4 Layers of Customer Experience Design

Data, Experience Design, Product

Customer experience design is the heart and soul of any digital business. The brands with higher customer experience score, grow faster than their competitors (Forrester).

The simple goal of customer experience design is to deliver superior customer experience of course. The goal is easier said than done; however it involves everybody in the team, not just the UX or the product people, but also the marketing, IT and design teams. Hence, this is a complex challenge for any company, especially for an enterprise. It is no wonder that most of the Webby winners in user experience category are new emerging brands rather than established Fortune 500 companies that have all the vast resources and tens of years of customer knowledge.

Four reasons why:

  1. DataThe exponential growth of data in the last five years thanks to the rapid adoption of interactive design in product development. Customer identification, consistent segmentation, and actionable data are more important than ever. Whoever was not ready for this shift, lost time and competitiveness. Enterprises are finally catching up to the start-ups in this area.
  2. DesignIt is the new language of business. The design is not just about the colors or the fonts anymore but more about making something easy to use, or easy to understand. With the abundance of applications and services available to the consumer, the best (easy, not simple) design wins.
  3. Real-timeApplication development has changed the rules of digital. Real-time communication is the new norm and changing the experience based on context and content became the new frontier for many brands. It requires infrastructural changes and investment if you are an established brand. 
  4. Cross-functional coordinationIt is a major challenge for an enterprise to coordinate the customer experience around the whole lifecycle and it will require more than project management skills. This challenge is a cultural shift that is already happening in many start-ups, and the enterprises will need to catch up soon.

Customer experience design is the new black, and real-time data and design (ReDD) is the future of digital. Below are the four layers that are the building blocks (enablers) of the customer experience design.

Data Layer:

Customer Experience Design starts with data. Although there are millions of people coming to the company’s website or mobile apps, only few can be identified with the first party data. 2nd and 3rd party data are now widely available, and that can help companies know a little more about their anonymous visitors. But, identification alone is not enough; creating 360 customer profile with intent and technographic data, being able to segment and activate the data real-time across all channels are critical components of customer experience design.


Data Layer

Logic Layer:

It is the application layer where all the business rules, such as contact strategy rules, campaign rules, marketing automation rules, loyalty program, affiliate commission engine rules will live. This layer is of particular importance to automate the full customer experience. Otherwise, it is a great challenge to scale any of the personalization efforts.


Logic Layer

Experience Layer:

All digital assets, mobile, web, email, app, lives in this layer. Real-time personalization has two key requirements to scale. Real-time data syndication across all digital assets and also real-time dynamic content and creative.


Experience Layer

Media Layer:

This layer is also super important considering your customers are spending 95% of their time on other networks and publishers when they are online. Having a consistent, coordinated media exposure with your experience layer, and triggering personalized experiences in the right context is a game changer.

Media Layer

Below you can find a simplified tech stack of a digital company with all these four layers that are the key building blocks for the customer experience design.

Tech Stack



Invest in six digital senses to power your Customer Experience strategy… today

Data, Experience Design, Live, Local, Mobile, Product, Social

New Order in Digital Marketing and Strategy – Revisited

I wrote a manifesto 18 months ago, about the global shift in digital strategy. The idea was to lay out a framework for how the companies are investing in six business ‘senses’ that are differentiating them in the Age of the Customer:

The first take for that manifesto was to pick at least two primary senses, position yourself strategically in your market and focus on selected ones better than your competition to dominate.

The Huffington Post (HuffPost) has passed the New York Times (NYT) for the first time as of April 2011 (unique visitors). Both have strong ‘Real-time’ sense, but Huffingtonpost pioneered the publishing media market with ‘Social’ and ‘Design’ senses by integrating its business with thousands of bloggers and other news media that still since then no other publisher could replicate. The wonderful NYTimes Innovation report and the introduction of NYT Now app were good steps forward by NYT.


How HuffPost strategically outpaced NYTimes

Since then technology has enhanced significantly, many new players emerged, succeeded or failed, the marketplace got crowded more than ever with many exciting business models and marketing technologies. Hence, I wanted to revisit the six senses framework and highlight the recent trends and new best practices in each.

However, before jumping into six senses, I want to explain briefly why identifying and investing in the strategic senses are so important. We are now in the age of the customer and providing a remarkable Customer Experience has become the core advantage that is translated into business value in terms of incremental revenue, customer satisfaction, and shareholders value.

