Pushing our buttons in a digital era

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Pushing our buttons in a digital era

As product standards continuously rise and differences become blurred, offering a high-quality item is no longer enough. Consumers now want a good “user experience” using a product. Their purchase decisions revolve around the potential enjoyment and pleasure of use, rather than a desire to own it. This is especially seen in the first generation of consumers who have grown up with digital devices.

A company’s value chain was once dictated by what resulted from its production cycle. The customer’s use of the product was solely an individual matter. Now, companies are beginning to influence the value chain after a purchase. They are taking advantage of mobile technology and social media to bridge users’ lives with the experience of using a product, regardless of time and location.

When designing a product to augment user experience, it is important to break the mold of simply providing convenience and fun that enhance users’ personal values. IT firms have succeeded in social networking services and video games by improving the convenience of interfaces and amusement aspects. But recent research has revealed that satisfaction declines as time spent on Facebook rises. Only when immersion results in long-term value, such as self-development, can happiness continue.

With successes such as the Bordeaux TV and Galaxy S3, among others under its belt, Samsung Electronics is developing products under its new design identity of Make It Meaningful. The S Health Buddy app, which integrates exercise and games using Galaxy S4 sensors, is an example of this endeavor.

The user experience value chain has three stages: acquiring the experience elements, immersion in the actual experience and realizing meaningful values through the experience. When someone buys athletic shoes, the purchase does not automatically lead to improving user value. Only when the buyer becomes absorbed in exercising and improving health do the shoes become a meaningful, personal experience.

The five implementation strategies that go hand in hand with the three stages are as follows.

One strategy is overcoming restrictions to an experience, such as time, space and matter, as well as interaction between users. Digital technology not only creates virtual experiences, it enhances real experiences. Virtual (or screen) golf is popular in Korea because it overcomes the time and price constraints of going to a golf course. And unlike driving ranges, where they have to practice alone, users are able to compete with friends on virtual golf courses, providing them with exercise and a chance to bond.

Another strategy is to introduce game elements, which can make daily routines more fun. Enjoyment is maximized when there are both emotional elements, such as art or a story, and scientific elements, such as technology. In particular, enjoyment is increased when the experience is new and unexpected, a strategy Volkswagen uses in its “Fun Theory” initiative. To encourage people to walk more, it turned a subway station staircase in Sweden into a digital piano keyboard that sounded a note on every step.

The third strategy is promptly responding to customers’ surrounding environments and circumstances. By utilizing mobile technology, the “when, where, how and with whom” of an experience can be tracked. This can facilitate offers of customized real-time services and contents that fit a user’s locale and needs. Google generates appropriate answers by deducing users’ specific intent from the search context. And its smartphone service, Google Now, analyzes users’ circumstances and provides suitable contents even before a search is initiated.

Fourth is measuring and giving meaning to user experience. In addition, the formation and expansion of user communities is encouraged. For this, a company depends on the domino effect, with the enthusiasm of their most persistent users attracting others. Huffington Post, an online news aggregator and blog, and online retailer Amazon conducted quantitative analyses on the clout of avid followers and revitalized user comments and reviews.

Lastly, experiences must be enhanced or new experiences developed by analyzing data from past behavior. Progressive, a U.S. auto insurance company tracks and analyzes driving patterns as a basis for discounts. Its efforts have reduced the number of accidents and increased its profits. In other words, Progressive has resolved the moral hazard that insurance companies face with irresponsible policy holders and improved driving habits.

As personal information leaks become more problematic, the trust of users is an indispensable component to the success of a digital experience. Therefore, companies must focus on establishing long-term trust and reliance and, through communication and cooperation with customers, create new and unique experiences.

*The author is research fellow at Samsung Economic Research Institute.

by Lee Sung-ho
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