The big data, analytics and UX love affair

Big data and analytics alone are not enough to win significant competitive advantage - Leslie Fountain explores why.

Last month I met with Wyndham Lewis of Equimedia, Julian Hirst CEO Tobias and Tobias, James McAllister from VCCP Content, and Jonathan Hey from Nutmeg for a breakfast chat about user experience strategy and big data, here’s some of what we discussed.

Data and analytics

Big data and analytics is still front of mind for C-level executives with CTOs heavily investing in data, social and mobile/cloud. But, if it’s competitive advantage they’re after, data alone will not give them what they yearn for. But what do we mean when we talk about ‘data’? In the digital world, ‘data’ refers to the numbers that represent what people are doing online. Web analytics and surveys for example, can tell us what people have done and what they say they will do, but it does not give a full picture.

As Julian so aptly put it: “using only data is like driving the car forwards by only looking in the rear view mirror”. We are unable to see the expressions of joy (or frustration) when taking their new tablet out of the box, nor do we see the people, remote controls and devices they interact with when using their TV. To understand human behaviour, motivations and emotional triggers, you need to understand the full context. It is this insight that will help us uncover opportunities for innovation.

Big data + insight = competitive advantage

To help us look forward, we in the experience design business use qualitative and contextual data to identify moments in people’s lives where organisations can provide new propositions or new experiences; moments for innovation. Understanding motivations, emotional triggers and context means we can create more personal and engaging experiences. Businesses need to use this research to spot opportunities in their customers’ lives to build deeper, more meaningful relationships and solve their problems in a simple way – this is where the advantage lies.

I am not saying that you should only use qualitative and design research alone either. In fact, to really create competitive advantage you need a variety of sources of evidence, along with a committed and focused executive to build lasting and valuable customer relationships. Quantitative data and analytics are useful to help fine tune design and delivery.

We all agreed that a hygiene level of user experience is needed to improve conversions. The best way to inform quick wins for optimising websites starts with reviewing analytics data. This focuses efforts when planning user testing, which we follow up by measuring the effects of these quick-win updates to the site. Most organisations understand the benefits of optimisation and the role user experience can play within analytics.

However, when we start looking at measures of customer loyalty such as the net promoter score (NPS) and their relationship to competitive advantage, organisations are missing a trick. One example is the relativity of NPS. In Jonathan’s world, investment decisions are not necessarily something you want to recommend to a friend due to the potential impact on your relationship; Nutmeg provides individuals with the tools to build and manage their own investment portfolio. Some argue for sensitive topics NPS can be a good measurement tool because it is personal – the more sensitive, the greater the importance of peer recommendation.

But you do need to know how to measure it and what good looks like in your sector. Different industry sectors have different NPS bands so it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a low score if it’s in line (or above) industry competitors. But what it doesn’t tell you is how or where to focus your attention to improve this score. User experience research can uncover the levers and dials that will positively impact upon customer loyalty. Thereby working collaboratively with design researchers, UX measurement and analytics we can identify opportunities for competitive advantage.

User experience strategy

Businesses face a number of barriers to adopting this inclusive approach to data including information overload, lack of resources and skills, business silos and being too heavily focused on the tech.

We have to break down the silos that are preventing us from delivering better customer experiences. Data is meaningless without questions to answer and design is theoretical without insight and context.

Wyndham Lewis Equimedia Business Development Director

Here are our tips for overcoming this inertia:

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