The connection between user experience and brand loyalty

I recently attended a brand presentation where the video below was shown. It’s pretty funny, and also a perfect example of how interactive products and consumer-generated content should fundamentally change our traditional views of customer loyalty. Loyalty in our current environment is fostered through repeated great (user) experiences, not just through advertising and coupons.

But even though I like the general point the video is trying to make, I think it stops a little short of the real issue. It is saying that we should listen to our customers better. But that’s not enough — we need to understand customers in ways they don’t even understand themselves, and then build experiences that meet unmet (and sometimes unconscious) needs through repeated, positive experiences that deepen the customer-company relationship.

Uncovering these needs happens not just through “Voice of the Customer” research programs, but also through more contextual research efforts like ethnography and contextual inquiries (combined with validating quantitative research). I believe this is where traditional Market Research programs like NPS (Net Promoter Score) only tell a part of the full brand loyalty story (albeit an important part, for sure).  There is evidence that the tide is turning on this topic as the field of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) becomes more mainstream and user experience research techniques become more accessible.

There is a powerful synergy in discovering how to deepen true customer loyalty through collaborative efforts between Market Research and User Experience Research, and we need to bring these two disciplines closer together (this view is also very much in line with the thinking described in the excellent Adaptive Path essay The Long Wow).