Opinion pieces on business & economic issues
As product standards continuously rise and differences become blurred, offering a high-quality item is no longer enough. Consumers now want a good “experience” in using a product. Their purchase decisions revolve around the potential enjoyment and pleasure in using a product rather than the desire to own it. This is especially seen in the first generation of consumers who have grown up with digital devices.
A company’s value chain was once dictated by what resulted from its production cycle. The customer’s actual use of the product was solely an individual matter. Now, companies are beginning to influence the value chain after a purchase. They are taking advantage of mobile technology and social media to bridge users’ lives with the experience of using a product, regardless of time and location.
When designing a product to augment user experience, it is important to break the mold of simply providing convenience and fun to enhance users’ personal values. IT firms have succeeded in social networking services and video games by improving the convenience of interfaces and raising amusement aspects. But recent research has revealed that satisfaction declines as the time spent on Facebook rises. Only when immersion results in long-term value e.g. self development, can happiness continue.
With successes such as the Bordeaux TV and Galaxy S3 amongst others under its belt, Samsung Electronics is developing products under its new design identity of “Make it Meaningful.” The ‘S Health Buddy’ application which integrates exercise and games using the Galaxy S4 sensors is an example of this endeavor.
The user experience value chain has three stages; acquiring the experience elements; immersion in the actual experience; realizing meaningful values through the experience. A simple example is when someone buys athletic shoes, the purchase does not automatically lead to improving user value; only when he or she actually becomes absorbed in exercising and improves their health do the shoes become a meaningful, personal experience.
The five implementation strategies that go hand in hand with the three stages are as follows.
One strategy is overcoming restrictions to an experience i.e. time, space and matter which are behind any user experience as well as the interaction between users. Digital technology not only creates virtual experiences, it also enhances real experiences. Virtual golf (or screen golf) is popular in Korea because it overcomes the time and price constraints of going to a golf course. And unlike driving ranges where they have to practice alone, users are able to compete with friends on virtual golf courses, providing them with exercise and a chance to bond with others.
Another strategy is to introduce game elements, which can make daily routines more fun. Enjoyment is maximized when there are both emotional elements such as art and a story, and scientific elements such as technology. In particular, enjoyment is increased when the experience is new and unexpected, a strategy Volkswagen uses in its “Fun Theory” initiative. To encourage people to walk more, it turned a subway station staircase in Sweden into a digital piano keyboard that sounded a note on every step.
The third strategy is promptly responding to customers’ surrounding environments and circumstances. By utilizing mobile technology, the “when, where, how and with who” of an experience can be tracked. This can facilitate offers of customized real-time services and contents that fit a user’s locale and needs. Search engine Google generates appropriate answers by deducing users’ specific intent from the search context. And its smartphone service, Google Now, analyzes users’ circumstances and provides suitable contents even before a search is initiated.
Fourth is measuring and giving meaning to users’ experience. In addition, the formation and expansion of user communities is encouraged. For this, a company depends on a domino effect, with the enthusiasm of their most persistent users attracting others. Huffington Post, an online news aggregator and blog, and online retailer Amazon conducted quantitative analyses on the clout of its avid followers and succeeded in revitalizing user comments and reviews.
Lastly, experiences must be enhanced or new experiences must be developed by analyzing data from past behavior. Progressive, a U.S. auto insurance company measures and analyzes driving patterns to provide discounts to its customers. Its efforts have reduced the number of accidents and increased its profits. In other words, Progressive has resolved the moral hazard that insurance companies face with irresponsible policy holders and improved its members’ driving skills. Similarly, various industries including the healthcare, education and culture industries can take particular advantage of user experience innovation and voluntary behavioral changes to create new business models.As personal information leaks become more problematic, having the trust of users is an indispensable component to the success of a digital experience. Therefore, companies must focus on establishing long-term trust and reliance, and through communication and cooperation with customers, create new and unique experiences.
The column originally appeared in JoongAng Daily