Why UX design is the last battleground for business success in a COVID-19 world

Jamie Shostak

Appetiser Apps co-founder and head of growth Jamie Shostak. Source: supplied.

Companies that are surviving the pandemic are largely those that are hellbent on serving their customers.

It’s the ones that are adapting their offering to create seamless experiences and giving customers assurance that engaging with their brand will be ‘COVIDSafe’. 

A recent report from Edelman found that 77% of people want brands to only speak about products in ways that show they are aware of the crisis and the impact on people’s lives. And 85% want brands to use their power to educate, offering instructional information about how to protect themselves from the virus.

An example given in the report was Microsoft’s Healthcare bot offered on the CDC website, which enables people to ask questions about their symptoms. Notably, 88% of people also want to know how they can best access products and services.

Changing customer perceptions and behaviour has forced companies to think on their feet and really consider how to ensure the experiences they’re creating are tailored for the current climate.

The response from brands has been impressive, with Peter Beech of the World Economic Forum noting there has been a level of invention and innovation akin to the Second World War, where jet aircraft engines, pressurised cabins and even ballpoint pens were first invented. 

Industries serving the needs of customers

The fintech sector in Australia, born out of innovation and putting customers first, has largely been thriving during the pandemic.

Limepay, for example, secured $6 million in investment, and home loan startup Verteva raised $33 million.

While Neobanks including Monzo, Revolut and Starling have reportedly seen their growth rates slow since the beginning of the pandemic period, some of their attributes, such as helping customers understand how to spend and manage their spending, are more relevant now than ever before.

This might partly explain why investment in the sector has still been healthy, with Judo, a neobank focused on small business, recently closing a sizable $230 million funding round. 

Some industries haven’t been so lucky, but it’s those who adapt and think of where customers are, and what their wants and needs are, that are fighting back.

Take Flight Centre, for example, which has lost a sizable $875 million due to COVID-19.

It recently partnered with Aussie travel social media platform Travello, after recognising that customers are travelling more domestically, and seeking experience-based travel with border restrictions heavily impeding on international travel.

Virtual travel is beginning to take off too, with apps such as Google Earth VR, theBlu and Everest VR enabling you to ‘travel’ and complete life changing expeditions from the comfort of your sofa. 

Focus on UX

David Truog, VP research director at Forrester, believes that creating brilliant user experiences tailored for the current times is vitally important.

He says that, with customers staying at home, funds should urgently be redirected towards the people, processes and technologies required for digital user experience (UX) to deliver excellent interaction design, compelling value and intuitive presentation. 

Interestingly, he also highlights the need to scale-up design teams and hire outside help where needed, rigorously review UX so you can make it better, and update and sharpen your UX expertise.

Digital experiences and a shift to online

According to Nielsen, both Alibaba and Miss Fresh have reported that the older generation is shifting to online during the pandemic.

Alibaba reported that the number of grocery orders placed by users born in the 1960s is four times higher than normal.

Miss Fresh, another online retailer in China, claims its users aged 40 years and older have risen by 237% during the COVID-19 period.

Nielsen’s survey shows that globally, consumers still have a strong affinity with in-store shopping but cites artificial and virtual reality (A/VR) technology as having the potential to bring the in-store experience into their homes, much like in the travel industry as mentioned earlier.

Consumers are also demanding new ways for brands to engage with them.

According to AI firm LivePerson, there has been a near sixfold (5.6x) increase in Australians using chatbots via messaging channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SMS to communicate with brands since May 2019.

Companies are also having to become more focused on delivering seamless e-commerce and m-commerce experiences, with COVID-19 heavily contributing to the demise of cash.

ATM withdrawals in April were down 30% from March and down 40% from a year ago, according to Reserve Bank data.

Getting it right 

There’s no doubt about it, the COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly challenging for businesses locally and around the world. The ones that are winning, however, are those who are relentlessly serving their customers, adapting to shifting demands and behaviours, and focusing heavily on developing exceptional UX.

We’re seeing World War II-like levels of technological heroism and, as the pandemic progresses and lockdown levels ebb and flow, it’s those who have adapted their offering and generated trust from their customers in a COVID-19 world, who will come out on top.

UX really is the last battleground for startup and enterprise success in the modern world. 

NOW READ: CX versus UX: What’s the difference, and why does it matter?

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