Over the past centuries, businesses have evolved from agrarian to industrial to services and, more recently, to experience economy. In this new world, we’ve moved from simply delivering products or services to delivering memories and emotions. That’s what the customer remembers, and what makes a company truly different and unique.
When the battleground is the experience, then customer experience becomes the new brand and digital the currency of how transactions and interactions are experienced. Thanks to companies like Netflix, Amazon, Uber, and Apple, digital stakes are higher than ever and customers now expect from you the same experience these giants offer — they expect effortless experiences.
But what is an effortless experience and how can you get it right? I covered this topic in a recent presentation, so for a more complete version of this article take a look at Experience Systems: Delivering High-Quality Omnichannel CX Like the Cool Kids.
What Is an Effortless Experience?
Effortless means making it easy for your customers to do business with you, by being available when and where they need you. This concept sets essentially on top of four pillars: simplicity, consistency, ubiquity, and personalization.
- Simplicity: it’s about making something easier to use without the need of explaining how it works. In other words, whenever customers are faced with a new experience, they should be able to apply the existing mental models they have developed when using familiar products or services.
- Consistency: customer journeys have become complex series of interactions across multiple channels, so it’s crucial that all touchpoints are consistent regarding interface design, business logic, and data in a way that appears seamless and fluid to customers.
- Ubiquity: customers want to connect with you and perform a job whenever and wherever they need, using the channel that is most convenient and easier to them. Being ubiquitous requires understanding how people use channels and devices to complete tasks and to design interconnected experiences irrespective of the touchpoint or channel.
- Personalization: it means the entire experience is built around the customer. There are two ways personalization can contribute to an effortless experience:
- By making an experience accessible to everyone, including people with limitations or disabilities; the interface should adapt to their needs in such a way they can still use the company’s service regardless of their particular condition.
- By retaining context, so that people don’t have to repeat information (for example, when filling out a form) and/or by providing personalized experiences based on their preferences and actions (example, streaming services).
Roadblocks to Effortless Experiences
It’s already difficult to deliver “5 star” applications for both iOS and Android and now you’re supposed to add even more touchpoints, while ensuring high quality and the consistency of those experiences. There are two main reasons why it’s so hard to deliver effortless experiences:
1. Traditional Development Is Hard and Takes Too Long
If you are using traditional development, you will need to master dozens of different technologies, hire and set up teams of specialized developers, and ensure you keep retraining them (or hiring new people) as new technologies and touchpoints emerge. However, with the global shortage of developers and the fierce competition for top talent, unless you are a leading brand and have a huge budget, you will very likely fail to get all the developers you need.
And the catch is that, even if you can, bringing new digital products, services, and experiences to market takes many months or even years. Remember the last time you tried to push out a mobile app?
This is when companies start considering using pre-packaged software or outsourcing some parts of development as an alternative. However, many companies end up finding that using out-of-the-box software doesn’t really allow them to customize to the extent they need to deliver truly unique experiences. What’s more, it comes with a host of hidden costs and extra integration effort.
Resorting to outsourced teams isn’t any better. It means you lose control of your customer experience and that making changes as simple as a login button can take months and cost thousands of dollars.
2. Making Experiences Consistent Is Even Harder
Now suppose that you eventually manage to have all of your multiple digital teams up and running and you are effectively creating experiences for all these touchpoints. How do you ensure the consistency of the different applications across the different channels?
Traditionally, when mobile and web were all there was (meaning apps with visual UIs), we had tackled the consistency challenge in a relatively successful way with the use of Design Systems.
Design systems by standardizing a set of design standards, documentation, principles, and toolkits, have helped companies ensure that branding guidelines and visual interactions are consistent across all their application interfaces.
But today there's a plethora of touchpoints that don’t boast a visual UI. I’m talking about Alexa and Echo Dots, for example, that make design systems insufficient. However, you still need to make sure interactions are consistent — that the business logic your customers are presented with is the same in all of them, that your brand’s voice is the same, and the way they engage with you is similar.
