UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 585 December 1, 2010

Customer Experience Nirvana: How UX and marketing are set to increasingly collaborate

Historically speaking, marketing and UX have been either somewhat at odds or simply unconcerned with each other. At the risk of oversimplifying, it might be said that marketing is generally concerned with things like new customer acquisition, reach and frequency, and producing stickiness. UX practitioners, on the other hand, have been concerned with things like adoptability, usability, and transparency. But the separation of marketing and UX is in the process of changing.

Marketing organizations are beginning to shift their focus to include a new emphasis on customer experience (CX) as they realize that reach and frequency strategies are not working as they used to. Simply said, in order to be effective these days, marketing needs to be in the business of helping consumers and adapting to customer needs while also executing smart outreach strategies. Talking to prospects with the right message at the right time and the right place (as good marketers have always known to do) is just not enough anymore. Marketing now needs to offer prospects or customers smart and dynamic tools that help them in their decision-making.

As Dave Stubbs of Teehan+Lax has written, "In the past we were incentivized to create ads and microsites that would launch onto the Internet, exist for a while and then disappear. In the future, we will create programs and ‘things' that solve consumer problems…" Vidya Drego of Forrester Research has also written a great paper on the topic.

With all of this in mind, it's important to examine how UX and marketing can collaborate to build the next generation of customer engagement.

From a marketing perspective, a whole lot of a company's customer interactions are staked in digital touchpoints. This makes it important that UX professionals be recruited to help shape customer interaction models from the very outset of product development, rather than brought in as an after-thought after a product is built to try, too late, to make it more user friendly. Through its user-centric approach, UX is especially well suited to help marketing shape a more comprehensive and brand-cohesive view of their prospect and customer interactions.

From a UX perspective, branding is an increasingly important consideration these days. This is a result of both the growing digital bandwidth and the fact that new experiences focused on persuasion or selling are now integrated into the digital tools themselves. Think mobile apps and tools like the Nike+ runner application or Ozarka's water delivery website. As a result, the UX perspective has broadened to include new types of experiences that are less process-driven and more advertising-driven. UX designers must contend with more messaging that increases cognitive load, and they must work in an area that's typically been the bastion of marketing communications.

One way to describe this shift is that the interests of marketing and UX are merging into a new approach to customer relations. That outlook is pretty exciting. So many customer experiences will improve when marketing and UX get together to craft tools that give consumers the power to shape more mutually beneficial relationships with the brands, products, and services they choose.

But for this collaboration to be effective, a third ingredient is required: IT. And that's where things threaten to unravel. What good does it do if marketing and UX can put their heads together to design exemplary customer experiences only to find out they cannot be implemented? This isn't due to problems inherent to IT, but more because of the problematic dynamics of marketing and IT's relationship. In a nutshell, marketing (as well as UX, although to a lesser extent) have been guilty of tech phobia. But to be fair, IT has given marketing and UX plenty of good reasons to distrust technology.

Some of us are familiar with the historic battles between interaction design's and engineers' implementation plans. Well thought-out designs have been thrown out because the software platform "can't do that." Marketing has had similar struggles with IT when trying to gather dynamic customer data or automate its processes. IT has been so overburdened with support and maintenance that being asked to implement new features is more than they can handle, especially if those new features could present a threat to their systems' stability.<

Scott Brinker of Ion Interactive expands on this issue in his blog post, Why IT and marketing are diametrically opposed.

On the bright side, increasing numbers of a new breed of technologists are joining the ranks in IT departments. These new technologists arrive in IT already knowledgeable about CX and marketing. They come from much more flexible programming environments, and have evolved through the age of the Internet and open-source platforms. They understand the importance of the customer experience, and are very engaged with it once they know they're involved in a meaningful customer experience effort. In fact, some of these technologists have actually been the originators of better UX in organizations where marketing had only paid lip service to the issue.

The other positive angle to consider—and really this is where everything hinges—is if marketing is able to successfully collaborate with UX, they will acquire the vision and experience they need to help them generate and own the clear and executable types of technology plans that are key to success.

