The CMO audit series, Part 4: The convergence of UX and performance marketing

When I started working in the performance marketing industry, I always admired the great creatives in the world. I loved the science of performance marketing but always felt as though something was missing in our space. Well, the time for great user experience to be owned by creative agencies is over.

In the old days (2008), creative in the performance marketing world was about banner ads, paid search ad copy, and creating a landing page that converted. It was black and white, cut and dried. Our minds were so focused on catching someone at the very moment their intent was to buy that it was just about conversion. It was math, not art.

Over the years, the digital world has shifted; consumer behavior today is nothing like it was back in the early to mid-2000s. Video, new social platforms, rich media experiences, and now virtual and augmented reality have created a shift in behavior that requires brands and the agencies that represent them to evolve.

Consumers’ expectations have changed: They desire a more personalized experience online and one that touches them emotionally, captivates their attention and understands their needs, motivations and desires.

In my previous post, I talked about how growth through digital marketing is no longer just about the channel you invest in (SEM, social, display and so on). It’s about the other practices that support these.

This is where I see some of the most interesting work being done in our space, and to me, user experience, or UX, is on the forefront of growth. UX done right drives personalization, and with the right access to data and the know-how to leverage it appropriately, UX can match the consumer of today, meet tomorrow’s expectations and drive growth and brand loyalty more than ever before, using a fascinating blend of art and science.

I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by incredible people driving this change in our space. For this post, I interviewed Aaron Bart, VP of Creative at 3Q Digital, my employer. Bart is a UX guru and is someone who brings art and science together in ways that drives growth for innovative brands.

Aaron Bart

Q&A

Q: Let’s talk about user experience and how it’s converging with performance marketing. How do you see them coming together?

UX and performance marketing are converging. Marketing in general is focused on selling to the customer, while UX focuses on serving the customer’s needs; these are potentially opposed, but both are required for success. Increasingly, the purchase of a product, and the experience of searching for and purchasing a product, are becoming one and the same thing.

Q: Are there any specific factors driving the evolution of UX?

My take on where UX is headed as it relates to performance marketing (and the success/growth of brands in general) focuses on a core concept of UX design: empathy (and empathic design). This relates not only to channel-specific marketing assets (the design of ads, landing pages and sites), but to the design of cross-channel/cross-device, customer-centric conversion flows and marketing programs.

Q: How has the proliferation of data affected the evolution of UX?

With a growing availability of user data, and more sophisticated approaches to understanding complexity in this user data, and our ability to leverage user data to more accurately track/attribute and really understand user behavior across all of our marketing channels and devices, the better we get at empathy, and the more we can build that empathy into our targeted and personalized marketing messages/designs.

To me, that is where UX and performance marketing converge — and where UX design (empathic design) is being directly impacted by data (availability of data and growing ability to use it to improve the quality our performance marketing capabilities).

Q: One of the tenets of performance marketing is “test everything.” How does this apply to UX?

Bringing testing into design is a must. Design should be a living element that is always being challenged. The data we have at our fingerprints is undeniable and can have a dramatic impact not just on growth but on consumer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

The emergence of data management platforms has allowed creatives to bring real intelligence into design that can drive personalization and iterative changes that lead to better overall experiences.

Bring qualitative studies into your design. Do research around the motivations, outcomes, barriers and challenges of the consumer. Leverage this information and testing to humanize the experience and optimize along the entire customer journey.

Q: How have you seen agencies adjust to the evolution of UX?

The Stanford “Design Thinking” movement has slowly crept into marketing (David Kelley founding IDEO in the early 1990s, then the digital agencies of the 1.0 era: Razorfish, etc.). The design thinking and UX movements started directly influencing the way those early agencies thought about UX design of those early web interfaces for shopping and other monetizeable actions.

And now in a similar way (along the same historical path), we see a convergence of UX and marketing with performance/growth marketing agencies like ours: the idea of applying design thinking to any business or marketing solution.

Q: How are you, as a creative pro, different in your approach from a data-first marketer?

The design thinking approach incorporates an emotional aspect to customers’ needs and behaviors: UX and UX design (as well as CRO, and testing to validate designs for performance) take this emotional aspect into consideration in a way that regular data-collection and observation don’t.

The convergence is happening in that (successful) marketers/agencies are realizing that in order to have successful performance marketing, you MUST observe/collect data on and address customer needs — including emotional needs — and you MUST design experiences and marketing programs that fulfill that promise.

Conclusion

So this wasn’t a traditional audit format, but hopefully it’s sparked some questions for you and your company’s approach to UX. If you felt pulled uncomfortably forward by any of Bart’s answers, it’s time for a huddle with your execs and a new strategy on how to go forward and engage your customers on their terms.