By: Chris Ditty, Creative Director

Looking back over the history of how we (High Level Marketing) create blog articles- online nuggets of information that are intended to be helpful to those researching a particular topic- I realized that our approach is similar to most other brands, companies, and organizations- informative, but not always personal.

Now, that’s not always a bad thing, as most of the people finding and reading our articles are looking for professional insight on the topics we choose to share our insights and thoughts about. That being said, in consideration of this article, “How UX is Evolving and Why It Matters to Your Business”, it occurred to me that one of the most critical aspects of how UX (User eXperience) is evolving is in delivering a more personalized ‘experience’ to our (and your) clients and customers.  

It’s no secret that the technology we rely on and use every day is evolving at a pace that’s almost impossible to keep up with! For many of us, we grew up in an era where phones were heavy, clunky metal shells with a rotary dial (or buttons, if you were lucky!) that were incredibly satisfying to slam down when hanging up on someone. Cell phones, social media and ‘apps’ simply didn’t exist. The experiences we had with big brands and local businesses was entirely personal. Whether in-person or over the phone, our interactions with everyone from an HVAC technician, Plumber or Roofer, to purchasing food and basic household goods were all ultimately done face-to-face with someone else.

What I’ve always found fascinating is that today’s technology arose as a means of making our lives easier, more productive, and for the most part, better all around. Ironically, the more technology continues to evolve, the more personally disconnected we all seem to become. Yes, you can always catch up with family and friends via a quick text, or shoot them an occasional message on any of the numerous social media channels there now are. Heck, we can now shop for everything from groceries and clothing to home goods and vehicles without ever having to formally speak to another human being, let alone interact with them in person! At the end of the day though, technology has fundamentally challenged and changed our ‘experiences’ with others.

So, Why Does This All Matter to You and Your Business?

For the last 30+ years, designers and engineers have struggled to make software and the devices they run on as easy and intuitive to use as their physical counterparts. Today, it’s now the reverse- physical experiences are struggling to catch up to digital. Right now, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is taking off- so much so that it is now changing the way people interact with their devices. As a result, this now means the way businesses interact with their target market (your target market) will have to evolve as well.

While many businesses, especially the majority of small businesses that make up the backbone of our economy, are struggling to simply be found online and maintain a respectable website that appeals to their target audience, the reality is that we’re looking at a not so distant future in which a touchless conversational interface becomes the norm.

Consider Apple’s new iPhone X, for example. It no longer requires pin codes or even a touch ID. iPhone X users can now simply look at their smartphone to turn it on. The less we use our screens, the more we’ll start to see them disappear as technology continues to evolve towards greater convenience and less clutter.

Today, there are now smart home ‘hubs’ like Alexa, which only require a simple verbal command to launch a personalized routine, like, “Alexa, good morning,” to turn on your living room lights, adjust your home’s temperature, brew your coffee and tune your TV to the morning news. There’s also Microsoft’s Cortana, who, just like any actual assistant, has a notebook (albeit a virtual one) to track what she knows about you to evolve and do her job of organizing your life and helping you access the information you need online, better.

Ready or not, the next evolution in technology- less action required from us humans and more independence on the part of machines- is here. And just in case you doubt that assertion, the reality is that we already have Siri, Google Assistant, Tay, Cortana, Alexa and the next generation of AI interfaces gaining more autonomy in an effort to continue making our lives ‘easier’.

Just two short years ago (in 2016), Google claimed that 20 percent of mobile queries were voice search. By 2020, it is predicted that half of all searches won’t require a screen at all.

How Conversational User Interfaces Are Changing the User Experience

As a business owner, stakeholder, or anyone else invested in the success of your business, the real question is, “where will customer expectations be thanks to the growth of voice-activated searches, and how will you meet these expectations?” Adjusting to this new technology is about more than just creating voice-friendly keywords- It’s about shifting the perspective on your customers’ UX.

While doing my due diligence and researching a variety of studies and resources on this topic, I came across a fantastic article in a recent issue of Adweek magazine that I felt did a stellar job of discussing the evolution of user experience. As a result, I wanted to share of a couple of excerpts exactly as they were written, as me trying to paraphrase them wouldn’t do them any justice…

“In an omnichannel world, the user experience starts long before customers put their hands on the product or download the app. It encompasses everything from advertising and website design to social media, retail displays, packing, [...] the help they receive from a salesperson, or a chatbot and the subject line on the emailed receipt.

‘When people think about Adidas [for example], they don’t think, ‘Here’s Adidas the shoe, here’s Adidas the box, here’s Adidas the app, here’s Adidas the retail experience, [...] they’re just thinking, “This is Adidas.”’

Managing all of that is an enormous challenge, and few brands are doing a consistently good job of it, says Kevin Kearney, VP of Product for global design firm Elephant.

‘Part of the reason is that brands have never had to manage so many touch points before, which often involves multiple internal teams and external agencies that, let’s be honest, aren’t always talking to each other,’ Kerney says. ‘We’re constantly coordinating across business units and asking questions like, “Is the team running the Facebook account handling support? Who’s determining the hashtag strategy on Instagram and what does that tie to? Why are the point-of-purchase screens in channel not aligned with what’s on the website’s product page, and why is that messaging completely disconnected from the current advertising campaign?”’

