Think of a great vacation you’ve taken. Maybe you spent a week-long getaway on a Caribbean island where mojitos fizzed and flowed endlessly and your sun-kissed skin never burned. Or maybe you escaped to a snowcapped mountain resort, where you skied powdery trails all day and spent nights around roaring fires, sipping warm mugs of hot chocolate. As you wax nostalgia, the memories seem perfect — not a blemish on the whole trip. A wonderful experience that is crystallized in your mind, leaving an indelible impression of the beach town or wintery resort.
Powerful experiences stay with you forever. Whether it’s the perfect vacation or an incredible interaction with a brand, our experiences shape our perceptions.
At Stone Ward, our focus is on helping brands create and nurture unforgettable experiences. One of our retail clients said it best: “We’re not in the selling business. We’re in the business of creating an exceptional experience.”
An Experience Across Every TouchPoint
Over the years, our clients seek our expertise in brand strategy and ask us to turn that same focus to their digital properties. These brands know a good experience isn’t just a single moment in time. It’s not one mojito at the beach-side bar or a single race down the snowy mountainside. It’s the culmination of every touchpoint a person has along their journey.
That’s why our clients understand the importance of user experience (UX) for their digital properties. They know brand experience doesn’t stop when a customer leaves their brick-and-mortar. The experience continues with every website visit, every mobile app click and every latest email open. No single moment can define an experience. Every user touchpoint and interaction influence brand perception. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Therefore, it’s clear that user experience is brand experience.
The Challenge An Investment in User Experience
The idea that user experience is brand experience is nothing new. Innovators have understood this for decades. Jeff Bezos is reported to have invested 100 times more into the UX of Amazon than he did on advertising during the company’s first year. Likewise, Airbnb and Intuit both credit their investment in UX design as the key to their success (Forbes).
But forget about investment for a second. Let’s look at the ramifications of brand perception when companies choose to devalue UX as part of their strategy.
A study published by CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems measured the connection between good interaction design and user perception. The researchers’ conclusion found that interaction design lacking consistency, clear labels, responsiveness, and other factors directly led to negative emotional responses from the test subjects (CHI 2016).
In other words, bad user experiences lead to negative brand perceptions.
User Experience Creates Differentiation
We can all agree by now that UX matters to both profits and perception, but at its core, UX is rather simple. The Nielsen Norman Group defines it in this no-nonsense way:
“The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother.”
While this is a very true statement, it oversimplifies the potential behind “exemplary user experience.” When a brand is developing its mission statement, it’s not simply looking to meet customer needs, “without fuss or bother.” A brand’s mission is meant to declare, WE WILL BE BETTER AND DIFFERENT THAN WHAT HAS COME BEFORE.
Brands that win, win through differentiation. UX is no different.
After all, a kitchen oven meets a cook’s exact needs, without fuss or bother. But a microwave enhances that experience and turns conventional thinking on its head.
Brands that understand how UX can create differentiation have dominated their category. When Facebook emerged on the scene, MySpace was the king of social media. Facebook offered nothing new in its core product, but its innovation through UX turned MySpace into a relic of the past.
Additionally, UX can do more for brands than just make incremental improvements through design techniques. By employing UX research and human-centered design principles, brands can tap into the frustrations and needs of their customers and create something entirely new.
We’re seeing our own clients find innovative ways to create better user experiences. Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken launched a new loyalty program through its mobile app in September. This improvement to the experience will allow users to convert their love of Lee’s chicken into rewards and perks that improve their brand experience with each transaction, creating more loyal fans.
In short, user experience is brand experience.
How to Get Started With User Experience Design
UX design is paramount to your brand’s long-term success, and you’ll want to get started immediately. Any delay gives your competitors extra time to outwit and beat you.
At Stone Ward, we help brands better understand how their customers feel about the products and services they use, enabling them to uncover insights key to improving and enhancing the experience.
If you’d like to learn more about our process, see our cases studies, or learn how we can build good together, connect with us.