Design is a key differentiator in driving business success and customer engagement. In a study conducted by the Design Management Institute reviewing business performance for design-driven companies as compared to the S&P Index over a decade (2004-2014), design-driven companies consistently outperformed the S&P by 219%.
Design-Led Companies: A Winning Business Advantage
A well-designed customer experience that is based upon deep customer understanding and provides effective, compelling visuals and relevant interactions, can make the difference between a loyal customer and one who walks away dissatisfied.
From July-Oct 2016, Forrester Research Consulting conducted a study commissioned by Adobe to explore how design practices may create a tangible, measurable business advantage. To do this, Forrester developed a design maturity framework to evaluate how companies use design in their business practice for marketing, product and customer experience. This included interviews and surveys of decision-makers at companies in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, South Korea, Australia/New Zealand, and Japan.
The study resulted in identifying 2 different categories of business - design-led firms versus those that did not place a priority on design.
What’s a design-led company?
A design-led company is one that puts design at the core of its brand. The company weaves design principles into everything it does— from research and strategy to creating content. Leadership and management at these companies think beyond transactions and focus on creating beautiful experiences that build lasting and meaningful relationships with customers. (Source: Adobe)
Design-led companies reported:
41% higher market share
46% competitive advantage overall
50% more loyal customers
70% digital experiences beat competitors
Key findings revealed that in design-led firms:
- Design permeates the organization, driving culture and the ambition to do better.
- There is support throughout the organization to nurture talent and to have a variety of skills from strategic to visual, technical and more with collaborative work processes.
- The company embeds tactical and production-level design from strategy through application across user experience.
Also companies with less advanced design practices typically underestimate the business benefits of design-led customer experience.
Design-led firms excel at world-class customer experience strategy and implementation.
Leadership at design-led firms also have a keen awareness of the importance of design in creating an enjoyable customer experience that customers love and want to experience again. In fact, most design leaders interviewed consciously put customers first and emphasized the importance of creating an emotional bond with customers and having an advanced design practice to help support this.
Companies that prioritize design are also more likely to innovate and test ideas out with customers. They also invest in tools, training and systems to do this, and have design practices and processes in place to support their customer experience strategy.
Design-led firms also consciously aim to create seamless customer experiences across a variety of touchpoints and devices. Today so often customers begin a product search with a phone call, website visit from a desktop computer or visit to a store and then follow up on a smartphone or tablet. Your new customer may interact with your brand across multiple touchpoints before making a purchasing decision. Creating a seamless customer experience that adapts to how your customer finds and interacts with your business is key.
Disrupting Industries and Transforming Businesses
Design-driven startups have also disrupted industries. Uber transformed the transportation industry with a well-designed app to connect riders to drivers, while AirBnB also disrupted the hospitality industry with the idea of home rentals through an elegant website and mobile app. These companies definitely had innovative ideas, but they were able to pull in and engage customers through exceptional design and swift, intuitive user experiences.
Great design works hand in hand with great content. Your audiences connect with your company via excellent content that is personal and speaks to them individually. Together this leads to an engaging, enjoyable customer experience. This in turn, drives connection, loyalty, ongoing engagement and revenue.
Showing you care about your customer requires empathy and listening. In talking with your customers, you'll learn more about the decisions that led them to buy in the first place. You'll discover what both their expressed and unmet needs are. Sometimes, this in turn, will help you create a better product or service. These kinds of conversations and insight always drive better customer experiences.
Through its study, Forrester identified companies with significant design-led practices as possessing 'design maturity.' A company with design maturity prioritizes design, putting design at the core of its culture and customer experience, invests in people and processes and is constantly learning and improving. This in turn, differentiates the design-led company from others and wins over the customer by often a large margin. (Source: Adobe).
Stand out in an increasingly competitive landscape with growing digital touchpoints and increasing customer expectations with design. Assess your brand's design maturity and follow the recommendations below to deliver best in class, design-led digital experiences that help you drive business results and growth.
When you have a design-led company, you can attain more satisfied and loyal customers, significant competitive advantages and greater market share than companies with a less mature design approach. You will also build an atmosphere that encourages innovation, continuous improvement in process, product and customer experience.
What You Can Do
If you are a C-level executive, manager or owner, here are a few recommendations to help you bring design to the forefront of your business and gain this competitive advantage over the long term.
1.) Include a variety of design roles
This ranges from visual and interactive design to research, interactive wireframing, and other processes that can help you uncover customer needs, plan and map out customer goals and execute customer experiences. Keep your definition of design broad so that you are not limited.
2.) Encourage design leadership across roles
Hire, train and support design leadership through training, mentorship, recruitment and support so that you bring in design thinking for continuous improvement.
3.) Establish cross-functional design processes
Add design capabilities throughout your organization from initial conceptualization to final execution.