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

As we explore our third and final context driver, customer objective, let’s revisit JP Stallard’s description of context first from our previous series of posts on this topic. Stallard, co-founder of Solv, describes context first as an exercise in “asking the right questions and understanding the true purpose of a product or service.”

Along with the other two drivers – environment and persona – customer objective seeks to identify this purpose by honing in on what the customer is ultimately aiming to achieve, both during and after an interaction. Achieving this understanding of a customer’s objective is critical to designing an experience that meets the customer’s need.

Identifying the customer objective

In order to understand your customer’s objective, begin by identifying 3 factors:

  1. The phase of the buying journey the customer is currently in
  2. The customer’s “next best offer,” or alternative to your product or service
  3. Your value proposition


Source: Pegamento

First, determine the phase of the buying journey the customer is currently in. The buying journey is made up of three core phases: the learning phase, the buying phase, and the post-purchase/service phase. The relative length of each phase of the buying journey can differ greatly depending on the type of product or service a customer is seeking. Certain products or services may call for designing an experience that meets a customer’s objective within one specific phase of the buying journey, while others may require an experience designed for the entirety of the journey.

Next, identify the customer’s “next best offer.” In other words, if the customer does not find what they are seeking, what will they choose to do instead? A customer’s next best offer will affect their objective within a particular phase of the journey, as it determines how a customer would prefer to view information and select an option. Customers with a limited variety of offers typically have the objective of comparing the available products and services during the buying phase.

Therefore, for customers purchasing cell phone service, a comparison of offers is often extremely helpful. However, customers faced with a large number of available offers typically have a different objective in the buying phase. For example, for customers purchasing apparel, a comparison is often less helpful. These customers may respond more positively to product details and messaging that relates to the benefits of the single piece of apparel under consideration. 

Finally, it is important to look at customer objective in the context of the values and services that you can provide, as understanding a customer’s objective is only valuable when a company is able to take action against the objective. In exploring your customer’s intentions and goals, seek to identify those that align with your brand’s value proposition and design opportunities. This will also aid in the process of targeting an appropriate market, one in which the customer’s goals aligns with the value that you are able to provide.

Customer objective leaders

One tool that strongly illustrates an understanding of customer objective is Progressive’s online comparison tool for auto insurance. Progressive’s tool enables prospective customers to view comparable insurance rates for all leading insurance providers and offers functionality suited for each phase of the buying journey.

During the learning phase, customers can learn about their insurance options and compare rates and coverage. During the buying phase, customers who choose to purchase from Progressive can select their plan and transact. Finally, customers can and continuously monitor their plan’s options during the post-purchase phase of their journey.

The online comparison tool is a win-win for Progressive and its customers. Customers are able to see a comprehensive list of their options and easily compare amongst them. Progressive benefits because customers can do this without leaving the Progressive platform. This feature also allows Progressive to show customers market data which highlights the firm’s competitive rates and reinforces the brand’s value proposition without interfering with the customer’s buying journey.

Implementing against customer objective

Many companies approach customer objective with a mindset of minimizing the friction between a company and customer while maximizing customer satisfaction. For example, Amazon’s ‘Buy Now’ button greatly reduces friction by minimizing the number of clicks to purchase. So does their ‘Dash’ button. To meet a customer’s explicit objective, removing friction such as cumbersome checkout processes can be a highly effective tactic.

However, customer needs and wants are not always explicitly expressed. For instance, Airbnb realized that, while traveling, people typically stay in a hotel, but renting a hotel room is not necessary their only option in meeting their true objective of having a safe, comfortable place to stay. By incorporating a design structure that enables personal interaction, multiple photos of individuals and their homes, and reviews, Airbnb was able to meet this objective in a way that billion-dollar hotel brands had not.

Taking a context first approach and tying customer objective to the other context drivers – personas and environment – can help companies better understand and solve for a customer’s end goals.