The Pivotal Role of User Experience Design in Brand Building

The Pivotal Role of User Experience Design in Brand Building

The way brands are built has changed forever, and we need to help our clients understand that. Because, unfortunately, many organizations have yet to recognize the new reality. Where once companies defined their brand identity, today we live in a world where customers decide what our brand is.

In the past, companies defined their brand through marketing and advertising. They were the ones with the budget, so they had the means to promote their messages through television, print, and other advertising mediums. But today, the customer has just as much reach as the company.

Take for example the story of Hasan Syed. A cautionary tale that our client’s need to hear. He took out a promoted tweet criticizing British Airways’ customer service. For only a few dollars he was able to create a significant PR disaster for the airline and significantly damage their brand.

user experience design: british airways
The power to shape your brand now lies in the hands of your customers.

Or the story of Jeff Jarvis who famously wrote a blog post entitled “My Dell Hell” and unified disgruntled customers unhappy with the service they received from Dell. Some claim that the resulting online backlash was responsible for knocking a third off of the Dell share price.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Just as a disgruntled customer can undermine a brand, so too can a happy customer become its greatest advocate. In our new digital reality, the amplified voice of the customer can just as quickly energize a brand as destroy it.

So how do we help our clients turn their customers into advocates who actively promote their brand to others? There are four steps we can help our clients take.

You might also like: The Seven Deadly Sins of User Experience Design.

1. Focus on ease of use

Probably the most valuable commodity in Western society is time. We are all time poor and so we often choose the path of least resistance. If a site is easy to use and enables us to get the job done quickly, we will pick that website over another service, even if that service is more well known or cheaper.

Many clients still talk about brand loyalty, but in truth, it’s dying. Instead, users will go with whatever company is most accessible. That means the best way we can create brand loyalty for our clients is to offer the simplest to use experience.

user experience design: uber
Uber has disrupted an entire sector by simply offering a more frictionless experience.

You will find that if we can make our client’s site frictionless, people will stick with them for the long term. What’s more, they will also actively tell friends and family how great your experience is.

2. Improve their service

Although ease of use is the most valuable thing you can do to create a positive impression of a client’s brand, helping them provide an outstanding service is a close second.

With unprecedented choice and a full awareness of the power they have, users are more demanding than ever. Users expect an outstanding level of service from the companies from whom they buy.

Worse still, they are not just comparing your client to their competition, but instead comparing your client to every other experience they’ve had online. As Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President of IBM Global Business Services wrote:

The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.

Bridget van Kralingen

“The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.”

If you get it right, it can propel a company to enormous success. Take for example the shoe retailer Zappos. Their relentless focus on customer service enabled them to grow a thriving business that was eventually sold to Amazon for approximately $880 million.

But customer service is a lot more than a slick logo and brand identity. As Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos said:

“Customer service shouldn't just be a department; it should be the entire company.”

It was only through offering things like a 365-day unconditional return policy that Zappos was able to build such a positive brand image among customers. It falls to us to explain to our clients this fact and suggest ways they could be improving their service.

You might also like: A Quick Guide to Getting Started with User Experience Design.

3. Empower their customers

Another way that you can turn your client’s customers into advocates is to empower them. That is especially true with Millennials, as recent research has found.

"Sixty nine per cent of consumers say that they feel good about both the company and themselves when they can answer a question or solve a problem related to that business on their own."

Sixty nine per cent of consumers say that they feel good about both the company and themselves when they can answer a question or solve a problem related to that business on their own.

In other words, consumers feel positive about your brand if they feel empowered by it. But what does this mean in practice?

One way of achieving this goal is to enable consumers to do something that was previously difficult. For example, Shopify empowers its partners to deliver ecommerce sites that a few years ago would have been expensive and time-consuming.

But another way is to empower consumers through improved communication. That is especially true when placing an order on an ecommerce site.

Take a moment to consider a typical ecommerce transaction. You place an order on a site and then what? You wait, which can prove frustrating because you don’t know what is happening. Did they receive the order? Has it been dispatched? How long until it arrives? Users are left with a plethora of questions.

That kind of situation disempowers the customer. They feel impotent and out of control. However, if we help clients regularly update their customers on progress, those customers will feel a greater sense of control and therefore be more empowered.

A great combination of these two approaches is the delivery company DPD. They empower customers through clear communication and advanced functionality.

user experience design: dpd
DPD empowers its customers through clear communication and advanced functionality.

If DPD is delivering a package, you will receive an email the day before saying it will be arriving the next day. On the morning of the delivery, you will receive another email with a 1-hour slot for the delivery. Also, the email will include a link. The link will take you to a real-time map showing the progress of the driver. You can see exactly how many stops he or she has before reaching you and see an estimated delivery time.

That approach empowers customers because it keeps them informed and even allows them to track their package in real-time.

4. Connect their customers

Finally, you should seek to connect your client’s customers to one another if you want to turn them into advocates. Let me explain why.

Imagine you are out with a group of friends for the evening. As you sit chatting, you happen to mention that you collect paper clips. That leads to much sniggering among your friends at your expense. You feel embarrassed and vow never to talk about it again.

But now imagine when you mentioned that you collected paper clips, somebody else in the group said, “No way, I collect paper clips, too!” At this point, you both start enthusing and the others are carried along by your enthusiasm and excitement over a shared interest.

That is the power of connecting customers. If we bring customers together, they reinforce each other. They convince each other that buying your product is the smart choice. After all, look how many other people bought it too. As their confidence in their decision grows, so does the chance they start talking about it with other people. You have transformed customers from consumers into a tribe.

user experience design: apple
Apple used to be masters at creating a tribe of passionate customers united around a common mindset.

For a long time, Apple were masters at this. They united their customers under a banner of people who “think different.” They nurtured their customer’s confidence in their decision to go with a Mac when the rest of the world was on PC, through events and advertising. They built a tribe of Apple Fanboys.

You might also like: The Top UX Elements to Optimize Your Clients’ Product Page Design.

It is time to switch our attention

The conclusion of all these techniques is a simple one. It is time to switch our attention. Traditionally we have focused on representing our client’s brand online. We obsessed over controlling and nurturing it. But in the modern digital age that just is not going to happen. Instead, we need to be placing our attention squarely on providing an outstanding customer experience. The rest will follow that.

How do you help your clients build good user experiences? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Paul Boag is the author of User Experience Revolution and a leader in digital strategy with over 20 years experience. Through consultancy, speaking, writing, training and mentoring he passionately promotes digital best practice.

Grow your business with the Shopify Partner Program

Learn more