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How to find balance in designing and implementing an integrated physical and digital experience

By Cyrus Clemensen, Sr. Director of Experience Development, Synechron

Cyrus Clemensen, Sr. Director of Experience Development, Synechron

As financial institutions and enterprises across industries grapple with how to implement and find the most value-add in emerging innovations and technologies, many find themselves trying to navigate the intersection between physical and digital experiences to engage their target customer base.

Emerging technologies have the power to redefine user experience as institutions, including banks, evolve to quite literally turn the customer journey into an experience. When done well, they are able to deliver a mix of personalized interactions that support traditional trust-relationships and digital innovations alike. One area where physical and digital strategies are merging to create unique customer experiences within banking is the bank branch, where global financial institutions look to transform their physical locations into interactive and educational hubs rather than just a place to wait on line, perform a transaction, and leave.

However, finding the right mix across digital, traditional, experiential, and a number of other elements can be challenging. When setting their digital strategies, firms must have a clear vision into what they would like to accomplish, and how technology will enable their larger picture vision to get the most of the investment. Before taking the plunge to integrate digital into their physical spaces, institutions should consider the following:

Find Your Purpose

Firms ideally should define a flexible plan to implement interactive components within spaces that customers would populate to create digital experiences. Businesses further need to realize that the digital content will likely change as you understand more about how your customers interact with it, and more is not always better. It is imperative to evaluate the effectiveness of each interactive piece, and stick with only what you need to exhibit to tell the story you are trying to tell.  Designing and investing in technology just for the sake of it does not help. Yes, embracing the latest innovations can help to keep you ahead of the curve and help your brand to appear as cutting-edge, but your strategic implementation always should go back to your use case – what is the problem you’re trying to solve and how does technology help you to do it?  While they might be catchy or buzzy, overloading on experiences can cause confusion or overload. Having a clear focus and solidified objective for how you design experiences and bring in technology innovations like digital displays or virtual reality to support those experiences, you will be able to tell a more coherent narrative, across mediums, with pretty spectacular, differentiated value-adds. Don’t lose sight of the original business goals the project set out to accomplish.

“Emerging technologies have the power to redefine user experience as institutions, including banks, evolve to quite literally turn the customer journey into an experience. When done well, they are able to deliver a mix of personalized interactions that support traditional trust-relationships and digital innovations alike.”

Establish Context and Relevance

Technology is flashy and fun and can definitely help in getting customers at the door to experience a new concept. But, once customers are at the door, it is important that the experience flows in a way that makes sense for the customer across their individual or shared journey.

Developing different types of interactive or technology-fueled experiences, such as tablets, kiosks, video-chat, touch tables, and more, throughout the physical space, and aligning the technology to the allotted space is important for the flow and overall experience.  As the customer walks through the space, the physical design must showcase the content rather than becoming a roadblock or maze. The technology and the experiences communicated during that journey through the physical space just as importantly need to have a logical flow as well or the experiences may seem out of place, confusing the customer on where to go next.

For example, an Interactive Telling Machine prototype that gives specialist advisory services via video chat should be in an area where advisory services already live, juxtaposing the different experiences a customer could have within advisory. Similarly, gamification in entertainment or educational formats for customers who are waiting for other services as opposed to frustratingly waiting in a queue might be nearby the waiting areas or lobby so those coming in see it immediately and can take full advantage of the innovation.

Keep Things Simple

No matter how interesting, important or revolutionary your innovation is, all customers have a limited attention span - and it is probably shorter than you think it is. The digital experiences firms invest in should be simple enough that users should not have to take more than a few seconds to understand how they should interact with them. Ensuring that the experience is inherently simple to understand and engage with is the key. Customers are found to overwhelmingly desire simple tools that help them accomplish their tasks in a minimal amount of time, especially if they have to visit a physical location to complete the task, rather than doing it via a mobile device anytime, anywhere.

Don’t Assume You Know what the Customer Wants

Creating a digital experience also provides a unique opportunity to travel with your customer across their customer journey and to learn more about them via data. Don’t assume your customer or prospect will want to interact with every experience you put in front of them along the journey. Create a self-service experience with Kiosks and beacons that allow the customer to trigger where and when they’d like to interact. This will also help to gain data on how and when customers choose to interact with certain content so you can continue to make your experiences better, more targeted, and more engaging.

Creating an engaging user experience with blended physical and digital mediums filled with relevant content is no easy task. It requires truly understanding your customer, gathering data, challenging your assumptions, gathering more data, and continuing to refine the experience. It depends on not only ensuring the design of the space is relevant, but the content that lives in that space is applicable and targeted to what you know to be true about your customer. Banks have an opportunity to transform how they are using their physical spaces to better engage with their customers and create more meaningful and engaging experiences. As they map the customer journey, these tips can help guide them to a more successful implementation of their experience design.

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