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Anatomy of an Experience

In 1998 Pine and Gilmore coined the term “Experience Economy”. Today we can see that they were right – experiences are the driving force behind differentiation and business success. Technology, today more than ever, allows you to build products that deliver experiences in a consistent effective manner.

We all have been in environments where things were pushed on us. We don’t like it. Human beings have a need to be in control, to be autonomous. Today, technology is involved in many aspects of how we interact with businesses. Smart businesses are leveraging this fact and create differentiating technology experiences. However your customers don’t want to have technology push things on them any more then they want people to do this. Technology, like people, needs to pull you in. It needs to engage you and create experiences that pull you to loyalty and ultimately advocacy.

We want people to climb up the loyalty ladder. But the irony is that the more we try to force them up the ladder the more they will run away. We need to inspire them through great experiences that are specifically designed to meet the person where they are and are an accurate representation of your brand.

So what is an experience? An experience is unique to each person. It involves three concepts inside each person’s head: beliefs, leading to actions, leading to a result.

Experiences start with a belief. This belief is defined by the look and feel of the product, by what they have been told about it, about similar products they have experienced in the past and most importantly about past experiences with your product(s). The important thing in belief is different for each person based on their background, past experiences, biases and personality. These beliefs can be strongly held or weakly held. As a person moves up the loyalty ladder, their beliefs about your product and brand become more strongly held.

This belief leads the person to take action. They login. They register with a false name because they have received SPAM from another site. They provide an email address. The key is to define the actions you want users to do and make it easy for them to accomplish those actions.

Finally, the person gets a result. This result either supports or contradicts their belief. If that result is aligned with what you want them to do as well as their belief, then it is a micro experience that positively moves them up the loyalty ladder. For example, if a user registers and receives an email confirmation welcoming them and giving them access to your product, the result supports their belief.

Frustration can occur when a person’s beliefs don’t align with the results they get. For example, they try to login and are told their account isn’t supported, or they complete a form to get a download and after completing the form they cannot find the download, or the download isn’t what they were expecting. Frustration drives people down the loyalty ladder and unfortunately towards your competitor.

Today it is just a click for most of your users to find a competitor. This means you need to consciously design the experiences you want your users to take and continually monitor them so that you ensure they are working as designed. It is important to note that “designed” doesn’t mean forced or coerced; that isn’t effective. The design must support the user’s autonomy and help improve their ability to deliver results.

You need to start by understanding who uses your product. Define their profiles and try to understand what drives them towards their beliefs. While each person will have a different set of beliefs, there are broad categories that your target people have. Their beliefs are generally  driven by their “why”. Therefore, understanding users’ “why” drives much of the understanding of how they will interact with your product.

By being methodical and designing experiences that inspire, you can engage people and pull them up the loyalty ladder one experience at a time.

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