Yesterday your customers loved Facebook, but now they love Snapchat, too. How do you make sure your products and experiences adapt to your customers' changing habits, especially when your customers live all over the digital world? The question arose recently when BeyondCurious CTO Vishal Agarwal and I were interviewed for a recently published Gigaom report, “Enticing The Everywhere Customer.” When asked about Customer Journey mapping (a tool in which a brand literally creates a map of its customers' touch points with the brand), I was quoted as saying, “I think less about taking a flat snapshot of a customer’s journey and more about creating a living story that morphs along with the customer’s experience. I added, “You need to be able to adapt when you discover that your customers are using Snapchat to look at branded content that disappears.”
How does a brand “create a living story” to inform product development? And how should brands be thinking about understanding their customers in a constantly evolving landscape? The answer resides in using fresh approaches to research your customers' journeys. Here are five approaches we use at BeyondCurious:
1) Go Where Your Users Are
Your potential customers are everywhere—on social networks, browsing digital media, and in brick-and-mortar stores. So when we do research, we go where the users are. If we are researching how customers use their mobile devices to showroom while in a brick-and-mortar store, we conduct the study in that setting with those customers. We do research with “everywhere customers” in their natural contexts, wherever that may be (in store, on line, at home, at work) because context informs their behaviors and needs.
2) Take a Targeted Approach
Customer journey maps are great when you have a fairly static, well-established customer experience. But when the journey is dynamic, interactive, and evolving, as is the case with new products and emerging experiences, the research needs to be laser-focused in order to be successful. Rather than attempting to map the whole known universe, we pick key routes, focusing on a single branch of a customer experience and understanding it deeply, then moving on to the next one.
3) Conduct Agile Research
The digital product development cycle moves at an incredibly fast pace. In response, we have adapted our approach and work in two-week sprints in order to make sure we're always on the right track. By focusing in this way, we eliminate inertia and bloat and maintain agility and adaptability in the process.
4) Be Ready to Pivot
Agile research allows us to pivot quickly. Two-week sprints enable us to react in real time to insights that the research has revealed, rather than having a key discovery two months into the project. Our research is iterative; so we are constantly testing new hypotheses, designs, platforms, or user routes and incorporating any learning. We divide research into manageable chunks, and keep our findings focused so that we don't get lost chasing needless data.
5) Go Deep
In spite of the fact that research is broken down into small chunks, our agile research approach allows us to go deep. Successive micro-research inquiries build on one another, resulting in in-depth knowledge of the user, the product, and the business. Additionally, we analyze both quantitative and qualitative data to understand the depth and breadth of a problem. Analyzing quantitative/qualitative data can mean identifying areas of inquiry with big data, then doing qualitative research to dig into the problem. Or relying on a quantitative/qualitative approach can mean testing qualitative insights for statistical relevance.
By implementing these five strategies, the BeyondCurious research team makes tangible improvements without delaying product development, working in a loop of continual improvement. We are constantly feeding research insights into the product development process -— testing, learning, pivoting, and refining along the way.