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Design: The Hidden Driver Of Digital Reinvention

Design: The Hidden Driver Of Digital Reinvention
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You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

In my last two articles, we first discussed the importance of design to create winning value propositions, and then how design can be used to transform your customer experience. In the last part of this trilogy, we will focus on how design can help you transform your company and ultimately reinvent the way it relates with customers, stakeholders and employees. Yes, design is the driver of digital re-invention.

As technology continues to evolve, entry barriers for most industries will continue to fall. Traditional highly asset intensive companies face unprecedented competition from new ecosystem disruptors, which appear with simple, yet compelling value propositions especially targeted to specific segments. These new challengers also focus on creating a unique relationship with their clients, which starts with a compelling value proposition, gets enabled by technology, and finally, consumed through design. Design, therefore, becomes the key driver for product and technology adoption and the stickiness factor to any proposition. Just ask yourself a few simple questions: would you be using Uber if the interface was bulky and complicated? Would you be using Airbnb if the site -and later the app-was dated and feature focused? Would you be shopping online under a complicated product list base website design?

A brand cannot live without honoring its aesthetics and properties through a relevant design. Design is critical for brand adoption and brand stickiness. Design is no longer a driver of utilization. Not only does it drive our utilization and interaction with products and services, but also the entire relation we have with them outside their functional intent. We “perceive” a brand based on how it gets activated across its multiple channels. This perception becomes internalized as a feeling and manifests into a memorable experience only once it is consumed through an integrated digital and physical continuum, with the former serving to perpetuate the experience ubiquitously.

Related: IBM's Juan Jose De La Torre On The Need For MENA Businesses To Embrace Digital Transformation

When it comes to digital services, the design-relation with a brand is even more dominant than on physical interactions. Nowadays, we extensively use digital services in our daily life: from messaging our friends, to consuming the latest series, and shopping for our groceries while on the go. Digital services have changed our relation and how we relate to people, places, companies and brands. Today, our digital experience expectations are never ending and they continually rise as our favorite apps or digital services get updated on a by-weekly basis. Governing this relation is of course, the design of the experience, which gets manifested as the design of a customer journey and of the product or service we consume. So, it’s evident that companies need to pay a critical focus on design. We demand more, and we expect more from our digital providers.

However, if we examine our relations with our traditional service providers, we will see that this relation has stayed almost the same. Think about your last interaction with your local taxi service or your travel agency just around the corner where you live. Besides the advances in technology and the changes in our behaviors as users, which have been accelerated over the last five years, we continue to use almost the same channels to deal with our traditional service providers. Furthermore, the expectations we set on our digital interaction with these traditional service providers are far below the expectations we set for our new service providers. Is this good news for the traditional players? Of course not! We set a lower expectation because we label them as “legacy.” Their brands no longer appear as innovative or edgy and most important they become less relevant in our daily life. We place them in the commodity box and our relation moves from an experience one to a pure transactional one.

But why? Why can’t the digital interactions with our utilities company, telecom provider, financial institution, airline or government entity have the same experience as when we interact with disruptors like Uber, Facebook, and Expedia? Why can’t those digital interactions be simple, clean and pristine as the newcomers? The technology, the fundamentals and the building tools are the same for both newcomers and traditional service providers. So why do we have these radically different outcomes? The difference lies on the approach.

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While digital disruptors start from scratch with a single relentless focus on a continual state of digital re-invention of their customers’ experience, traditional service providers have focus on digitalizing their physical experience through mere process automation. Under this approach (digitalization), companies do not transform or evolve due to the failure of re-engineering the required customer experience journey to new technology realities. Instead, islands of scattered new digital initiatives arise. These initiatives build new channels of interactions with customers, but mostly based on traditional processes. Then, the scattered initiatives are measured with the same focus and KPIs as their traditional counterparts. Failing to demonstrate relevant traction, most of them are either abandoned or remain as a separate component of the organization, thus creating a multi-gear organizations, where the physical or traditional components straining the ability of the new initiative to provide a better customer experience.

The path towards a reinvented customer experience, which can lead to increasing relevance and appeal with your customer, requires the company to reinvent itself. This is where digital reinvention comes into play with design as the key component to drive evolution. By putting design at the center of the reinvention of a company, a company starts by envisioning and designing a new customer experience, to then move into articulating and executing this vision. This is not about moving physical interactions into to a digital channel. This is about reimagining the relation your company can have with a customer powered and boosted by digital technologies, which then are articulated through people and process reinvention.

Companies aiming to regain “relevance” with their customers, require reinventing their relation with them. A relation that needs to embrace their company roots and core services, but can be augmented and boosted using digital technologies. At the center of this reinvention sits design as the driving force than can enable a company to envision this new relation, and then turned into a consumable and actionable artifact.

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