UI16: The Business Case for UX

by November 9, 2011

At the User Interface 16 Conference in Boston, Brandon Schauer outlined where user experience professionals should apply their efforts in order to have a measurable impact in their organizations. Here are my notes from his The Business Case for (or Against) UX presentation:

  • There is no reason for a company to support a great experience unless it makes money. If there is no economic incentive, it either can’t exist (unsustainable) or it’s art.
  • Tesco (grocery chain in South Korea) wanted to sell more without investing in lots of new real estate. They created a display wall of grocery items that allowed people to use smartphones to interact with a set of QR codes for products, when scanned and purchased those products would be delivered to their homes.
  • This experience is a number of attributes that make it worth investing in: Integrated and scalable. It’s useful & it works. A few technical touch points. Low risk, big learning. Those are the business reasons behind the experience.
  • User experience needs to be sold to business owners so they can invest. It can’t just focus on the end customer.
  • 95% of companies say they are customer focused, 80% say they deliver a superior experience. But only 8% of customers agree these companies deliver super experiences.
  • Most companies start with their systems, on which they build processes, which turn into touch-points, interactions, and finally an experience. In the customer’s mind, the experience is the product.

Why Invest in Experience?

  • All customer experiences can be modeled as a funnel: awareness to entry to engagement to action. Traditional ad spends are used to drive awareness but fade quickly. Digital user experiences are highly measurable and long-lasting.
  • Currently traditional ad spends are estimated at $28 billion and digital user experiences are estimated at $250 million (in 2008). This seems like the wrong ratio.
  • Service anticipation gap: the loss of future potential revenues and wasted ad spend when a service doesn’t meet or exceed the expectations set with the customer. This can be overcome by customer acquisition and adoption rates.
  • Capture lost revenue from the service anticipation gap by applying a portion of ad spends on the optimization and creation of a service. This is the business case for user experience.
  • Ascending critical factors of UX: value, systematic, adoptable, measured, and lean.
  • Value: how we interact with people can change the economics of a business. If we don’t get the economics right we waste time and credibility pushing for experiences that simply can’t be supported.
  • Systematic: need to understand how the system works.
  • Adoptable: people adopt new things for five reasons. Relative advantage: is it better than what I use now. Compatibility: does it work with what I have now? Complexity: is the time required to figure out how to use it extensive? Trial-ability: can I try it out before I commit to it? Observability: can I watch someone else use it to know what it’s good for?
  • Measured: don’t try to solve every problem focus instead on a few sensible touch points.
  • Lean: low risk, big learning. Build, measure, learn. How efficiently can we get to learning?
  • Know the initiative: what is the project being asked to do? What existing capabilities do you have and what capabilities do you need? What existing customers to do you have and what new ones do you need?


  • Propositions: define how to introduce the service; why to pay attention. Propositions convey to customers why they should engage. They can be found and honed through strategy prototypes.
  • Return on behavior: what is the value of a customer engaging in a desired behavior? We can tie behaviors to financial returns. Look at opportunity and how it maps to behaviors and their expected value. We can build strategies and design to improve the return on behavior.
  • Peaks: the memorable moment in an experience matching organizational strengths with customer needs. We don’t remember an entire experience we remember the peaks, troughs, and ends. You don’t want an evenly good experience, instead embellish what you do really well. Find what you do better than others.
  • Journeys: the experience of the customer from their perspective. Think about all the steps they go through as part of their experience with an organization.
  • Blueprints: how is the experience supported by systems and people across time? Can include high and low points, ongoing maintenance, and more.
  • Principles: how do we make sure all our interactions align with the brand promise of a service? Principles are the guidelines for the interaction of a service.
  • Ramps: helping customers transition to adoption and new behaviors. Why people adopt new things hasn’t changed and won’t change. Need to understand where people fall down during the flow.
  • Evidence: show customers that the experience is measurably better.
  • Know the business, know the initiative, and know the right tool.
  • How much are people losing because of the service anticipation gap? Take a small portion of that spend and move it to the optimization and creation of new services. Create a little less awareness but more throughput. Know the business strategy and connect to it. Know the value of your initiative. Pick the right tools to make your case.
  • Don’t confuse being passionate with being right. Pick the right places to invest time and effort in order to drive better UX.