Categories
Strategy

Uncover the Benefits of Featured Snippets in Your Web Strategy

Google’s organic search experience is designed to put users first. New search features and refined results connect users with what they need to make educated decisions about everything from what products to purchase to what site presents the most authoritative information needed to solve a problem. Google rolled out featured snippets to the search engine results pages (SERPs) in 2018 and has since transformed the way information is accessed and user questions are answered.

 

Even five years after launch, featured snippets and the strategy behind them come with many benefits. From increased click-through rates to enhanced user trust, winning a snippet puts you at a major advantage over competitors vying for the same keyword.

 

As of today, nearly 20% of all searches deliver results that include a featured snippet. This makes snippet strategy essential to organic search rankings, customer experience, and even conversion rates. Focusing on an organic web strategy and winning featured snippets is more important now than ever, as this can help combat the increasing costs and stagnating results many businesses are seeing with paid search placements.

What Are Featured Snippets?

Featured snippets are extended blocks of information intended to give users a quick answer to their questions or search queries. Users might see a list, chart, or fact at the top of the page that provides instant access to the information they seek. Paragraph snippets are the most common type of featured snippet, accounting for 82% of all snippets and providing rich information to answer search queries. 

 

 

You might consider featured snippet location on the SERP as “position 0,” the coveted spot between paid results and the rest of the organic results. This position is quite desirable—you can’t pay for this placement and landing here proves that Google has determined your content to be of exceptional value to the reader.

An image of a paragraph featured snippet.

Featured snippets can mean different things to users and to content marketers. 

 

To users, a featured snippet means their question is immediately answered and they can instantly access a web page with helpful content and authoritative information about their query.

 

To content marketers and SEO and UX/CX experts, featured snippets are SERP spotlights that give their quality content and web strategy an edge over the competition and should be an essential part of their digital marketing strategies.

Why Are Featured Snippets Important?

Featured snippets are more than just an important part of organic web strategy, they’re essential. There are at least four ways featured snippets can benefit your business:

  1. Increase Web Traffic and Improve CTR: Our numbers show that owning a featured snippet can increase CTR by more than 850%, driving even more traffic to your website and consumers into your sales funnel.
  2. Boost Brand Awareness: Landing at the top of the SERP with extra real estate increases visibility for your brand or business. It demands consumer attention.
  3. Grow Website Authority: Featured snippets are a serious factor in building domain and page authority as they lead to better and more qualified traffic to your website.
  4. Optimize Conversion Rates: Featured snippets can usher in users who are likely to become customers by answering their questions and providing need-to-know-now information.

Another unique benefit of including featured snippets in your web strategy is related to the increasing prevalence of voice search. Voice assistants and tools like Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s Siri, and Google Home are increasingly common in many homes and vehicles. According to December 2022 reports from Statista,  35% of all households in the United States own smart speakers. Voice search queries are among the most common way users interact with these devices. And in many cases, voice search devices answer questions by citing a featured snippet.

 

 

There’s still much more to the snippet equation and Tallwave’s proprietary research proves it. Let’s look at some of Tallwave’s unique specifics and statistics about the benefits of featured snippets for your business and web strategy.

How Tallwave Clients Win with Snippet Strategy

In-depth analysis and data-fueled strategy are essential parts of Tallwave’s approach.


We put that approach to work within the organic search strategy for a large regional healthcare client to help them win featured snippets, gaining prime visibility ahead of other organic search results and enhancing the authority of their brand. 


Here’s how we did it and what we learned along the way.

How Can Featured Snippets Drive Growth?

Tallwave wanted to better understand what kind of content Google found “snippet-worthy” and how to apply these features to drive growth. To do this, we looked for trends and commonalities among snippet-winning content to determine what Google evaluates as high-value and the impact snippets have on website engagement.

 

As such, Tallwave analyzed more than 1,000 featured snippets owned by a client’s (a major healthcare provider) website in 2022. Of these 1,000 featured snippets, 98% belonged to approximately 50 posts on the website’s blog.

Tallwave started by comparing the click-through rate (CTR) for keywords that owned featured snippets to all other ranking keywords on the site. When it comes to organic searches, CTR refers to the number of impressions seen in the SERPs divided by the number of users who clicked through to the site. 

 

For this client, the average click-through rate for a snippet-owning keyword in position one on the site was 25.9%. The average CTR across the entire website was 2.7%. Owning a featured snippet for a search term helped us boost the client’s site clicks by an impressive 859%. 


Not only does a high CTR drive traffic to the site, but Google has consistently hinted its algorithm considers CTR as a ranking factor.

An infographic shows the value of featured snippet

Snippets Have Serious Imapct on CTR

The kind of keyword that won a featured snippet was also an important consideration in Tallwave’s analysis. Out of the client’s 1,000 snippet-owning keywords, 91% represented searches with “informational” intent, implying the searcher was looking for information needed to solve a problem. Presenting the information the searcher needs when they need it establishes your business as an expert or solution, sending the searcher down the sales funnel toward converting. 


While a featured snippet for an informational term might not win an immediate conversion, it certainly adds to visibility and helps establish your website’s authority and business credibility. Data from HubSpot suggests it takes around eight touches to lead a customer toward conversion. A featured snippet with rich, relevant results that directly answer a consumer’s need is a high-value touchpoint and will likely help keep your brand top of mind when they are ready to take action.

What Factors Help Content Win Featured Snippets?

In addition to analyzing the CTR and type of keywords winning snippets, Tallwave also examined factors that make a blog post or web page “snippet-worthy” in Google’s eyes. This gives us unique, specific, and proprietary information that can be applied across clients to help create content that drives awareness and promotes high-value engagement.

 

Here are some of the key factors we’ve uncovered in working with our clients that you should consider in your organic search strategy:

  • Make Keywords Clear: Many blog posts with featured snippets include a primary keyword in the form of a question in the headers and body copy. 
  • Longtail Keywords Set Off Snippets: Longtail keywords are highly-specific search queries, often 3 to 5 words in length. These kinds of searches are more likely to trigger snippets for users seeking immediate answers.
  • Prudent Header Placement Wins: Strategically placing H2s and H3s within website content increases the likelihood of that page or post winning a snippet.
  • Outperform Competitors with Word Count: Blog posts and website pages with a competitive word count consistent with (or slightly higher than) the competition’s copy and with a specific number of words between headers (H2s, H3s) help content win snippets.
  • Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Works: Latent semantic indexing occurs when SERP results are populated based on similar and conceptual keywords. For example, a blog post about anxiety might include supporting related terms like “depression,” “mental health,” “phobias,” or “panic.” The use of these related keywords might also increase the likelihood of content owning a featured snippet.

Reap the Benefits of Snippet Strategy

The benefits of featured snippets abound. Winning featured snippets and “position 0” SERP placement directly translates into contextualized search visibility for your brand or business, increased and better-qualified website traffic, proven website authority, and, ultimately, more customer conversions.

 

Providing SEO solutions and website and content strategy is just part of how Tallwave wants to drive your success. As a leader in providing integrated marketing solutions and more to both established and up-and-coming brands, Tallwave is ready to deploy our customer-centric and cohesive approach in a way that is unique to your vision and creates exceptional experiences for consumers of all kinds. From customer journey mapping to paid media services to product design and beyond, we’re ready to talk about how we can help your business win.

Categories
Strategy

Prepare, Survive, Thrive: CX Strategies to Recession-Proof Your Business

But is This a True Recession?

That depends on your school of thought. Generally, a recession is a period of economic decline in which the gross domestic product (GDP) of a country falls for two consecutive quarters. However, there are many other factors to consider. Check out our white paper for more detailed information on recessions and recession-proofing strategies.


Though there is much academic debate around whether we’re technically in a recession or not, consumers are wary, and once again discretionary spending is trending down. As a general guideline, the National Bureau of Economic Research states that a recession lasts around 11 months on average, but the effects can be felt long after it has officially ended. So whether this economic downturn is a recession or a harbinger of one to come, savvy business leaders are positioning their companies to adapt so they can strategically navigate this challenging market.

Proven Recession Resilience Strategies

We’ve been here before. The recession brought on by the dot-com crash negatively affected a generation of investors, and though it was shorter-lived, it left a lasting impact. Most recently, the Great Recession of 2007-09. And though many businesses faced insurmountable challenges, others thrived. Here’s a look at some strategies leveraged by a few companies that came out stronger in the end.

Invest in Empathy

At the start of the Great Recession, Starbucks was struggling. The former king of coffee closed hundreds of stores, laid off thousands of employees, and was saddled with a pretentious image that alienated it in a time of financial insecurity. In 2008, under new (returning) CEO leadership, Starbucks immediately shifted focus to reignite the emotional attachment with its customers.


Starbucks developed a social program where customers could share ideas with each other and the company, giving input on products, services, in-store music and layout, and even corporate social responsibility. And Starbucks leadership listened—they implemented over 100 of their customer’s ideas! One of the first corporations to invest in a mobile app, Starbucks met its customers where they were, reigniting the brand by reestablishing trust, building a vibrant online community, and developing a devoted following.

Double Down on Brand

On the brink of disaster in 2008, Citigroup did an about-face, pivoting from a product-centered strategy to a client-first focus. Citigroup’s vision, mission, and strategic objectives became its driving force. It invested in understanding its individual customers, focusing on segments within each generation and catering to their diverse needs. Citigroup developed technology to measure customer feedback, allowing the bank to react and improve trust. It launched and maintained a social network presence that directly enhanced its brand image. The banking giant invested in its people, training and promoting top talent. Additionally, Citigroup segmented its products and services and operationalized a similar strategy for corporate, government, and business customers.


Since its near destruction in the Great Recession, Citigroup has focused on rebuilding its reputation and its been successful. The company continues to rank very highly in customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power, American Customer Satisfaction Index, and their steadily improving Net Promoter Score.

Market Smarter

Facing many challenges leading up to the Great Recession, Netflix invested in research and development and strategic marketing to not only survive the recession but thrive in it. Netflix was going up against Blockbuster and Redbox in the physical DVD rental space and struggling to win market share. But when consumer spending sharply dropped, Netflix not only doubled down on its convenient mail-order model of movie rental but, having taken note of the role played by video game consoles and the all-new Smart TV, it pioneered an alternative method of media consumption: online streaming offered at a price lower than that of cable and satellite providers. Through strategic partnerships, Netflix targeted consumers with gaming platforms, streaming devices, and Smart TVs to promote a low-cost, no-late-fee, convenient, in-home entertainment option. Exactly what the budget-conscious consumer wanted.


Netflix has continued to be a leader in data- and customer-driven integrated marketing, creating a seamless, personalized experience for its users across all demographic groups. It continually optimizes the user experience based on user preferences to actively engage customers, not only enhancing their experience, but informing Netflix’s user data so it can continue to effectively personalize its customers’ experiences.

Increase Operational Efficiency

When economic crises hit, simply lowering headcount and reducing costs across your budget can help in the short term. But the most resilient and top-performing companies to emerge from the Great Recession focused their energies on improving operational efficiency. This strategy not only helped businesses survive the recession but succeed beyond the economic downturn by maintaining their momentum. After the dot-com bubble burst, devastating the tech sector, Target took a daring but well-calculated approach. During the recession, Target drastically improved productivity and supply chain operations through strategic partnerships. Additionally, it increased its marketing and sales spend, ramped up investment in credit card programs, opened more stores, and grew its internet business. And these measures paid off handsomely. Over the course of the recession, Target saw increased sales and profits that lasted well after the economy righted itself.


Target continues to invest in operational efficiency. In 2020, coming out of a record-breaking year, Target invested heavily in fulfillment services and supply chain to reduce friction points and scale capabilities. Additionally, and equally important, Target continues to invest in technology to provide customers with a more personalized and streamlined experience, increasing loyalty and driving growth.

Recession-Proofing Recommendations and Approaches

While many businesses failed in past recessions and economic downturns, the businesses featured above show that investment in resilience strategies can help companies both navigate challenging markets and carry the benefits of those investments into the future. Understanding and optimizing your customers’ experiences, strategically marketing your products and services, defining and refining your brand, and increasing operational efficiencies are solid strategies to drive customer acquisition and loyalty, increase market share, and drive growth.


Economists have predicted a 40-70% probability of a global recession in the next 18 months. While there is uncertainty regarding when, to what degree, or even if we will enter a true recession, looming economic uncertainty poses many of the same challenges.

