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November 4, 2016   |   6 min read

What big brands are focused on in UX in 2017

Each year, user experience professionals flock to a regional industry conference, Midwest UX. The conference brings in some of the biggest names from across the country to discuss the latest trends in the digital marketing landscape to a passionate group of followers. Mindstream recently sent two of our top strategists to get a pulse for what is happening in the industry and what is on the horizon for the coming years.

A few key themes caught our attention as they were either the focal point of a presentation or were woven throughout: research, storytelling, and customer experience.


This year’s Midwest UX was full of speakers from big brands expounding the need for research to back decisions affecting digital products. These brands were driving home the need for more user research in the enterprise to power new product development efforts, as well as using competitive research techniques to gain an edge in the marketplace. 


Actionable ways to incorporate more research into your digital marketing decisions:

  • Identify all key stakeholders to ask them questions up front.
  • Use those questions to power research initiatives & methodology choices.
  • Make room for research in the up-front budgeting phase of the project.
  • Keep a list of “dream users,” or those users you believe are key to understanding the impact of changes to a product or creation of a new product. A professional recruiter may be able to find these crucial users for you.
  • Consider using competitive research to illicit true consumer likes and dislikes about other products in the marketplace.
  • Push for user testing and interviewing at key phases of a project to ensure user needs are being met and to gather ideas for future iterations of the product.


The importance of storytelling and story mapping was a key highlight this year and Donna Lichaw suggested following a common story arc when crafting content for digital mediums. This process starts with a user goal, introduces a problem or incentive for the user, rises to a “crisis” point or the selling proposition, reaches a climax where the user has a buying decision, and then has a falling action similar to the afterglow from a shopping experience. Donna, a screenwriter and UX evangelist said it best when she stated, “People don’t care about your company’s story, they care about their story."


How can we incorporate storytelling into our digital marketing decisions?

  • Create a story arch for new products or offerings and map the key points of your product or service to the story arch to make sure you’re telling a compelling story when you gotomarket on the web.
  • Recognize the other touchpoints involved in your product or offering before, during, and after the purchase.
  • These touchpoints are parts of the story too, and can often have their own story arc—think creative packaging that gives your product a certain feel. Your website and communications give users a similar feel for your brand too.
  • Consider that the story of your product or offering can be “chunked” into episodes similar to the way you support your product with content before and after the product is available. Chunking allows you to think of each piece of content you produce as a piece of the overall experience and helps you keep in mind what you’re writing or attempting to accomplish.


In digital circles, Customer Experience (CX) is starting to garner trend-worthy status similar to the term UX five years ago. A growing number of companies are jumping on the CX train, creating internal teams specifically for the purpose of rooting out problems in the company’s many interactions with their customers.Customer touchpoints ranging from contact support, scheduling an appointment, and in-person interactions are being monitored and optimized to ensure that customers are supported at every possible step in their journey.

The biggest takeaway for the UX professional is to adopt the CX mindset of seeing the big picture. Every piece of technology we touch is made up of interconnected parts. Understanding those parts helps build a stronger story and a more applicable experience. Brands are listening to their users more than ever before and users expect their needs to be known. The new expectation is that these experiences are:

  • Connected
  • Personalized
  • In real-time

How can we incorporate customer experience design principles into digital marketing decisions?

  • Create a map of all interactions that a user can possibly have with the brand.
  • Decide where in that map there are gaps in the way we’re handling the user and where the experience lacks in terms of representing the best values of the brand.
  • Conduct user research about those problem touchpoints and find out what the user needs and wants are at each step of the interaction.
  • Decide what tools or content need to be employed in order to meet user expectations.
  • Continually survey the audience using NPS (net promoter score) measurements and other satisfaction measures to make sure the user is kept happy as times and expectations change.


A lot of UXer’s have been harping on topics like user research, customer experience and storytelling for a while now but it’s nice to see those ideas begin to permeate up through larger enterprise. If you’re in marketing in a larger organization it’s good to ask for supporting research up-front when a business problem arises and if you’re in an agency setting, pushing for research early and often is a foolproof way to gain insight and establish trust earlier in your client relationship.

On the storytelling front, crafting your content following a storytelling arch is a useful method for company or product positioning and for figuring out themes and composition of content on a page. And striving to view your product as part of the overall customer experience is essential to make sure touchpoints meet user/customer expectations along your unique path to conversion. At the end of the day, all of this is supposed to drive deeper, more seamless, and more meaningful connections to our users & customers so apply a few of the concepts here to your product or problem and make some magic.

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