“Don’t Make Me Think” in the Age of Omni

Mark Johnson's picture
by Mark Johnson

Charlie Davison, Product Strategy Director at Reprise and Dominic Baker, Customer Experience Principal at Mubaloo take us through how brands need to get their technology and marketing to work harder in a multi-channel world…

Steve Krug’s seminal book about web usability, Don’t Make Me Think, was published in 2000. In it he wrote the following on his overriding principle of usability; ‘I should be able to “get it” – what it is and how to use it – without expending any effort thinking about it’. 

Krug's code: understanding user experience is key

With omni-touchpoint customer experience and ecommerce high on many brands’ agendas as they consider their 2020 visions, we ask, twenty years on, are brands doing enough to make the consumer experience effortless, and should Steve Krug’s words about web usability now be applied to the consumer journey generally as it spans increasingly diffuse touchpoints?

We’ll consider some of the everyday frustrations consumers face when interacting with brands, some of the technological advances that are helping to improve customer experience, and the key things brands should be prioritising in order to future-proof themselves. 

Davison and Baker: Discussing the challenges brands face in a multi-channel world

We’ll do this by showcasing digitally native brands that are doing this really well, traditional brands that have listened and adapted, and others that are still struggling.

The Age of Omni

We live in a multi-channel world, where a dazzling array of brands are fighting to gain our attention across every touchpoint. Given this multitude of choices, the power lies with the customer. Ensuring that your brand’s every interaction is valuable, relevant and rewarding, wherever it’s encountered, is critical. 

The smart brands ensure there is no reason we should pass them by, no matter where we encounter them – creating a consistently good omni experience through listening, familiarity, resonance and speed. 

Age of omni: Consistency needed in digital strategies

On the flip side, complicated, poorly thought-out experiences and hoping people will magically find you and love you will generally lead to frustration. The opportunities to create smooth, unobstructive journey experiences have never been greater.

What’s not working?

Siloed consumer journeys - consumers want to trust a brand as a whole, rather than having to stall at each and every touchpoint. Too often, the onus is on the consumer to identify themselves and re-enter details across different platforms and touchpoints.

The emergence of new technologies presents new ways to engage with consumers, but the greater variety of customer touchpoints, the greater the danger that the consumer can become alienated. Loyal customers are disengaged when the latest technology fails to recognise them and build on the existing relationship.

Brands should take an open architecture approach, creating experiences that follow users across different touchpoints, delivering the right message at the right time.

Ditch the silo: brands should adopt open architectures

Listening skills

With the raft of open data now available to brands, consumers expect to be listened to on all fronts and presented with pre-emptive solutions and answers. Whether through taking advantage of broad audience data from social listening and keyword research, or personalising content and experiences through customer data, failure to listen to and observe consumers forces them to think and work unnecessarily. 

Common examples here include not sufficiently addressing FAQs on product pages, not optimising those product pages in the first place with the language that consumers use to search, the ‘discovery problem’, where consumers abandon their search due to having overwhelmingly too much choice in products, and not providing adequate detail around products. How many times have you bought something only to find the fit, material or even colour is far from what was expected?

Brands should embrace a data, people technology approach. Identifying trends with data, interpreting those trends through people and delivering the resultant experience through technology.

Embrace change: Brands need to adopt new approaches

Papering over the cracks

Consumer expectations have changed with the rise of consumer-orientated, digitally native brands who have built trust and a sense of community through this heightened level of service. This intrinsically held customer focus is a differentiator from established brands who are slower to adapt and take longer to process and respond to change. 

Whether digital space, human space or digitally-enabled human space, culture throws up short term opportunities which are often missed when brands are too slow to respond. Yet the bigger the brand, the more potential they have to invest in the more agile ways of working, flexible open source capabilities and omni-channel architecture that enable them to adapt to new technologies and become consumer-orientated. 

Brands need to start thinking beyond the campaign by evolving their backend architectures to enable more agility and facilitate a purposeful test and learn approach. 

What next?: Brands need to think ahead

Who’s successfully making the change?

Which established brands have succeeded in providing an improved customer experience through technology? 

Sports fashion retailer JD Sports’ meteoric rise as the champions of “athleisure” is largely down to their recognition of the need for investment in a best in class, multichannel approach. 

Marrying the best of physical and digital retail by listening, testing and creating smooth retail experiences delivers results. 

For example, enabling JD Sports sales staff, who are front and centre of the customer experience, has required equipping them with handheld mPOS (Mobile Point Of Sale) devices in bricks and mortar stores. 

This adapts an Apple model to make purchasing easier and reducing anxiety and barriers, which queues in busy stores will generate.  With continued investment, JD Sports and other big high street names can be associated with frictionless, digital retail experience in store as well as online.

Away from retail, the NHS is partnering with Babylon Health in a bid to change the relationship between healthcare providers and patients through application of open data. 

Improving healthcare: NHS working to better understand patients

It provides a value exchange between patients and doctors that delivers improved healthcare to the home. Patients get a more informed diagnosis than they would have had by Googling symptoms, and doctors get tools that help them to spot patterns and prescribe the best course of action, whilst relieving the load on surgeries. 

This is a good example of a purposeful test and learn approach, incorporating machine learning to build the world’s biggest public health data set to map global health complaints, revolutionising what has been traditionally one of the most disjointed, time-consuming of consumer experiences – going to see a GP.

Which digitally native brands are flying the flag for the consumer?

ASOS rose to prominence in the noughties due to an on-point search strategy mapped to what the latest fashions consumers were looking for, and a simple purchase process that offered the flexibility of free returns. 

Fast forward to today and it is still innovating around the customer. Its Style Match visual search tool helps to solve the aforementioned discovery problem through zeroing in on products most similar to the visual search photo input.

Urban gardening start-up Patch Plants has gained a following through a digitally-driven consumer-centric approach. 

Seeds of success: Patch Plants solved gardening challenges

Patch solved two challenges for inexperienced urban gardeners – garden centres are typically out of town and offline, and little information existed for first time plant enthusiasts. 

Patch provides evening and weekend delivery, making it easy to get your hands on a wide variety of plants, and also helps consumers post-purchase by providing a wealth of information on how to keep your plants alive.

Which sectors are finding it hard to adapt?

As a round the clock operation handling shipping, tracking and delivery at incredible scale, logistics is a prime candidate for a fragmented customer experience, further compromised by the human problem of someone simply not being in to sign for their order. 

Yodel is attempting to change this by developing a social network of neighbours, with customers nominating neighbours to receive a package on their behalf should they be out.

Automotive brands rely on getting consumers into showrooms to have a test drive, but frequently focus much of their efforts on awareness and branding activity. 

Off the road: carmakers could be more connected to consumers