What Other Business Leaders Are Doing to Prepare

We spoke with partners and business leaders across multiple industries to find out how they’re preparing for a potential recession—what they’re doing to protect their businesses and, where possible, gain an advantage over their competitors. Read our in-depth report Recession Proof Your Business: CX Strategies for Recession Resilience for valuable insights, expert opinions, and strategic approaches on how to prepare your business to not only survive but thrive in a challenging economic environment.

Ready to Increase Your Business’s Recession Resilience?

There are a lot of questions surrounding the current economic environment, and whether or not we are technically in a recession or one is on the horizon, investment in a strong CX strategy will help position your business to withstand challenging economic conditions. Ready to learn more? Let’s chat!
Categories
Strategy

Make Way for Mom: Why Better Employee Experiences for Working Mothers Is the New Competitive Advantage

The Women in the Workplace 2021 report from Lean In and McKinsey & Co. highlighted that all the slow but measurable gains women have made in all levels of management could be wiped out in a single year by the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on women in the workplace. In fact, the report finds that more than one in three women may downshift or leave their careers as a result. This impact is compounded for working mothers, particularly those with young children, who feel scrutinized for taking advantage of options that make balancing work and the demands of home and family easier and are less likely to feel comfortable sharing their personal struggles with others. 

More than one in three women may downshift or leave their careers as a result of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on women in the workforce.

At Tallwave, we believe experience is everything. Employee and customer experiences are inextricably linked—great employee experience is a key driver of great customer experience. It’s impossible to sustain one without the other. Conversely, when companies create employment experiences that fail women, they’re setting themselves up to fail their customers. With women making up 51% of the overall population and 57.8% of the labor force, losing ground on female representation in the workplace could have devastating effects. The state of our female workforce hangs in the balance, and with it, the health of the companies that depend on their valuable contributions.   Also read: Crafting Employee Experiences That Improve Customer Experiences  Here at Tallwave, 54% of our employees are women, which means more than half the work taken on by our company—and more than half of the value we create for clients—is in the hands of women. As a customer experience design company, it’s important for us to both reflect on the experiences we’re creating for the women among our own ranks and to serve as a thought leader for brands that recognize the unbreakable link between EX and CX. So we did something far too few companies do. We invited a group of working mothers at Tallwave to get together for a discussion facilitated by our VP of Marketing, a working mother of three herself, to share their perspectives on what’s working within employment experience for working mothers, what’s not, and the recommendations they have to help companies better support women. 

Create Space for Employees to Bring Their “Whole Selves” to Work

The idea of needing to give employees an invitation to be who they are at work may seem startling, but what we discovered from our group of Tallwave moms was that the ability to bring your “whole self” to work, including sharing the demands you face at home and the need to harmonize them with the demands of work, is not a given. For Martha Schulzinger, a program manager at Tallwave and mother of two, the ability to be her authentic self at work isn’t something she takes for granted. “Tallwave has proven time and time again that I can be my authentic self and I won’t be shunned for it. I’ve worked in some pretty toxic places where you can’t bring your whole self to work and it’s a constant struggle.”    Her experience in an environment that embraces her entire identity, including the demands of motherhood, has also led to deeper bonds with colleagues and even clients who have seen her in “mom mode.”  “Being able to be your authentic self and knowing the people you work with aren’t going to judge you if you have a kid there with you in the room has been kind of magical. My teammates have seen my kids grow up. Even some of our clients have seen my three-month-old become a two-year-old. They’ve seen him grow as he’s come in and out of the screen, and that’s pretty neat.”   But Martha acknowledges that openly sharing the demands she’s juggling at home wasn’t necessarily something she was immediately willing to do, and she credits colleagues, particularly Senior Consultant and fellow mother of two, Erin Nielsen, with helping her find the courage to be more open about the challenges she faces as a working mom. “Erin has been a role model for me. In the very early days of the pandemic, she had her kids on camera and I was very afraid to do that. But she showed up like a total boss, just owning whatever it was that she needed to talk about. She was present, then the kids would come in, she’d handle them, and come right back to whatever she was doing without skipping a beat. And I was like, ‘Okay, I can do that, too.’ I’m really thankful to her for that.”     For Erin, it was simply a question of what she was and wasn’t willing to sacrifice as the pandemic caused her personal and professional worlds to collide. “When I realized we weren’t going to be home for two weeks and then go back to the office, I took a step back and asked myself, ‘How do I want to act through this?’ I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my kids’ happiness and pretend they weren’t here so I could keep working. I don’t think I made a conscious decision to test my company, but I’m a mom first and I’m never going to not be.” She decided it wasn’t worth pretending her reality was anything other than it was. “I chose to be my authentic self. And if I got pushback or didn’t feel safe, then I’d know I wasn’t in the right place and that it was time to move on. And I found what I was hoping I’d find, which was a supportive group of people, which was really cool to see.”  Recommendation from the Moms: In both Martha’s and Erin’s cases, their decisions to stop trying to hide what was happening at home wasn’t inspired by overt assurances of support and acceptance, even though that’s ultimately what they found in their colleagues. So what’s the takeaway for companies trying to do better for moms? Don’t assume the mothers in your employ feel welcome to bring their whole selves to work if you haven’t made the invitation. If employees aren’t being explicitly encouraged to be open about how their personal lives impact work or at least seeing leadership model the choices they’re making to balance these often competing demands, they may assume they won’t be supported if they do.  

Know the Difference between Sympathy and Empathy and the Value of Both

While experiencing the sympathetic support of colleagues and managers was a common theme for all the Tallwave moms in our conversation, so was the desire for the kind of empathetic support that shared experience creates. Overwhelmingly, they felt genuinely supported by their direct managers. But in many cases, their direct managers had never been working mothers themselves. As working moms, they craved support from others who’d shared their experiences and they’ve been grateful to find it in other colleagues outside their direct reporting structures. Looking back on her professional experience prior to having children, Erin acknowledged the limitations of her own understanding. “You just don’t get it when you’re not a parent. I certainly didn’t get it, and I put my foot in my mouth plenty of times before I was a parent.”    Experiential empathy creates deeper understanding, but it can also inspire hope. Many working mothers perceive their career goals, what it takes to achieve them, and how much they can afford to give as incompatible. But having access to other women who have grappled with the demands of working motherhood helps them challenge their own perceptions. This was especially meaningful for Sierra Dommin, Business Analysis Manager at Tallwave. “That statistic about more than one in three women putting their career aspirations on hold really spoke to me. I really want to take the next step in my career and it’s not that I don’t think I have that opportunity at Tallwave. It’s that I don’t feel like I can seize it right now because my kids are so young and I just don’t know how to balance it all. I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread. I feel like I have to just stick it out because adding another stressor to my plate will tip me, and my family will suffer. These two things that are both so important to me seem impossible to reconcile. It makes me feel stuck and it’s really frustrating.” But hearing the experiences of other working moms, particularly those who were further into their motherhood journeys, made her feel more optimistic. “Where I am with my kids and my career, just seeing someone else who’s been through it brings relief. Knowing that others have faced similar challenges and that they’re still here gives me hope.” For working mothers, being fully present for your family and fully engaged in your family feel like binary choices. And no matter which you make, you end up on the losing end. For Martha, the cost of leaning into her career is guilt. “I’m so happy to be at Tallwave and to have challenges in front of me in my career. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of. But every night I go to bed with so much guilt because I’m not present with my children. I work from home and they’re right here with me. They want me to play with them and I can’t because I’m working. I go to bed early so I can have a few hours of productive work time before the kids get up, so I’m mentally drained and too exhausted to do anything for myself.”     As Martha is quick to point out, it’s not that her colleagues aren’t supportive. Many simply don’t share her experience. “My coworkers are amazing and I love them. But there’s just no way for them to fully understand. In between meetings, maybe they refresh their cup of coffee but I’m changing blow-out diapers. As much as I want to give more to my work, I’m also giving so much at home that there’s just nothing left.” This strikes a chord with Erin, too. “I adore my coworkers, all of them. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how those who don’t have children have come to the table. But you just don’t get it if you’re not in it. Talking to other moms who have confronted the same things we’re facing—putting up boundaries, finding your own happiness, living through the endless juggle of work and family—these little nuggets go such a long way.” Recommendation from the Moms: Access to other women striving to harmonize careers and families is an incredibly powerful tool for working mothers. Awareness of other working mothers—particularly those in leadership positions—improves visibility, empowering working moms to feel more seen, heard, and represented. The ability to discuss the shared experience of working motherhood helps working moms find support, seek advice, and draw inspiration. For working mothers whose direct supervisors don’t share their experience, it’s particularly important to provide other paths of access, like employee resource groups, mentorship programs, organized meet-ups, and discussion forums. 

Recognize that Making Work Better for Women Isn’t Women’s Work  

For women who are accustomed to serving as constant problem solvers on the home front, solutioning, actioning, and accommodating may come naturally. But far too often, companies are content to let working moms solve their workplace problems alone, starting with the transition from maternity leave.  While some of the mothers who participated in our conversation had employers who created comfortable places for new moms to pump, that was generally the extent of the effort their past companies put into helping them successfully navigate workforce re-entry. Reflecting on her returns to work after having her two children, Erin’s experience aligned to those of virtually everyone else on the call. “You come back and you’re stressed out and that never stops because you’re trying to figure out how to be a first-time mother, and then a mother of two or three or more on top of everything else. And it’s always on you to figure it out and you just don’t feel like there’s any support there. You’re expected to perform at the exact same level while you’re trying to find time to pump or nurse. You’re forced to start making choices between meeting work expectations and the expectations you had for how you’d care for your baby. And those forced choices never stop.” As companies look to advance their goals and initiatives, supported in large part by working mothers, they rarely consider the personal impact of the work that working moms must take on. For Chelsey Gloetzner, Product Design Manager at Tallwave, she recognizes that fully embracing the work that excites her may come at a personal cost. “We have a lot of women in leadership, which is fantastic. As we’re pursuing large goals, a lot of moms are doing the work. I recognize my responsibilities in supporting our goals as a manager, and I’m pumped to do it. But I also don’t want to put in an extra two hours every single night to get projects over the line and miss my kids’ childhoods. As companies set goals, they need to recognize how the associated work trickles down to parents.” As Erin is quick to note, the trickle-down responsibilities don’t just come from companies’ revenue and growth goals—culture-building initiatives are often disproportionately driven by women. In fact, the Women in the Workplace 2021 report finds that compared to men at the same level, female managers take more supportive actions with their teams, helping them manage workloads and keeping a pulse on their overall wellbeing. The report also finds that women in senior-level positions are twice as likely as male counterparts to spend substantial time beyond their normal job responsibilities on diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives. Throughout her career, Erin has seen not just women, but in many cases working mothers, step up to the plate more than their fair share. “Ensuring our teams are coming together, that people feel rewarded, that there’s a balance of face time and fun activities in our work and that company culture is being strengthened, all those types of activities that keep the ship afloat are often led by mothers because we care and naturally step up. But we can’t keep bearing the brunt of treating the office like our family. We have nothing else to give.”

Compared to men at the same level, female managers take more supportive actions with their teams, helping them manage workloads and keeping a pulse on their overall wellbeing. Women in senior-level positions are also twice as likely as male counterparts to spend substantial time beyond their normal job responsibilities on diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives.

Recommendation from the Moms: With women making up well over half of the workforce, companies must recognize that every business decision they make will inevitably impact women. And for the working mothers among them, the impact may be much more difficult to absorb. It’s important to recognize that barriers to success for working mothers are barriers to success for their companies, and they should be treated that way. That means rather than leaving working mothers to fend for themselves in an inhospitable working environment, companies should be enlisting allyship from across their ranks to create an environment that better supports them. This can include things like:

 

  • Confronting gender bias head on. From addressing big-picture issues—like equal pay and advancement—to challenging common daily implicit biases by resisting an overreliance on women to fulfill administrative and culture-building duties, and addressing overt sexism in the moment, a better workplace for working mothers starts with a better workplace for women in general.     
  • Investing in allyship development programs to drive awareness of and support for women in general and working mothers especially.
  • Training managers in active listening and leadership techniques to better equip them to not just listen but to seek to understand what working mothers need to help them succeed in their careers. 
  • Considering the disproportionate burden of emotional labor that women face in company decision making. With women carrying greater responsibility for household chores and caretaking than men, scheduling meetings over lunch, allowing meetings to run late, or requiring sustained >40 hour work weeks will have a bigger impact on working mothers than their counterparts. 
  • Institutionalize support as much as possible and model utilization at the leadership level. Offering things like flexible work schedules, child care, parental leave, job sharing options, and parental leave reintegration support can go a long way toward creating a more hospitable environment for working mothers. Seeing those supports used by company leaders sends an even stronger message.
  • Actively advocate for moms transitioning back to work after maternity leave. The difference between passive support for new mothers to “take the time they need” and actively supporting them through formal programs and resources can be transformational for new mothers returning to work. Companies that know, attend to, and proactively advocate for the rights of working mothers under the Family & Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act by helping them become more knowledgeable about their rights and having defined programs and/or policies in place for things like altered work schedules and appropriate pumping/nursing accommodations will be at a significant advantage in keeping working mothers engaged and retaining them over time. 

