The importance of UX/UI in the travel ecosystem
Organisations in all sectors of the economy must now deal with a simple fact: we are living in an age when the personalised user experience or customer experience is paramount. According to a study by Forrester, companies who invest in user experience (UX) see a lower cost of customer acquisition, lower support cost, increased customer retention, and increased market share.
With much of the engagement between consumers and brands now occurring through the medium of machines and digital technology, companies need to give customers a seamless user experience. This means that they (customers) won’t be aware of the sophisticated back-end technology that’s implemented in the machines. They will, instead, be aware of the front-end side and the underlying experience they’ll have with it.
This situation holds in every industry, including the travel sector. Happy, intuitive user experiences between passengers and machines are critical for memorable travel experiences and generating customer satisfaction and retention. To create this agreeable and memorable user experience, organisations must therefore take all necessary steps to create positive interactions between travellers and machines.
What is User Experience (UX)?
User Experience or UX is a term encapsulating the total of an individual’s interactions and impressions of a brand, product, or service. Generally speaking, a positive user experience is one in which the consumer finds a product or service helpful, easy to use, and delightful to interact with.
User experience is often associated with the design of online resources and software, and in such cases is typically taken as synonymous with the User Interface or UI of an application or web portal. However, the UX concept goes much further than this. Interactions between consumers and the organisations they deal with occur at several levels, including physical, digital, and interpersonal. The user experience consists of the sum of all these parts.
For this reason, the user experience created by an organisation for its consumers must go beyond the simple cosmetic tactic of making things look good. User experience design must embrace a more holistic approach in which every interaction not only looks good and occurs in a frictionless and efficient manner, but also feels good and delivers tangible value to the customer.
Moreover, user experience cannot simply be limited to the touchpoints and channels at the periphery, where direct interaction occurs between individuals and organisations. Rather, an awareness of and commitment to the user experience needs to be an integral part of the entire culture of the enterprise itself. For a truly holistic approach, organisations, therefore, need to adopt a UX culture, and a worldview in which everyone thinks about the consumer, and the user experience they are having.
Why the User Experience Matters
In addition to its positive effects on customer acquisition, retention, and market share, Forrester's research also indicates that for every dollar an organisation invests in user experience, they earn 100 dollars back. This represents a Return On Investment (ROI) of 9900%. A study by the Design Management Institute revealed that companies which make user experience (UX) design a priority have outperformed the S&P 500 by 228% over the last ten years.
Then, a focus on user experience pays financial dividends.
From a customer perspective, organisations that concentrate on delivering positive digital experiences, physical interactions, and encounters that consistently delight and engage consumers can differentiate themselves as brands for whom the user experience extends beyond the product or service. In this way, they give consumers a much higher value from a product than just the product itself.
However, establishing a user experience culture within an organisation takes time, effort, and commitment. Every employee of the organisation must be responsible for thinking about user-friendliness. And the organisation itself must be structured in such a way that encourages and supports great user experience design.
In such an environment, measuring the amount of delight and engagement that customers experience when dealing with the organisation assumes as much importance as the design aesthetics and ease of use of various touchpoints.
Organisations with a UX culture must therefore tend to make significant investments in employing and nurturing user experience designers. These professionals are responsible not only for crafting the user experience that gives value and pleasure to the consumers but also for collecting and analysing feedback from those same users. Such analysis can provide the information necessary for refining and optimising future iterations of products and services. In this way, user experience design becomes a continuous process of improvement for the organisation.
The Importance of Data in User Experience Culture
This last point emphasises the need for user experience design to be a data-driven process. Organisations must manage user experience by numbers, and make decisions based on research, data, and facts.
Customer data is the resource that provides UX/UI designers with the information they need to create a user experience that successfully meets the needs and expectations of consumers. Every UX strategy must therefore be founded based on collecting and analysing qualitative and quantitative data from various sources, such as customer interviews, surveys, social media commentary, behaviour patterns, and psychology. User experience analysts and designers must monitor, track, and analyse every interaction with the consumer, both online and offline.
Organisations also need to take a hard-nosed approach to user experience design and strategy formulation. Relying on verifiable data and quantifiable analysis will minimise or eliminate the tendency for organisations to depend on the subjective opinions of their senior executives, who too often assume -- incorrectly -- that their own opinions and preferences are typical of their customers. Using such assumptions to guide user experience decision-making can have catastrophic consequences for the overall health of the business.
