Stop what you’re doing for a moment and hit pause.
That’s right: This is an open invitation to slow down for a moment. Take a deep breath. Now, close your eyes and think about the last time you had an absolutely incredible experience.
Think of something that left you feeling inspired, that helped define the person you have become or something that helped to create a strong sense of desire or purpose. Once you’ve thought about this, take a moment and ask yourself: What about that experience was so special? What was it that became so meaningful at that very moment, and why did it resonate so deeply? After you’ve answered that question, ask yourself this: After having this profound experience, how did you capture it and share it with others?
Welcome to the world of an experience designer, someone who works with brands to deliver something that can’t always be measured by traditional analytics, and can only be measured by how someone genuinely feels when they experience it. This is the mindset that begins to take shape when ideation occurs, which is always centered around how we can serve something that is memorable and genuine that also has the potential of being sharable.
The fact is, we’ve been seeing companies using technology for decades, getting further away from customers and the human experience through automated systems and processes. While there is no denying that these systems have allowed companies to streamline and scale, today’s customers are demanding more transparent touches with brands they’re doing business with. In order to really address this at the core, I believe we need to ask ourselves: What does someone actually experience, and what does someone actually value? Moreover, are these two answers in alignment with one another?
Personally, I think many brands have lost sight into what people actually value and whether that value is prioritized toward its customers or simply the company’s shareholders. The one thing that we’re learning from consumer-facing technologies today is that the human experience is more important than ever before because today’s customers are at the center of it. Take a moment and swipe through all the apps on your phone right now. Look at all of the services that enable better experiences, service and value, literally at your fingertips.
As someone who is constantly focusing on designing experiences for some of the world’s leading brands, I often need to pause for a moment when evaluating a new project with my team and ask myself, “What is going to be the most impactful experience for this project, for this audience and for this environment experiencing it?” Like anything, before we build it out, we first need to lay the basic foundation and framework around truly understanding what an experience is.
The truth is, if you took the time to ask 10 different people how they define an experience, it’s possible that this basic question may, in turn, receive several different answers. While many of the answers you receive may be valid, when you really boil it down to the most fundamental level, an experience is something you feel and is usually measured by your reaction to the experience you have.
New tools and communication methods allow us to be more connected than ever before, which of course has a profound impact on the way we share information, as well as the experiences that we have in our daily lives. Well-curated experiences also have a great potential for being status boosters on these very platforms, which is how many of us day-trade for each other’s attention. This is a driving force within the behavioral consumer shifts in the marketplace right now, and partly why people are feeling more compelled than ever to have these unique, one-of-a-kind, custom experiences. Sure, they want to experience it and have an authentic reaction, but then they want to share it (and then feel the reward for doing so).
Something worth recognizing is that, while information today has become extremely abundant, it is also becoming extremely commoditized. Facebook Live and Instagram Stories have provided a broadcast platform for everyone. And like anything, just because people are doing it doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of content is good or that people are paying attention. People’s attention has never before been so valuable or difficult to capture, which makes creating these unique experiences that check all of the boxes that much more difficult. It simply no longer works for a company to tell its customers what to think and how to feel to ensure the right experience will take place. Customers now have their own authentic reactions and experiences to marketing and advertising, and their influence among their peers has never been more powerful.
All of the biggest analysts recognize that no matter how big or small your company is, over the next several years we’re going to be competing against “The Customer Experience” (which isn’t necessarily just based on a single act or transaction but is measured by the sum of all touchpoints someone has with your brand).
Once you have a good experience, regardless of industry, it becomes the new standard. We can talk about user interfaces, design, products or services, but at the end of the day, it’s the experience that these brands provide that people come to value the most — that, quite simply, is what consumers are beginning to expect.