Put customers at the center of

The secret power of digital experiences is the opportunity they create for brands to forge a new kind of relationship with their customers—one that’s deeper, more informed, more personal and constantly connected.

The challenge is doing it well. Customers expect more. They want brands to know and remember them. They demand access to information, products, and problem solving 24/7. And, they never — ever — want to wait. That’s why good design always starts and ends with the .  “Design isn’t about what designers create, it’s about what they enable the to achieve,” says Brian Collins, CEO/chief creative officer of COLLINS, a brand design firm.

Another fundamental truth? With digital transformation happening everywhere, the options customers have for interacting with brands have radically expanded. There’s a growing surface area of touchpoints that every brand needs to engage with.

“They’re accessing content from Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, on the web, through email, and through small videos,” notes Richard Ting, EVP and chief experience officer for R/GA. Design plays a key role in establishing a coherent, consistent, and engaging customer relationship across this increasingly fragmented landscape.

Design is also important for enabling interactivity and access in every aspect of a brand’s business. Customers expect two-way communication and real-time feedback with relevant information from people who represent the brand. Therefore, design must extend more deeply across the business and the customer-facing experience.  It needs to enable every employee in every part of the business to act with coordination and consistency in support of the customer.

“Every single interaction, across every single touchpoint, impacts the experience,” says Leland Maschmeyer, chief creative officer at Chobani. “It’s not just the researcher’s job to figure out what the customers’ needs are — it’s also the designers, the art directors, and the copywriters’ jobs to tap into that emotional need and to position the company to satisfy that need.”

A common challenge — designing for efficiency, pace, and scale

Placing customers at the center of design may sound like a simple cognitive shift. But the reality of meeting and exceeding customer expectations against the expanding surface of touchpoints in an always-on, always-accessible world is daunting. “There’s expectation on both the brand side and the customer side to have access both ways, 365 days a year. It has to be always on and always accessible,” says Elizabeth Kiehner, global design director for IBM.

It’s a challenge of pace, but also one of scale. Global brands need to engage customers and build relationships with tens of thousands of customers at a time. It takes massive amounts of data and content to engage each customer with personal and meaningful experiences at every step of the customer journey. Effective design needs to be efficient, as well as engaging.

The design leaders we spoke with outlined some common ground for tackling the challenge:

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