The Business Benefits of User Experience
At a base level, including a user experience strategy at the earliest stages of a project can save organisations time, money, and resources in developing products and services that consumers want. With comprehensive data gathering and analysis into the usage patterns and reactions of consumers to existing products and services, organisations that take a user experience design approach can readily discern whether or not they are developing the right product and the best features.
By taking a data-driven approach to user experience decisions, businesses can lower the risk involved in product development. Research, planning, testing, and validation phases in UX design help to ensure that resources are being efficiently allocated to areas that are relevant to the consumer. Furthermore, user experience design and iterative refinement bring value to the enterprise and the consumer, through product optimisation and continuous improvement.
Backed by verifiable data and analysis, a user experience strategy enables businesses to prioritise problems and their solutions, to provide the maximum benefit to users. With a solid UX strategy, organisations can consider all aspects of the branding, usability, design, and functionality of a product or service and create an offering that exceeds customer expectations.
Ultimately, this optimised user experience will enhance customer engagement and loyalty, increasing operational efficiency and revenue with streamlined and valuable experiences at every touchpoint.
User Experience in the Travel Industry
In the travel industry, digital experiences are now everywhere -- from destination planning, through booking, to ticket purchase, and the travel journey itself. Today’s travellers can use their mobile devices to tag luggage and scan boarding passes and use their faces as a digital token as they pass through biometric screening at the transport hub.
For all of these encounters, the personalised user experience is key. With consumers willing to pay extra for highly personalised user experiences, any organisation that can step up its UX game to the highest standard is positioned to win.
Positive interactions between travellers and machines are key to improving customer satisfaction and customer experiences. Both airports and airlines, therefore, need to invest in memorable digital experiences for travellers, so they can become loyal customers. Airlines and airports must make the necessary investments in UX design and implementation, to give customers a seamless travel experience. With user experience at the forefront, travellers will not be aware of the sophisticated back-end technology that goes into making their experiences so memorable.
Designing for UX/UI in Travel
One of the principal foundations of user experience design in travel is fully mapping out the customer journey. The “customer” in this sense may be a traveller, an airport employee, a flight crew member, or someone working in the back office.
In every case, the key is to define the entire journey of their user experience throughout each process and across all channels, using actual feedback from the customer to indicate their reactions at each stage. This journey mapping may include visual cues to illustrate the motivations of a traveller at each touchpoint, and the nature of their user experience (Happy, Stressed, Confused, etc.). By studying this visual layout, the airport or airline can determine where the gaps exist between negative user experience and customer delight.
The process of user experience evaluation needs to be quantifiable. It is therefore necessary to establish meaningful benchmarks or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Through analysis of the user experience feedback at each touchpoint, the airport or airline can compare these metrics against industry standards or leaders in a particular KPI category. These measurements can help the travel organisation to determine whether it is delivering services in a way that improves the user experience and help in identifying missing features or services that competitors may be providing.
At Vision-Box, we have a UX/UI Experience Design Team that is increasingly focused on user experience and passenger profiles, optimising our solutions according to the data generated which, consequently, results in the creation of better digital travel and frictionless experiences.
We adapt our biometrics algorithm for each one of the solutions (it’s not one-size-fits-all), but we always have to validate it, because the interactions with the different touchpoints are different from each other as well. A passenger, for instance, can interact with a document reader and/or with a camera to perform facial recognition, and so every single touchpoint in the journey has its mechanisms and specificities. We always take into account that the business cases and needs are different in each case, and we develop the User Experience and the User Interface according to these parameters.
What’s more, we’re increasingly focused on the user (user-centric) and data. These two elements dramatically improve decision-making and product optimisations. The nature of User Experience and UI is a highly iterative, interactive process because we’re constantly doing tests and validations, but it has its procedural and contextual components. This means that we must understand the different environments and infrastructures in which our customers are located.
More than creating seamless experiences for the client and the passengers through the touchpoints, we also help to define the value strategy collaboratively with the customer. And this collaboration is key to their success. UX/UI is fundamental in the sense that it addresses problems and constantly optimises the user experience for the final passenger based on data and experiences, bringing ROI to our clients (from an airline or an airport to the control forces).