What a 32-step journey to a Bruno Mars album can teach marketers and tech companies

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My mom likes Bruno Mars. She also likes to hike and run. So she was excited when she got an iPod shuffle for her birthday, because it meant she could finally combine everything she liked in an extremely lightweight, easy way.

Or so she thought.

The iPod shuffle proved to be a nemesis to the family. Her birthday was in December. By May, two of my brothers and my stepdad had all tried and failed to add music to it. I heard tales of their woe over the phone.

What was making this so hard? Why was this so hard? And where was this customer journey breaking down before Bruno made it to the iPod?

The inside-outside experience gap

Marketers, designers and developers are always trapped in their own heads. That’s what a computer is, essentially. You’re building an experience that is exactly tailored to everything you do. Virtually.

The way you respond to colors and words, the things you notice first, what you look for when trying to solve something, the shortcuts you use, and even the tactile responses of a keyboard and mouse are all based on your own experience.

Basically, the user interface, the marketing funnel, the content you create is geared toward the way you’ve learned to use a computer.

So when I decided to be a hero and try to help my mom where others had failed, I got a glimpse of someone else’s user journey. And it was a whirlwind of confusion and frustration.

Here is what my mom’s 32-step journey looked like when trying to buy an album:

  1. Plugs in device.
  2. Clicks the iTunes Store.
  3. Looks for Bruno Mars.
  4. Tries to buy, told she has to sign in.
  5. Doesn’t remember if she has an account
  6. Tries to create an account, typing each detail and coming up with a complicated password.
  7. Told she has an account.
  8. Clicks reset password.
  9. Has to leave the iTunes Store to go to a web page to reset her password.
  10. Takes 5-7 minutes to figure out a password that will actually correspond with the security settings.
  11. Goes back to the store.
  12. Goes to Bruno Mars.
  13. Clicks Buy.
  14. Needs to sign in.
  15. When signed in, told that she has to update the payment info.
  16. Updates the payment info.
  17. Payment info invalid.
  18. Decides to give up.
  19. I point out the card symbol above the card number, which is selected on the wrong type of card.
  20. She clicks the symbol.
  21. Her card is accepted.
  22. The album didn’t download, so she has to find Bruno Mars for the third time.
  23. She has to sign in again to ensure that she can buy the album.
  24. A message about the album not being authorized for downloads on different devices is shown.
  25. Decides to give up.
  26. Already has the album and it’s downloading.
  27. Tries to click and drag the album to the iPod, lets go of the mouse too soon.
  28. Looks for songs and doesn’t find them.
  29. Says curse words.
  30. Doesn’t click hard enough when trying to add.
  31. Is shown that a certain amount of pressure has to be applied for the whole journey from Library to iPod.
  32. Success.

Apple is one of the most forward-thinking brands when it comes to the customer experience and user interface. iPhones, iPads and iPods are some of the most intuitive devices around today. And yet the demand for simplicity and guided journeys continues unabated.

Other businesses suffer even more at the hands of different audiences. The average bounce rate for websites often hovers around 50 percent or higher. And if a customer has a poor experience, 47 percent say they would switch to a competitor within a day. Pew Research shows that if someone finds a news site from Facebook, they stay around for 1 minute and 41 seconds. That’s barely enough time to read one news story.

The web experience now has to be as simple as the mobile experience. If it isn’t, the user may bounce.

Intuition, in the eye of the beholder

The “intuitive” user experiences that we take for granted only apply to a very specific class of tech user with prebuilt notions of how things should work. While we may think that customers want flexibility and robust platforms, a simple, streamlined program is going to do a lot better for certain audiences.

Amazon knows that if something takes more than a click, conversions drop. We all know that personalized content gets higher engagement and personalized products get higher conversions. So can we somehow personalize the user journey?

Customer experience is paramount to building a successful digital business. While retail companies can connect with customers on a personal level, we often don’t try to experience our own products and digital journeys as strangers with an array of different technological expectations.

If you’re trying to optimize the customer experience — whether for a website, an app, or even a social ad — start out by having a focus group try out your product. See how they use it and where they get stuck. That group doesn’t have to be official, either. Grab a few friends and family members.

You’ll be surprised by what you see, and even more surprised by what you learn.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.




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