The Wisdom of Experience Transformation

The majority of business leaders are well aware that design is a strategic weapon in delivering digital transformation, especially regarding the overall goal of creating a differentiated customer experience. But, what does this mean and how do you achieve it?


Figure 1: Digital technology is deeply embedded into our lives. Through technology, we can extend and enrich the experiences we have and share with people.

Experience matters

In Figure 1 we can see how technology permeates our lives. It is easy to see why technology is so often the focus of our digital design and development efforts – digital disruption is the new normal. But it’s the experience people have using technology that matters, and not the technology itself. This is one of the main reasons we use technology because it adds to the experience, enhancing interaction.

In fact, superior customer experience is now becoming the expectation for all customers, not just those at the high-end. As Ben Thompson argues on Stratechery, “Many of the most important new companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Snapchat, Uber, Airbnb and more are winning not by giving good-enough solutions to over-served low-end customers, but rather by delivering a superior experience that begins at the top of a market and works its way down until they have aggregated consumers, giving them leverage over their suppliers and the potential to make outsized profits.”

In line with this, Econsultancy’s recent 2017 Digital Trends report states that “optimising the customer experience” is the top priority for marketers and agencies in the coming year. Technology is a means to an end and that end is experience.

This idea of the importance of experience is backed up by Brian Solis in his most recent book X when he states "Experience is the new brand. Experiences are the new brand. The future is experience." We agree, in fact, we’d argue it’s always been this way!

As we have previously stated in our article, the problem with digital transformation, “… to drive value that will keep your customers engaged and their experience of your company relevant, the objective should not be a digital transformation, it should be an experience transformation."

Designing the experience

Understanding what experience your business needs to deliver and cultivate requires a deep appreciation of the value your customers (and your users) are seeking. Not just what they want, but what they expect. They don’t just want a great experience, they expect one.

In a digital world where interactions span multiple channels and where people expect increasingly personalised and relevant exchanges, you need to embrace this complexity as part of the experience mix. Delivering this successfully needs a design-centric approach.

Again, this is reflected in the recent Econsultancy report – 86% of respondents agreed that design-driven companies outperform other businesses. Everyone is starting to wake up to the importance of design. Great experiences don’t just happen – they’re designed.

Among the most successful businesses are the so-called unicorns – private companies valued at over $1billion. Of course, many of the unicorn businesses provide technology. Take Uber for example: is it the technology that has allowed Uber to dominate a global market so quickly or the exploitation of experience based on understanding human behaviour and what people value? We would argue they are acting on insights about how people behave and have ensured what they design integrates these insights. They then set about creating new business models to complement the design.

But, many companies are struggling to develop the processes, skills and culture needed to achieve this. This doesn’t just mean hiring more designers but embracing design as a core value that can help shape experience transformation efforts. Where do you start?

Building Customer Experience on a foundation of understanding and customer value

Essentially, there is only one way to create an experience transformation - you need to design it. Therefore, you need a design strategy. This manifests as a very strong focus on design and its role in shaping the right customer experience.


Figure 2: Digital transformation needs to be shaped by a design strategy to ensure you create a meaningful customer experience.

A design strategy is like a fulcrum on which the value consumers place on an interaction or series of interactions (because that is exactly how digital breaks down) can be leveraged through technology to deliver an experience. The quality of the interactions determines the quality of the experience. This means that one bad interaction can undermine the whole experience.

We have a series of techniques and approaches which underpin the development of a bespoke design strategy. The first step is to evaluate your current situation. If you think of a strategy as a roadmap to take you from your current situation to a desired state, then you obviously need to understand where you are right now! This is what Richard Rumelt refers to as a diagnosis.

Our diagnostic tool takes the form of an assessment against our Experience Design Index. What is the current state of your experience culture, your design capability and your level of customer focus? Where do you need to focus your efforts to deliver the greatest returns in terms of improved Customer Experience?

This diagnosis is then used to create a Design Strategy tailored to your specific situation – a guide to helping you to create a more design-focussed organisation and thus deliver Experience Transformation. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each business is different. Each has a different level of design maturity. And thus each will have unique challenges, whether that is changing the culture, changing the business model, hiring the right people or getting the right tools in place.

Once you have a Design Strategy in place, the next step is to scale the experience to reach all of your customers. As Ben Thompson says, “All that matters is the quality of the experience and the ability to scale”. If you can deliver a truly differentiated customer experience that exceeds the expectations of your customers at all levels within your market, you are on the path to success.

If you would like to find out more about how our design strategy services can help you to deliver experience transformation for your business in 2017, please do not hesitate to get in touch via or +44 (0)117 929 7333.