February 22, 2013

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3 UX Imperatives from David Bouley David Bouley is arguably one of the greatest American chefs. He is also a god when it comes to designing a user experience. Dining at his eponymous restaurant in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan is not only a sensation for the pallet, it’s a lesson in consciously designing an experience to surprise and delight customers. Here’s what I learned: Target the Takeaway. Everything begins with what you want the customer to see, feel and take away. You can’t get where you’re going unless you have a very clear picture of where you want to end up. In Bouley’s case, he wants you to walk away feeling amazing. He will fill your mouth with tastes and sensations you haven’t had before. He’ll surround you with warmth, comfort and a sense of understated luxury that leaves you with the feeling that you are welcomed and belong in his restaurant. He’ll focus on you and your guests by providing a platform to share and converse. And he’ll send you into the night happy, satisfied and with provisions for breakfast. Bouley has built a loyal customer base by starting with the business objective in mind. Focus on Senses and Cadences. Most experiences have a beginning, a middle and an end. By carefully studying these, Bouley guides what you see, hear, smell, feel and taste. Nothing is left to chance. The entry way smells of warm apples. The room is warm and lit sensuously with a roaring winter fire. The chairs are extremely comfortable and the linens are crisp but not overly starched. The menu reflects seasonal tastes and locally available fresh seasonal ingredients. The people who greet you are formal but friendly. Every element is orchestrated to give you a feeling of belonging and to heighten your enjoyment in the moment. You are taken on a very subtle guided tour that engages your ability to process multiple inputs simultaneously. The food comes out at a pace that feels natural. You never wait too little or too long for any course. The staff watches closely to see when you pause, when you’re done and when you need more water, bread or wine. He leverages and improvises on consumer expectations. You expect a waiter; you get a team of them. You expect bread; you get a bread cart and a doting baker. You expect a drink, an appetizer, an entree and a dessert; you get that plus an array of unexpected tastes and mini-courses and conversation and explanations from the maître d’. God is in the Details. Consumers are influenced by initial impressions, comfortable design and intuitive navigation. The only way to deliver these experiences is to develop a laser-like focus on the details. Bouley thinks about ambient light, the feel of the napkins, the weight of the fish forks, the shape of the water and wine glasses and the mother-of-pearl box that the bill is presented in. The staff mentions some of these things and asks occasionally about them. You need to focus on where people look, what they expect to do and how we’ve trained them to scroll, to click or to download. Where you place the CTAs, how big they are, the color, the labels all make a disproportionate difference in perception and response. You need to get feedback as you design experiences; some from pixel tracking or metrics software, other from talking to your customers and testing your work with eye-tracking and guided task testing.
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Facebook Flirts with Big Data Facebook has to build a better case for ad sales. It looks like alliances with big data suppliers like Epsilon, Acxiom and Datalogix are a key part of the strategy, according to Ad Age. The operative theory is that more precise targeting yields better results and higher customer satisfaction. The good news is that this will extend classic direct marketing targeting and segmentation to Facebook and provide marketers with all kinds of inventive ways to target campaigns and allocate budgets. The bad news is that crunching big data and matching it anonymously to Facebook profiles will further muddy Facebook’s loosey-goosey reputation as protectors of customer privacy. In recent moves, Facebook allowed marketers to upload data from brand e-mail lists and loyalty programs and crosstab them against brand followers. This answers the burning question among marketers; “Are we hitting the same guys twice in two separate channels or are we addressing two distinct audience segments?” The answer affects message construction, offers, frequency and contact strategy. It may also help answer the chicken or egg dilemma; are customers Facebook fans because they love the brand and seek it out across online experiences? Or does Facebook create interest, awareness, preference and loyalty among people who haven’t already opted-in to the brand? One of my clients who participated in this “custom audiences” exercise found just 8% overlap between their weekly CRM e-mail list and their Facebook fans. They inferred that they have two disparate audiences with different expectations from the brand. This impacts content strategy and our editorial calendar plus it begs for further research. The exercise also triggered client paranoia that Facebook would glom onto our lists and use them for their own purposes as a quid pro quo. Facebook denies this and claims it keeps no record of uploaded matching data. But this worry will persist. The big data hoopla is not much more than extension of direct marketing techniques into the online space with the uncertain promise of real-time processing and communication. Traditionally a direct marketer goes to Acxiom or Epsilon or their competitors and appends data to their lists in search of more new or “best” customers. By understanding who owns a home valued above $250K, who has diabetes, who has kids under the age of 12, who has a credit score north of 675 or who owns a gun campaign narratives and targeted offers can be constructed. Data appending is a hedging tactic to increase the likely number of responders. Once these variables are appended to a list, by matching either e-mail or postal addresses, marketers create models, build segmented lists by anonymously selecting names that fit the criteria or use these variables to borrow names from list co-operatives. Appending these variables to Facebook profiles would give Facebook the opportunity to create standing sales channels of Moms, sports car enthusiasts, campers or fishermen, Vera Wang buyers, gluten free eaters or asthma sufferers that could be merchandised to brands again and again. Similarly, for a premium price, Facebook could build a targeted list to suit any particular product or campaign criteria. Marrying big data to Facebook is a potential bonanza for Facebook’s shareholders and brand marketers. The trick will be how this is sold to Facebook users. You can hear Zuckerberg falling back on “make the world better” as a rationale for serving up individualized experiences and personalized ad messages. At the same time you can image how creepy or annoying it might be to be bombarded by ads while you’re trying to keep up with friends and family. A backlash against big data and the continuing commercialization of Facebook could kill the goose that laid the golden egg or the skillful application of big data could propel Facebook toward global domination. Stay tuned. The game is just beginning.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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