Final Thoughts

No company succeeds by leaving women behind. While that’s rarely the intent, it’s the inevitable result of not taking deliberate action. At Tallwave, creating an inclusive culture for all employees, including working mothers, has been an ongoing focus. Like most companies, we know we still have work to do. But the fact that this group of Tallwave moms felt safe sharing their experiences, perspectives, and recommendations openly wasn’t the result of simply inviting them to. This kind of open exchange is possible because we make deliberate choices to create an environment where employees feel safe speaking up. Maintaining this kind of culture takes conscious, continuous effort, but it’s an investment we know is well worth making.

 

Companies that create supportive, empowering employment experiences for working mothers not only unlock greater potential from their workforces than those that don’t, but they also unleash an incredibly diverse and powerful set of skills. After all, few experiences are as effective at developing the kind of patience, creativity, resourcefulness, problem solving, critical thinking, negotiation, diplomacy, tenacity, optimism, and commitment that motherhood requires. And few customers are as unreasonably demanding as children. By creating the conditions that help working mothers succeed in the workplace, companies just might discover that the key to unlocking their own potential has been there all along.

 

Special Thanks

Tallwave would like to thank the incredible working mothers below who shared their perspectives for this piece and all the women of Tallwave whose efforts are instrumental in our success and the success of our clients.

 

Caroline Meehean

Chelsey Gloetzner

Erin Nielsen

Jen Bonfilio

Jes Pumo

Martha Schulzinger

Sierra Dommin

 

Categories
Strategy

8 Signs Your CX May be Headed for Heartbreak

For consumers, strong CX is the universal love language. Nothing shows your customers you care like the ability to truly understand and attend to their needs. But as with any relationship, brands and their customers inevitably experience ups and downs. When there’s more of the latter than the former, customers will do what any of us would do in an unfulfilling relationship: they break it off. The good news is, there are almost always signs that can signal you and your customers may be headed for a breakup. The key is to recognize them so you can take action before your brand ends up in the lonely hearts club.

 

We recently attended a virtual conference with CX leaders from a wide range of market verticals and industries. Through every keynote, roundtable, and one-on-one discussion we had, we saw a consistent trend in how the indicators used to evaluate the strengths and opportunities within the customer experience are shifting. Traditional CX metrics like customer satisfaction and net promoter scores have long been used to provide a holistic read on customer engagement levels and how they change over time. But increasingly, CX leaders are recognizing that these traditional metrics are really lagging indicators – they highlight that a problem has already occurred, but offer limited utility when it comes to taking action.

 

How can CX leaders identify early when friction is occurring and take action before it translates to a hit to their holistic engagement metrics downstream? It’s all about narrowing focus to specific make-or-break moments within the customer experience and leveraging the operational metrics tied to those moments as leading indicators of the overall strength of the customer experience. Here are 8 signals of distress to look for at key CX make-or-break moments:

Moment of Consideration

Within the customer journey, the moment of recognition is the first time your product, brand or service registers and creates an impression with a potential customer. This often happens when a potential customer bumps into your brand out in the wild, whether they’re served an ad, read about you through earned media, learn about you from an influencer, or even hear about you through word of mouth. Whatever their path to exposure, the moment of consideration comes when that exposure connects to a consumer’s need and inspires them to consider the solutions you have to offer. What happens (or doesn’t happen) immediately following that moment can signal trouble:

  • Site Bounce Rate: Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to your website who leave without navigating beyond the page they land on. If you’ve been successful enough in that moment of recognition to inspire a prospective customer to take the action of visiting your website but the experience when they get there isn’t compelling enough to drive further consideration, it’s time to evaluate the strength of your CX in these early moments of the customer journey.
  • Winding Paths: There are many potential navigation paths through any given website. But paths that follow a logical sequence for consideration are fewer. If your path to conversion data shows that prospective customers seem to take the “scenic route” and miss key consideration content on your website, that can signal that prospective customers aren’t finding what they need.

Moment of Commitment

If you’ve made a positive impression on a prospective customer and inspired them to take action to actively consider your product or service as a solution to their need, the next make-or-break moment in the customer journey is the moment of commitment. This is the moment a consumer demonstrates real intent. But there are signs that can indicate barriers in customers’ paths:

  • Failure to Advance in Conversion Flows: For any digital experience, there are high-value actions you want consumers to take. Taking those actions often requires customers to complete multiple steps. If you’re seeing significantly high drop-off at one of these steps compared to the others, that can signal that the customer is encountering friction at that point in the process.
  • Cart Abandonment Rates: The act of putting a product into a cart is a big signal of purchase intent, but there are a number of reasons a customer might not complete the purchase process. If you’re seeing significant and persistently high cart abandonment rates, it likely signals friction in your purchase process.
  • Inconsistent Conversion Rates Across Platforms: Depending on the nature of the commitment you’re asking customers to make, you may see higher frequency of conversion on desktop vs. mobile or vice versa. However, when the rate of conversion varies drastically across platforms, it’s often a signal that customers are encountering friction on one platform that they aren’t on the other.

Moments of Doubt

Moments of doubt happen when a customer has a less-than-ideal experience. For any brand, it’s not a question of if this moment will come—it’s a question of when and what to do about it. For brands that think ahead and craft a strong CX to support these moments, these are golden opportunities to earn brand loyalty. These indicators can signal how well your brand holds up in moments of doubt:

  • Ineffective Call Deflection: Providing customers with effective digital means to resolve problems, either before or during a call for customer support, can be a win/win. It’s a more cost-effective way for brands to solve customer issues and it’s often faster and more convenient for customers. That is, unless the self-service options create a whole new set of problems. If customers deflected to digital self-serve channels are returning to the phone to get their issues resolved, this can signal friction in your self-service UX.
  • Inconsistencies in Inbound Support Requests: When you receive an inbound support request, something has already gone wrong in the eyes of the customer. When something goes wrong in the process of getting help, it doubles the frustration. If you’re seeing sudden spikes or drops in inbound support requests, that can signal an issue within your support systems, which could lead to failing customers not once, but twice.
  • Issue Resolution Time: When it comes to the time it takes to resolve customer issues, extremes are the enemy. Call times that are extremely short can signal that customers may be getting shortchanged by agents that are too eager to get off the phone. Conversely, call times that are too long can indicate that agents are running into trouble and aren’t able to resolve issues efficiently. Issue resolution time on either end of the spectrum can signal unresolved issues and unhappy customers.

BONUS

A classic signal of a struggling CX at any moment is good old fashioned customer feedback. If the experience you’re delivering isn’t living up to your customers’ expectations, they’ll talk about it to you, to their friends, and potentially to the world via social media and other public digital forums. 

Bottom Line

Once you’ve seen the signs from your customers that there’s trouble in paradise, what you do about it could mean the difference between making up and breaking up. A strong CX strategy could be just the therapy you need to keep your brand and your customer together. We’ve got the CX Enhancement Solutions you need to write your happily ever after.

Categories
Strategy

Strategies For Pandemic-Winning Businesses to Maintain Momentum After COVID-19

2020 will go down in history as a year that vastly changed customer behaviors, expectations, and needs for good. And while that was bad for some industries and businesses, others whose products and services were ripe for digital-only and socially distanced environments saw major increases in customer acquisition, engagement, bookings, and overall sentiment.

 

For example:

 

  • Companies like RVshare & Cruise America saw an 846% increase in bookings, as homebound individuals and families sought out adventure and reconnected to nature.
  • Vacation and short-term rentals including AirBnb, VRBO, and AvantStay saw their numbers reportedly triple, and struggled to keep up with the demand.
  • Subscription services experienced immediate growth just weeks into the pandemic, seeing monthly customer acquisitions increase as much as 85%.
  • Grocery stores saw “double digit profits” compared to 2019.
  • The pandemic reshaped the fitness landscape as health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubled from March 2020 to October 2020.

But, as the world returns to some sort of normalcy and consumers begin to venture outside their homes, pandemic-winning businesses are forced to answer the question: What strategies will help sustain recent customer acquisitions and growth? As consumers get tired of doing things they were forced to do during the pandemic, and a resurgence of options become available, pandemic-winning businesses will have to rethink the customer journey and uplevel experiences to avoid their recent success from tapering off.

Business who opt to maintain rather than innovate and improve customer experiences, risk being left behind.

6 Ways Pandemic-Winning Businesses Can Carve a Path Forward

1. Identify Industry Changes & Trends That Will Continue Past the Pandemic

Understand what changed within your industry due to COVID-19, but more importantly, focus on identifying what the staying power of new and emerging trends really are. This will help ensure your business’s time, money, and energy is focused on creating change where it matters most, rather than reactively and wastefully catering to temporary trends that won’t drive long term ROI.

 

For example, according to an analysis conducted by the budgeting app TrueBill for The Washington Post, subscription boxes and services aren’t going anywhere. “Power subscribers” – consumers with 10 or more recurring payments that add up to an average of $145 spent per month – is growing exponentially. In fact, the subscription economy is predicted to grow by $1.5 trillion by 2025, says financial services firm UBS.

 

By understanding the staying power that subscription services have, you may be able to find ways to incorporate unique and convenient subscription-based experiences. Creativity is key. Take for example Tripadvisor. In an attempt to bounce back from hits the travel industry took during COVID-19, they’ve launched a $99 annual program that offers exclusive deals and dedicated service lines to subscribers as a way. Six Washington, D.C. restaurants found a way to play in the subscription economy by joining forces and creating a “supper club” that delivers gourmet meals prepared by different chefs each week to subscribers’ homes.

 

If there’s a will, there’s a way. And there’s a lot of money you may be leaving on the table if you don’t take time to identify trends that are here to stay.

2. Reevaluate Consumer Groups & Update Your Ideal Customer Profile

Consumer groups have inevitably changed, due to COVID-19. Whether it’s just the needs and wants of your existing customers that have evolved, or you find that a completely new customer mix now engages with your products or services, it’s crucial to understand exactly who you’re serving, and how you can create better experiences for them in the future. By gathering and mining audience data, you can uncover new behaviors and update your core personas and customer profiles to inform future customer experience design.

 

For example, the experience and relationship restaurant owners need and want from their produce suppliers changed due to the pandemic. As part of a larger customer journey initiative to better understand everyday business needs and experiences of existing customers, we created and executed a customer survey focused on 1-2 restaurant locations segments for a food distribution company. The intent of the survey was to understand unique attitudes and behaviors that could provide more opportunity to focus on increasing share and loyalty, and to further understand segmentation differences within customer groups. By gathering insights directly from our clients’ customers related to technology and tools, COVID-19 impacts and competition, and perceptions associated with our clients’ existing services, we were able to update attitudinal segmentation within their customer mix and uncover future opportunities for improved experiences.

3. Consider New Customer Behaviors & Usage

With limited options during the pandemic, many customers found new ways to use products and services than originally intended. For example, many rental homes that were typically reserved pre-pandemic for short-term vacations turned into long-term homes away from home. Cars that were previously used to get from point A to point B became safe-havens and temporary escapes for overworked parents. Video communication softwares such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype evolved from connecting business colleagues to hosting virtual game nights, happy hours, and family celebrations.

 

As you mine audience data to uncover new and update existing consumer groups and personas, it’s also important to pay attention to how behaviors or usage shifted during the pandemic. Did customers engage with your products or services in new ways? Were they seeking new results or using your business to complete unprecedented tasks?

 

Use this information to expand the customer experiences you provide by designing, imagining, or inventing new uses for your product or service that provide added value.

 

Also read: 6 Factors Influencing Customer Behaviors in 2021 (With Original Research)

4. Pinpoint ‘Aha!’ Moments Within Your Customer Experience

The “Aha!” moment is when your customers truly “get it.” They understand the value that your product or service provides and realize why they need it – or simply want it – in their lives.