So, to wrap up:

  1. Marketing needs to start integrating UX design processes into a holistic view of digital (and beyond) customer interactions.
  2. UX practitioners need to acquire a better understanding of marketing's priorities and brand management practices.
  3. Once allied into a potent force, marketing and UX can engage in the kind of research that leads to the development of clear and executable technology plans and, as a result, engage IT as an enthusiastic partner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

User Profile

A creative technologist with a keen sense for design solutions that deliver on strategic objectives, David has close to two decades experience designing and producing digital products and services. Over the years, David has accumulated a strong track record of highly successful and innovative applications for some of the world’s most respected organizations. Clients have included Volkswagen, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Renault, Schweppes, Disney, Warner Music, Denny’s, HCA, Southwest Airlines, Verizon and Alcatel-Lucent. You can read more of David's thoughts on the Pull Media blog.

 

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Comments

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Thanks Marc-Oliver and William for your comments.

Good points. As far as potatoes are concerned you might want to take a look at this:

http://www.idahopotato.com

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I agree and have been living the dream, and struggling to find where to fit in as a marketer, strategist, user experience and interaction designer and web/platform developer/designer.

Marc-Oliver Gern, you are correct in your statement however the integration fo the 2 is the whole idea. sales strategies are totally more effective when thought of not just from and economic and manipulative promotional strategy but as customer benefit strategy.

The history of time of products and services highlights how a great sales strategy does not ensure that a bad product have an extended product lifecycle. What will help extend the products longevity will be those product we know have stuck around for a long time.

And the strategy's of these products are the customer experience weapons that have 'iterated' and 'evolved' in their design to work with the product.

Remember, the design or 'customer experience' is not just about the bag of potatoes. It is the environmental and physical factors that influence the purchasing decision as well (to coin the marketing speak), who is the customer and how do they want it, and how do you balance the market drivers to differentiate your product?

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I agree; marketing and UX should form a closer relationship and that might work when you sell software or similar products/categories. BUT, how does this concept help when you sell a package of potatoes? It's about sales, and in my opinion UX practitioners have no idea about sales strategies.

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Bernardo,

I totally agree with you on the HOW. No question about it, there are different ways to go about it, i.e. transparent and direct vs. resorting to cheap tricks. But at the end of the day we're all in the communications business. That's why I believe the AP post is a counterproductive example of someone losing track of the bigger picture...

Also agreed that this article is targeting a novice audience. The field of UX is just barely making it to the mainstream and we need to keep pushing forward to make it more accessible. I appreciate your suggestion to write for a more fluent audience. I may take you up on that too. It will be good to see where this leads... :)

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David, thx for your reply. I do not believe that complaining about something makes UX move forward as a profession but sometimes a thing just get on your nerves. I think that's what happened in the AP blog post. That's a controversial topic and you have to give the guy some credit when he writes so openly about it. A very delicate matter, in my opinion.

I disagree with you unethical rationale about communication but thats a story long enough for its own thread. I, as a professional and human being, do not think that getting there (close the deal) is the only thing that matters. HOW you get there is just as important.

Perhaps thats a subject good enough for you to write about because this article here is the starting point on the marketing & ux relationship. What I mean is that I see this article being directed at a "begginer" audience, maybe now its time for an "intermediate" and then "advanced" sort of thing. ;)

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@Dakota

Thanks for your comment. I need to ask whether you're fully familiar with the Nike+ story though. Because it seems to me that you're missing something.

Nike+ was a collaborative effort between marketing, product design and UX put together by the digital agency R/GA. It is a classic example of how a marketing problem spawned a hybrid product/marketing/UX customer experience solution from the very outset.

Here's a link to a video that tells the story:

http://judgeseyesonly.com/nikeplus_video.html

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@ Aaron:

Thanks for your comments.

I agree with your thought around the extension of UX into all areas of the entire customer experience. And what makes this so exciting in this day and age is how most of these different areas or channels involve more and more interconnectivity and integration.

I love your parting comments on your blog video. That "we GET to do this". We don't "HAVE to do this". Collaborating with other disciplines (including marketing) is what makes this discipline so exciting in my opinion. Thanks for your positive outlook!

