This blog is the final part of a three-part series. Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.

As user experience designers, our goal is to help the customer achieve their intended objective in a way that delights in their current context. This may mean eliminating steps to speed up the process or, conversely, adding in a step that enables the customer to easily broadcast their activities to their social circle. It all depends on their objectives.

To further explore how context may be defined, we identified three key dimensions, termed ‘context drivers,’ that a designer should consider in developing an experience that aligns with the context first approach. Collectively, these three drivers encompass the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ that encompass the customer experience.

1. Customer Persona

Experience designers know that solid personas are a combination of quantitative demographics and qualitative insights. Personas need to account for the needs, wants and desires that drive quantifiable past behavior, observable preferences, brand loyalty and the projected lifetime value of that particular customer.

Most importantly, personas may span multiple traditional quantitatively-driven customer segments, as personas are customers with shared objectives and mindsets, despite a potential delta in traditional demographics. There is a temptation to say that we can design experiences for an individual customer, but the truth is that experience design always has boundaries. We aggregate common, important customer needs in personas and respond in our design.

Done well, the experience feels completely customized to our most valuable customers.

2. Customer Objective

At any given point, a customer is in one specific phase of their journey. For instance, they may be in the “learning” phase where they are seeking product or service information; they may be in the “buy” phase where they are seeking to transact; or perhaps in the “service” phase, where they are looking for post-purchase support.

Identifying the right phase, and providing the right type of attention for that phase, matters. This is important, as 68% of Americans are willing to spend an average of 14% more with companies who provide above-average customer service.

The customer’s objective is necessarily influenced by their past experiences with the brand. We must use everything we know about the customer as an individual – what led them to engage, their past and current activity across our channels, and their persona to infer their objective and phase of the journey. Based on their objective, we should be looking to design an experience that quickly adapts to that objective.

We might also observe enough aggregated objectives to change overall functionality. When Rue La La recently realized that 40% of its revenue was coming from mobile and that the largest growing segment were Android users, they added Google Wallet Instant Buy to their app to create a 2-click checkout experience. They increased conversion 4x over non-Android users.

3. Customer Environment

Effective adaptation to the customer’s objective will be heavily influenced by their immediate environment. This encompasses both the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of a situation and may be derived from the local time, place, proximity to other relevant locations, and even the current weather.

The power of understanding these drivers

Several examples illustrate the power of these three drivers, across a multitude of industries. Leading-edge women’s fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff understands a shopper preparing for a date (Driver 1: Customer Persona) is interested in knowing what a dress will look like in restaurant mood lighting (Driver 2: Customer Objective) rather than within a brightly lit dressing room (Driver 3: Customer Environment).

In response to these drivers, the brand has installed digital dressing rooms, which enables virtual fittings and adjusts the room’s lighting to match the target environment as mentioned in part 2 of this blog series.

Within hospitality, Disney’s Magic Band is able to incorporate known visitor profiles (Driver 1: Customer Persona) and real time park flow and capacity (Driver 3: Customer Environment) to plan and adjust itineraries to reduce wait time (Driver 2: Customer Objective) and optimize the overall experience for the visitor and their family.

Source: All Things D

Major League Baseball has encompassed known fan information (Driver 1: Customer Persona) to deliver specialized promotions from vendor coupons to upgraded seats on game day (Driver 2: Customer Objective). Their mobile app also has the capability to deliver supplemental content and directions based upon the fan’s location within the stadium (Driver 3: Customer Environment).

These brands are on the right track, but imagine the potential for customer experience and top line growth if a brand were able to fully address all context drivers and further enhance the customer experience, thereby creating more brand advocates.

Not only do advocates act as influencers, but data shows that they also tend to spend 15% more than non-advocates. What if MLB extended their use of customer personas and offered VIP food service to the die-hard fan that refuses to leave his seat during a game? For this case, the optimal upcharge could be calculated by aggregating the historic willingness to pay for fans within the target segment.

Might it be helpful for Rebecca Minkoff to send a calendar reminder to a busy mom of an upcoming wedding this weekend and imbed both a dress recommendation based on purchase history and an offer for free overnight shipping? The data to enable context first is already being captured and the opportunities for companies to drive value are endless.

Since context first is still in early stages of adoption and utilization, early mastery of context first can propel companies to leapfrog competitors and position themselves as that elusive customer-centric brand.

This blog was co-authored by:

Tony Fross

Tony is a Vice President and NA Lead for Digital Customer Experience. He helps clients advance their business through the application of digital strategies and technologies, creating entirely new go-to-market strategies and even businesses which were not possible before the advent of Digital.

Kyte Feng

Kyte is a Senior Consultant in the Digital Marketing Advisory practice and based in Los Angeles, California. He has extensive experience in product strategy, business model strategy, and customer experience design in various industries such as CP, ecommerce, healthcare, and automotive.

Emily Gonthier

Emily is a Senior Consultant based in New York City. She is experienced across industries including consumer packaged goods, retail apparel and electronics manufacturing, and specializes in product launch strategy, process design and customer experience.