Forrester on Customer Experience: Design Led Firms Win The Business Advantage

Customer Experience

Today’s dig­i­tal­ly-empow­ered cus­tomers expect seam­less expe­ri­ences that allow them to inter­act with brands how they want, when they want, and where they want. These expec­ta­tions are con­stant­ly evolv­ing as con­sumers are exposed to new expe­ri­ences and tech­nolo­gies. Com­pe­ti­tion for cus­tomers’ atten­tion and to offer the best cus­tomer expe­ri­ence (CX) is inten­si­fy­ing and giv­en the pro­lif­er­a­tion of devices, dis­plays and inter­faces it is vital for mar­keters to com­mu­ni­cate clear­ly and effec­tive­ly across mul­ti­ple channels.

In July 2016 Adobe com­mis­sioned For­rester Con­sult­ing to explore the hypoth­e­sis that embed­ding design prac­tice in dig­i­tal CX strat­e­gy cre­ates a tan­gi­ble and mea­sur­able busi­ness advan­tage. The results of the report , which sur­veyed CX deci­sion mak­ers across US, UK France, Ger­many, South Korea, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Japan pro­vides food for thought on the dif­fer­ence that design can make.

When Thomas Wat­son Jr. told Whar­ton stu­dents in 1973 that good design is a bot­tom line invest­ment, the con­cept was seen as ridicu­lous. To many peo­ple, design was a way of pret­ti­fy­ing prod­ucts after the hard work was done, with lit­tle sense of the greater cause.

But now, over four decades after his speech, this new report, Design Led Firms Win The Busi­ness Advan­tage, tells us that Wat­son was right. Com­pa­nies that adopt a design led cul­ture and put cus­tomer expe­ri­ence at its heart see a pos­i­tive per­for­mance per­me­at­ing the organ­i­sa­tion beyond the prod­uct, into the cul­ture and the bot­tom line. Specif­i­cal­ly, they attain more sat­is­fied and loy­al cus­tomers, com­pet­i­tive advan­tages, and greater mar­ket share than com­pa­nies with a less mature design approach.

And among these design-dri­ven cus­tomer-obsessed com­pa­nies it isn’t a lone wolf at the helm and lead­ing the way. Inter­est­ing­ly, analy­sis reveals these design led firms sup­port design skills in a wide array of employ­ees through col­lab­o­ra­tive process­es and tools from more senior or more strate­gi­cal­ly ori­ent­ed design­ers to more junior or more tac­ti­cal designers.

Accord­ing to our study, design led firms exhib­it the fol­low­ing behav­iours far more than their non-design led peers.

  • Use tools or sys­tems to test ideas with cus­tomers. 83% of design led com­pa­nies cur­rent­ly have tools or sys­tems in place to test ideas with cus­tomers 


  • Involve design teams in shap­ing dig­i­tal CX strat­e­gy. 86% of design led firms often or always involved design teams in shap­ing dig­i­tal CX. More­over, those that stat­ed that design plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in shap­ing dig­i­tal CX are more than twice as like­ly to also state that design teams are embed­ded in shap­ing dig­i­tal CX strategy

Being tru­ly cus­tomer-obsessed requires a deep under­stand­ing of how cus­tomers view your brand across all touch-points and the abil­i­ty to con­nect with them on an emo­tion­al lev­el. Design led com­pa­nies under­stand the impor­tance of lever­ag­ing design think­ing in deliv­er­ing con­sis­tent, seam­less expe­ri­ences across devices and chan­nels to meet the rapid­ly ris­ing expec­ta­tions of the per­pet­u­al­ly con­nect­ed consumer.

Why com­pa­nies lag­ging in cus­tomer expe­ri­ence and design think­ing are miss­ing out

The study tells us that over­all, com­pa­nies lag­ging in design are com­ing up short. They strug­gle to keep up with and engage with cus­tomers and employ­ees alike, thwart­ed by frag­ment­ed tech­nol­o­gy ecosys­tems and process­es. Most of all, they are miss­ing out on the very real busi­ness advan­tages of a dig­i­tal cus­tomer expe­ri­ence root­ed in design think­ing. Accord­ing to the study, com­pa­nies lag­ging in design:

  • Have a dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence that is weak­er or just on par with com­peti­tors. 46% of com­pa­nies that don’t embed design in dig­i­tal CX strat­e­gy report­ed that their dig­i­tal CX is on par or weak­er than com­peti­tors. Mean­while, 70% of design led com­pa­nies report­ed hav­ing a stronger or best-in-class dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence com­pared to competitors.
  • Are hin­dered by lega­cy sys­tems. 32% of respon­dents cit­ed lega­cy sys­tems and process­es as a challenge.

Appear to focus less on fos­ter­ing their own in-house tal­ent and capa­bil­i­ties. Design lead­ers were far more focused on shoring up their own inter­nal tal­ent and capa­bil­i­ties while design lag­gards turn to contractors.

Why design belongs to a company’s DNA

Tying design into your organisation’s core DNA and cul­ture reaps rewards. Mak­ing a company’s vision and busi­ness strat­e­gy tan­gi­ble to its cus­tomers and employ­ees cre­ates unique emo­tion­al bonds that sur­pass the ratio­nal. Based on our study’s find­ings, design led companies:

  • Are more like­ly to cite design as a crit­i­cal com­po­nent to brand. Not only did 91% of design led com­pa­nies list design as a crit­i­cal com­po­nent to dig­i­tal CX strat­e­gy, 85% list­ed design as a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of brand. Like­wise, they also list­ed strong brand gov­er­nance / con­sis­ten­cy as a defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of advanced design practices.


  • Aspire to con­tin­u­ous­ly improve process­es and result­ing expe­ri­ences. Per­haps one of the most resound­ing attrib­ut­es of top design lead­ers is the aspi­ra­tion to con­tin­u­ous­ly push the enve­lope and estab­lish new norms.

The great­est over­all returns on invest­ment are achieved where design is an inte­gral part of the brand. In fact, design brings the product’s promise and val­ues to life. As one notable design­er put it, ‘Design isn’t just about beau­ty; it’s about mar­ket rel­e­vance and mean­ing­ful results’.

Customer Experience
Paul van Keeken

Posted on 10-18-2016

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