 

Evaluate and pinpoint where “Aha!” moments take place within your current experience by mapping the customer experience using both qualitative and quantitative research methods . Then, using the map, identify ways to either optimize, improve, or manufacture completely new “Aha!” moments to ensure continual value creation and engagement.

 

It’s important that customers perceive value at every stage throughout the customer journey to ensure repeat behavior. Don’t miss opportunities to drive an emotional bond and connection and establish a healthy customer-brand relationship by closing the loop too soon. The experience doesn’t end at the purchase point – the experience you provide creatively continue to drive value far beyond that.

 

Also read: 9 Quantitative Research Methods With Real Client Examples

5. Create New, Innovative, and Added Value For Customers

This is where we bring things full circle, and if you opt to maintain rather than innovate and drive your customer experience further, you’ll get left behind.

 

Through evaluating consumer groups and updating customer profiles, you may find that your business acquired new customers during the pandemic that wouldn’t have considered your product or services in a different time. As they start to return to pre-pandemic norms and habits, how can your businesses ensure you can convert newly acquired customers into repeat customers long-term? Well, using your customer experience map and analyses, look for ways to add value.

 

For example, new customers may not know how to use your product or service fully. If that’s not intuitive, you need to add value in the form of content (think opt-in texts, email nurture strategies, website quizzes and tools) or A.I. assistance to help customers use or leverage your product or services in new ways. By doing this, you can help educate consumers and push them closer to realizing value without selling them anything new.

 

Also, find ways to build community. Now more than ever, people are craving connection and want to support brands whose values align with their own and they can see themselves in. Consider connecting with and reaching new and existing customers by leveraging platforms such as Instagram, and TikTok to start conversations, allow people to attend offline events digitally, provide a look into your business “behind the scenes,” and more. The more authentic and human you can make your community and digital presence, the strong connection and support you’ll forge.

 

Also read: Developing Nurture Strategies That Decrease Time to Value 

6. Help Customers Navigate & Transition Into a Post-Pandemic Landscape

Lastly, be helpful. This is just another version of value, but in this case, it’s selfless. It’s not about acquiring, upselling, or converting. It’s simply about doing what’s right and holding empathy for your customers by extending value beyond the reason people are (or were) forced to use your products or services during the pandemic.

 

Play a part in helping them navigate the bounce back to pre-pandemic life in a way that feels aligned with your brand but puts the wellbeing of consumers at the core.

 

Need help envisioning and implementing strategies to maintain success in a post-COVID world? We can help. Contact us today.

Categories
Customer Engagement News Reaching New Customers Strategy

Stabilizing Your Facebook Advertising Strategy Post-iOS 14.5 Release

On Monday, April 26, Apple released iOS 14.5, the first version of the operating system to enforce Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policies. ATT requires iOS users to opt in to share their unique Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), a randomly assigned user-specific identifier with app developers. This would, in turn, allow advertisers serving ads within those apps with the data needed to personalize ads and track performance across platforms, from view to click all the way through to conversion. In anticipation of this change and other privacy regulations, players across the digital advertising space have been responding with changes of their own. Most notably, Facebook has made significant changes to its conversion tracking and application settings.

 

A month after the iOS 14.5 release, opt-in rates for US-based users is sitting at 6% and Facebook advertisers are starting to feel the effects in the form of increased conversion costs, loss of attribution data, and new challenges to ad targeting and lookalike audience building. If you’re grappling with the impacts of the iOS 14.5 release and ATT enforcement on your Facebook ad campaigns, here are some key considerations and recommendations to help you navigate through the immediate challenges and set a course for a smoother road ahead.

Facebook users are a no less valuable audience to your marketing strategy now than they were before.

Stabilizing Steps to Take Today

Secure Ownership of Your Facebook Accounts

Previously inherent capabilities to track movement between your website and Facebook will no longer be available and pixels previously put in place to support user targeting and conversion tracking will no longer be as effective. This is where ownership over your Facebook account and business website become critical. In the past, agencies have commonly created digital marketing accounts for clients – including Facebook Business Managers and ad accounts – under agency ownership. The benefits have been increased speed, reduced burden on clients who may not have resources available to manage account setup, and the benefit of agency history with the platforms, which eliminated spend thresholds and other speed bumps in the path of rapid execution and performance. The implications of iOS 14.5 have created the need to shift ownership from agency to business in order to reconnect some critical dots:

 

  • Your Facebook account and business website can’t effectively speak to each other until your website is claimed through your Facebook Business Manager account. This will allow cross-platform performance tracking and change how your web links appear on your Facebook page. This is also a requirement for configuring conversion events, which are used by Facebook’s machine learning to drive better targeting, optimization, and performance measurement.
  • The Facebook Conversions API can be put in place to enable tracking and optimizing for conversions outside of Facebook, like purchases made on your website or a Shopify account, among others. It can also mitigate the effects of losing access to 28-day click, 28-day view, and 7-day view attribution windows, which will no longer be supported. However, the API cannot be implemented when ownership of Facebook pages, Business Manager accounts and ad accounts are split between business and their partner agencies.

Keep a Customer-centric Focus

While the ability to track based on audience behaviors may be changing, the behaviors themselves are not. If you were finding success with Facebook users before iOS 14.5, resist the urge to move away from Facebook based purely on trackability. The known habits, behaviors, and preferences of your audience should always be the guiding force behind your marketing mix. Bottom line: Facebook users are a no less valuable audience to your marketing strategy now than they were before. What’s changed is the way users are tracked and attributed and how to interpret the value of that data.

 

Also read: Data Driven Insights Into the Evolving Customer Experience

Consolidate Campaigns and Conversion Events

With Facebook shortening attribution settings to 7-day click and 1-day view by default, fewer conversions are being tracked and more scale will be needed to move ads through the learning phase toward performance-driving optimization. The larger the number of campaigns, ad sets, and ads businesses are running, the fewer impressions served and conversions achieved, making it harder to hit an even higher bar for scale. Consolidating campaigns, ad sets, and ads as much as possible will create efficiencies during the ad learning phases, helping drive performance more quickly.

 

Additionally, advertisers will need to consolidate and prioritize the events being tracked within Facebook’s event manager. Domains are now limited to no more than 8 website conversion events. If your campaigns are being optimized for more than 8 conversion events across the same domain, you’ll need to narrow down to the 8 or fewer conversion events most critical to your marketing objectives and configure them in Facebook’s Aggregated Event Measurement tool. Once your 8 or fewer conversion events have been selected, they must be put in priority order with the most valuable action first and the least valuable action last. The priority of the events will come into play when and if a user takes multiple actions with the 7 day conversion window. For example, if a user adds a product to a cart (achieving one conversion event) and leaves the site without completing the purchase only to return the next day after being served a retargeting ad and completes the purchase at that point (achieving another conversion event with a higher priority), the purchase event will show in Facebook’s event manager and the add to cart event will not based on the priority set. Thinking through the conversion events that are most important and their order of importance will help ensure Facebook continues to be an effective lead- and revenue-driving channel despite the latest changes.

Expectations for performance are going to have to change.

Recalibrate Your Goals

Expectations for performance are going to have to change. CPAs and CPMs on Facebook are on the rise and the increase is likely to continue as advertisers grapple with the previously unknown impacts of iOS 14.5 and the corresponding ripples through Facebook. Those who can stay the course, test new approaches, and adapt how they think about, interpret, and apply data to optimize performance will continue to find long-term value in Facebook as part of their marketing mix. And as advertisers who can’t adapt pull back from the platform, those who remain may find themselves in a less competitive environment over time.

 

For many businesses, especially those with sales cycles that extend beyond Facebook’s pre-iOS 14.5 28-day attribution window, there were always gaps in the data. To help fill some of the gaps within Facebook’s reporting capabilities, ensure you are implementing best practices for tracking, like adding UTM parameters so that you can track ad and campaign performance and conversions within Google Analytics. In addition to a narrowed attribution window, reporting delays of up to three days will make short-run campaign optimization challenging and breakdowns based on age, gender, region, and placement for delivery and actions will no longer be available, necessitating a different approach to campaign optimization. Creating benchmarks based on the most reliable data points you have and adjusting your performance goals based on that data will help steer campaigns in the right direction. Similarly, stepping back from channel-level performance goals and focusing on incremental impact to business goals (i.e., how much incremental lift you’re seeing in sales, revenue, new customer acquisition, etc.) will help you evaluate the impact of your channel-level investments in a more meaningful and sustainable way.

BONUS: Big-picture Best Practices

Ensuring the health of your digital marketing in the long-run requires adapting your marketing strategies beyond Facebook. Here are some big-picture best practices that should be on your long-term strategic marketing roadmap:

 

  1. Greater Data Ownership: From taking advantage of first-party data you may already have in your CRM to creating and gating high-value content or using other incentive-based strategies to convert zero-party data, businesses with greater data ownership will have the advantage as access to second- and third-party data becomes more limited. And those who invest in their data insights infrastructures to make the most effective use of that data to inform marketing strategy and drive performance will win.
  2. Holistic Marketing Intelligence: For shrewd companies, a decrease in the precision of the targeting capabilities available on third-party marketing platforms driven by shifts in the consumer privacy landscape is signalling a need to know their customers better. A deep understanding of your core customers–their personas, the language they use to describe their pain points, their search and shopping behaviors, etc.–will help insulate against the potential impact of ongoing changes in the consumer privacy landscape.
  3. Full-funnel Engagement: Now more than ever, building the kinds of consumer relationships that drive long-term growth requires full-funnel engagement rather than an overreliance on low-funnel paid media tactics to do the job alone. Now is the time to prioritize content and customer engagement strategies to maximize audience reach and build trust and consumer advocacy along the way.
  4. Evaluate Your Customer Experience: Long-term, sustained growth requires a focus on both customer acquisition and retention. Delivering a great customer experience every time is core to both keeping your customers and supporting data ownership strategies. According to a PwC survey, over a third of customers say they’d leave a brand they love after a single bad experience and 63% of respondents would be willing to share more personal information with companies delivering great experiences. Investing in delivering a best-in-class customer experience today will pay dividends on multiple fronts tomorrow.

Need more help stabilizing and optimizing your integrated marketing efforts? Contact us here.

Categories
Strategy

Design Studios 101: What, Why, & How to Use Them For Innovation

Most companies share three universal struggles: Breaking down siloed teams, overcoming limited long-term thinking, and resolving internal misalignment around  goals and strategies. So, when it comes time to brainstorm for innovation, these issues cause teams and companies to get stuck in what exists now, rather than envisioning services, products, and experiences that could exist tomorrow.

 

In some ways – that’s a good thing. Pragmatism and realism are essential to growing and scaling any business. But sometimes – and more often than not – it limits teams from meeting their goals, crafting simple, valuable, and meaningful experiences, and driving market demand. On top of that, when numerous puzzle pieces are moving at the same time, the cross-functional sharing of ideas and integration of work streams can suffer, ultimately delivering a less efficient and effective end result and customer experience. All of which can hinder customer engagement and value realization. 

 

Enter: Design studios.

What Are Design Studios & Who Are They Right For?

A design studio is a rapid iterative process that allows teams of varied individuals to share knowledge, work together, solve problems, and create a synergistic roadmap. It’s all about quick collaboration, ideation, and idea creation to find efficiencies in the work, tackle multiple user needs simultaneously, and create a more streamlined and impactful user experience that lends itself to higher conversions, increase customer engagement, and value realization.

 

And design studios aren’t just for product design teams. Sure, they’re most effective when a team is working towards solving problems that have some sort of visual aspect, but they can be utilized for conceptualization, as well. The design thinking practices used throughout Design Studios help push ideation beyond opportunity and optimization, and encourage new ways of aligning and envisioning the future state of a service or product for all teams and work streams. For example, when design thinking is applied to defining the scope and length of media strategies, performance marketing teams can cultivate alignment around target demographics, communication styles, engagement opportunities, and projected outcomes.

Refinement is not the goal, exploration of multiple and near-indefinite ideas is.

7 Ways Design Studios Help Teams

Design studios help people communicate pain points, opportunities, and day-to-day issues in a natural, uninhibited way, which ultimately uncovers moments of truth that maybe wouldn’t have been pinpointed in formal conversations. Because of this, design studios help teams:

 

  1. Establish a framework for teams to fully understand design challenges.
  2. Hear ideas from all perspectives within the team.
  3. Share, iterate, and solidify team ideas.
  4. Break down siloed team initiatives and, instead, empowers a culture of shared ownership.
  5. Generate many ideas within a short span of time.
  6. Encourage open and honest critique in a safe, judgement-free space that allow teams to break down barriers within organizations in a positive way.
  7. Force team members to defend their ideas and negotiate with other team members, establishing productive and useful habits long-term.

