By adaptive - February 8th, 2016

“Experience” has become a huge focus of tech and consumer companies and in turn, one of the biggest buzzwords of the past few years. Brian Solis, principal analyst with Altimeter Group, spent several years researching and gaining newfound appreciation of what makes a unique and successful experience.

That is the focus of his book, “X: When Experience Meets Design”, and the subject of a wide-ranging discussion with OMM’s Robert Gray on creating positive and lasting experiences.

OMM: What was the motivation for a book about “experience”?
Solis: I hear the term “experience” way too often in any given day. The word experience means a lot to a lot of different people.
I asked people, “What makes a great experience?” They mentioned great brands like Apple or Nike or Disney or great products like Mercedes or BMW or great customer service like Nordstrom’s or Zappos. But each of those things is different and managed by different people in the organization. Maybe what the world needs is a better understanding of what experiences are as an individual and holistic approach.

OMM: What’s your definition of experience?
The way I describe it, it’s something that someone feels in any moment. How do they react to that? It’s emotion; it’s expressed in a reaction. When you bring it down to a human level like that…emotion is a very powerful thing. It’s surprising to me that so many businesses leave that emotional moment and reaction to chance. That is why you are starting to see greater focus on Ux (User Experience), design thinking, empathy –a human centered approach to experience.
Experience is the next competitive advantage.

OMM: Does experience really matter more now, or do we just focus more on it?
I think it matters more now for a lot of reasons. There’s an idea of the “ego system”, customers are becoming accidental narcissists and employees, too. Everything they do is designed to give them a sense of immediacy and more so all of these networks and products are meant to the give them what they want when they want it, and how they want it. The social network apps are designed to promote reactions to what you do online. Everything revolves around you.
The customer isn’t brand centric anymore. There’s more an allegiance to an experience than to the legacy of a brand. That’s a huge shift. People don’t want products and services, they want the experience around it and they’re willing to pay up to 25 percent more for it for a good experience.
We each have our own ego system.

OMM: If experience is the new brand—how can companies better create lasting “experiences”—and how is that different from an impression?
They’re intertwined. Businesses should think about impressions that people have to the point where they’re thoughtful and could engender desired sentiment and desired responses such as surprise and delight, certain companies do things really well.
New models for business are not only holistic, but complementary and take out friction and are intuitive in the way people are egocentric, accidental narcissists. You have models for how you could redesign the core of the business as well. Why do companies have so much trouble delivering an experience--whether it's for consumers, B2B or non-profits? I honestly think it’s they don’t know they’re not doing that. I don’t know that they’ve thought about it at a bigger level. Everybody focuses on what they’re supposed to do. The culture of the organization is to make things work, on scale, to increase efficiencies. It’s the core of how we’re taught to do things and rewarded. But once you point it out, you can’t change fast enough.

OMM: You were a guest speaker at the recent Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco—what’s your biggest takeaway from that gathering of established and startup tech firms?
I was highly impressed by the caliber of speakers, their knowledge and willingness to share that.
I recognized a lot of the perspectives I talk about in the book. When you have businesses there to learn, especially startups that have started out from a blank slate, you see the experience divide. People are looking at mobile pragmatically, what are the big trends in mobile we need to pay attention to to make the right decisions for our company.
Mobile is a lifestyle and tech is an enabler while I’m on the go…not just enabling behaviors, but how could businesses totally change to be more relevant to this mobile person, to their context, and their aspirations. This is when you get to the inspiration level where you create Uber or a new bank to meet the lifestyle of a mobile individual. 

OMM: What does the future hold for user experiences?
As complex a conversation as it is, it’s mind blowing. It’s a great opportunity; the future is something to be defined by not trying to open the same old doors but opening new doors, to have courage to take new risks, the infrastructure to take these risks.
Opening old doors does not create new value.
Business lost its way over the past several decades, but technology is making us more human again. We can study how people use and connect with devices. What do they share and what are their frustrations? Once you care, there’s no shortage of inspiration.

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