Sometimes it’s the ‘Little Things’ that make a great Digital Difference

By: Ian Finn

Digital Transformation, particularly transforming into the omnichannel and ‘seamless’ customer experience, is a pivotal focus for numerous consumer-facing and service brands right now. From Retail Banks looking to take a ‘digital-first’ approach to their sales and service operations; right through to established high street retail brands looking well beyond the high street to where the retail customer journey truly begins (into the home, and to customers’ various browsing devices of choice).

As the digital revolution continues to take hold, and the digital infrastructure to support these new and ever-more interlinked customer experiences is built out, not unsurprisingly significant funds are being invested to arrive at this new ‘omnichannel nirvana’. And necessarily so.

Moving the dial

But meaningfully evolving the digital experiences that brands provide to consumers — as well as developing increased opportunities across the value chain, including for ‘partner’ organisations- doesn’t necessarily always have to cost the big bucks. Sometimes it’s the little tweaks in the user experience/ UI (the key ‘enhancements’) that can play a big part in moving the dial for CX. And bring the commercial benefits along with them too — as a result of more intuitive experiences leading to more user engagement.

Google ‘get it’

A case in point for the benefits of the ‘digital enhancement’ approach right now has to be Google. For Google, it’s not just about the multi-million dollar acquisitions of payment/ mobile wallet, home automation and AI start-ups that so often grab all the headlines (read Customer Value Proposition transformation as well as Digital Transformation here). In addition to creating new and expanded digital eco-systems via such expansion, there is also the optimisation of the ‘core product suite’ which can also move digital experience forward. The ‘core product’ here being the experience that is in our pockets on our Android phones and on our other connected devices — after all, this is actually the beating heart of Google’s day-to-day (and minute-to-minute) engagement with most users.

A little can go a long way

So, discussed here are three ways in which Google have made some oh-so-subtle digital product tweaks of late: product enhancements which nevertheless go towards helping make all the difference to the overall user experience. These aren’t necessarily digital changes which cost the mega-bucks (in the overall scheme of things) but which can help move the dial where it matters most — in the hands of the user, by making life simpler, more intuitive and more joined-up:

>1. Anticipating the user: ‘joining the dots’ and providing user choice

Google recently enhanced its Android version of Google Maps to include a new value-added feature within its navigation options. Punch in a destination which is a store or restaurant etc and the app will now warn you if ‘your destination may be closed by the time you arrive’.

I view this development as somewhat an ‘inevitable innovation’ — given the amount of data aggregation and layering by the world’s pre-eminent search platform. But that is not to say that this enhancement doesn’t advance the digital experience significantly for its users. None of us enjoys a wasted trip; and with this tweak, the experience (of mapping/ navigation combined with ‘service availability’ at your destination) are now seamlessly unified.

The user now has the choice to heed the on-screen warning (call off the planned trip) or else navigate to an alternate destination that may still be open (competitive forces at work, as Michael Porter might term them). Yet another example of how increasingly more choice is presenting itself to us via ever-smarter digital technology; right there on our mobile device.

>2. ‘Don’t make think’*… provide the ‘Next-best action’

Whilst we’re talking mobile mapping and navigation, another more subtle tweak has also been made recently to Google’s maps that you’d be forgiven to have missed. And it’s as simple as that age-old improvement of moving away from 3 clicks when just one will do nicely, thank you very much.

If, like me, upon opening Maps on your phone when ‘Location’ was switched off (to conserve much-needed battery power, naturally) Google Maps’ UI used to just provide you a pop up reminder to ‘enable location’ in your Android settings. Not that helpful or intuitive when you are, more often than not, trying to navigate a busy city street whilst simultaneously maintaining a passing awareness of would-be phone-snatchers.

So a helpful tweak Google introduced recently was for this pop up message to actually offer to switch on your location settings for you, automagically. A smaller scale UI enhancement, for sure: but one which is actually a very contextually-relevant improvement to the experience when a user is commonly using the mapping app (i.e. harassed, in a rush, in a busy street).

>3. “By the way, where’s my data: and what will you do with it?”

Finally, no discussion of the digital user experience and its evolution would be complete without a consideration of privacy and security. Increasingly hot topics, without a doubt. With the growing amount of data (and layered data sets) that are collected as a result of customers using such connected services, Google is increasingly cognizant of users’ growing interest in ‘their <own> data’.

So much so in fact, that Google recently streamlined, consolidated and simplified its privacy and security settings for all Google services: by bringing them all together into one place for the first time. The new ‘My Account’ portal ( now allows Google users to much more clearly navigate and adjust their choices in respect to options such as what information is made public via your Google+ profile; right through to the option of opting out of ‘interest-based ads’ (opting out means you will still be served with Ads, just not so personalised).

Again, more evolution than revolution here in terms of the digital self-service aspect. Many of these options were available prior to the introduction of Google’s ‘My Account’ dashboard: but they were spread, rather inconveniently, across various pages and settings across the wider Google platform.

But in an age in which users are becoming increasingly concerned about what data is held on them and how it is utilised, the introduction of the ‘My Account’ feature at least starts to provide a more seamless and intuitive way for people to engage with their data set — and what it means for them. It also brings the much-needed user benefit that people increasingly crave in their ever-more connected ‘digital lives’: that of increased simplicity and ease of use.

Digital Change: large and ‘small’

Large-scale digital transformation across most consumer-facing sectors is undoubtedly much-needed and benefit-bringing (to both users/ consumers as well as the brands who seek to serve them). Whether this is about replacing age-old, legacy infrastructure in retail banks that would otherwise impede new front-end innovations or developing the intuitive and enticing app front ends that Media brands require, as streaming content becomes the new normal.

But against this backdrop of much-needed large scale ‘infrastructure-level’ digital change let’s not overlook the contribution that can be made by those more ‘business as usual’ enhancements and insightful refinements to the end-to-end digital experience. Since often in Digital Product & Experience it’s the ‘little things’ that can actually make a big difference.

And the ‘So what’?

Customer-focused consumer brands need to whole heartily embrace both types of digital change (both large-scale/ infrastructure level and smaller-scale/ enhancement level) in order to really cut through with today’s demanding consumers. Since ever-increasing amounts of digital innovation tends to have an effect on the consumers of digital services to expect things to ‘just work’ more and more. So getting the digital product management right, as well as the digital product development/ transformation is just the ticket…

*’Don’t make me think’: the title of Steve Krug’s seminal work on creating the intuitive digital experience

>About Ian Finn

Ian Finn is a highly experienced Digital & Proposition Strategist and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) who has led digital improvement at some of the UK’s largest companies. A diverse career across a range of the UK’s leading B2C service brands means Ian brings an ‘end-to-end’ portfolio of Digital capability spanning Product and Customer Proposition; in addition to Digital/ Customer Experience.

Find me on LinkedIn or on Twitter (@IanFinnDigital)

Product management; digital transformation; customer experience

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