Account Executive, Harry Rowswell, pens a digital blog for Hunterlodge.


When it comes to user experience, not every company recognises the differentiation ‘gold mine’ in front of them. However, this can be the key driver of profit, loss and even a fast track to bankruptcy.

Customer and User Experience is a constantly evolving service delivery, a continuous project for development and optimisation - never fully ‘finished’. This is what many businesses fail to recognise. Consumers and their behaviour are ever-changing which means that the way your company communicates should adapt too.

This article will explore some real-life examples of the good, the bad and the ugly of customer and user experiences. So, let’s start with everyone’s favourite – the ugly.

The Ugly

‘Blockbusters’ must still be having nightmares from 2000 when they rejected to partner with then start up, Netflix. Ten years later, Blockbusters announced bankruptcy whilst Netflix have gone from strength to strength, currently resting at $2.79 billion in revenue for the quarter (2017).

In fact, the founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings, was originally laughed out of the office by Blockbusters when he introduced his vision of movies being available to downloaded and watch online from the comfort of your sofa.

Blockbusters’ unwillingness to adapt or grow their film watching experience to online combined with a lack of innovation and UX foresight, set them up to for catastrophic business failure.

With the new model, customers could gain greater convenience whilst avoiding pesky late return fees and, despite their domination of the market at the time, Blockbusters missed the boat on both UX trends and digitalisation of the movie market. Swiftly moving on, let’s take a look at the bad.

The Bad

At the end of 2015, Poundland launched an infamous e-commerce website. Now in 2017, the Poundland website is non-transactional, but the stores are still seeing great results.

So why didn’t it work?

When Poundland opened their stores 30 years ago, they were successful because of their rigorous research, identifying specifically what their target consumers wanted – multi pack bargains. Of course there is much more to it than that, but that was the general sentiment.

However, when opening their online e-commerce store, they failed to capture significant interest from existing customers. The majority of Poundland’s existing customers didn’t experience it in the same way they did for traditional supermarkets - they were much more likely to physically go to the high street stores to scope the latest offers and price cuts.

With the average spend in Poundland said to be below £5, it would seem foreseeable that their e-commerce venture may lead to commercial misfortune – bearing in mind the average online supermarket grocery shop is said to be just below £70, with the majority of customers holding existing brand loyalty to other supermarkets online.

Poundland was late on the uptake of online transactions, and when finally doing so, they realised that their audience was not in demand for this.

This is another example of how important it is to for businesses to keep sight of their own specific audience and its unique behaviours and consumer habits rather than follow suit to wider industry formats, in this instance retail. So, despite businesses across sectors being ever increasingly steered by technology, this is not always the answer.

But, let’s take a look at when it does work, and flipping well…

The Good

Not necessarily my cup of tea, but I always appreciate a good user experience and customer journey. And Ipsy is a company that does just that.

“Ipsy is a company that makes money by providing subscribers who pay $10 per month with a bag of five cosmetic samples each month; the company attracts subscribers via the social influence of video bloggers.”

Ipsy identified that to make their customer journey concrete to their target audience, they must optimise the UX from the outset. With a target audience of 18-35 females, there was a large opportunity for variance in preferred routes to engaging with and purchasing beauty products.

The biggest pressure point they found was that women like to trial products before committing to a certain purchase – regardless of brand, price or type of product. Due to the increasing cost and variety of beauty products available, it now seems a no-brainer to create a subscription opportunity for trialling samples. This essentially became their entire business model.

Users gain awareness and consumers loyalty with Ipsy through numerous ways including videos of subscribers to Ipsy. After viewing this on carefully targeted social channels, they are then led on a journey to the website.

On the site, they have optimised their products to suit the individual by enabling them to create their profile so that they can get the best products for ‘them.’ To create a profile, they must answer numerous questions including skin colour, colour preferences and so on.

Founded in 2011, Ipsy is now a $500 million company. The demand was there to see and Ipsy created a customer journey to match. Success.

How can you apply this to your business?

Looking at the above examples above, the successes and pitfalls seem obvious, or does it?

To ensure learnings from others experiences, let’s look at what we can take from the article:

• Research, research and research some more – before undertaking any kind of digital activities (or any business-related activity), there needs to be a clear, definitive reason and planning behind it. This needs to happen from the start, from evaluating consumer behaviour and their needs, to design ‘wireframing’ and testing digital activity. Netflix or Ipsy didn’t just automatically come up with the apps, website and advertising that are in place today. This took a hell of a lot of time and research into consumer experiences and their journey. Perhaps something that hindered Poundland’s success on their website launch

• The customer is always right – it is foolish to make decisions without consulting and trialling with the consumer first. And this is absolutely essential when it comes to UX. Rigorous testing must be carried out when launching a new website (for example) to ensure that it is performing and the consumer is reacting well to it. A particular tool that can be used for user testing is as follows: - Here you can get videos of real life people navigating around your site. You can even tailor it so that the correct demographics are trialling your site. This will enable you to see how your target audience are interacting and navigating around your site. A few slight tweaks that you might learn from this could make you twice the amount of money!

• Stay in touch with customer – failing to stay in touch with consumer behaviour can sway brand loyalty to your competitors. What are the latest trends, how do they communicate with the brands that they love? Blockbusters suffered from this the most, losing most of their business to online providers such as Netflix.

• Be resilient in competitor analysis – what are they doing online? Have they got any new products? What journey do they take their customers on? How can you innovate to win their clientele?

• Don’t bury your head in the sand – When intrinsically involved in a business, it can be easy to bury yourself in business as usual rather than focusing on how to be more effective and viewing it from an outside perspective. Be open to change and adapt accordingly.

User experience and customer journeys should always be at the forefront of your business and drive your innovation. Audiences and their behaviour are ever changing, both on and offline, it is imperative to keep in touch with that.

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