Another common problem with UX design is that brands put too much emphasis on visual elements and not enough on the experience they’re actually providing,’ says Andrew Hogan, Senior Analyst on Experience Design and Interfaces for Forrester Research.

‘They get really focused on User Interface (UI) design, like what color the buttons on the mobile app should be,’ Hogan says. ‘They don’t actually get at the deeper stuff, like whether this product is good or useful in any real way.’

In addition to all of that, keeping up with the frenetic pace of technological change is a challenge for everyone,’ says Jonathan Goldmacher, Managing Director for the New York office for Business Transformation firm Valtech.

‘So much of the space is continuing to evolve with things like voice, augmented and virtual reality, it’s difficult to say anybody is doing it amazingly,’ he says. ‘But they’re doing good jobs in parts of it.’"

From User Interface (UI) to Conversational Interface (CI)

While a typical user interface (UI) includes all of the visual elements that we interact with when communicating with a device- buttons, icons, pictures, etc., Conversational Interfaces (CI) refer to those interfaces that react and respond to human conversational language. In other words, rather than communicating with a device via traditional keyboard commands or clicking icons as most of us do now, we will be interacting with our devices as if we were speaking to another person.

Existing CI’s include chat-boxes, which involve typed communication, and voice assistants, which are the screenless, touchless variety that consumers are continuing to fall in love with. More importantly, Conversational Interfaces can work with any device, from traditional desktop computers to modern smartwatches. They can even connect ‘smart’ electronics like home security systems, lighting, and your TV. At the same time, they can also connect with any app or social media platform, as well as certain retail sites, as Amazon has now made possible through their Alexa-based devices.

At the end of the day, what this all means to us- as business owners trying to improve the overall experience with our brands- is that we need to be paying more attention to how our clients and customers are interacting with this technology.

A More Fluid and Audible UX

Again, whether we are ready for this evolution or not, Conversational Interfaces will continue to change the user experience in a variety of ways. The most important of which is that they are encouraging people to be more engaged with their devices, and they are ushering in a more hands-off experience- meaning voice, which is opening the proverbial doors for more audio-driven content.

Today’s consumers don’t just use; they RELY on their smartphones, smartwatches, and other devices to help facilitate their everyday life and work, from checking the weather to scheduling appointments. With voice assistants, all of this happens with a few words, versus having to tap a couple of icons, type, swipe, and/or push. This makes relying on our personal devices to get things done even more intuitive and easier than ever.

What this all boils down to is that the more consumers use voice AI to accomplish small tasks, the more businesses like us (and you!) are going to find innovative and useful ways to integrate our products or services into this new evolution of consumer-brand interaction, such as…

  • Ordering a product
  • Sending a customer service request
  • Upgrading software
  • Scheduling an appointment
  • Renewing a subscription
  • Listening to online reviews – having a voice assistant transcribe online reviews
  • Posting a video
  • Sharing a link

In terms of what this means to your digital marketing strategy, the shift to Conversational Interfaces will likely impact everything from content marketing to SEO. For example…

  • Instead of reading a blog post on a website, people may opt to listen to it being read by their voice assistant while driving to work. How will this change the way blogs are written?
  • Will podcasts take a more prominent content role as consumers grow accustomed to hands-off interaction? How will podcast content change to offer the more direct, to-the-point answers that consumers are looking for?
  • Will emails, like other written content, be listened to rather than read? Will Conversational Interfaces be able to sift through the content a user may find relevant, clearing their inboxes for them? How will this change email marketing?
  • Search will change even more. Keywords will need to be better aligned with voice search queries, and SEO strategies are necessarily going to evolve to be focused more on more concise answers to direct questions.

Tell Me Again Why This All Matters to Me and My Business

A positive user experience is also an emotional one. UX is not just about how things look and feel; it’s about how those details make your customers feel about your brand.

Delivering a more personal experience isn’t just about how we leverage technology- it’s about genuinely understanding our target market, caring about their needs and wants, and treating them the way they want to be treated. For all of us at HLM, and for me personally, this starts with taking a more ‘conversational’ approach in our writing. Hence me including my name as the author of this article and ‘talking’ to you directly throughout the entirety of it.

Whether you read this on a desktop or listened to it being read to you by Alexa or any of her friends, I hope that you will have learned something new while enjoying a positive experience with High Level Marketing!

How Do You Optimize Your Company’s Website For Conversational User Interfaces? Give HLM a Call!

Let’s face it, as technologies and the way people use them continue to evolve, successfully marketing your business in today’s world can be a monumental challenge.

At High Level Marketing, the sole purpose behind everything we do is empowering small business owners like you to leverage today’s technologies to best position your brand in front of the very people who are looking for the services you offer and more importantly, drive them to call YOU instead of your competitors.

We’ve worked with numerous businesses of almost every kind throughout the U.S. to develop effective websites and digital marketing strategies that drive traffic and convert leads! Check out our portfolio or contact us today for a FREE initial strategy session.

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