I’d like to share a recent study conducted by L2 Research group. L2 created aDigital IQ Index measured by many parameters of digital marketing, mobile, social and site capabilities of enterprises and published a ranking for Big-Box retailers. The report segments brands to different categories (genius and gifted are the top two category). ‘Two-thirds of Genius brands are part of multi-brand enterprises that have leveraged scale around technology platforms, best practices, and online media buys. The market capitalization of publicly traded Genius companies grew 108% in the past ten years and 69% in the past five years.’ L2 Report

Office Depot is at #4 among sixty-one retailers in 2015, a significant improvement from 13th rank in 2014. This ranking is no surprise considering the big push in mobile and personalization efforts throughout the whole organization. Below you can see a visualization of the score by dimensions compared to the average and the top ranked company Home Depot.

Six Senses Framework

SoLoMo concept (social+local+mobile) has been popular in the market for at least 4-5 years now. It used to refer to mainly smartphone applications and marketing campaigns that incorporate social gamification, local interactions, and mobile plays into their business models. The concept has matured in the recent years, and it is applicable not only to phone application but to all channels now – where the infamous buzword: omni-channel comes into play.

However, SoLoMo is not the only differentiator for digital strategy. Next five years will be very significant for other three senses: ReDD. (real time, data and design). Many innovators and digital pioneers already made headways to real-time data (collection, activation, automation) and real-time design will follow the suit. More to come on my next posts.

Every sense has three layers that are all intertwined with each other, and it is almost impossible to separate these layers when defining your strategy and positioning.

Product (UX)

Trending: Many new business, categories and experience models introduced in the recent years. Below is just a sample of few companies who have built their businesses around platform models.


Trending: Native advertising is the fastest growing niche in digital marketing considering all the challenges of the display. The growth is expected to slow down due to the regulatory and consumer trust challenges but it still represents a great opportunity for brands to tell their stories in a non-intrusive way.  

The social sense is the primary driver of this growth and the convergence of social, content marketing and SEO has already started.

Dan Riess, head of content partnerships at Turner, told Ad Age, “The idea is to turn Turner into a giant native ad platform.” Ad blocking, shift to mobile, viewability challenges have added pressure on publishers; hence, they responded with building native ad platforms.

“While other companies separate their data and content teams, we believe it’s vital to bring them together, allowing advertisers to reimagine the possibilities of advertising in one conversation,” Donna Speciale, president-ad sales for Turner, told Ad Age.


Trending: Every day, a new Marketing Technology company is showing up. In 2014, the number of MarTech companies had doubled and exceeded one thousand mark! The design of the MarTech stack can make a big difference in competitive advantage, however, following the shiny-new-object may not be the best idea either. Remember, strategy comes first, then processes/frameworks and technology last.

Another important trend is that many publishers and social media companies are building their own ad technology platforms to enable programmatic media buying. The latest one is the Snapchat’s ad technology platform.

MarTech is not free of complexity and challenges but represents a significant opportunity if done right. Technology is the enabler of all the Customer Experience.

Below diagram shows a sample of marketing data technology: making sense of the puzzle

In my later posts, I will deep dive to each sense and review the new trends along with the best practices. Please feel free to add your comments and let me know how you experience this global shift in your organization.

10 things I learned working in a Fortune 500 Company that I should do more in 2016.

Experience Design, Ideas

First published on LinkedIn.

There are many differences between working for an SMB vs. Fortune 500 company, and the biggest advantages are the substantial resources and the branding/networking effect. The opportunities to grow are significant but at the same time two challenges are clear: Communication challenges and the risk of change.

Below is my short list to apply more in 2016.

Focus on what matters.

Focus is probably the number one success factor for any size of the business, and for an enterprise it is no different. So many things are going on all the time. Stop. Focus. That’s the only way to make a change. Action: Work agile. Design your own Sprint doc.

Making a change is much harder… but not impossible and so important.

Change is the hardest of all and it requires applying all these ten principles mentioned here. Action: Be a change agent. Again: Focus on what matters.

Set tangible goals for everything you drive.

This is the number one survival tool for any SMB, and the same for any Fortune 500. Demand the projections for every project you get involved. Measure every week. Prioritize. Action: Scorecard for every project.

If you don’t ask to solve a problem, don’t call a meeting

No emails either. Action: Don’t.

Understand and drive the Strategy first.

Every employee plays a part in this. Process + frameworks second. Technology last. Seriously. Action: Question every tech decision with strategy and processes in mind.

Build corporate memory.

Build and document frameworks for all the work you do. The last thing you need is anybody depending on you. Action: Design frameworks – not documents.

To make a difference in digital eco-system, invest in one of the six senses every day – social, local, mobile, data, interface, live.

More on this later on my other posts. Action: Network and continue learning.

