It is widely understood that a good User Experience (UX) is essential to commercial success, and industry figures show that 40% of regular shoppers claim to have started shopping with a new brand simply because it had a superior reputation for its shopping experience. But that perception is increasingly coloured by experiences that span all the channels, both online and offline, according to Matt Clark, head of user experience (UX) at Amaze. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

However, consistent UX across a brand's proliferating consumer touchpoints remains a surprisingly infrequent pleasure. Usually, this is because of a lack of strategic perspective and a disconnect between senior managers and those who are responsible for delivering UX services.

In a 2013 E-Consultancy report on UX within the enterprise, 74% of participants stated that UX was an important commercial consideration. Only 12% said they had the full engagement and support from senior management. Additionally, it is still common to equate the role of UX with a single property, usually your website. This narrows brands' horizons, as brands must actually build UX into every channel in order to attain a consistent and coherent experience.

Clearly a strategic dimension is required in our approach to user experience. So what is to be understood by the phrase "User Experience Strategy"?

'Experience' is an inherently strategic construct. It encapsulates both a moment's lifetime and a lifetime of moments. It spans every form of encounter, real and virtual, as well as all instances of contact between brand and consumer. It also shapes a brand's reputation in the widest sense.

There is a sweet spot in the relationship between any business and any consumer, where both interests coincide. It is this happy little spot that UX Strategy focuses on - and seeks to grow. Improving UX in a wide-angle, coherent, consistent manner, expands the territory in which the goals of the consumer and the commercial imperatives of the business align.

UX Strategy enables this: it sets your organisation on a path along which you continually bring all user touchpoints into focus and manage them to the point of optimal impact.

Developing a UX Strategy is fundamentally no different to developing any kind of strategy. You start by articulating your current state, you decide upon your intended direction, then you set a prioritised plan of action to get there and decide how you will measure your progress.

Six elements for a Great User Experience
Focus on the following six key elements when considering a UX Strategy:

  1. The Big Picture
    UX strategists need to look at the big picture. That's obvious, but it's important that this is front of mind throughout. It will shape how you approach this, right down to who in your organisation you entrust this task to. The approach itself is also dependent on that 'helicopter view' - the key to making a successful start in creating a UX Strategy is to have the altitude to look for patterns, for the gaps and opportunities.
  2. Looking at your organisation inside and out
    Be careful to maintain that wide focus when taking a view of all the people who influence the experience you provide your users. Look inside and out - not everything that impacts on your user experience is in your direct domain, under your control. Map it all out and create an all-encompassing picture of the touch points and influencing agents.
  3. Ensuring it is evidence driven
    The third element of the approach to UX Strategy is an absolute commitment to evidence and to research. Far too many initiatives in this field start with long-term members of a team convincing themselves that, because this is what they do for a living, they know their users and their markets - and that the collective intuition that exists in-house is a good enough starting point. Nine times out of ten, it's not. In fact, it's usually actively harmful, because if you rely on that collective intuition you may end up tramlining your thinking from the outset. Failing to step back and plan rigorous and perceptive research initiatives is an enormously regressive way of starting something like this.
  4. Identify opportunities to win
    This is all about understanding your competitor landscape. A UX Strategy, just like any other strategy, exists to get the most out of your capabilities, so you may maximise your advantage over competitors and their capabilities. Even if this is something you already do with some regularity, do make it an explicit part of your research and your evidence gathering for this strategic exercise.
  5. Ensure it is well governed
    We've already addressed the importance of senior focus and executive sponsorship for the development of a UX Strategy; that extends into you being able to make the organisational changes required to ensure that the strategy is correctly implemented and managed.
  6. Identify any existing cultural dimensions
    One of the main reasons why UX Strategy fails is because it is being driven by small core of evangelists. A group of people who've bought into this, who get it and who just want to get on with it. Very often, that group of people isn't actually in tune with the business around them. They can't succeed if they're trying to do something that has no roots in the way your business thinks and acts.

The customer experience all about the proliferation of touchpoints in which you need to be effective in order to win. Research has shown that for every user that comes into contact with you and decides to continue, eight will walk away. Furthermore, it's about escalating expectations. In the UK, 70% of all retail sales are made to just 18% of shoppers. That means the majority of your sales depend on an incredibly experienced and demanding minority of shoppers.

Shoppers that absolutely expect that personal, relevant, consistent, connected experience And UX design is key to delivering success. It is clearly time to get UX up to that strategic level so that it can help deliver success in an increasingly challenging environment.