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  • Christophe Cotin Valois

Customer Experience VS User Experience, a paradigm still poorly exploited by brands

Within the marketing and more generally the digital teams, the digital transformation seems to be at the heart of all conversations. We use and abuse buzzwords as if to prove that we are up to date with the latest trends on the subject. However, many people have not yet understood the mechanisms of the digital transformation we are experiencing.

One player stands out, however. Sometimes adored, sometimes hated, the fact remains that Amazon has revolutionised the business by understanding the user paradigm at the heart of this transformation.

Digital at the forefront of customer journeys

30 years ago, our purchases were dictated by TV commercials, the nearby shopping centre, a selection of city centre shops, our favourite brands, or simply the price deals offered by these 'touch points'. Some brands still operate in this archaic system to grow. However, today, the model is reversed, the consumer has a huge choice and immediate power of action thanks to their smartphone. The way we buy products/services has changed radically. We are well and truly in a digital-first era. Digital services have become our primary source of information and it is they that perform our daily tasks: weather, news, books, radio, shopping list, banking actions... To stay competitive in the new economy and move away from the marketing of the 90s, companies must make this painful digital transformation. No longer trying to be seen, nor to attract customers into their nets, but to be recommended because they offer a tangible advantage during the famous customer journey, by responding to their uses.


Jeff Bezos has said, "Amazon will be the most customer-focused company ever". Thus, the role of marketing would no longer be to find solutions to "sell products well" but rather to understand customers well to "imagine products that will sell well". These are the principles of modern marketing with market research, consumer surveys and CRM to learn how to "activate customers" to be present in their life cycles. But what is a customer?

In this instantaneous society, where new demands are being made, consumers are challenging brands beyond their products, in terms of performance and quality. Customers are no longer passive, they are actively seeking and it is becoming very complex to capture them because digital technology is changing the game. Our consumers have become users of brands. The experience is revealed in the interaction as much as in the product. In digital, brands have difficulty identifying users (visitors) as customers, they are not in their CRM database, they do not have "customer" status and are not considered as such because they are unknown to the system. I worked a few years ago with a very nice B2B retailer, a leading group, and during a study on a model of the agency, we came to the conclusion that the company was offering a very good experience to its customers thanks to the performance of the call centre, but that the digital prospects had a very bad digital experience. This brand had a good customer experience and a bad user experience.

Usability is the business

The major players in the digital economy have understood that the consumer is willing, volatile, hyper-connected and sometimes knows the products on the market better than their own salespeople. They know that when they are in contact with a user, (probably thanks to Google) they only have a few seconds to engage him because he is in a hurry, he has already opened 5 tabs by the time the page loads and he will consult them diagonally, between 2 SMS, probably on his smartphone.

The difficulty lies in fitting into these uses, and the associated paths... the latter are totally beyond the control of advertisers since this customer experience is in reality fragmented by a sum of experiences constituted by the search for information on products or services, with an abolition of the boundaries of time (e-commerce is 24/24) and space (having access to offers from the other side of the planet while remaining in one's natural language). Users want to consume differently, at their own pace, in an autonomous way. They use the on and off devices of brands as they wish. New players (disruptors) have tried to fill the gaps of the incumbents by surfing on this new paradigm. For example, the sharing economy models (Airbnb/La Ruche qui dit oui) provide answers through disintermediation. Millennials have grown up with these codes from the experience offered by the Gafa. And, let's not forget, this is the active generation with the greatest purchasing power in the history of marketing. The experience bar is high and these codes have changed traditional uses, such as Uber which is revolutionising urban mobility models.

User VS Consumer

Companies must seek and find their value proposition in order to be as customer-centric as possible and to respond in a user-centric situation. The value proposition is not the price, but the experience offered with the service. At Amazon, this lies in the promise of reliability (offer, price, delivery, returns), and loyalty bonuses (music, video games, films, etc.), whereas at Apple, quality and the feeling of community, for example, will be the primary focus. To obtain a high satisfaction rate, these brands measure their customer experience, particularly by carrying out UX tests and studies. Because they understand that a customer problem, if solved quickly, generates a higher satisfaction rate than no problem at all. And solving the problem in question often involves knowing how to help a user who is manipulating a system in search of an answer, whether it is a site or a call centre. The Amazon mindset is that a problem is not a problem, it is an opportunity.

The focus should be on the customer to identify the problem to be solved and on the user to find out how to solve it. Designing technical tools is not just about designing applications and procedures, it's about anticipating what people will do with them. It means understanding the framework of the use of objects, in the broadest sense of the term, including unpredictable, non-prescribed uses. It means finding a chance to fit into the uses of the targets because it is through the value of use that brands reveal themselves. Their offers are simple to understand, simple to buy and to consume (use). And any problem is simple to manage, any product simple to return, and any subscription simple to terminate.

A good, frustration-free, simple and smooth experience will leave a positive impression on the user and the brand will be positively impacted. Brands must therefore capitalise on the use-emotion-benefit relationship and rethink their offers as services that generate use value.

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