David Bain 00:00
How does UX fit into an enterprise marketing strategy - with Luke Hay.
David Bain 00:11
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Hey, it’s David. Where exactly does UX fit into your marketing strategy? In fact, is UX even an ongoing part of your marketing conversation? And if not, should it be? That's what we're going to be covering today with a UX consultant with nearly 20 years of industry experience across UX and analytics. He's the author of O'Reilly published Researching UX: Analytics, and Senior UX Researcher at the design transformation agency Clearleft. A warm welcome to the Strategic Marketing Show, Luke Hay.
Luke Hay 01:02
Hello, David. Nice to meet you.
David Bain 00:11
Hello, Luke. Well, thanks so much for coming on. You can find Luke over at lukehay.co.uk. That rhymes very nicely, Luke, I must say.
Luke Hay 01:13
It does, it rolls off the tongue.
David Bain 01:16
So Luke, as we start 2023, what does UX mean now and why does it really matter?
Luke Hay 01:25
There's a good, nice, easy question to start with. I guess to start right at the beginning, UX obviously stands for user experience and it's purely about how people use things. In the context of what we're going to be talking about, and what I do as a day job, that's digital products, mainly - so websites and apps and that side of things.
It's obviously evolved over time, particularly as technology evolves when we're looking at the digital landscape, so it's become increasingly important. Obviously, in the old days, people just used to put a website together and hope people would use it, and hope people could find it, but now there are so many other considerations. And, really, there's so much competition out there as well, that UX and how usable your website, your app, or your product is, can be a real differentiator for your company.
David Bain 02:16
Yeah, that's a great way to describe it. It's a real differentiator out there, there's more competition than there used to be, and it's a great way of standing out.
What about specifically to marketers? Why does UX matter specifically to them?
Luke Hay 02:32
It's a good question. I think it's something that's becoming increasingly important over time. Essentially, UX is a part of your brand. People often, particularly if you're an online-only company, that will more or less be your brand: how people engage with your website, how people use your website, how people use your app - whatever it might be. That, essentially, is how they perceive your brand. And obviously, there's a lot to do with that in terms of marketing. Brand and marketing go hand in hand, and I think, UX and brand do as well.
Also, it's really important, from a marketer’s point of view, to understand the audience - and that's even more so from a UX perspective. What I do, as a user researcher, is really start to understand people: how they think, what their needs are, what motivates them, that side of things. And, obviously, that kind of insight into your target audience is crucial for the marketing side of things as well.
David Bain 03:26
I'm just trying to think how this would be utilized, practically. How do you really incorporate UX as part of an ongoing marketing strategy?
Luke Hay 03:37
It's something that doesn't really happen enough, and something I'm trying to work towards and encourage people to do, really. I think it all comes down to that sort of shared knowledge.
From a user research perspective, again, I've got insights, I’ve got knowledge into an audience and what makes them tick and what they need. I can then share that with the marketing side of the company as well and we can discuss how that works in terms of the overall strategy. How do you reach these people? How do you talk to these people? What language are they using? What kind of things really motivate them? What are their needs?
Rather than just from a marketing angle, which is often: “How do we best sell our product?”, the UX side of things flips it on its head a bit and thinks about: “What do the users actually need? What do they want? And how can we deliver on that?”
I think that's where the two come together. In terms of practically, it really is just the two teams working more closely, I think. Again, I do user interviews, usability testing, that side of things, as part of my job, and I certainly always encourage marketers to join in on those, observe those sessions, and learn from that.
Also, from my point of view (and I think I'm going to speak for everyone who works in UX) but we're often guilty of not looking at that bigger overarching strategy - whether that's the business strategy or the marketing strategy. As UX, we can just focus on: make your website more usable and more of a great experience for the user. But, obviously, that needs to fit in with the company and its goals. You need to be looking at things from that side because, otherwise - you can have the best website in the world, but if there isn't a market for it, if there isn't traffic coming to that website (which obviously you're relying on the marketing team to deliver), then it's actually a bit of a wasted effort.
So, the two need to work closely together, understand how each other operates, and really have that really firm bond where we can both contribute to each other's success.
David Bain 05:37
You mentioned a couple of key elements of UX success there: user interviews and usability as well. It'd be good to dive into those areas and actually understand where those fit into the marketing cycle and how best to carry out those tasks.
So, maybe user interviews. At what stage should you carry out user interviews? And what kind of formats do you recommend?
Luke Hay 06:06
I'm gonna give the classic UX answer of “it depends”. It always depends, in terms of what you're trying to achieve. Whenever we're doing any user research, there's always an objective for that - and that might come from the marketing team. It might be a marketing objective: “We want to understand whether our product is going to resonate with our users.” or, if it's more of an evaluative usability test, it might be: “Is our website meeting the needs of our customers already?”
We’re going to start off from that objective which, again, could come from a marketing team. In terms of the user interviews themselves, it's really interesting how that is similar but different to market research. So market research, broadly speaking, is looking at big numbers; it's looking at sending out surveys, it's looking at interviewing, and not people in any real depth, but getting thousands of responses to survey questions. Whereas from the UX side of things, it's a much smaller group, but much more in-depth.
