been easy to forecast and predict. Calendar years could be categorised tidily into ‘peak seasons’, ‘shoulder seasons’ and ‘low seasons’. Seasonality affected this demand and dictated the popularity of travel destinations. For example, the summer seasons usually aligned to ‘peak’ periods of travel and school holidays, and winter travel destinations were usually based on either winter pursuits such as skiing, or sun-seeking ports of call to avoid the cold altogether. But while the travel sector continues to struggle under the strain of Covid-19, its subsequent variants, and ever-changing restrictions imposed by airlines and governments, too many businesses are waiting for ‘normal’ to return. They must understand that this wait is futile - both in time and in energy. There is a new normal for which the industry needs to adapt. This new normal is dictated by world events and by a consumer market that, now more than ever, seeks autonomy and control over their own experiences.

Reflexivity

The travel sector has been among the hardest hit by evolutions dictated by the past two years. As one destination or government opens up, others close. Airlines cancel flights - or entire routes. Travel agents and national carriers have collapsed under impossible financial burdens. Qualified staff must be retrained before airlines can even reinstate routes and flights.

Whilst in the early stages of the pandemic, it seemed rational to wait and see how global events would conclude. But now, two years on, it’s safe to say that disruption has become commonplace and that we ought to embrace it to survive and thrive. Reflexivity to demand is vital in harnessing this market. Seasons and trends are no longer easily predicted or follow logical patterns. They are fast to emerge and even faster to wane. To capitalise on these spikes of activity and opportunity, the structure and infrastructure of businesses in the travel sector must adapt.

 

User-Led

Adaptations to this shift must reflect the expectation of a user-led process. Placing control in the hands of the users necessitates design and infrastructure sympathising and reflecting with this expectation. So, what does that mean exactly? It means accepting that what you think you know, is no longer as accurate as it once was. It means that a lifetime of experience and customer insight in the travel industry has now been completely redefined. This dictates that to adapt and thrive in this new environment, the end-user must become the new expert.

The end-users will and should shape the new norm for the future of travel. But how does that reflect in a business approach to travel? End users are now the masters of their destinies, expect to be treated as such, and will seek and favour systems that allow them to act by this belief system. Antiquated systems that seek to control or define travel for them will continue to suffer.

P&O Cruises are a shining example of how the impacts of the travel sector can be harnessed to improve customer loyalty and pipeline sales. P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said the company has “a big reservoir of loyal guests who are keen to cruise again as soon as it is possible to do so. Booking trends for the first part of 2022 are encouraging and compare well with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019”.

 

Summary

Price comparison sites, travel agencies, airlines and hotel booking sites are key features of the travel sector landscape. These business models require - now more than ever - a user-led design that places the power in the hands of the people. No longer can seasonal forecasts or annual trends be relied upon to deliver or regulate sales.

Sales spikes and troughs can occur suddenly and unexpectedly because of internal or external factors, such as governmental announcements, changes to airline policy, or spur-of-the-moment loopholes for foreign travellers. To prepare for, and capitalize on, this new world order design and infrastructure must facilitate a user-led approach to travel. P&O Cruises are a perfect example of how the downtime within the cruise ship industry was used wisely to prepare for a ‘new normal’ in the future of travel.

In the absence of forecastable material, the end-user becomes the new expert on the industry, and as such requires the power to act and control their experiences in a way that is suitable and pleasing to them. To allow them this control, a system that provides for ease and autonomous self-servicing must be prioritised. We are already starting to see the separation between the businesses that are proactive in this approach, compared to those that remain reactive.

Several established industry names have already fallen into administration, whilst others have prospered. For businesses that fall into the former camp, the time has never been riper to take the plunge and adapt to a new future in the travel business.


Visual Commerce: What it is and why it’s important

It’s hard to deny that we live in a visual world where the way a thing looks can and almost always will have a huge impact on how it is perceived. This goes for the front of a store or a house, often referred to as curb appeal, to what we see on social media platforms like Instagram. For an influencer image is everything.

Where the commerce bit comes into play has been hyper-relevant during the pandemic and as habits shift are becoming more and more important for any business that operates at kind of presence online.

It is essential where buyers may not or cannot have a chance to visit a brick-and-mortar store or handle products in person. They become entirely reliant on visuals and the days of just pictures are over.

 

Visual Commerce in a nutshell

It essentially involves using visual content, front and centre, for marketing, branding and sales purposes. It is core to the strategy for helping customers learn about products and create connections with the brand.

It includes way more than just product images. For it to sing, it needs to include high-resolution photography, videos, and augmented reality.

By adopting visual commerce you’re aiming to dramatically enhance the customer experience by offering more than just ‘regular’ visuals they’re either expecting or coming across when dealing with other retailers.