Don’t solve a problem for channel/device but solve for people.

Resist all other advice. Action: Don’t.

Think about experiences when solving problems, not products or assets.

Action: Focus on Experience Design.

Presentation = Communication = Story telling.

People don’t read, so just visualize. Action: Simplify.

6 Digital Senses that drive Retail Omni-Channel Experience

Data, Interface, Live, Local

Stop talking about digital & physical retail as if they’re two separate things. Doug McMillon, CEO Walmart

Omnichannel has been a buzzword for years. However, the shift is accelerating among retailers and the convergence between digital and physical retail is happening fast, thanks to the emerging new technology platforms and services.

The shopping behavior and the retail customer journeys have changed in the last few years. Google introduced this new phenomenon (using multi-channels and multi-devices in making purchase decisions) in 2011: Zero Moment of Truth.

The New Mental Model


However, what is different and fascinating now is that we can quantify and understand the influence mobile device usage before or in a store has on in-store retail sales. Deloitte research report (April 2014) found that the use of mobile devices influenced almost $600 billion in U.S. in-store retail sales in 2013, which amounted to about 19% of total brick-and-mortar sales. In 2012, mobile devices only influenced $159 billion in retail sales, a 272% increase. Amazing.

Let’s take a look at how the brands/retailers are catching up with omni-channel from the six digital senses perspective:


Everything starts with data – Big Data. The power in data lies in one keyword: ‘actionable’.
There are three challenges in this arena.

  • The first challenge is that there are too many siloed data sources, and too many data itself to manage. DMPs offer great opportunities to combine first party data with the third and take advantage of universal ID implementation.
  • The second challenge is to make sense of the vast data that is available, which is the hardest part. The strategic goals are to create customer profiling/segmentation and build smart models for advanced personalization initiatives. There is no one solution for this and is unique to each brand/retailer hence is the game changer in my opinion.
  • The third challenge is the ‘Analytics’. Anything one off, or anything batch style reporting does not help the marketers in this day and age. Retailers need real-time analytics, dashboards to take action and apply the learnings. Analytics is as important as the first two, if not more.

Kraft Food is a great example of this kind of data transformation. One of the biggest changes for Kraft was the rewiring of its data systems, i.e. merging the content platform Kraftrecipes.com with its data management platform. Out of 34,000 attributes, Kraft established 800 unique customer segments to buy ads against.


It is the bridge between digital and physical goods/locations. Probably one of the most important sense that any retailer is focusing on who invest in omnichannel strategies.


When it comes to effectively using mobile applications, the drugstore sector, fronted by CVS/pharmacy and Walgreens, leads the way. These brands make it easy for customers to fill prescriptions, shop by smartphone, manage rewards programs, or send pictures to in-store photo centers for printing. Customers who engage with Walgreens online and via mobile applications spend six times more than those who only visit its stores, according to Interbrand’s research.

Another good example is Cartwheel, a market-leading coupon clipping app that launched in 2013. Cartwheel has generated $1 billion in sales and is seen as the leader in such apps—and most of the increase in Target’s online surge comes from mobile. Some 40% of all digital orders were placed via a mobile device.



Micro-location marketing is gaining traction fast. Location, especially for brick and mortar retailers, is the key to context, and we know ‘context’ is the new king – sorry content. Combining location-based mobile apps, with in-store beacon technology, along with advanced customer intelligence via big data, is the ideal recipe for smart micro-location marketing.

There are many technology partners and applications (e.g. inMarket, Shopkick, Swirl) in this arena and the growth in the next three years is inevitable. A study conducted by beacon platform Swirl found that 73 percent of shoppers who received a beacon-triggered message on their smartphone said it increased their likelihood of making a purchase during a store visit, while 61 percent said the message would prompt them to visit the store more often.


However, beacon technology does not only help the marketing. It can be a very powerful analytics tool for retailers to understand the in-store behavior of users. The applications of this kind of data are many, including inventory management and store layout design.



This sense is another key element in the whole omnichannel discussion. Let’s give a context to the sense called: Interface. It is essentially all kinds of customer-facing services, applications, and even the store experience. I want to focus more on the in-store experience part of the equation in this context. Last year, for example, Nordstrom implemented a new function on its hand-held mobile checkout devices in Nordstrom Rack stores. Dubbed Search & Send, the new function allows salespeople to use mobile registers to search entire Rack inventory for desired items and sizes and have the items delivered to the customer. Search & Send is available on more than 18,000 devices company-wide.

