Insight: The intersection of UX and loyalty

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By: RickFerguson |

Posted on April 25, 2017

Experience design (or "UX" in the parlance of code jockeys) is an oft-unheralded and yet critically important component of building customer engagement and loyalty. Whether you're providing a frictionless experience on web or mobile, providing a smooth, seamless, and motivating user experience can accomplish just as much to motivate incremental behavior as traditional recognition and reward strategies. Over at, contributor Paul van Oijen highlights growing importance of customer data to effective UX design to meet customer needs even before they think of them. Welcome to the world of Anticipatory Design - which looks an awful lot like loyalty marketing.
By Rick Ferguson
Anticipatory Design focuses on the intersection of traditional UX design, machine learning, and the Internet of Things to create digital experiences that leverage data to anticipate and meet customer needs in real time. Van Oijen uses a recent Berlin restaurant trip to illustrate anticipatory design in action: he books a restaurant on Open Table, and then his Android phone guides his journey to the restaurant by buzzing him with a reservation confirmation, informing him of the distance and time to to the restaurant, and suggesting an Uber ride to get him there.
In essence, as Van Oijen's colleague Joel van Bodegraven points out, these types of interactions - which will soon be replicated in our homes as Nest and Alexa-style home devices take over - represent a future in which our choices are increasingly made for us by our data-connected devices. Anticipatory design advocates stress the essentially beneficial nature of this world, in which our devices increasingly reduce the cognitive load of the approximately 35,000 micro-decisions we make every day. Money quote:
"Not only did Google anticipate my needs in the highlighted scenario, they also never presented me with the choice to be reminded of my reservation. Nor did I request an estimated travel time from my apartment to the restaurant. From the moment I made the reservation to the point that Google prompted me to take an Uber, I was never once asked whether I would like to use any of these services. In fact, I wasn’t even made aware that Google’s integration with these services existed.
"And that's okay.
"Rather than informing me of all the available options and forcing me to make a decision on whether or not I'd actually like to use these services, Google made this decision for me. And the experience ended up being delightful. Less choice, or no choice in this case, ended up being the better choice."
But will anticipatory UX always be the right choice? Privacy, of course, is always a thorny issue. We're usually fine when our phones suggest courses of action to us, because most of us already have such intimate relationships with our mobile devices that we experience "phantom limb" syndrome when we lose them. But what happens when brands attempt to anticipate our needs? They risk crossing what many commentators have dubbed the "Creep Line" - the moment when a brand uses customer data to create an anticipatory experience that benefits the brand, but not you - the most famous example being the now legendary story of Target sending offers that outed a pregnant teen to her unsuspecting parents.
The key to avoiding the creep factor is, as Van Oijen points out, is to establish trust. Money quote #2:
"The user has to believe and feel that they are getting some benefit out of handing over their personal data and allowing the product to predict what they might desire, based on this data. When the user feels secure enough to share their personal data with a product, it means they place a certain level of trust in this product; An understanding that their data will be handled sensitively and sensibly.
"The key to maintaining a good relationship with the user, is not just to make them feel comfortable enough to share their information in the first place. It means building and actively maintaining an intimate relationship between the product and the user. It means establishing a level of mutual trust, providing the user with a sense of security, and above all, making sure that the product provides a beneficial experience."
In a nutshell, this is what loyalty marketers have been doing for years: using customer data within a loyalty program context provides a safe harbor of permission and trust that translates into anticipatory application of reward and recognition designed to change customer behavior. In UX as in loyalty marketing, the key concept here is "relationship." If a brand has established a relationship with a customer as intimate as the one she shares with her device, then the brand can capture her long-term spend, loyalty, and advocacy. Should the brand fail to establish that relationship, any anticipatory data usage is likely to be met with swift disengagement.
As the worlds of loyalty marketing and UX continue to converge, the watchwords of Trust, Commitment, and Reciprocity will become increasingly important to successful marketing. The thoughtful UX designers over at provide some essential food for thought in anticpation of the anticipatory future.
Rick Ferguson is CEO and Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group.