Popping the Question: Getting to Engagement, Part 3

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We joined Forrester Research for its 2008 Marketing Forum. This article is the third in our series from the forum focused on customer engagement in a digital media world.

Garbage Disposal

In part 3 of Popping the Question: Getting to Engagement we take on the issue of how to design for engagement. Two presenters at the conference provided us with a couple of frameworks for how to design for engagement.

Aaron OppenheimerIn the first session, Aaron Oppenheimer, from Continuum, introduced the concept of “resonance testing”. They figured out that clients were too often measuring the wrong thing at the wrong time. Aaron argues that the product that tells the story best wins. He says that what he calls resonance design defers the design decisions until we know what works. In a word, wait. Wait until you know what’s going to work.

He suggests the following process:

Find the story

  • Figure out what the consumer needs to hear to make a connection

Try the story

  • Model the system in different ways because the context is a large part of the emotional design

Test the story

  • Find out what works

Tell the story

  • Build the product

Aaron provided an example of resonance testing that was used for designing and marketing garbage disposer units. The question is why should someone spend more on the most expensive versus the cheapest one? Horsepower means nothing to consumers and warranties don’t work as customers think all the units will last for ever.

They identified two needs segments:

  • quick, unobtrusive clean up;
  • eats everything

They then gave potential customers pictures of designs and let them place the designs along a spectrum, where the spectrum was defined by cartoon images of people and the use case. The potential customers then placed the pictures closest to where they thought the product fit relative to the following statements: does a good job for the person who wants quick clean up, does better for the person that wants it to eat everything, does both.

They then identify what about the design signals meaning to customers? Specific attributes were identified and linked to what they mean. Size, texture, look etc all have meaning that can be used to tell different stories.

Once they understood the language of garbage disposal design attributes, they could then design products that would convey the story in the retail environment.

The same principles can be applied to just about any design process. Setting clear objectives up front, finding stories that work to convey those messages, testing the story before designing, finding the specific design elements that convey the story and then translating that into final design is a process we all can learn from.

Ron RowgoskiIn the second session, Ron Rogowski, a principal analyst at Forrester, spoke about how to create engaging online experiences. His focus was on how to make your site more engaging. He tells the story of his wife getting an ultrasound, they found a cyst, called a CCAM (congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation), in the babies lung during the ultrasound. The doctors gave them some information, but he quickly went to Google and searched for the term and found a special treatment center at UCSF.

The treatment center has a website with videos of doctors talking about the disease and the treatment procedures. Ron played one of the videos where the doctors speaking about fetal intervention. He says he got more out of 8 minutes on the site than he had from hours of research elsewhere.

Ron found the videos to be very engaging. The site had the three key elements of engagement built. The videos were useful, usable and desirable.

The online engagement imperative is based upon the expanded ability to do new things with your customers and differentiate from others.

Engagement is hard to define and measure. It can be very subjective. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what was engaging about an experience. The means of engagement depend on the company and the audience.

With an engaging design, the focus is on what’s there, not on how to make sense of what’s there. There is an incentive to explore and there is a visual and operational appeal.

Functional elements of the site can be combined with branding efforts to create engaging experiences. Ron points to engaging examples that include Mini USA’s car configuration tool, Google Maps, Zillow.com. He points to Blue Nile’s build your own ring application which mimics what customers were doing with data to select rings as an engaging site. Nike is another site that’s engaging. The site allows you to set individual goals and make challenges to others.

Ron highlights Panasonic’s site that allows you check out how a TV will look in your own room by uploading pictures of your living room and then dragging a picture of different TVs onto the picture.

EarthLiveDiscovery Channel’s EarthLive is another site with an engaging experience. They use a movable globe as a navigation tool for users to find content.

Humana One’s Plan Pointer application to help guide people to health plans based upon only questions. The application is useful, easy to use and provides a rich UI for the user.

The New York Times pop-art quiz as creating engaging experiences around their stories.

NetShop’s built an application Shop Together. It allows two people to shop together. One person can see what the other person is looking at. They can look at the same page and chat about the page.

Jeep has lots of content about off road driving and a Jeep community.

History.com has an interactive universe application that explains the planets.

How to create and measure these engaging experiences?

Ron’s framework of useful, usable and desirable is the guide for making engaging experiences.

Tools of engagement

  • Useful: Design personas to uncover latent user needs through ethnographic research.
  • Usable: Embrace a user centered design process that follows known usability practices and test for flaws.
  • Desirable: Brand personas to allow your brand to shine through.

Ron’s Recommendations

  • Uncover latent needs through ethnographic research
  • Define interaction paradigms consistent with brand
  • Engage agencies early in the process
  • Conduct user and brand reviews before (and after) going live

Links to the rest of this series:

See more about the Forrester Marketing event at Digital Podcast and at Jeremiah Owyang’s blog.

[tags]design, engagement, marketing, Forrester[/tags]

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