What is Experience Architecture?

03.20.16   Kimberly McCabe

“Experience is the new Brand.

 Experiences are the new Branding. 

 The future is EXPERIENCE.” 

 
Brian Solis – X: The Experience When Brand Meets Design 

 
Is this intriguing to you, too? When I first began studying branding it became clear that despite the best efforts of the brand the reality is lies within the consumer perception of who you are.  Today that couldn’t be any truer. 
 

Define Experience Architecture

Much like Architecture, Experience Architecture is the process of building experiences which include brands. It is evolving from the confines of technology to encompassing an point at which a person might interact. 
 

Today’s Experiential World

We live in a connected world, accessible by many channels. Our ability to define own experiences has made us pretty fickle – in part because we’re rarely short on choice. And where choices are slim, no doubt some headline worthy disruption will happen soon. Today, our experiences guide us. 
 

Creating Customer Experiences Isn’t Easy? 

For a few years the early adopters have been pushing customer experience as the solution, while trying to enlighten the world of the importance of experiences that transcend channels.  The fact is we remember our experiences; the good and the bad. Good experiences are easy to define because they just work – sometimes they delight us but often they work so well we don’t even really think much about it. Obviously then, creating and delivering these kind of customer experiences ISN’T EASY. 
 
Brian Solis says that Steve Job’s ‘intersection of technology and liberal arts’ is exactly where we need to be in experience architecture, while unfortunately too many of us focus on how to use technology to deliver experiences which he smartly defines as ‘mediumism’.
 

Start Exploring Simple Experiences.

Where do you start? It depends on your business. And of course if you’re looking to go down a digital transformation path, you might be casing out ways to get stakeholder support and budget. In that case, create some experiments. What would be some key ‘wins’ that would prove that improving experience architecture would improve business results? 
 
Poor experience example: 
I love online grocery shopping. However my experience used to ‘crash and burn’ every time I forgot something…which was always. When I forgot an item, upon adding it, I needed to navigate through the entire checkout process AGAIN. And considering the checkout process was a step-by-step up-selling process, it eventually led me back to the strolling down store aisles. 
 
The fix:
However, ever since the experience architecture has been updated for forgetful people like me, I’ve ordered online every single week. The change? Well it’s a spin on the famous ‘1-click’ purchase button – I can search the site or app, add an item and then key in a PIN to add the item to my current order…no checkout. The new process is genius because it solves a common problem, simply.
 

Create Experiments, Test Creatively. 

 

Use Experts

The area of Experience Architecture isn’t simple to master. Doing it really well requires not just good intuition and creativity but some very diverse abilities in from technology, design and perhaps even a bit of psychology. When companies are ready for the digital transformation which evolves out of developing an Experience Architecture, they profit from calling in the experts. After all, the value of getting this right can be your Blue Ocean Strategy. From developing an understanding of your customers and brand, to experience mapping, to the finesse involved in building wireframes, to using technology such as building your Content Management System or Digital Marketing Suite to empower your workforce with the day-to-day capabilities – getting every step right is critical to delivering something magic. 
 

Get Serious and Build a Business Case

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to Experience Architecture. So for some, getting out the gate and getting stakeholder buy-in can be a challenge. Maybe you need to start with one small part of your business to build a business case. You see Experience Architecture is driving a shift in how companies perceive their digital technology vendors; they’re becoming true partners. Technology is changing our lives every day, and to stay competitive our technology needs to now evolve with the changing marketplace. In the last year ‘wearables’ became more mainstream, and given the buzz generated at SXSW recently, it seems Virtual Reality may be the next big experiential building block.