Imagine the first light switch-less house. The lighting in the house is completely controlled by a mobile app. Instead of hitting the switch when you walk in the door, you whip out your phone, open the app and turn it on from a mobile dashboard.
A light switch-less house is not in and of itself a bad idea, but going mobile-first with the product is. Think about it: you wake up in the middle of the night and stumble over to the bathroom. Are you really going to want to have to open up your app to turn on the light? Voice could be a solution, but mobile is definitely the wrong investment for that purpose. With the plethora of emerging technology available, forward-thinking companies have realized that user-first is the new evolution of mobile-first. Technology should simplify, not add complexity. Jumping immediately to mobile-first will add complexity in some products.
The technology available to augment the customer experience, especially for in-store experiences, has dramatically expanded. Instead of bouncing between smartphone and desktop, the customer experience can include contextually aware interactions, wearables, virtual or augmented reality, kiosks, and so much more. The key is for companies to map out the current customer experience, identify the pain points, and then find the technology that provides the most effective solution.
Going from mobile-first to user-first does not mean that mobile is dead. Quite the opposite— with 90 percent of the world’s population over 6 years old owning a smartphone by 2020, mobile applications are very viable investments, especially for customer experiences that involve instant communication or real-time data. The outcome of the user-first approach can be an ecosystem of mobile apps. It’s the approach and process that changes.
With mobile-first, companies develop products that are led by the mobile interaction, with the assumption that consumers want everything on their mobile device. User-first requires eliminating that assumption. Not all customer needs are best solved by a mobile app or mobile website alone. Think of your customer experience holistically, from the first time they hear about your brand and then step in your store or view it online to the ongoing engagement after their first purchase.
For the store interactions especially, a mobile application may not solve customer issues. For example, a department store at a mall has a mobile app to solve the problem of customers being unaware of sales at the store or wandering through the store in search of sale items. If a customer gets close enough to the store, the app sends a push notification to the customer alerting them to the sales. When they walk in the store, you want customers to open their mobile app and have that tell them where to go and which products may interest them.
Here’s where this goes wrong:
- Customers forget to open the app once they get into the store, get frustrated, and then leave.
- You’re asking customers to perform the same interaction (looking at their phone) that has distracted people enough to walk directly into traffic. How well do you think they will pay attention to the products? They’re too busy staring at their phone.
- What happens when another notification pops up? Or a text message? The mobile phone has become a haven for distractions. If you are hoping to keep customers’ attention throughout the experience, mobile may not be the best platform.
- The experience should be personalized to the customers’ preferences, not just their location.
Instead of investing in a mobile app that sends push notifications throughout the store, a more effective solution would be to create digital engagement points that customize content based on consumers’ preferences. Imagine a sales banner in the store that changes based on who is looking at it to specifically point them to products they have on their Pinterest boards or favorited on your website. Mobile solutions may certainly be involved in this solution, but they are not the sole platform for the solution.
Coming to these insights requires a deep understanding of customer needs and demographics. How can you be user-first if you don’t first understand the users? This depends on a robust and scientifically sound user research engagement. Go beyond customer surveys or employee observations. Follow your customers in the store. Interview them. Research them. Develop personas to understand who, exactly, are your current core customers, and what they are thinking, feeling, and doing when they interact with your brand. Map out their frustrations and find a way to simplify that process leveraging technology, which may include a mobile solution, but may not. Let your customers tell you, indirectly, through your research.
Don’t view digital products as more opportunities to bombard customers with opportunities to engage. View digital products as your avenue to simplify their experience. Buying any product or engaging with a brand is an inherently complex and frustrating process. Understanding customers’ needs through user research can distill that complexity, and help you simplify your customers’ experiences. Find out more about UX strategy in an ebook written by Adrian Garcia, ChaiOne’s Principal of User Research.