 

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@Bernardo:Thanks for your comments. I understand your frustration with the "wound". I'm not one to deny that there is sometimes a gap between the interests of marketers and advertisers and the interests of UX advocates. Believe me, I have had my fair share of frustrations with the numerous ad agencies I have worked with in my career. However, I have also met some of the most creative and imaginative people in ad agencies. People that taught me a few good lessons about UX. (By the way UX is not just usability). And I have yet to meet a UX designer who is good at visceral visual design for example... I read the article you suggested on the Adaptive Path blog. It paints an angry and oversimplified picture of what Ad Agencies are about. If Ad Agencies are essentially unethical as he seems to suggest, then all communications are. That includes whatever comes out of our mouths when we present design ideas or a prototype. We're all out to "sell" something, whether you like it or not.In short, it is not my place to pour salt on the wound. Pun intended :) That gets us nowhere.Plus I have seen many examples where the interests of UX and marketing have coincided and where the collaboration has been stellar. Think R/GA for instance. Again, I'll refer to the Nike+/Apple example that another commenter brings up but misses the point. (which I will clarify). Obviously, in that case we have an example where a brand does a great job at marketing itself while providing customers (runners in this case), not just better products but an entirely new and enhanced running experience which involves very smart and well designed digital touchpoints put together by people in marketing and advertising... oh, what a concept.

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@Simon:

The phenomenon in your second comment, I believe is referred to as 'chunking', which is how some interaction models, sometimes flowed or inefficient have been so well 'memorized' by users that it is very hard to deviate from them in new models. Even when that would be desired from a UX best practices perspective. Some users will rebel and reject the better, more elegant or efficient approach, and so then it becomes a balancing exercise of meeting user expecations while steering them toward better design that they come to appreciate only after extended usage.

Very good point though about integrating these chunked processes in a presentation to user groups so as to optimize the chances of acceptance.

 

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@ Simon:

Thanks for your comments. These are very good thoughts. Yes, it is mind-boggling how little UX has penetrated business processes. I think t is largely due to the fact that a lot of business people do not trust design thinking. They have a misguided perception that things will get slowed down. When in reality they set themselves up fo a lot more time-consuming issues down the road. That's just human nature. To focus on the short term... But I can see progress being made. Especially now that we have the example of Apple's stratospheric success with the iPhone and iTunes.

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I think your use of Nike+, as an example that supports your thesis, is flawed.

Nike+ was originally designed as a product. It had shelf presence, a SKU, and was/is profitable from what I have heard.

I might be able to buy into the argument that its later app extensions were more less marketing efforts, but the core artifact was a product created by product designers and engineers.

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I do agree with this article, and think that Experience design needs to extend past what we would consider our normal deliverables. There are pain points on the different fronts... but when hasn't there been... to simply gripe about them doesn't not improve any chances for success.

Be proactive try to get involved and collaborate, focus on progress. I recently posted a short blog on this subject as well.
http://www.thisisaaronslife.com/extending-the-experience/

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I agree with the title that says "ux and mkt are set to collaborate". Yes, we are. But what happens when interests clash? And they will 99% of the time.

I think this article does not touch the wound. This guy does:

http://www.adaptivepath.com/blog/2010/11/18/the-pernicious-effects-of-advertising-and-marketing-agencies-trying-to-deliver-user-experience-design/

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I like to add another thing to the mix: UX strategies integrated to marketing strategies. This is because of the emerging influence of user groups.

It not only helps to understand external customers of a prospect, but also helps to understand the users of the competing software in order to get a foot inside a company.

A micro example:
For instance it's more easy to get a foot inside if the shortcuts can be configured with templates that mimic same shortcuts as a competing software solution. This is important when you want to sell software to a company that has users who have used the competing software for many years and often use shortcuts.

These small things matter when you want to sell if user groups review your software are being part of the sale process. But also when you market user experience, then you at least should understand that marketing to users is also important. And there are many ways to do that as well, and maybe even social media can work with that a great deal too...

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UX needs to be at the front of companies, both in marketing and sales. Here in Holland (country next to Germany) software makers who try to sell business software to large companies find early in the sales process the usergroup review become very influential. If there is no backing from the user group, no sale.

So my suggestion has always been to those companies don't put the user experience as an after thought it will cost you sales.

However why doesn't it happen still? Because large software makers have problems with iterative development processes, hard times of integrating software development methodologies with UX design, checklist thinking, but most of all people have no idea how important user experience still is, even when they do know it is critical for user acceptance: sales.

So this is why I didn't see marketing or sales understanding it, and fail to sell it. I run my own company and I sell it, which is easily done. I find at least. I market it as well. It just works.