a #TheFutureByDesign feature. The power relationship between people and brands has forever changed because of social networks. This has created the move by brands to afford consumers greater visibility. The next phase of this power shift is experience and, if last year was the year of the consumer, then this year, and the next, will be all about experience.

Do you want a customer for life? One who will be loyal to your brand? Then make them feel good. There’s good science to back this up. Research from global consulting company, McKinsey shows: “70% of the buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.”

“Research shows that happy, satisfied customers are good for your bottom line, which is partly why user experience, or UX, has become such a big deal for brands,” says Dion Chang, the innovator and trend analyst who founded Flux Trends. “Positively affecting UX is a revenue generator, and creates real loyalty and understanding between brands and people.”

Chang explains that user experience (UX) has been a big deal in technology for a while now because it is so critical to constructing interfaces between people and the technology they use. “You won’t or shouldn’t notice good UX, and that is the whole point of elegant design. But you’ll definitely notice bad UX.” Chang explains how hundreds of decisions can go into simplifying the user interface of, for instance, a smartphone, so that the experience of using it is intuitive.

“Technology has grown up with UX because navigating how you interact with a tech product or service is critical to the brand – it is the brand. But real world brands are quickly catching up to the truism that experience is a massive differentiator, particularly in sectors where there’s a lot of parity,” Chang explains.

“UX will be the career of the future because we’re moving to a world of transhumanism, which is the merging of human and machine. This is going to drive the importance of design thinking. Look at the advances in wearable technology for instance, or the internet of things, we are moving to an era where design and human experience is inseparable,” he says.

“In the future we’ll have intelligent airports where your mobile will inform you where your parking space is, and whether your flight’s on time. You’ll hold up your phone and be guided through the airport for a seamless experience which will make travel more intuitive and enjoyable,” says Chang.

The paradox is that the world of metadata brings much more personalisation, greater service and insights that create more people-oriented brands, but this era of being constantly ‘tracked’ to deliver the holy grail of marketing can be unnerving for people who are protective about their privacy.

“There will need to be a compromise of sorts and people who are freaked out about privacy issues may choose to opt out. But we are increasingly living in a hyper-connected world where opting out could affect the level of service that consumers get,” Chang says.

The Flux Trends founder says the reason why UX is so important is because branding is moving into territory where products are secondary. “The rise and rise of social networking has made products secondary to service. People are busy and information-saturated, so part of the drive for better service will include how you communicate and speak to people. Empathy and listening are in, interruption and pushing products down people’s throats are obviously out,” says Chang who self-describes as a creative with his feet firmly planted on African soil, but global facing.

A recent study by revealed the relationship between customer experience and the brand. In the survey, people identified good service as the number one factor for impacting on a brand. 66% of people said they’d stop buying a brand after a bad experience. Data from CEI Survey shows that 86% of customers were willing to pay more for better service.

The Customers 2020 report by intelligence firm Walker Media declares that by 2020 customer experience will surpass price and product as a key brand differentiator. “UX sits at the epicentre of the future of branding, which means that customer intimacy and research is going to be what sets brands apart. Tomorrow’s winners will be those brands that listen and integrate learnings to become better at customer service all the time,” Chang explains. “And by listening I don’t mean merely hearing, but understanding what your customers want, and then giving it to them.”


Dion Chang is a visionary whose trends analysis firm – Flux Trends – specialises in tracking shifting social dynamics and understanding consumer mind-set. The focus is translating global trends to ensure relevance for South African business. Follow @dionchang on Twitter.

This feature first ran in The Future by Design, published by Ornico with as its official media partner. Read the full mag via Issuu or download the pdf (24MB).



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