 

Here’s why customers love it

There are a bunch of reasons why customers gravitate toward visual commerce and here are just a few.

 

Drives Engagement & Purchases:

As mentioned before people are drawn toward things that look good or are interactive. Having compelling visuals attracts customers and encourages them to engage.

It only takes 13 milliseconds for the human brain to process an image, which is 60,000 times faster than text and it only takes 50 milliseconds for someone to form an opinion about what they’ve seen, like your website. If you’re trying to get information across images is a great way to do it.

And when we look at how it is shared, images produce 650% higher engagement than text-only, and they achieve an interaction rate of 87% compared to 4% or less for things that are text or links only.

When it comes to AR, 71% of shoppers said they would shop more often if they could use AR, 61% said they would choose to shop with stores that have AR over those without it and 72% of shoppers that used AR in their shopping journey said they purchased stuff they didn’t plan to buy, simply because of using AR.

 

Discovery and Education

Visual content is key to discovery and education for customers. Video tutorials can help solve problems, answer questions and drive desire whilst AR allows people to get closer to products that ordinarily can’t be picked up or seen in person.

And we’ve all been subject to that moment when we’re scrolling through Instagram and something makes us stop or even scroll back down to take a second look. That is the power of visuals and their ability to create a discovery moment.

70% of B2B buyers watch videos during the purchase process and 4 x as many consumers watch videos about a product rather than read about it. Generally, people are 85% more likely to buy a product after watching a product video and when it comes to AR, 77% of users said they use it to see product differences such as possible variations of colour and style and 65% use it to find out more information about a product.

 

So, what could it look like for you?

There are plenty of ways that it can be implemented using great images, video, and AR and of course, combining multiples into a single experience. This tends to be the case for the companies that are doing it well. Here are just a few examples that show it in action.

 

Configurators

These are becoming more and more popular with companies that offer products that can be ordered in customised configurations. A lot of car manufactures have adopted more advanced versions of these, but they can apply to just about any product where customisation or choice is part of the ordering process.

Tesla has a great example of a configurator at work. They have for the most part encouraged potential new owners to order their new cars online and as such have created a fantastic clean experience.

But they’re amongst great company. Manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche and Alfa Romeo all offer some kind of builder on their websites and the best combine it with a 360-product model, matched to the configuration so that people can experience the car from all angles.

 

 

Another company doing it well is Steelcase. Their range of home and office furniture is fantastic, and they offer the ability to match the accessories and finishing to match needs and interiors.

 

 

Again, combining the option of either 2D or 3D gives people the chance to interact further with the product during the ordering process.

 

Augmented Reality or AR

AR is a technology for many that is still somewhat unknown or misunderstood. The result of the pandemic and the popularity of games such as Pokemon Go has really driven interest from consumers and awareness from manufacturers and sellers.

There are plenty of companies already making great use of this technology by taking the 360-product models that others are using and allowing users to bring it into their homes or create try-on solutions.

One of those is Etsy. They rolled out the ability via their app to allow shoppers to try pictures for sale, in their homes, via AR.

 

 

Having this as an option means no more measuring tapes and trying to figure out if the picture will fit in the space you have. You can literally see it on the wall before you buy it. This is a great example of what AR can do to drive interaction and remove doubt from buyers’ minds.

Virtual try-on is another place where AR is really making strides. Be it a watch, shoes or sunglasses giving people the chance to get up close to products without the need to have to deal with shipping and returns is great not only for the customer as it is a lot more convenient, but businesses can save on the logistics and the environment benefits from not having to have extra parcels on the road that are essentially just going to do a great big loop.

One of those offering this service is Monc. They offer several of their sunglasses models as virtual try-ons from their website when using a mobile device. It allows a person to see what the glasses will look like on their face with an incredibly high level of accuracy, adapting to lighting and movement but they also offer the ability to see the glasses in 360 so that you can get up close with the detail of the product.

 

 

Video

When it comes to creating an incredible experience with exceptional video it is hard to beat Apple. It is so well incorporated into the total visual commerce experience that you can be forgiven for not even realising that you’re consuming video whilst navigating their website.

Every element where value can be enhanced using video, it has been implemented. They use it to tell stories and demonstrate features and functions teaching the users how to use their products as part of the product discovery process.

 

 

Another example of great use of video as part of the buying experience is being done by PrettyLittleThings. They use video in the form of catwalk videos. These show the clothes on real people moving and turning around in the items you’re looking at giving them a real sense of what they’ll be like to wear.

 

 

Most people are aware of the tricks of the trade when it comes to photography and by using video you remove any doubt that photoshop has been used to make the clothes look like they fit better than or that they have been size adjusted on the model with pins and clips to make them look better.

