What's my prediction for the big thing in loyalty in 2013? Two words...
Increasingly the way we do things has changed. Smartphones have enabled us to find "an app for that" and those apps are getting better and more easy to use with every release.
This is not just about design or how it looks - it's truly about the overall interaction.
Yahoo get this. When recently hiring ex-Google team member Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! co-founder David Filo said
"Marissa is a well-known, visionary leader in user experience and product design and one of Silicon Valley's most exciting strategists in technology development" going on to say "[the appointment] signals a renewed focus on product innovation to drive user experience and advertising revenue for one of the world's largest consumer Internet brands"
Microsoft also get this with the recent release of their Metro interface across platforms for Windows 8 showing how user experience is now front and centre of their operating systems.
Although Apple is lauded for it's hardware design, any user of it's software knows that this design doesn't always flow through everything they do. Indeed, Bill Flora, one of the designers on the early prototypes for the Microsoft Metro interface is quoted as saying:-
"I have found their hardware to be amazing and sophisticated, and I have found their software to be kind of old school"
Apple know this and with the recent shake-up, Jony Ive, the man behind the iMac, iPhone and IPad hardware will now also be looking after human interface design and you can bet that's going to give a real shake-up to the overall iOS user experience.
A designer working at apple is quoted as saying:-
"You can be sure that the next generation of iOS and OS X will have Jony’s industrial design aesthetic all over them"
User experience is important in all interactions, it's not just about online or digital experiences. Take a look at the humble POS receipt below and how this has been reimagined both visually and for the enhancements it makes to the overall user experience:-
Created by design consultancy BERG, this is a great example of how an everyday customer interaction can be completely transformed.
Earlier in 2012, Kickstarter project Mail Pilot successfully secured their funding from over 1,600 backers for their redesign of email claiming "Email is in need of a fresh start. A redesign from the ground up.. [Mail Pilot] intuitively works the way you've always wanted to use email"
This is the real essence of user experience design, creating interactions and user experiences based on what users and customers want to do and making that easier for them.
Within loyalty, when we talk about terms like gamification and how these are changing the face of loyalty, most commentary is about the mechanics. However what gamification is really doing is improving the user experience. It's making loyalty programmes more responsive, giving users feedback on what they've done, what other users like them have done and providing easy to interpret pointers about what to do next.
We increasingly rely on real-time feedback to understand when something has happened, whether thats a button depressing when clicked or a screen moving when dragged. If we didn't see things change in real-time with our actions and gestures we'd be unsure as to whether the application had interpreted our request and may try again. Either way, if we didn't get feedback we'd eventually just give up.
The same is true within our marketing programmes. Increasingly the user experience is what sets us apart from competitors. Making things easy, engaging, responsive, fun and useful is critical.
This is something i'd previously spoken about back in September when looking at how Pinterest was creating loyalty and longer engagement through immersive discovery and basically, a great user experience. It's also something that we're increasingly seeing creep into B2B interactions as evidenced by CBA with their Pi payments solution.
One of the clear leaders in this area last year however has to be PayPal and their re-imagining of how customers interact with money and the development of a solution for the PayPal Digital Wallet that works the way customers think, not the way banks do.
I think 2013 is when we'll see the real battle lines being drawn based on user experience and how this sets the leaders apart from the laggards.