Why UX is critical to digital marketing
UX design strategist Jared Spool explains that experience can't be divorced from product and service.
In the world of digital marketing, there are many “Jacks-of-all-trades.” Part of the reason for this is that this industry is only approximately 25 years old — and in the beginning people in the industry had to cover all bases by themselves.
Over the last 10 years, as the industry evolved alongside the evolution of the internet, the web, and digital apps, there has been a growing and positive trend to do a way with the “Jacks-of-all-trades”(and masters of none) and engage specialists instead. One of the key skills that the digital marketing industry is sadly ignoring, however, is that of the User Experience (UX) expert.
The absence of UX experts on digital marketing teams shows that those in charge of these teams still believe that everyone can be all things. Just as digital marketing teams tend to rely on the digital analytics team to help evaluate the success or failure of their marketing campaigns, or to help optimize the campaigns after they are launched, they should be engaging with a UX expert before the launch to ensure there is nothing in the experiential aspects of the campaign that will hold it back from its potential.
To delve into the signs that you need to engage an UX expert as part of the digital marketing process, we asked one of the world’s leading UX experts, Jared Spool from UX design school Center Centre – UIE to answer a few questions on UX and digital marketing.
What percentage of digital campaigns do you feel involve any level of UX thought and or testing?
I would have no idea. I would hope all of them do, but I’m sure they don’t. So, it’s definitely a number below 100%. Since I know some do, it’s above 0%. So, I’d say the likely range is between 1% and 99%. Beyond that, it would be hard to narrow it down.
What would be a sure sign in analytics reports that a digital campaign has failed from a UX perspective?
Unfortunately, you can’t tell from analytics whether a campaign has succeeded or failed from a UX perspective. To understand the UX, you need to really understand the experience of the users. (That sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t really know what their users’ experiences are.)
Let’s say you have a simple campaign that drives people to a landing page, with the intent of getting them to sign up for whatever the landing page is intended to sell. Now, a lot of folks will tell you that you could look at the conversions to see if there was a failure. Unfortunately, conversions only tell you half of a story.
Conversions tell you whether someone converts (signs up) or doesn’t. The analytics could tell you how many people visited the landing page and how many converted. Dividing the latter into the former would be your “conversion rate.”
However, this assumes that every visitor should convert. What about the people who legitimately shouldn’t? Maybe they didn’t understand what was offered by the campaign, yet when they landed on the page, they suddenly realize this isn’t the offer for them. Should they convert?
If they do, you might have a disgruntled customer on your hands. Or you’ve overinflated your number of people who signed up. This means there’s four possible combinations of people who come to your landing page through your campaign:
1) Those that should sign up and do. (Yay!)
2) Those that shouldn’t sign up and don’t. (Also, this should be a ‘yay!’)
3) Those that should sign up, but don’t (Hmmm.)
4) Those that shouldn’t sign up, yet do. (Uh-oh.)
If your efforts try to optimize for #1 (this is standard “conversion rate optimization”), you’ll end up ignoring the intentions of #2 and #3. When you optimize for conversion rate, success isn’t measured in terms of what makes your customers happy, but what’s good for your wallet.
Unfortunately, there’s no analytics in the universe that can tell you about #3 or #4. The only way to learn about these is to do hard-core user research (which is a fancy technical term for “talking to your customers”).
What is the most common aspect of UX that digital marketers forget?
Simple: talking directly to their customers and prospects. Having conversations. Learning what they need and what they don’t.
People try to use digital marketing campaigns to replace having salespeople. And there’s lots of good reasons to do that. Yet the one advantage a salesperson has is they usually have to talk directly to customers and prospects. Those conversations are research into what the customer and prospect really need. And the salespeople are always learning.
Once you eliminate the salespeople from the equation, digital marketers often don’t replace that research with anything. The absence of research has a technical term for it: guessing. If you’re guessing what your customers and prospects want, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Have you seen any digital campaigns recently where you felt the designers did a good job from a UX perspective?
Sure. But you can’t isolate things to a campaign. When we’re talking about user experience, we’re talking about their total experience.
Let me give you an example: Insurance companies try to get people to switch to their product from someone else’s. (This is because, in many places, people must have insurance. The market isn’t growing. The only way to grow your business is to steal someone else’s customer.)
If the marketers see their business as a commodity business, they see the biggest differentiator is price. Yet the biggest reason people switch insurers isn’t price. It’s the quality of the service they get during a claim. Someone has a bad claim experience (the company makes it really hard to get the claim settled satisfactorily), then they’ll switch instead of renewing. Where do they go? Someplace they believe offers better service.
Therefore, the UX of the insurance purchase has virtually nothing to do with the campaign that gets them to switch. It has to do with the quality of service. By the way, do you know what the No. 1 way people learn about better quality service? Not from ads, because every ad claims their company’s service is great.
It’s from their friends. Word-of-mouth advertising is the No. 1 influence on who people choose for their next insurer. What drives word-of-mouth? Not clever campaigns. No. It’s great service. So, the best thing UX people can do to help digital campaigns is to make sure the overall service is the best quality service.
If you could make digital marketers and designers implement a single aspect of UX into their campaigns, what would it be? How could they measure it to be sure they did it correctly?
It would be to deliver high quality service at every touchpoint. How would you measure that? By talking to customers and prospects to make sure you’ve delivered high-quality service everywhere.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share on UX and digital marketing?
My thought is that UX is digital marketing. A great user experience is the number one driver of every marketing metric. Investing in better UX is the best way to improve digital marketing. Not just of the marketing campaign experience, but of every aspect of the product or service.
When you invest in better UX, you improve the experiences people have. You improve the way they talk about you and your services. You make everything in your marketing efforts easier.
It’s far easier to market a product or service everyone thinks is great than a product or service that nobody thinks is great. So much of the heavy lifting in marketing is because the company hasn’t made the investment in UX that they need to.
The main takeaways
To sum up the points and perspective Jared Spool shared, UX should be and needs to be part of every digital marketing strategy. Failure to incorporate UX efforts into digital campaigns, typically results in poorer performing campaigns which could have been much better performers.
Unfortunately, there are no KPIs or simple analytics measurements to inform you that your campaigns would be helped from UX nor that integrating UX into your campaign development process will help your campaign performance. At best you could compare a current campaign with UX versus an earlier campaign without it.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.