During our research, we came across entire threads on the internet where people were sharing links to sites that have this catwalk video option because they refused to shop with people online who did not have that option open to them.

 

360 Images

We have talked about this as part of configurators and within AR but they have a use in their own right. Giving people the option to view products, especially big ones, from all angles helps with decision making.

Heals have implemented this for their furniture and most notably with their sofas. When you load the product page, it is the first image you’re greeted with and it encourages you to drag the product around and take a look at it from all angles.

 

 

So, what are you waiting for?

We hope that we’ve been able to demonstrate the value that visual commerce has when it comes to creating incredible experiences and that more and more businesses will see that the longer, they take to adopt some of these tools and methods, the further behind their more forward-thinking competitors they’ll fall.

These things are not nice to have, they are expectations of the consumer and avoiding them is done at your own peril. It’s not too late to push forward and create memorable experiences people want to share.

And the good news is that if you’re serious about it and need help making it a reality, Eclipse can do just that. Come talk to us and let’s create more personalised experiences for your customers that genuinely make a difference.


Our Top 5 Most Read Posts in 2021

2021 is finally over and the new year has begun bringing with it the hope of normality and a return to life amongst our friends, family and work colleagues but we thought we'd take one last look back at our Top 5 Most Read Posts on our blog during 2021. Some of them date from earlier than last year and this highlights the value of great content.

We wrote a fair amount of articles over the year from opinion pieces on the industry to guides on how to get the most out of your digital store front through design and CRO and these 5 are the posts that our readers shared, engaged with and spent the most time with.

Here are the Top 5.

Convenience is Key for Customer Satisfaction

Read Post


The Good And Bad of Microcopy

The Good and Bad of Microcopy

Read Post


Person shopping on phone

Understanding the Buyers Journey and Why it is Important

Read Post


What will it take to Survive the Future of Retail

Read Post


6 Ways to find out what your Customers think about You.

Read Post

 

We hope you enjoyed all our posts and insights in 2021 and that you'll be joining us again this years as we've got even more great stuff planned.


Customer Experience Optimisation: Pivotal for the Recovery of the Travel Industry

The State of Travel

The world is desperate for some semblance of normality regarding travel. But the travel sector has been one of the hardest hit as a result of Covid-19, and a full recovery is far off. Due to both domestic and international restrictions, mass staff layoffs and sector bankruptcies, the travel sector is far from profitability and peak.

STA Travel and Specialist Leisure Group (running Shearings, and Cruise & Maritime Voyages) are examples of recent administrative closures since the outset of Covid-19. Global travel giant Flight Centre closed hundreds of underperforming high street offices during the pandemic. How then, are the end-users (holidaymakers) impacted? How can an entire sector and workforce bounce back from near obliteration, and do so swiftly? During this climate of hard lessons and even harder bottom lines, a handful of travel sector businesses flourished.

These businesses and their Covid-19 survival strategies offer a unique and valuable insight into how recovery for the wider industry might best be achieved. This article investigates exactly how and why these businesses were able to excel in such a complex and challenging sales environment. It aims to apply their approaches to a broader industry context, for the benefit of the travel sector (and end-users) as a whole.

 

Success Stories

The past two years saw profuse international coverage on Covid-19 cases aboard cruise ships. Often these ships were required to quarantine offshore for long periods, and passengers were restricted to their cabins for the duration of the quarantine period. It is no surprise that because of such coverage, the cruise ship market took a significant hit on current bookings, future sales, and the reimbursement of missed travel plans.

Despite this, however, two key industry players were able to stabilise and improve their market position. P&O Cruises and Cunard Line are Covid-19 success stories. They offer the wider travel industry not just a glimmer of hope for future recovery, but also a methodology to apply to accelerate that recovery. P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell said the company has “a big reservoir of loyal guests who are keen to cruise again as soon as it is possible to do so. Booking trends for the first part of 2022 are encouraging and compare well with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019”.

Cunard Line boasts their own Covid-19 Hub, which aims to promote ‘sailing with confidence’ amongst their loyal customers. Assurances relating to updated Covid-19 travel restrictions, travel flexibility options, booking guarantees and expectation management of onboard and onshore experiences all play a part in keeping their customers informed, inspired and faithful to the brand (Cunard Line, 2021). But these trust-building experiences are deceptively complex. They are not produced and promoted in a day. They are considered, strategic investments that serve their investors well in both good times and in bad. Such investments can be simple to overlook in times of booming business. But in times of negligible margins, such strategies can mark the difference between success and failure in the fates of many businesses.