From the business development side, design studios help teams assess and identify root causes of internal obstacles and misalignment. Perhaps there are gaps that haven’t been explored because the right questions haven’t been asked. Design studios provide a unique opportunity for leaders and partners to understand the company’s problems through a variety of lenses, and encourages cross-functional collaboration to build on ideas and learn from each other.

 

The biggest thing to remember is that exploration is key and the ultimate goal of a design studio. Too often, teams focus on refining one idea, rather than welcoming and considering new ones. If real commitment to exploration isn’t integrated into the process, opportunities to refine and uncover potentially better solutions may be lost. So, refinement is not the goal, exploration of multiple and near-indefinite ideas is. Once all the ideas have been shared and outlined, refinement can begin.

How to Host a Design Studio

First, make sure all participants have a clear understanding and definition of the target or buyer personas. Questions to answer before a design studio include:

 

  • Personas: Who are you designing for?
  • Scenario: What situation are you designing for?
  • Design Principles: What guidelines should you consider?
  • Business Requirements: What are business requirements, if any?
  • Layout Studio Organization: What does everyone need to do?

Step 1: Assign roles & make Design Studio decisions

You should have one person designated as the facilitator, the timekeeper and the recorder.

 

The facilitator essentially runs the show and ensures all rules are followed and a safe, collaborative environment remains intact throughout the process. It’s the facilitators’ job to problem solve on the fly, as needed, to ensure  all Design Studio steps are completed from start to finish.

 

The timekeeper does just that – keeps time.

 

The recorder takes notes on all expressed pain points, presentations, disagreements, negotiations, ideas, and agreements that surface throughout the process, as well as outlines the plan for initial next steps.

 

This team of Design Studio leaders should decide how many design iterations will take place and the timeline for each step. The time allocated and number of iterations largely depends on the size of the group and the total time you have for the Design Studio in its entirety. The leaders should figure out “the math” and then create a brief itinerary to be shared with all participants at the beginning of the studio.

Tip: When we host Design Studios, we usually allocate five minutes for people to present and explain their sketches.

Step 2: Explain the Rules

Whether in-person or hosting a Design Studio virtually using Zoom or other digital conference tool, kick-off off the exercise by sharing the three cardinal rules:

 

  1. Everyone sketches! All participants in a design studio are doers, not viewers, even if they’ve never done this type or work before. Forcing everyone to actively participate illuminates a huge opportunity for digital experience teams in the organization to come together to work toward one common goal.
  2. No whiteboarding. It has its place and purpose, but it doesn’t belong in a design studio. If your group, team, or table is talking, you’re using group think, not generating new, unique ideas.
  3. Have fun and be creative! The goal for the design studio is to reimagine what’s possible in a creative safe zone. Often, companies focus on an opportunity and have a hard time thinking beyond current limitations and capabilities of technology. Instead of imagining what the experience could be or should be, they identify a specific project, workflow, or stage within the existing user experience they want to improve, but the point of the studio is to give team members an opportunity to reimagine. Disagreements can be verbalized, but it should be done in a kind, drama-free way. And remember, no idea is “too big” or “too crazy.” Encourage your team to push the envelope – or even bust it wide open.

This is also a great time to share the Design Studio agenda and field any remaining questions!

 

Also read: How to Set Content & Design Teams Up For CX Success

Step three: Start sketching

As outlined in the rules, everyone in the Design Studio is required to sketch. If hosting an in-person Design Study, all participants should be armed with lined or dotted letter paper, black pens for drawing, and colored pens for annotating. You can choose to provide sharpies for creating bold lines, light gray markers for filling in background areas, highlighters or colored markers for emphasis on call-to-action buttons, and post-its, as well. Digital sketching tools, such as drawing apps on a tablet, are also acceptable.

 

Virtual Design Studios require a bit more equipment to pull off – planning is key. Everyone will need a phone, camera, or scanner for taking photos of their sketches. We often suggest an iPevo camera. Additionally, a digital board – like Miro or InVision – will need to be set up to collect and organize sketches.

 

Sketches can be quick and unfinished, communicative, and iterative. All participants should avoid getting too sketchy – straight lines are best – and keep color and illustrations (people, stars, avatars) to a minimum.

Step four: Present ideas

If in-person, all participants should present their designs and then hang their drawing on the wall.

 

If hosting a virtual Design Studio, all sketches should be uploaded to a group chat or designated Invision or Miro board. If uploaded to a group chat, the facilitator is responsible for adding them to an Invision or Miro board. Ideally, participants would then present their sketches in real-time using an iPevo camera.

But what about feedback and questions? Ideally, participants should be encouraged to ask questions after each sketch presentation and time should be allocated at the end of each iteration for everyone to chat about the ideas. But, ultimately, it is up to the facilitator to determine if the conversation at hand is worth the time it’s taking. You should empower people to collaborate, ask questions and challenges ideas as they are freshly presented, but if the timeline for the Design Studio is very tight, you can save all conversations for the end.

Tip: When hosting virtual Design Studios, we utilize and upload all images to Invision boards. It's well organized and allows all ideas to be in one place for every single group, every iteration. This is one great way to overcome logistical challenges associated with hosting remote design studios.

Step five: Allow dot voting

This is the step within the Design Studio when everyone evaluates all completed sketches and – using their assigned number of dots (we allocate five per iteration to each participant), distribute their dots according to preference and favorability. So, say, for example, someone was really excited about one idea. They could give it all five of there dots to that singular concept – that denotes highest value. Or grant single dots to individual components or features that were sketched.

 

The voting stage is just as important as the sketching stage! Everyone must participate in order to identify the ideas that are strongest and drive ultimate agreeance and alignment. If you run out of time and can’t execute this step during the Design Studio session, you can enable dot voting after the fact, but be sure to communicate a due date for all votes to be in.

Step 5: Synthesize all sketches, ideas, and voting results

Have a product designer or UX expert synthesize all sketches and ideas, group them into themes, outline insights, and recommend a plan for next steps. This synthesis should then be sent to all stakeholders across departments for validation and final buy-in.

Step 6: Start defining and project planning

Next, identify and organize design phases so that concepting can begin.

 

 

Also read: How to Holistically Map the Entire Customer Journey

The Bottom Line:

Design Studios are incredibly useful when trying to break down silos, create integrated workflows, establish shared ownership, and innovate around existing experiences or solve problems. By bringing numerous perspectives, ideas, experts, and opinions into one room, they can pave the way for innovative ideas and visions for the future, and help improve cross-functional collaboration, communication, ownership, and alignment across stakeholders and departments, which ultimately impacts the final customer experience, increases customer engagement, and improves value realization.

 

By executing or working with partners to power Design Studios regularly, companies can encourage proactive future thinking and help cultivate a stronger, more collaborative work culture that’s focused around the customer experience and ongoing improvement.

Categories
Interviews Strategy

The Evolving Landscape of DTC: A Q&A with SimpleTire CMO Phuong Petersen

Jesus Ramirez: Let’s kick things off! Just a little bit about me. My name is Jesus Ramirez. I’m the VP of Strategy and innovation at Tallwave. And I’m here with Phuong Peterson, CMO at SimpleTire. I’m really excited about this conversation. We’re going to cover quite a lot of topics, everything from the direct-to-consumer space, to building a great brand and customer experience, to looking at new consumer behaviors and opportunities for brands. [We’ll also discuss] what’s on the horizon – [what’s] coming down the pipeline [for Simple Tired] that we should all be excited about. So, there’s a lot to cover, but to start., you have such an amazing background. I’d love if you could share a little bit about your personal journey, your experience, and your background with us.

 

Phuong Petersen: Yeah, absolutely… [I went to] college at Hamilton College, a small liberal arts school. I love small liberal arts because I think it helps you understand all the different types of connections you can make across a lot of disciplinary disciplines. And so that was a really great background. I then jumped into finance, which is kind of odd as a marketing person, to start in finance. But finance was a really great way to start my career. I believe that it’s really important to understand the fundamentals of what makes a business model work and how you [can] make businesses profitable. After a couple of years in finance, I decided that I wanted to be the person who was like making the decisions [on] how to drive revenue and drive growth in the business versus analyzing and trying to inform the decisions.

 

So, I decided to go to business school with the intention of transitioning into marketing. I was able to go to Procter & Gamble after attending Wharton. It was such a great fundamental start… It’s the classic CPG [organization] where you learn all the [buzzwords], branding and marketing fundamentals. I [learned about] consumer insights and how you [can] use insights to drive communication and messaging strategies, but also [about] product development. How you bring all that to life in a creative idea and amplify that through a brand campaign. And then last, [I learned] how to partner with all the other people within [the] ecosystem, like retailers, to really drive growth, not just for you, but for your retailers to grow growth in the market and the category.

 

After several years at Proctor, I left because I had the opportunity to move closer to home and to my family. So, I we went to Boston and actually, looking back in the switch, it was a really odd switch, candidly. I went from CPG brand management to commercial insurance. So, jumping from CA consumer packaged goods to commercial insurance and insurance financial services industry, and then not only that, but doing B2B marketing. I didn’t realize how drastic [that] switch [was]… But it was really a great experience because it’s still taking a lot of the frameworks, I learned in brand management, [and] applying [them in a different way] … There’s a lot of richness in B2B marketing that I don’t think, as business to consumer person, you would know until you do that.

 

So, having that stint to learn B2B marketing in a very different industry kind of like made me realize there’s a lot more out there to learn in marketing and thinking about how you apply marketing tactics and strategies across different disciplines and industries. From there, I, maybe late in my career, realized, “Wow, there’s digital advertising. That’s out there! Maybe I should learn a lot more about it.” This was when DTC was starting to pick up a lot and we were testing a lot of direct-to-consumer products in the financial service industry space – the insurance space. And so, from there, I was able to get my hands dirty and go into at a startup incubator within Liberty Mutual and start learning how to do ad word campaigns. What’s SEO? How do you think about email and deliverability of email? And fortunately, I was then able to jump as COO virtually at Wayfair, which was a really nice. [It] really rounded out my skills because I [still] got to work with the business owners to understand: How do you create the brand strategy? The creative? You know, how do you think about a lifestyle brand like what we did at Birch Lane? But then also own the performance marketing side and own the ad spend efficiency and top line growth. So, a couple of years there was a really great place to really figure out how to put all the pieces together and think about that as a holistic CMO.

 

And then lastly, I joke[that] my husband’s an early adopter of SimpleTire. So, when SimpleTire was coming around, he was like, “You should take a look at this company. It’s got a lot of things going for it. You might not expect and [I] really fell in love with the founders, the culture, what they were doing and realized that it was another place to really hone in on that holistic CMO-skillset at a smaller place where you can actually build something, and then scale it. And it was right at the right time to be able to do that.

Innovation is a really important part because we know that the environment is changing constantly.

JR: That’s fantastic. Yeah. Thanks for sharing all that. I think what I find fascinating about your background is just the diversity of your roles and the well-roundedness of your roles, given all the different types of businesses that you’ve worked on. And it’s interesting because there’s certain things that are commonalities across all industries, like focusing on the customer… or the importance of brand, but then there are very, very big differences if you go, say, from B2C to B2B. So, it’s interesting that you have that experience across all of those… For those in the audience who may not be familiar with SimpleTire, can you tell us a little bit about the company?

 

PP: Yeah. SimpleTire was started in 2012 by two brothers, Andy and Josh Chalofsky who saw a new way to think about: How do we deliver [and] how do we improve the tire buying experience for the customer in a tech driven way? So, they partnered with Kenny Pratt, who’s our CTO, to think about a new business model. What they realized was customers don’t really see the selection of tires that they can get when they just go to a brick and mortar, and secondly, the range of prices you can get with that selection. And so, this was when DTC was starting to pick up. They said, “What if we can do this? Deliver this in a way for the customer that simplifies the process a little bit? So, they have selection, they have the value, they have an easier way of selecting the tires and [having them] delivered in this e-commerce way.”

