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’.