Customer experience

Simple is the new black – creativity in simplicity

Make it easy for customers. Don’t let them think or doubt during a task. The mantras of usability and good old Keep It Simple Stupid are back with a vengeance. But this time they’re everywhere and it’s time to see them as more than just mantras.

The need for more simplicity shows in the behaviour of consumers and how they vote with their wallets – more than before.

What a great challenge it is. On one hand the clear desire of people to control how and where they interact in a – for them – convenient way, geting what they want fast. On the other hand the increasing complexity of a data-rich and technology-intensive marketing reality with ever more fragmentation and shorter attention spans in a space filled with noise.

Less is more: it does matter

Many organisations aren’t ready to make the lives and experiences of customers simple. Information silos, disconnected data, an inside-out view that proves so hard to drop, a lack of customer involvement and – last but not least – the organisational structures that keep shining through in the ways we meet customers.

People just don’t want to see how we operate anymore – if they ever did to begin with. The difference with the past? This time they’ll show you.

The ‘less is more’ revival isn’t just happening in marketing. It’s everywhere. That shouldn’t come as a surprise: the same need for seamless experiences and a fast and simple path to the information people want expands into all domains where they are involved. And that is everywhere indeed – in an increasingly digital and connected context.

Examples? Here are a few

  • We expect the same levels of customer focus, experiences and ‘simplicity’ as provided by the well-known leaders in these areas from every other company we do business with.
  • The key success factor in the adoption of IT systems is ease-of-use as workers are used to that simplicity in the apps they employ each day.
  • The top elements in an ideal customer experience – according to research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, mentioned by Erwin Jansen in his post on the digital customer experience – are 1) fast responses to inquiries or complaints, 2) a simple purchasing process, 3) the ability to track orders in real time, 4) clarity and simplicity of product information across channels and 5) the ability to interact with the company over multiple channels.

Choice, convenience, clarity, consumer control and celerity (meaning swiftness and speed but we needed another “c”) are closely related with simplicity.

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity. “

— Attributed to Charles Mingus

Combining simplicity, data, relevance and creativity

Where does it leave marketing? And creativity? In more than one sense simplicity and removing the bells and whistles is not the most obvious thing to do – also for human reasons.

With all the data, shiny technologies and amazing formats we have to ‘wow’ people – in their capacities as consumers, workers, customers – it’s easy to get lost in complexity. When done right, however, data, technology, simplicity and creativity go perfectly hand in hand if we make the smart choices. And these choices almost always are about customer value, relevance and the sweet spots where intent, data, unique brand value and creative meet.

What (else) does it take to combine simplicity, relevance and creativity?

  • Staying close to the customer anytime anywhere – get that outside-in view.
  • Keeping the core business and customer goals and needs in mind.
  • Being creative about what we build for which reasons.
  • Being equally creative about what we better drop as it creates complexity or leaks in the customer and value journey.
  • Testing, learning, iterating and improving continuously – the good old principles of ‘lean’.
  • Connecting the dots of data, content, touchpoints, context, behaviour and channels, as well as the docs of information and data we can unlock to offer creative paths to customer engagement.
  • Looking at individual experiences but certainly also at the end-to-end experience, necessating a smooth link between the front-end and the back-office.
  • Involving the customer, all the way from the creative process to the finish and back.
  • Stopping to confuse simple with boring, ugly, obvious and the enemy of creative.
  • Measuring beyond the transactional dimension and introducing metrics gauging perceived simplicity/complexity.
  • Being creative about the ideas that make a difference by being more valuable and simple than ‘the others’.
  • Hiding the complexity behind the ways we make our marketing more relevant.

What is “simple” from the perspective of the consumer can be very complex to realise. But people demand it.

Simple doesn’t mean stupid. It means creative. It means customer-centric. And it means smart as in thinking out the box, understanding the customer and using smart data in an actionable way.

And that makes me think about a recent blog in an entirely different context, Enterprise Content Management where simple is “à l’ordre du jour” as well. Maybe it’s time to redefine the KISS principle: from Keep It Simple Stupid to Keep It Simple Smart.

Sounds too simple? Let’s look at smart in a next post. In the meantime read ‘Ode to Simplicity‘ on Gartner’s blog for marketing leaders and tell us how your customers want creative simplicity.