 

So, the team built that model. [They] built that network of connecting all of the suppliers together, and then having an interface through e-commerce to be able to provide that for the customer. I would say, in the last couple of years to evolve that even more, it wasn’t just about providing the selection of tires and the prices, but actually then thinking about how do we provide a better customer experience in the whole tire replacement journey. Tire replacement probably isn’t the most exciting thing someone looks forward to when they have to do it. And it’s quite a daunting task, if you think about, when you realize you have to solve the problem. So, they realized not only can we actually help select tires, but how do we create convenience out of it and do it all in one solution? Recently we were able to build our network further and have installation partners join our site to be able to let the customer find a place or find the tires, select the tires, purchase tires, and book the installation and pay for all of it online, which is starting to create that convenience and the customer experience that I think is really important, especially for something like replacing tires.

 

JR: Yeah. It’s not the best experience to replace tires. And I love it. It sounds like there’s two really core aspects of what you’re building: One being the convenience factor., and then two being the transparency factor. Transparency around pricing, selection, and just [providing] information. [There’s] a certain amount of education that’s involved.

PP: Yeah, absolutely. So, when you think about what we’ve done, we’ve been doing a lot of consumer research recently, and when someone understands that they have a problem – that they actually have to replace their tires – you start asking yourself locked questions. And one of the things I think is convenient with online is that you actually could: One, do it at your own pace. So, if you’re not ready to tackle it today, you can take your time to do it. Versus when you go to a brick and mortar, you might feel a little more pressure to make those decisions quicker. So, you can take your time to figure out how you want to solve the problem. You can research a lot of information online, the way you [want] to research it… You can find the right shop for you that might be closest to you. You might find the right availability of the tire that you’re looking for. You might not even know what tire size you should have for your vehicle, which is actually the first part of the process, which is a little daunting, itself. And, so, having the ability to do it online, I think helps lower the [customer’s] anxiety a little bit, because they’re able to control the experience more.

 

JR: One thing that’s interesting is that SimpleTire is a part of this growing trend of companies that are moving from what I would say is sort of a traditional retail sales model to a DTC model. We’re seeing this with mattresses, appliances, even cars. Right? And, and so I’m curious, what are some of the unique aspects and challenges of a DTC model [are] that may not exist in traditional model?

 

PP: You mentioned the several categories and even on, you know, virtually from Wayfair, furniture was another big one, as well, because a lot of people like to see it in-person and touch it and understand the dimensions. And so, the first thing I think you think about in terms of going from traditional to DTC is that it’s just a new process. We’re so used to going into a store and looking at things, right? So, the idea of just starting a whole process, it’s a new habit or new routine that you have to figure out how to tackle. So, that’s the first challenge. And when you have something unfamiliar, the question then [is how do you try] to make it more familiar so [that] it’s not so daunting.

 

For example, like I mentioned on, on SimpleTire, we actually just released our simple snap feature… It’s really difficult to find your tire size, you don’t even know what a tire size is. You’re trying to figure out where it is on your tire. So, we actually created a product where you can take a picture of your tire that will identify your tire size, and then ultimately you could just upload a picture, and we’ll get your tire recommendations. What I love about that feature is that everyone knows how to take a picture on their cell phone, right? So, you just have to point your phone and take a picture where all the numbers are on the tire. Then it will just automatically tell you what the right tire sizes [and surface what] the recommendations we [suggest you] think about for your vehicle.

 

It’s taking something familiar that you’re used to, and trying to make it a little easier and simpler to adopt the new process… So, trying to figure out how to connect certain familiar steps to [your process] in a way to be able to help grease the wheels when trying to [drive adoption of] a new habit or a new routine.

 

I think the second piece is [that] there’s a lot of anxiety around a new process. One of the things we learned in our process was when you have multiple players in the experience – like the installer, us, and the customer – there is this question of, “Do I know if all of it is going to happen seamlessly?” We found communication [to be] really important [in order] to lower that anxiety so that everyone’s on the same page and [being] brought along for the [same] ride… Communication [as] part of the customer experience is really important to alleviate some of the anxiety that people might have [about] a new experience, [whether it’s] doing something online, like buying tires or mattresses or a house or whatever it is nowadays.

 

Also read: How to Holistically Map the Customer Journey

Communication as part of the customer experience is really important to alleviate some of the anxiety that people might have about a new experience.

JR: That’s interesting – this notion of the anxiety. Maybe not knowing the full picture. One of the things that I was thinking about is when you’re making a decision about something like tires, what if something goes wrong? That’s probably inevitably one of the questions that people are thinking about in this experience. And so, there’s ways I imagine to mitigate that upfront, so that those things aren’t a concern. Right?

 

PP: Exactly. So, you know, obviously like easy returns is the way. What I love – to your point – about some of the experiences I’ve had: How do you think about connecting the dots on what you experienced in your current role? You know, when I was at CPG, you always think about the product itself. What are all the different components that [can] make the toothpaste experience better? What’s the basic function of toothpaste? What do you want the experience to be when people are actually brushing their teeth and [done brushing their teeth]? For example, the experience of your [teeth being whiter]. There’s all these things and components you think about from a product experience.

 

It’s very similar when you think about the overall DTC experience. How do you have all those pieces fit together to make an overall seamless experience that someone doesn’t even think about? So, you know, those worries or anxieties of, “Will the installer know that I’m supposed to show up?” for example. How do you make sure… they don’t have to have those questions? The other piece, too, [is], ‘What happens if I don’t really like the tires? What do I do with them?” You just have to think about all the different components that you’d need to build an entire process and product [around] to make sure it [delivers] the experience that you would want to experience as a customer.

 

JR: Yeah, that’s great. It’s an interesting challenge to try to anticipate some of those challenges along the way and address them early on. One thing that I really appreciate that you mentioned, and it sounds like this was very intentional from get go, is that SimpleTire is really trying not just to build a great business – and certainly it is – but also trying to build a great brand. A recognized brand that has lasting power and is recognizable. And so obviously, you know a lot about building great brands with your experience at P&G and Wayfair and Liberty Mutual. How do you think about building great brands, and not just great products or even great businesses? What’s the difference between the two and what are some of those components that you need to focus on early on?

PP: It’s interesting because there’s the three components we talked about: There is brand, product, and business, and they’re actually tied closely together in very different ways. So, I’ve been trying to figure out how to dissect that a little bit. When you think about a brand, the brand starts off with the product, right? So, when you think about the brand, it’s tied to a specific product. And what you try to do as a brand is elevate the brand into something a little more than just functional benefits of a product, but actually elevate it more to make an emotional connection with the customer around a certain higher order benefit, or even something like your brand vision. And so, I think that’s the aspiration of a lot of brands: How do you get a person who associates your brand with a certain product that you might have at the beginning… Obviously you have to deliver the product benefit – it has to be consistent in what the brand is going to stand for, so there’s some consistency there that you have to make sure is there. But ultimately, how do you elevate the whole experience or the idea of the brand a little higher or more so that you create that emotional connection? I think that takes time, it takes – from a product point of view – it takes not just thinking about the product experience, but actually all the experiences after or before the product, so you kind of have to think about this halo effect of what the experiences is. It’s not when you actually use the product, but it’s before, it’s after, it’s when you see the product on shelf. And then, what’s interesting about the business side of it, the business model enables some of that product or customer experience then to elevate the brand.

 

If you don’t have a sustainable business model, if you’re not allocating the right resources, then you’re never going to be able to build a better product, build a better customer experience, and then build – and ultimately spend money – to build the brand. So, the business model itself… you have to have the unit economics right for the business model to be able to fund and grow and nurture the product, the customer experience, and then the brand. And lastly, what I think is really exciting… The business and the products evolve over time. It’s not like it’s static. So, then the question is, how the brand stretches equity and grows as the business grows and as the products grow. So, I use an example, like Amazon. It started off as just an online retailer of books. It probably was just associated, at one point, with books. But then, as the business model grew, as it stretched its equity, now it stands for something completely different than books.

 

That takes time, but that’s where I think there’s a challenge for brand builders, because what you’re trying to do is create consistency [in] what people think of your brand, but [at the same time], your business is stretching and growing. So, how do you ensure you keep the consistency, but [are still able to] push [the brand] in places and ways that you know your business model or your expansion of product lines [are going] into. And then ultimately, how do you elevate it in a way [that] it’s not even just about the products, but it’s about an emotional connection? [For example,] Apple with innovation, Nike with ‘Just do it,’ or [their ethos of] perseverance and powering through things. Those brands have a lot of equity that they’ve been able to stretch and build over time.

 

Also read: Disrupting the Status Quo With a Travel App

You have to have the unit economics right for the business model to be able to fund and grow and nurture the product, the customer experience, and then the brand.

JR: I think one of the things that that resonates is this clarity of message that you need to have around your values, your vision, and how the brand needs to represent something other than the product itself. The product or the service really becomes a manifold, like one of the manifestations of the brand. You see this over and over. I think a really good example of this is Disney and Disney+. They came out and, you know, they have theme parks and, all of a sudden, they launch a subscription service, and it immediately takes off because what people are buying is the brand, and not necessarily the product or the service.

 

PP: And it’s the experience that the brand elevates in those different ways that they are able to do it. It’s pretty incredible… With kids too. Now that I have kids, I think about certain brands like Legos. They have such a higher order brand, in terms of creativity, imagination, education, but they’re able to – to your point – have it manifest through these great products that kids are always wanting… It’s their way to express themselves. That took years. So, it’s pretty amazing how a collection of leaders is able to keep the ship steered in certain direction, but then [also] add an element to evolve with generations. It’s really impressive.

 

JR: That’s awesome. So, I’m going to shift a little bit… The way your model works, there [are] actually three parties involved. You have to take into consideration your customers, obviously, but you also have your suppliers and now you have your installation partners. So, in essence, you have a multi-sided marketplace here, and I imagine that you have to keep them all happy. What unique challenges does this represent? How do you provide value and a great experience for all of them simultaneously?

 

PP: Yeah. What I really love about my role is that my role doesn’t just own brand and performance marketing, but actually when it’s merchandising. [That includes] channel strategy, pricing, and promotion. So, it really is like thinking about, how do you partner with all these different people, and have all those components work together to make it a win-win relationship with them? The nice part is [that] we all have the same goal in mind. [For example], suppliers [want] to make sure they deliver the right tire to the customer, right? And installers want to us and the customer to have an amazing experience, and vice versa. What I love about SimpleTire is when we think about our brand purpose, it’s how do you take something complex and make it simple that doesn’t just resonate with the customer, [but] actually resonates with our suppliers.

 

So, how do you think about your brand, not just on like what’s forward-facing with the consumer, but how do we make sure our brand is expressed through all of our partners, as well? How do we simplify and make it easier for our partners to work with us? [That] is actually a really important part of our brand. And having a similar brand purpose and promise to all of our partners, including our customers, I think really helps us be able to just make sure that we’re all embodying the same spirit across all three [touchpoints]. With that said, how it manifests itself is just a little different [when it comes to] how we think about working with our suppliers and what simplification in working with us means for [our suppliers], our installers, and our customers.

JR: Yeah. I love that. Your brand values have to resonate with all three parties. You don’t have different ones for each. It’s one that resonates across all three. I think that’s fantastic. With this idea of having installation partners, if you think about the entire customer experience that that you’re involved in from the very beginning where it’s thinking about or researching, or even just recognizing that you need to replace your tires all the way through to doing the actual installation. Like you said, there’s probably several steps after that to just stay top of mind, and to continue to deliver an amazing experience, but there are parts of that process and that journey that you’re not in complete control of. When you pass off a customer to an installation partner, you don’t have e as tight as tight of control, as you do say, [with] the online experience. How do you drive a really consistent and cohesive brand experience across channels or parts of the experience that you may not own entirely?

 

PP: That’s a great question. And I think a lot of DTC brands in our situation probably have the same challenges. I think the first thing is really ensuring that, again, we all have the same goal. We want the customer experience to be great. Obviously, the installers want the customer to have a great experience because we just gave them a lead. They got a new customer, that they might have not had in the past. So, clearly, they have [an] opportunity. We’ve heard this from installers, they appreciate it. They’re like, “You just gave us lead. It’s our job to do a really good job.” Then we can help. We can have that customer experience and make it a win-win for both. Ultimately, they want to see if they can maintain that relationship with the customer in the future.

 

So, understanding what we both bring to the table, what we have this common goal for, I think is important. And then the second piece is… It goes back to my B2B days. It’s really about relationships and making sure that the installation partners and ourselves, they see that we are in a partnership with them. How do we actually drive more value for them on our site? How do we make sure their digital presence is better? How do we make sure that we are representing their shop in a way that they want – [providing information that] they want the customer [to know, whether] they specialize in certain services, et cetera. We’re actually working very closely right now to evolve that experience further and make sure that we’re doing that work… I think that’s a really important part of the overall experience, and also just being a good partner to them to make sure that we have that end-to-end relationship.

