(Written to share with Fjordians and originally posted for Fjord blog)
The vast majority of brands have yet to adjust their mentality to match the habits of consumers. Companies today are failing to see that successful integration requires more than weaving together digital and physical capabilities. The key to success requires a deep understanding of the human experience.
While attending this year’s Contagious conference, Now/Next/Why New York, it became especially clear that building successful offerings requires a strong customer understanding in order to react to feedback in real-time and to tap into the moments of delight. But this is no easy feat. While presenting at Now/Next/Why, Fjord’s Hyo Yeon pointed to the challenges ahead as we navigate societal norms, mood, etiquette and pure human weirdness in our increasingly connected world. So how should companies respond? Three particular examples stood out in illustrating how companies should embrace empathy to move towards the right kind of offerings, whether they’re digital or physical.
Visualize your customers’ experience
Although Airbnb had established a strong stable brand, the company was still struggling to prioritize and expand their business. That all changed however, after the product team was inspired by Walt Disney’s approach with his first ambitious animated feature film, Snow White. By mapping out the experience in storyboards, Disney’s process helped collaborators understand the vision.
The Walt Disney team envisions Snow White through storyboards
Taking on the same approach, the Airbnb team realized their service wasn’t a website, it was the emotional moments that comprise the Airbnb stay. The storyboards encouraged the team to deeply investigate their service through their customers’, hosts’, and employees’ eyes. Not only do the storyboards discourage the team from jumping to solutions based on the latest technology trends, but it provides the team with a shared understanding of the Airbnb experience. In each depiction, Airbnb intentionally avoided any evidence of technology in order to focus on the actual journey of a traveler. Displayed at the entrance of the office, the illustrations in the storyboard became a powerful tool in Airbnb’s business allowing the team to share the vision and to put the user experience at the center of decision-making.
Airbnb’s vision illustrated through storyboards
Pay close attention to moments
Although companies have become quite adept at adjusting to meet customer needs no matter their location, until now there has been little attempt to react to changing human emotions. In order to take full advantage of the emotional moment of winning a game, Kiip allows brands to reach users during achievements, supporting the user in moments of delight to build a deeper brand connection.
Kiip achieves this through its reward program platform allowing any brand to offer rewards in an engaging, meaningful, and relevant way. For example, let’s say you are a to-do list app developer. Using Kiip, you can give your user a reward for completing all their hard work, such a coupon to a spa or a free car ride.
Kiip connects mobile user with rewards
With a better understanding of your customer’s emotional experience, brands like Kiip can not only better serve their customers but also develop deeper long-lasting relationships.
Understand the strengths and weaknesses of digital
Often we think mighty technology can be a solution for everything, but Hointer is a great example of when in-person encounters are more suited to the customer’s needs.
After attempting to resolve Amazon’s customer dissatisfaction with its clothing division, Nadia Shouraboura realized that certain items need to be experienced in-person. So she quit Amazon and opened an apparel store called Hointer, a brick-and-mortar store informed by her experience in online shopping.
Hointer combines people, space, and technology to enhance the shopping experience
This highly technology-equipped store utilizes software that allows customers to view product information through their mobile phones, select articles to try on, and order clothes to a fitting room. Actually, technology streamlines the in-store process in every way but one: styling. Hointer recognizes that the complexity of personal style cannot be solved by computer algorithms. Style is about personality and individual characteristics; it cannot be spewed out based on your last purchases.
The Hointer example is a powerful reminder that advanced technology cannot fulfill all human needs. When it comes to tasks that require both expertise and emotional intelligence, people still do the job best.
Designing customer experiences requires considerations of all factors: time, place, environments, emotions, economics and social context. Whether the final solution is an ipad app or placing a warm cup of coffee in one’s hand, brands will build stronger relationship as long as it originates from a deep understanding of the customer journey.