Another interesting trending program is the Curbside Pickup program. The curbside pickup has become increasingly popular with major retailers like Best Buy and Nordstrom, and even on the grocery side of retail, as Meijer has also been testing the omnichannel solution. For Best Buy, the curbside pickup has seen significant success as the company said it is processing thousands of orders a week.

Beacon technology can also change the whole experience of customers with the store representatives. Mobile loyalty programs are on the rise, and that can also give a substantial opportunity for the representatives to know about their loyal customers’ in-store via mobile apps designed for the internal use with iBeacons.



The home improvement sector is doing an exceptional job with omnichannel marketing, especially in social media. Stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot have created social communities where consumers can get help planning and buying for projects. Shoppers are encouraged, inspired, and supported with service and instruction.

Furthermore, Nordstrom (another leader in omnichannel efforts) recently made it possible to buy the items featured on Instagram instantly. Workers at Nordstrom also merchandise stores using input from its Pinterest page. Items that are popular on the social media site are featured more prominently on the sales floor.



This is another sense that needs an explanation for the retail setting. Live applies to anything real-time. In the retail setting, it is all about real-time marketing and personalization based on the context of the customer (e.g. location, time, online/offline behavior, even weather, etc.)

One good example of this is the email campaign Yahoo Travel tailored for its customers. The email included a voting option among two choices to travel (Hawaii or Tahiti), asking customers. This voting functionality encouraged subscribers to participate in gamified email while allowing Yahoo to progressively profile and segment by subscriber preference going forward.

I am very excited to be part of the Office Depot team, that is working on many interesting projects to make omnichannel a reality in retail.

Top 5 Remarkable Experiences of the Week

Data, Mobile, Social
Top 5 Remarkable Experiences of the Week post image

Digital advertising and marketing are in such a fast pace at the moment, it is almost impossible not to find something amazing every day.

I’d like to make it clear that some of the apps, or services that I will share may not be new, but may be my first experience with them. For me, there are  that make an experience remarkable; social, local, mobile, data, interface and live senses. I added the relevant category next to each experiences.

Here are my top five remarkable experiences this week:

1. CINEMAGRAPHS Ads by Facebook.

This will be one of the most amazing ad formats you will see in 2015. Cinamagraph is not a new trend. Facebook and Instagram will make sure that everyone will know it soon;

“the trend — and the term — was coined by visual graphics artist Kevin Burg and his partner, photographer Jamie Beck. The GIF files, which maintain elements of photography and cinema (hence the name), gained prominence, thanks to Beck’s wildly popular Tumblr blog”

Christina Warren – Mashable




2. HOLOLENS by Microsoft. ★★★★★ Interface sense.

Virtual Reality is getting remarkably more real than virtual. With the convergence of digital and physical worlds, VR glasses soon will become the common gateways. NASA is already on board to use HoloLens for its Mars mission to manage and control the Rover to explore the surface of Mars from a lab room. Yet, competition in Virtual Reality is fierce, along with Oculus Rift and Google Glass, but don’t forget the mysterious Magic Leap that was funded by Google for over half a billion in 2014.



3. MATERIAL DESIGN by Google. ★★★★★ Mobil sense. 

Again, this is nothing new, but it is on fire. The more you get into material design concepts the more I enjoy and love it. It is a game changer for every app designer and marketer not just due to its brilliant design patterns but also its consideration of the user behavior and experiences on every aspect of the mobile design and development. Expect to see many brands and visionaries to apply this new concept.


4. GOOGLE NOW. All about Mobile and Data senses.

I had downloaded Google now for iOS years ago, but I could not find a good use case for it among all the other apps. I knew that it would learn over time my behaviors and give better recommendation or information based on my location or time of the day, however I wasn’t patient enough to overcome that period due to lack of instant gratification (still working on breaking that very bad habit). This time, something interesting happened. The moment I downloaded the app, it started showing me relevant information, such as traffic report to my home, latest ‘terrible news’ about my team, Miami Heat etc. But what amazed me the most was its voice recognition capability (which simply works). I am an Apple fan by heart, however I’ve to admit that Siri has been a disappointment since Day1. Google Now changed all my perception about the voice recognition technology and how it can simplify life by providing remarkable user experience – especially while traveling.

5. HIPS & TIPS. Mobile and Social senses.

I selected Hips and Tips for its mobile sense and brilliant use of animated GIFs. Hips and Tips is the easy way to discover inspiring health & wellness tip by email. Everything on the email is planned with utmost detail and mobile responsive design in mind. The use of animated GIFs, symbols, interactive surveys and social sharing inspired me to write another blog post to showcase their 5 best practices for email newsletters.