Your brand values have to resonate with all three parties. You don't have different ones for each consumer. You brand values must that resonates across all of them.

JR: Yeah, absolutely. And it sounds like there is a continuous process to learn, not just about the needs and the pain points of your customers, but then also the pain points and needs of your partners, and continuously evolving the experience and the functionality and the things that they need to be successful. You’re supporting, in essence, an ecosystem and you have to be continuously evolving the value that you’re providing to each side of that ecosystem continuously. So that’s fantastic. You know, one of the things, and I think you mentioned this, which I liked, this notion of values-based alignment, and almost like driving an emotional outcome, or aligning on an emotional outcome that you’re driving for your consumer, as well… I want to get one last question, and then I think we’re going to switch over to question Q&A… As you continue to evolve SimpleTire: The brand, you’re offering. How do you think about creating other parts or other products, or involving other products and making other products available – is that part of the roadmap, or how do you think about that? What comes next? What do you offer as a part of this platform?

 

PP: Yeah, I think it always starts with customer and consumer research. So, I think innovation is a really important part because we know that the environment’s changing constantly. And so, you want to really be up to speed with what the consumer [is] thinking today, what are their needs today? And then hopefully understand the pain points, [or] even predict what could be their needs in the future. And so, I think every brand is constantly in that innovation cycle. Again, it starts with the research. And so, for us, I think we’ll continue to start thinking about that and figuring out what are the pain points that customers have even with our current online experience. Maybe there might be some pain points or in the future what are ancillary experiences they might have and be able to do that. So, more to come, but we’re just continuing to try to figure that out for the customer.

 

JR: Yeah. That’s great. Well, I think we’re going to switch over to a Q&A, so there’s a couple of questions that are coming in. One of them is, what’s it been like to join a brand-new company in the middle of a pandemic?

 

PP: There’s a lot of people that I’ve met have done this. I think on my team, several two or three people have joined, as well, during the pandemic. We were growing so quickly as a company. And so, it’s really interesting. I would say one: You realize it’s pretty seamless in some ways to get up to speed with technology now. Honestly, it sounds weird to say, “Oh, you just shut one computer down from one company, and then you open up a computer and then you’re at the next company.” It’s not as seamless. It can seem seamless like that. But I would say the hardest part is really connecting with team members and trying to connect, particularly with our leadership team… and then my team members.

 

And so that’s probably the hardest part. We joke. We’re like, “We haven’t even met each other in person, and it’s been a year!” … I think the nice part though, I will say is, making sure you take the time to make that connection and meet people. Get to know people and try to create those bonds. So, you try to do happy hours, you try to do all of these new, innovative ways of connecting and bonding through virtual games. For example, we just had a virtual game night, our whole company, last night for St. Patty’s Day. And I think that’s been helpful to do that. But you still have to figure out how to create comradery, I think, even though you don’t see each other. It’s just a little more difficult.

 

Also read: Customer Experience Trends Driving the Hospitality Industry

JR: Yeah. One thing that’s been interesting is the need to be intentional about all the communications or the onboarding. Just continuously creating these moments where you can have informal get-togethers, and things like that. You have to be very intentional about it. One other question: How you think about what comes next, and this is either [trends] in the DTC space or just the marketing space, in general?

 

PP: Yeah. It’s a great question. You have to make time for it. Sit down and think – that’s the hardest part. You’re online, you’re trying to just get things going, and then you’re like, maybe I should take a moment to sit down and think more broadly and next year [or] a couple of years out. So, I actually have to do it. I think about it actually now in a couple of ways. One, on the marketing end: There’s this whole – as a marketing person [and] having a passion for marketing – there’s this whole space of like, how do I learn? How do I think about the future trends of marketing, like digital advertising and marketing? How do I think about content? How do I think about digital content strategy end-to-end? How do we learn more about it? So, from a functional point of view, there’s this whole space of how do I think years out? And then there’s this business-sense [related to] the tire industry? How do I think about the trends and marketplaces and entire industry? How do I think long-term? So, it’s exciting, but it’s actually kind of like, how do I? And then, how do I put the pieces together and think [about how they intersect]? It is difficult to do because it does require you to get outside what you do normally, day to day, and actually have that external thinking, an external viewpoint. You have to be curious and passionate about what you’re reading and doing to be able to think about what’s next and taking the time to do that.

 

Whether it’s a lot of content – reading or subscribing to a lot of things – and then meeting a lot of different people. Keeping the connections, you’ve [made in the past is so important]. I can’t tell you how many people I now tap into [from within] my own network that I haven’t maybe talked to in several years, but hey, they’re in a different space or different places. It’s like, “Hey, let’s just connect so I can hear what you’re up to, and what you’re thinking about.” Those are actually really important, as well, to make the connection and to get that perspective from someone else. To see what they’re seeing and thinking.

 

Interested in having a conversation with one of our team members or participating in private roundtables with other business leaders? Send us a message through our contact form

Categories
Strategy

How to Holistically Map Your Customer Experience

But what is a customer experience map?

 

It’s a visual timeline that illustrates and examines a customer’s entire experiences with a brand, identifying every behavior, interaction, and touchpoint across a variety of channels. Unlike a customer journey map – which only outlines touch points involved from exposure to sale (and sometimes post-sale) – customer experience (CX) maps dive deeper, evaluating omnichannel experiences and internal processes and workflows to illuminate who and what customers interact with, pain points that arise, and moments of truth that are ripe for innovation and improvement.

Overview of the Customer Experience:

  • Start with the customer perspective. Utilize a mix of qualitative and quantitative data (methods below) to map key touch points
  • Map the internal stakeholder journey, including people, processes, systems, via a service blueprint
  • Combine the maps to begin comparing and contrasting the data and employee expectations versus consumer feedback
  • Identify gaps and opportunities, assess impact of innovation and prioritize for the future

While collecting customer feedback through both qualitative and quantitative (also known as moderated and observational) techniques is key (think web analytics, customer surveys, customer marketing data, customer recordings and interviews, industry research, etc.), it’s also equally important to map your internal stakeholder’s (aka, employee’s) journey, detailing moments they believe to be most important in an end user’s experience (this is often referred to as service blueprinting).

 

Once both maps are completed, they can be compared and contrasted to uncover discrepancies in the customer and internal experience. Pinpointing moments of friction illuminates root causes of customer experience breakdowns that create incredible drag on company retention and growth. Only by taking this holistic approach can you truly start to cultivate next-level strategies for improved customer experiences.

How to Create a Customer Experience Map

As you venture into making your own customer experience map, here are some things to watch out for:

 

  1. Don’t get stuck in the surface. Make sure that you’re driving to the core and really trying to identify the root cause of experience friction points or issues.
  2. Ensure you take an interdisciplinary approach. It’s important not to be siloed in this thinking.
  3. Don’t just take qualitative notes. When interacting with customers, take a multi-faceted approach. You want to ultimately be able to map your qualitative data with quantitative data. Incomplete data can lead to poor decision-making.
  4. Don’t get too bogged down in the details. Come up for air and focus on the biggest areas of opportunities for improvement. It’s all about prioritization. Lots of companies try to solve or map everything, when in reality – sure, you need to challenge your data and ensure you have a complete view – but you also have to prioritize as you go. It’s a delicate balance to strike.

To get started, you must first acknowledge that every touch point is interconnected and feeds into a customer’s perspective and sentiment towards your brand as a whole. The exercise must be authentic. Your goal is to understand your brand’s latent needs and to uncover opportunities that exist due to changing market dynamics, customer expectations and technology breakthroughs.

 

Then, you must allocate one person or team to see the exercise through to completion. Typically speaking, customer experience mapping should be co-created with an external party. Research done solely in-house can be blanketed by unconscious bias, thus muddling results and growth opportunities. Plus, it’s important stakeholders surveyed throughout feel comfortable expressing their true and honest opinions in a confidential and removed setting.

 

Once that’s done, it’s time to get to work.

Step 1: Define your goals, scope, and personas

Your team must first align on goals. Conduct a half-day session with the key internal stakeholders across a number of teams to define business and user goals and pinpoint what you want to learn, what you’re hoping to uncover, where you want to drive focus, and how you plan to quantify and validate insights uncovered.

 

Then, define the personas you want to explore with during the experience mapping exercise. Many businesses have numerous consumer groups. While you can (and eventually should) map the experience and expectations of all of them, you’ll want to identify who they are first. Key details like age, marital status, occupation, daily activities, needs, wants, hobbies, internet behaviors, social media interactions, etc. are all a great starting place. Remember the 80/20 rule and prioritize which groups you’re going to start with. These are your primary personas.

 

Now that you have them identified, you’ll want to start the mapping exercise by capturing existing hypotheses about your customers and their experience. Be sure to capture their needs and emotions felt throughout all of their experiences with your brand. Some key questions to remember here:

 

  • What is driving their buying behavior? Why are they interacting with your business?
  • Where do they interact with your brand (before and after purchase)?
  • How many steps do they go through to purchase?
  • How do they feel as they decide to purchase? Is there a touchpoint after they purchase?
  • How do they interact with your brand after they’re a customer? etc.

Next, decide which part of your experience you want to map. In an ideal world, you’d map the entire experience over the tenure of a customer’s relationship with your brand, but that’s likely not doable in your first few sessions. To get started, break experience mapping into segments. Do you want to map the onboarding or registration process? The purchasing journey? Gauge the interactions your brand has with customers once they’ve already bought in? .

 

Also read: Understanding the Buyer’s Journey to Drive Targeted Campaigns

If you’re stuck – simply try to pinpoint where you think there is the most pain, friction, or confusion in your customer journey. Whether it’s the first, tenth or fiftieth exchange, one bad experience can greatly increase risk of customer churn. A customer who is dissatisfied with an experience will tell between 9-15 people about it* (and that number increases quickly if they take their negative review to social platforms!).

Step two: Evaluate from within

Holistically mapping out your current end-to-end customer experience requires that you evaluate every touchpoint from the surface to the core. That means, you must first evaluate your own people, processes, and systems that impact and touch the customer experience in any way (many organizations refer to this as service blueprinting).

By doing this, you can uncover deep rooted issues or discrepancies between what internal stakeholders and external customers deem important. This is a critical step in effecting meaningful change to your customer experience. But be mindful to avoid these common pitfalls as you execute:

 

  • Getting bogged down in the internal perspective: Make sure all focus efforts are on pain point identification as it relates to the customer or your ability to deliver to the customer. This isn’t an exercise solely dedicated to internal frustrations – if you’re wanting to improve the employee experience, that’s a true service blueprinting exercise. For holistic customer experience mapping, you want to make sure your focus is on pain points that have a line of sight to your end users.
  • Settling for the surface answers: Push to go beyond and really discover the root cause or root opportunities present in your current experience.
  • Missing the opportunity to loop in interdisciplinary perspectives: Often, the connection between business units – especially ones that have overlapping activities related to the customer experience – is where you’ll uncover the greatest opportunities for improvement. Every company has handoffs. It’s important to consider them all.
  • Hinder real discussions from happening between stakeholders: Bringing people together can be massively beneficial. This is an opportunity to create alignment. By bringing teams together to work towards one common goal and share their individual team’s hurdles, your teams will naturally discover micro-solves that can be executed immediately, and contribute to the macro-solution.

Now, to get a revitalized understanding of your business’ performance and efficiency, conduct workshops with internal stakeholders – this can include customer service and sales reps, researchers, customer experience specialists, marketing leads, product owners, designs and more. These service blueprinting workshops should include a few important exercises:

 

  1. Hypothesize and map out internal interpretation of the customer’s journey. Be sure to identify each phase and define customer interaction points.
  2. Map out the people, process and systems that are in play at each of those key interaction points.
  3. Capture what internal stakeholders say about those key interactions (qualitative). Simple things like definitions of words, or what they want customers to feel after that interaction can all be important in understanding the internal impact on your CX.
  4. Articulate underlying assumptions and beliefs around language commonly used to describe KPIs and company-wide goals. This will help identify and deconstruct misunderstandings between teams and enable a fresh start where everyone is on the same page and working from a consistent understanding.

At the end of the workshop, you should be able to identify each phase in the customer’s experience, who and what they interact with within your organization, and how you meet their needs along the way.

