Once upon a time, the job of UX was to be right – to build the best possible website based on our assumptions of how our customers wanted to use it. Yet over time, we came to understand that these assumptions were based on our own understanding of what we would want from the website, not what would be best for our customers. We eventually realized that we are not best placed to make UX decisions on behalf of our customers because we’re not able to put ourselves in their position. By acknowledging that we are not our own customer and are therefore not best placed to understand what they need, the role of UX has changed.
This change in mind-set has given UX the freedom to think about developing several different versions of a site and to experiment with design and let the customers visiting and interacting with the site tell us which one they prefer.
However, finding out what works best for everyone often involves compromise; the idea that every customer is the same and they all prefer a certain process or design is clearly flawed. That inevitably means that the website is trying to appeal to everyone and is not as optimized as it could be (and you’re not making as much money as you could). Most likely, there will be more than one ‘right design’, especially if we have a varied demographic mix of customers. Quite often, the same customer might be looking for a different kind of service from the site, such as business and leisure travellers looking for flights. The difference in the product being bought may mean that a different way of presenting information of a different user journey would be more appealing.
This is where personalization becomes key. It is fundamental to acknowledge that your customers are not all the same and don’t always behave in the same way. One size does not fit all and best for the ‘average’ customer is not good enough. We need to get these things right or our customers won’t come back. However, is a bespoke site that’s personalised for every individual viable or even possible?
By understanding that there might be more than one ‘right design’ and using technology to measure the impact that showing those different ‘right designs’ makes on our business, we can truly understand the economics behind providing our customers with a personalized experience. From this starting point, we can start to understand exactly how personalized we need to be in order to deliver the service our customers are looking for and to reap the rewards.
Effective personalization comes down to understanding when to serve relevant content as much as it is about what content to serve. The context of a visitor’s behaviour and activity on the site is the key here as understanding the current context of a customer interaction will give much more of an indication of their current intent than any amount of off-line data analysis can produce. More and more people are starting to understand that a customer journey spans multiple devices and touchpoints and that no one device or channel can be considered in isolation.
By drawing on all of the above, we can now create an effective, personalized experience that opens the door for new – and arguably even more profound – UX developments. Organizations further along this maturity curve are starting to realise that using ‘real time’ contextual data and insight is now enabling us to explore ideas we might have about our business strategy and validate them using targeted testing and personalization on the website and other digital channels.
Testing is no longer about looking for the ultimate single site design, it’s about understanding that everyone who visits your site is different and therefore there is more than one winning experience you can serve. It’s about validating which are the winning experiences that make a difference and which groups of customers or visitors to serve them to. Ultimately it’s about optimizing the customer experience to drive an improvement in the bottom line performance of the business.
And if executed effectively your site, and arguably your business will move from average to exemplary very quickly.