 

Customer Experience Optimisation

The encouraging results of P&O Cruises and Cunard Lines in the face of adversity offer a roadmap to others in need of a strategic lifeline. Though each business, market share and audience are unique, broader parallels in learning can be applied for the benefit of other struggling businesses within the travel industry. For example, applying the principles of transparency, assurance, flexibility, and expectation management hold relevance to most other businesses.

Deeper strategic decisions and investments relating to the optimisation of customer experience then become the sticking point for those businesses willing to take survival strategies seriously or not. Much of the resistance comes from a lack of understanding of concepts and values. Decision-makers must empower themselves with knowledge on the concept of customer experience optimisation and learn from the success of others the value that such strategies offer to a business. Customer experience is not simply the services that they encounter during a transaction.

They are an ecosystem that includes attitudes, values, experiences, highs, lows, pleasant surprises, and disappointments. Understanding and valuing this ecosystem for your customers is pivotal. Incorporating this ideology into company culture and infrastructure is vital for the ecosystem to flourish. Investment in digital assets, customer service support, up-to-date information sources and communication lines to users are all part and parcel of this methodology.

 

Summary

Within a scarred industry, two leaders have emerged as front runners during the difficult times of Covid-19. P&O Cruises and Cunard Lines have demonstrated the value of applying a Customer Experience Optimisation strategy within their business. As an investment in growth as well as customer satisfaction, this approach has delivered positive results in the buffering against a perilous market. It has also seen growth within an otherwise bleak industry outlook. The travel industry as a whole ought to take notice of this approach and apply similar learnings within their strategic plans. At a time when the focus is on recovery, it is easy to forget that if the focus remains on the customer, recovery will surely follow.

 

Need a Little Help or got Some Questions?

At Eclipse we’ve got an incredibly talented, multi-award-winning bunch of people ready to help you and your business. Our Experience team are experts at this stuff and can guide you or offer advice and answer questions that you might have. All you need to do is reach out and talk to us.

There’s not much that can’t be solved with a few cups of tea, some bright people and a (currently virtual) whiteboard.


The Importance of Personalisation

The picture in the news media around retail spending, especially in-store is not great but online is still standing strong and is substantially higher than it was in February 2020, before the pandemic started.

It’s just more signs that shopping habits have shifted and even when spending is down, the people that are shopping are choosing to do it online first.

What this means for customers is more choice and for those who are running online commerce stores, more competition.

It is your job as a business owner to find a way to stand out in the crowd, create incredible customer experiences and win and keep new and existing customers. There are a few ways to do this, and we’ve talked about several of them on this blog but one that we think needs a special mention, especially since it is so powerful, is personalisation.

 

What is Personalisation?

Optimizely explains it well. “Website Personalisation is the process of creating customised experiences for visitors to a website. Rather than providing a single, broad experience, website personalisation allows companies to present visitors with unique experiences tailored to their needs and desires.”

The concept behind this isn’t new. We’ve been exposed to it for years. It might be that your favourite café or restaurant just knows what you’re going to order, or they can suggest something new based on what you’ve had in the past. It might even be that whilst you’re in a store your experience changes based on what you’re looking at, the time you’ve been in the store, how you’re dressed or who you’re with. They are all cues to the sales team to offer help, make suggestions and recommendations and just make your shopping experience feel like it is tailored to you.

 

Making It Digital

As Optimizely puts it “Website personalisation attempts to use data to take that same level of one-on-one attentiveness and translate it into the digital world”

It could look like this:

  • Online retailers provide targeted offers to shoppers based on browsing and buying behaviour.
  • Travel sites can present visitors with promotions based on the current weather or season.
  • News and other media outlets can surface specific videos to viewers based on where they live.

But it can also go beyond just the website and even into mediums such as email, linking it back to a personalised experience online.

 

Why it’s Important

Customers’ expectations have shifted and continue to shift through this incredible change we’re going through.  So much so that it is as the point that people expect a personal digital experience that mirrors the typical level of personalisation, they receive offline. They want to spend their money with people that get them, make their lives easier and offer incredible levels of convenience. And this is not just our opinion. Research continues to tell us this is what people want.

 

It’s in the Numbers

We’ve scoured the research and pulled together the numbers that you need to know. They’re everything that will convince you that personalisation is the way forward and they’ll help you build a business case for why it needs to be included in your strategy.

We’ve put them together in a handy e-book that you can download and keep or read it online if you’d like. Just click the image below and the pdf will open in a new tab for you.

 

 

Need Some Help Making it all Work?

If you’re ready to start working on ways to create incredibly personalised experiences we’re here to help. Our experience team has worked with very well-known names on their personalisation and have gotten some awesome results. You’ll find a case study of just one of them in the e-book, but we have other case studies in our work section too.

All it takes is for you to reach out and one of our experts can talk you through how to get started.