A user interview would probably be - for a website, for example – you’d talk to maybe five to 10 users (it might be more than that, but it wouldn't be huge numbers), and you'd go into much more detail. You would really try to get to the bottom of what they need because some people don't always think what they feel, they don't say what they do, and they don't do what they say. People are very bad at predicting their future behavior, for example.
From a UX point of view, we'd really try to avoid just asking people simple questions like, “Do you want to use an app?” We'd find out, “If you're using an app at the moment, how are you currently performing that task?” We'd really delve into that in a bit more detail.
David Bain 07:45
I've used the service UserTesting quite a bit in the past, where it records videos of people using your website or using your solution for the first time. That's great to have eyeballs on your site and direct feedback from people experiencing what you do for the first time. Because it's easy - as you run a business, as you operate within a marketing team - to look at a website that you've looked at 100 times before and not see it as how people see it for the first time.
Do you recommend a service like that (like UserTesting, like recording videos) or is there perhaps even a better way to do this?
Luke Hay 08:24
That's a great question. I think, yes, I'd recommend something like that, but what you get with UserTesting.com, in most cases, is unmoderated testing. As you say, you get basically sent a video back of someone doing something. And that can be really powerful, and that can be really interesting to see what they think, but actually, what we tend to do more on the UX side of things is moderated testing. Whether that’s user testing or usability testing, (there's an argument about that the exact terms to use), essentially, it's the same thing you get with UserTesting.com, but you'd be doing it live with someone over Zoom, for example.
And the advantage to that is you can then delve into those questions a bit more. You can actually ask “Why?”, you can really try and find out, again, that deeper rationale behind something. It's one thing to see someone going down the wrong path on your website - clicking on the wrong button, or whatever it might be on a video - but actually, it's obviously much more powerful if you can then say, “Why did you click there?”, “What made you go down that route?” Because then you can actually start to really identify where the problem is and then, of course, come up with a design solution to solve that.
But I think the final point on those, whether it's an unmoderated or moderated user test: the video side of things, as you say, is really powerful because you can play clips back. It's one thing for me to come to you and say, “Well, I don't think your website is great. I think there's this problem and that problem.” Then you can shrug and say, “Okay, fair enough”. But, if there's a real user - a potential customer of yours – saying it in their own words and voicing their own frustrations. That's really powerful, again, not only for the UX perspective but from a marketing angle as well. Those people have sent all this traffic to your website, and then people are just getting frustrated and they're having a horrible experience. It's about being aware of that, and then also doing what you can to improve it.
David Bain 10:10
So you're basically saying “use a user experience professional” as well?
Luke Hay 10:16
Absolutely, yes, definitely. Now, I would say that, but, (to sort of caveat that slightly) people can do it. It doesn't take an expert to do the basics of getting started with user testing. I wouldn't recommend doing your own user testing on your own website, because there are obviously going to be lots of biases that creep in. Even if you’re trying not to, you're going to be leading people, and you're going to be interpreting what they say in a certain way. So, it's always good to get some sort of third party involved.
But it's something that can be set up and run relatively quickly and relatively easily. Obviously, the more experienced the practitioner and the more detail you go into, the more insight you’re going to get back. But, if you're just getting started and you want to find out what you mentioned before about trying to get the initial reactions of how people are using the website - if you've not done that before, then using a tool like UserTesting.com is a good starting point for that.
David Bain 11:11
What about other software? Because I think many people, many marketers, have heard of things like heat maps and seeing what customers do on your website.
So, what about tools like Hotjar or Microsoft Clarity? Are they tools that every, certainly enterprise, business should be using?
Luke Hay 11:27
Yes, I think so. As long as they're done with the awareness that that's not the only thing they should be doing. And they're also not used to keep delving into and just really trying to find any sort of insight from it. They're really good tools to use alongside things like the user testing on one side, but also your analytics as well.
Marketers, I think, are very comfortable using analytics to look at the marketing stats: what channels are people coming from, possibly, and are they converting? But I think there's more they can do in the analytics space around monitoring user experience. So, seeing where people are exiting from the site - looking more at those journeys - navigation through the site, looking at internal search terms and that kind of thing, to really learn more about the users from the analytics.
For me, the Hotjar side of things sits somewhere in the middle of those. You might use your analytics to uncover a potential problem area, and you might then use Hotjar to delve a bit deeper into that and see, “What's actually happening within the page and are people scrolling?”, for example - which is a lot easier to see in something like Hotjar than your analytics.
But then it's super important to add the “Why” behind the “What”. The analytics and Hotjar will tell you what's happening, but you're going to need to talk to people. You're going to need to really understand, why they are doing what they're doing before you can actually understand how to fix the problem.
David Bain 12:47
That's a great set of tips there. So essentially: start off with the analytics to actually define where the drop-offs are, or the potential issues are in terms of why people aren't progressing through your site and through your sequence.