So, is there a way to deliver effortless experiences that look consistent across touchpoints, without having to spend millions of dollars and waiting years to get to market?
Introducing Experience Systems
To tackle all these new interaction modalities, you need to add new dimensions to the previous systems. You need to go deeper in order to go broader — beyond design systems, and beyond visual interfaces or channels. You need to start creating Experience Systems.
What Is an Experience System?
An experience system provides a set of living experience components — much like their design system counterparts — which can be reused across different touchpoints in different interaction modalities.
An experience system may include a mesh of UI and visual elements, behavior, logic, data, and integrations (with third-party services, APIs, or existing core systems, for example). In short, they encompass all the different layers that make up a digital experience.
You can think of them as touchpoint-agnostic LEGO pieces that can be reused and combined to make up a multiexperience customer journey. Each piece, or set of pieces, represents a “micro-job” (following Clayton’s "Jobs to be Done" Theory of Innovation) — something that your customer or user wants to get done within any given digital touchpoint, and that is part of a larger job.
A “micro-job” could be paying with their credit card, knowing when their order will arrive, or updating their home address. These “micro-jobs” can then be a part of multiple larger jobs. That larger job could be ordering dinner for you and your friends to watch the football game tonight, or using that same credit card (and your friends’) to split that bill equally between the party.
The advantage of standardizing your digital experiences into experience components is that, not only you ensure that the way your customers perform these “micro-jobs” is consistent no matter where they are performing them, but also that you don’t need to rebuild them everytime you create an application for a new digital touchpoint.
And because a change in a given component is replicated across all the touchpoints in which it’s used, it means you can make changes only once, and these are instantly reflected across all your applications. Things like pushing out a new product range, price promotions on a set of products, or new branding guidelines can be done much faster.
At the end of the day, an experience system greatly reduces your development efforts and the time it takes you to bring new applications and digital services to market (as well as to iterate on them). It also helps you ensure that experience best-practices are replicated across your entire digital portfolio.
The consistency and quality of your digital presence becomes intentional and not something that comes almost as a miracle out of trying to manage dozens of siloed teams working in different channels and technologies.
How to Implement an Experience System?
This is where a high-performance low-code development platform shines. By employing a single platform and visual approach to the development of digital experiences for all touchpoints, low-code platforms like OutSystems allow you to quickly bring an experience system to life.
You no longer need multiple, highly specialized development teams working on different technologies. You can train your existing IT team in weeks to become fully productive and enable them to create digital experiences for any touchpoint that meet your customer needs and differentiate you from the competition.
With digital experience components, you can standardize 80% of the functionality that is common across touchpoints, but also quickly develop that last mile of the experience that is truly differentiating and unique, and that makes your app stand out from the crowd.
The bonus of using OutSystems, a platform that includes low-code development features, is that it’s much faster to build anything when compared to traditional development. New features and touchpoints can all be developed in weeks instead of years — and that last mile is reduced to just a “final inch”.
All of this, without compromising the experience quality or being limited in any way — if you can dream it, you can build it. That’s why OutSystems is a leader in Gartner’s MXDP Magic Quadrant.
Customer expectations on what a frictionless experience means keep rising and, in order to meet them, companies need to create high-quality applications for an increasing number of touchpoints.
But to get there, companies need to adapt. Traditional development approaches and design systems served us well, but in a multiexperience world they are no longer enough. Creating an experience system with a high-performance low-code platform gives you the agility to deliver digital experiences faster and consistently.
By using a reusable component-based architecture that allows you to standardize and scale experience best-practices, it enables you to take back control of your digital customer experience. This means you can launch new digital products and services that meet your customers needs, when and where they need you — and most importantly, before your competitors do.
If you want to learn more about creating multi experience journeys, and what Gartner says about OutSystems, take a look at Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Multiexperience Development Platforms.