 

Keep in mind, for some companies, a workshop is all that is needed to gather internal perspective. On the other hand, sometimes workshops are just the starting place and then require deeper dives with specific departments, business units, or individual role types to further precipitate areas where exploration is needed. So, once your workshop is completed, identify whether or not you need to go deeper, and, if so, what types of roles, departments or business units you need to go deeper with.

 

Continue to conduct stakeholder interviews until you feel confident that you’ve really mapped out the impact those areas have on the internal customer journey or end customer experience.

 

Need an example? Let’s talk about articulating underlying assumptions. Healthcare organizations often use the word “encounters” as a measurement for improving patient engagement. However, when we’ve asked organizational team members to define the term, no one in the room has the same definition or knows how to explain it. If everyone perceives and defines a goal and/or measurement like “encounters” differently (or in many cases, can’t define it at all), it’s impossible to know how or when to measure and define success. The solution? Get it on paper (or a whiteboard or shared digital document)! When you put something down in writing and rally around a common definition, you can identify optimal procedures to measure it. This will ultimately contribute to agreeance and alignment necessary for not only standing up successful marketing programs, but proving ROI.

If everyone perceives and defines a goal and/or measurement differently (or in many cases, can’t define it at all), it’s impossible to know how or when to measure and define success.

Step 3: Hone in on the end users

Now it’s time to look beyond the internal perspective and focus the lens on your customers. This requires the most time and could take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple years to complete, depending on your scope.

 

Before you get start, there are a few tips to consider that will help you avoid common pitfalls at this stage:

 

  • Ensure you get to the real root cause of pain or opportunity and don’t get caught in optimizing for the surface level. As with other phases, this requires that you push beyond the surface of what users tell you qualitatively. A great way to do this, no matter what process you use, is to ask “Why?” three to five times. Once a user shares an observation that seems important, ask why. Then ask why again, and again. Many companies gather initial observations and never get to the true root cause, therefore they’re stuck treating only symptoms of problems.
  • Don’t rest on qualitative data. Instead, pair it with quantitative data. Find ways to objectively measure what is happening to your user’s experience at key milestones throughout the journey. We often do this by merging qualitative data with surveys or other analytical data (think customer CRMs, google analytics, website data, or MPS data).
  • Avoid intuition as your primary method of gathering user experience. Qualitative techniques we often employ include interviews, focus groups and ride alongs.
  • Give yourself time to really hone in on the user experience. Many companies never gather this information, at all; instead, they architect their journey based on internal perspective and move forward. It’s always important and useful to get real, quality feedback from end users.
  • Don’t forget that your customer base is diverse. Get feedback from multiple personas as you go.

Also read: Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data in CX Design: Everything You Need to Know

 

During this phase, you and your team should use qualitative and quantitative techniques (learn more about that here) to obtain real customer feedback by guiding them through each phase of the outlined journey to validate their needs, wants, and experiences. 0 By sitting down with real customers, you’re able to explore their goals and needs respective to your product, services, and/or digital presence. In the end, you’ll be able to expose valuable insights that can drive future focus. Often, this phase identifies opportunities for re-engagement. While your goals may be more specific, it is still important to see the full picture before drawing any conclusions about your overall customer experience. At this stage, compiling as much information as possible is key.

 

Need an example? Sometimes this phase can give rise to specific problems, including the root cause of customer conversions. One of our clients – a leading nation-wide insurer group of automobiles, homes and small businesses – was seeing a dip in quote yields and overall conversion rates. After doing a deep data dive – using both qualitative and quantitative techniques – we discovered the majority of drop offs were occurring moments before clicking the, “I’m ready to complete my quote” button. Why would users go through the trouble of filling out 99% of the form, only to abandon the process right before getting the information they originally sought? The answer was buried in the messaging.

By speaking to customers, we discovered the last question in their quote-request form – one that asked the user if they’d like to enter information to receive additional insurance quotes – was causing feelings of exhaustion and frustration for potential customers. Instead of marking “No,” and continuing on, they simply bounced away from the site – and, likely, with no intention to return. This not only illuminated the main pain point, but allowed us to execute focused competitive analyses to get inspiration from competitors, develop potential solutions, test them, and then launch the solution/s to the market.

Step 4: Review, analyze, and map it out

It’s time to start putting the puzzle pieces together.

 

With an integrated team spanning a variety of disciplines (including research, business innovation, experience design, and consulting), review the customers’ experience data from every angle. Doing this will provide a more holistic view necessary for creating a more robust and useful map.

 

Conduct another workshop to synthesize and compare data from internal and external perspectives on your customer experience.

 

Starting with the qualitative data, use tools like an an affinity map to clearly identify where your customers’ needs are being met – and where they’re not. This should expose service gaps and highlight opportunities.

 

Next, test the customer feedback against the internal perspectives map previously created. More often than not, it will reveal discrepancies between what internal teams believe is important, versus what customers really assign value to. This visual approach, while also displaying challenges within the current experience, will make achieving cross-functional alignment around future plans easier.

 

Also read: Crafting Employee Experiences to Improve Customer Experiences

 

Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is continual evolution. Take the time to test and, as you do, update your journey map.

Lastly, to pinpoint exact moments of friction and/or leverage in your customer experience, pair the quantitative data – which analyzes customer sentiment and perspective at every stage and interaction – with your new qualitative understanding of the user experience. By overlaying these data points – like a customer’s likelihood to renew – you’ll be able to pinpoint specific moments that drive loyalty or churn and their financial impacts.

 

At this point, now all that’s left is to prioritize the areas of opportunity and roadmap short- and long-term focuses to improve business workflow. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is continual evolution. Take the time to conduct ongoing testing and, as you do, update your experience map.

 

Need an example? A major broadband communications company who had been in the business of delivering entertainment and connection companies and companions long before the internet existed was struggling with gradual increases of customer dissatisfaction and churn. Month over month, the company’s acquisition and retention numbers decreased. Thei business and market share was at risk. By pairing quantitative sentiment with our qualitative understanding and visually mapping both, we were able to pinpoint the main points of friction that we needed to solve for: Severe client and market variability, inconsistent structure and resources a reactive servicing model, disparate systems and processes, a need for continued product training, and shifting client expectations. To summarize, the experience being delivered was afflicted with challenges and creating volatility throughout the journey, ultimately contributing to churn.

By outlining the specific issues, we were able to build a path forward to develop a proactive and consultative CX that focused on the most essential needs, including:

 

  • Elevating the customer care solution to create a repeatable experience that promotes consistency while preserving autonomy
  • Simplifying the employee experience to reduce friction by streamlining backend systems and processes
  • Modernizing client interactions with omnichannel and digital-forward experience
  • Invest in delivering an experience that is predictably proactive and drives consultative value
  • Clearly demonstrating the ongoing value of partnering with a customer care solution

Pinpointing the needs and developing solutions enabled us to become part of the client’s strategy, not just a one-off tractic. Next, we built a roadmap that encompassed recommended initiatives, identified workstreams, defined what success would look like and outlined how the work would enable continual program evolution.

The Bottom Line

By consistently completing the customer experience mapping exercise (don’t set it and forget it!), you can empower your team to problem solve from a data-driven perspective and establish plans for future CX initiatives and investments.

 

At the end of the day, customer experience mapping is about connecting with your customer, and deeply understanding and empathizing with their needs and wants. If your company can prioritize solving customer’s problems as the world evolves, you’ll set yourself up for unstoppable momentum.

Categories
Strategy

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data In CX Design: Everything You Need to Know

This is a common issue for many organizations, big and small, but it’s not an impossible one to solve!

 

If you’re experiencing a similar situation, you need to invest in gathering persona data that will not only tell you who your customers are and what they care about, but why they care and how they expect brands to make them feel.

 

To get started, let’s define each set of data, how it’s gathered and what it’s used for.

 

What is qualitative data?

Qualitative data – or primary data – is commonly gathered by businesses and plays an important role in understanding target audience sentiment and informing customer journey design. By conducting unstructured or semi-structured first-person user interviews, discussions, on-site observations, in-house moderated user testing, web analytics, and focus groups, qualitative data-collecting techniques allow companies to interact directly with their key customers, see how they’re using their products or services and receive feedback in real-time. It helps define the customer journey and establish an initial foundation and understanding of all internal and external customer experiences.

 

There’s just one problem: Sometimes people don’t know what they want, don’t have the words to truly express how they feel, or simply, aren’t honest.

 

That’s when quantitative data comes in.

Quantitative data enhances primary research and design efforts by quantifying key problem areas.

What is quantitative data?

Quantitative data – which can be gathered through a variety of structured surveys, questionnaires, and polls – is essential secondary research. When transformed into statistics, it enhances primary research (qualitative data) and design efforts by quantifying key problem areas. It also allows marketers, developers, business leaders and customer experience drivers to peer into customer details, attitudes, and behaviors from a data-driven standpoint, and test hypotheses established from qualitative data.

Qualitative Data vs. Quantitative Data: When Should You Use Each & How?

Let’s start with the when. To craft the best customer experiences, companies should collect and analyze both data sources on an ongoing basis. Because – and this is a big one – audiences and their expectations are always changing. By executing primary and secondary research to gather qualitative and quantitative data, companies make themselves better equipped to not only identify, but truly understand their customer base – how they interact, experience, and feel about a website, application or overall brand.

 

And don’t forget to gather employee input, as well! Employees are often the first to know what’s working and what’s not. Most organizations shy away from gathering input from employees, but in our experience, leveraging this powerful knowledge base sooner rather than later helps identify root challenges and opportunities to improve faster and more effectively.

 

Also read: Crafting Employee Experiences That Improve Customer Experiences

 

Now, the how. After both qualitative and quantitative data has been collected, follow these steps:

Map your qualitative data

Example of mapping internal & external qualitative data

Using the qualitative data gathered, map internal perspectives around critical touch points and test it against customer feedback that was collected. This should reveal discrepancies between what internal teams believe is important, versus what customers assign value to. By taking this qualitative approach, teams can visually display opportunities and challenges within the current experience. Providing a picture that illuminates the differences between internal and external stakeholder perception makes achieving cross-functional alignment on future plans easier. There’s not a whole lot to argue about when the writing’s on the wall.

Pinpoint exact moments of friction and/or leverage in your customer journey

Utilize quantitative methods via surveys and other previously mentioned techniques to analyze customer sentiment – opinions and responses – as well as perspective at every stage of the journey. Keep in mind, each interaction a consumer can have with your brand, both passive and active, is a touchpoint and part of your overall brand journey. Therefore, every interaction must be diligently and continuously monitored, evaluated and iterated because one singular touchpoint can cultivate customer affinity or aversion.

Pair quantitative customer sentiment with a qualitative understanding of the user journey

Pairing qualitative and qualitative data

Quantifying the customer journey creates a data-driven understanding of the critical inflection points that drive loyalty and churn. This naturally illuminates root causes of friction (or conversion!) and enable teams to be data-driven in problem solving and planning for future CX initiatives and investments.

How To Use Qualitative & Quantitative Data To Decide on Next Steps

At Tallwave, we create an ‘Impact Matrix’ – this tool highlights opportunities for improvement and compares the impact they’ll each have against the level of effort and investment they’ll require. This helps create alignment and buy-in for low-risk, high impact initiatives that are critical to shaping and improving the customer experience.

 

Find a similar exercise or tool to visually demonstrate all the opportunities that lie ahead and inform the build of a new strategic roadmap that can take your teams and company into the future.

 

Perhaps most importantly, don’t let perfection get in the way of progress! Making big system changes to your end-to-end user experience may take time, but avoid trying to solve it all at once. Identifying the biggest opportunities and making incremental improvements over time, while learning along the way, will make a huge difference.

 

Last but not least, don’t stop. This isn’t a “set it and forget it” game. Customer behavior – be it with an existing website, application or with a brand across numerous touchpoints – must be closely monitored to ensure both user and business goals are consistently met. If they’re not, all teams – Content Strategy, Product Development, People & Culture, Performance Marketing – must align to identify solutions for evolution and continue growth.

 

Also read: Why Customer Experience Can’t Be All Data-Driven

Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress! Identifying the biggest opportunities and making incremental improvements over time, while learning along the way, will make a huge difference.

Bottom Line

Let data be your guide. Qualitative input is key, especially early on, but also leverage quantitative data as much as possible to make decisions. The combination of qualitative and quantitative helps you identify where there is friction, but also gives you the context you need to develop solutions that hit the mark. And if you don’t have the right data infrastructure set up today, that’s a good place to start.

If you need help collecting, comparing and mapping your qualitative and quantitative data to improve your customer journey and overall experience, contact our team today!

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