Once you've defined the potential area where the drop-offs are happening, then you can deploy Hotjar code or whatever tracking software you’re using to actually see what users are doing - and then have further conversations with people to actually understand, from their perspective, why it's happening.
Luke Hay 13:16
Exactly that, yeah. Nice summary there. There are other features of things like Hotjar as well and similar tools - things like the customer struggle score. Some of those tools have that, which kind of measures when people are clicking on pages and not getting anywhere, and things like form Analytics as well are really useful to see what's happening. You've got a form on your page, and you know people aren't completing it at the conversion rate you'd like well, what fields are they dropping out on?
Then, again, your form analytics will tell you that, but you'll probably need to speak to people to say, “Okay, people are dropping out at this password field. Why is that?” And then people might say, “Well, you're asking for a really complex password” or “I can never remember my passwords” or “I didn't want to actually sign up in this way. I just wanted to buy something.” There are plenty of reasons why they might be dropping at that point but, until you talk to them, until you observe them using it, then you're not really going to get the answers as to why.
David Bain 14:13
Now, all this sounds logical and good practice but, sometimes, if a lot of time or investment is required in order to deliver UX, it doesn't get the priority that it perhaps deserves.
So, how do you actually position UX as being more valuable and something that needs to be prioritized within a business? And, perhaps, how do you go about measuring the impact - the financial value - of UX?
Luke Hay 14:40
Yeah, I mean, that's an age-old question, really, which I think we're getting slightly better at answering from a UX perspective. It was always the thing that UX people would kind of go and do their own thing and they'd almost be on the user side whereas the marketers are on the business side - and it was almost like the two were competing in a way. But actually, I think, from both sides (again, as I touched on before): UX people need to see the value in marketing, they need to see, “Well, we need traffic to come to the website and we need people to understand what our product is.” There's a whole involvement from marketing that feeds into the UX side.
But, from a UX perspective, how we can sell that into the marketing? It's around a few things. Certainly, again, demonstrating those video clips from user interviews, and usability testing, and that kind of thing, can be a powerful tool. But also, there are arguments about design. There's this famous quote, “If you think good design’s expensive, you should see the cost of bad design.” That sums up quite nicely for me that actually, yes, you need to focus and spend time. You need to understand your user and build something for them because if you don't - if you take the opposite route and you just build something that's nice and shiny and reflects what you think the brand should be - it's just not going to work. It's not going to resonate with people and you're not going to be a successful business, really, unless you're investing in UX.
There isn't a business out there that is successful that isn't investing in UX in some ways. It's just about making sure that that's been done in the right way, and that it’s given the respect it deserves. But also, as you say, it's bringing UX and marketing closer together, which is something I definitely want to see more of.
David Bain 16:21
In terms of a case study, you say that Airbnb is probably the most common example of good UX for good reason. So, why is that a good reason?
Luke Hay 16:29
It's difficult to think of a good user choice because there are so many different types of user experiences and there are so many different websites out there. I bring up Airbnb, mainly because it stands out from some of its competitors. There are people like Booking.com, for example, that are focused much more on the data-driven side of things, much more on the marketing and the advertising, but not so much on the brand and the overall experience.
If you go to those two websites - you go to Booking.com or you go to Airbnb - they both have a very different feel to them. Airbnb really sells the experience, and the experience in this case being a holiday somewhere. It's showing beautiful pictures, it's showing these inspirational ideas of where you might want to go and what you might want to do. Whereas something like Booking.com is much more functional. It's sort of a big search box of, “Where do you want to go?” “How many nights?” that kind of thing. Although it's usable, arguably, it doesn't have the experience Airbnb does - which, again, is very closely linked with the brand side of things.
Yeah, it’s just a really nice, neat way of doing something that stands out – which, from a marketing angle, you need. You need to be standing out and not fitting in, but also it’s easy to use and it still does what the user needs it to do.
David Bain 17:48
So, let's move on from what works now to planning for the future. In your opinion, what's the biggest marketing trend or challenge for marketers over the coming year?
Luke Hay 17:58
I think I'm gonna go back to the previous point, really, about working more closely with UXers. I don't know yet, and time will tell, whether that is a challenge or a trend. I'm hoping it becomes a trend, certainly it can be a challenge at the moment. But I think, from both sides, marketers need to think more about their users, they need to think more about the needs, and they need to think more about the insight that they can get from working with UX teams - from working with user researchers, working with UX designers - and really learning more and understanding more about your users.
And on the flip side of that, I think UX people need to have more value in terms of the marketing side of things. We need to be, perhaps, more commercially-minded as well as being user-focused, and we need to be thinking, “Okay, how can we fit in with the business strategy with the marketing strategy?” and “How can we give the marketing teams what they need in terms of those user insights?” That, for me, is the biggest challenge - and hopefully will become the biggest trend - with that more direct crossover between UX and marketing.
David Bain 19:07
I've been your host, David Bain. You can find Luke over at lukehay.co.uk. Luke, thanks so much for being on the Strategic Marketing Show.
Luke Hay 19:14
Thanks a lot, David.
David Bain 19:16
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