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Understand the Business Value of Design

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain what design thinking is and how it can help your company achieve greater results.
  • Describe some design-first approaches to understanding customers and building customer experiences.

Transformation by Design

Can you imagine (or remember) the Internet before Google? Web experiences before Facebook and Amazon? How about mobile phones before Apple launched the iPhone? Thanks to design breakthroughs in the last few decades, we’re now living in a world where most mainstream digital experiences are easy, convenient, and intuitive. 

Our expectations about the customer experience have shifted as well. Whether we’re searching for information, buying goods and services, or communicating with businesses, we prefer personalized interactions that feel like we’re connecting with a friend. Think of the proliferation of chatbots and digital assistants like Alexa and Siri. 

Design Thinking in Action

In the age of digital transformation, more and more companies are taking a design-first approach to better understand and get closer to their customers. If you completed the Digital Transformation module, you learned that design thinking, or a design-first approach, is one of the key characteristics that nearly all digital transformation projects share. 

But how exactly do companies employ design thinking? When a company uses design thinking, they put customers at the center of everything they do. They employ empathy to understand users as people—not as spreadsheets, categories, or numbers. A design-led business incorporates end-user insights into its products and services to create experiences that customers love. 

Instead of traditional analytical thinking and linear problem-solving, design-led companies use more flexible methods such as user research and customer journeys. To understand what the customer thinks, companies conduct one-to-one customer interviews, observe customer interactions, and rapidly create and test prototypes to find out what works and what doesn’t. Those practices allow them to deeply understand what the customer wants so they can create digital experiences that resonate. Design methods also allow companies to test ideas faster and discover better ways to use technology. Both the customer and the company win. 

Companies that prioritize empathy can shape their entire customer experience around human behaviors.  When they do that they are more successful at creating personalized experiences that use the right mix of technology and communication channels. 

Not Just a Shiny New App

Design is everywhere. In tangible things like furniture, clothes, streets, bridges, laptops, and smart devices, and intangible things like services, org structures, websites, and apps. A person, team, or company designed each one with an intent in mind—a primary function or idea about how it can improve people’s daily lives.

Sure, many design-led companies produce some pretty snazzy apps, but being design-led is much more than that. It’s about considering the entire customer experience. By focusing on the customer at every touchpoint—packaging, online properties, mobile apps, web and print ads, the check-out experience, customer service policies, and more—the customer gets what they actually want and need in every interaction. 

Why take the time to do this? It goes back to today’s expectations. Many consumers have researched which product they want to buy before they even step into a store. Odds are you did this recently too! Companies that focus on design and the customer experience know that if they don’t use empathy to develop experiences that delight customers, another brand will.

Good Experience Design Is Good for Business

Competition is fierce and design seems like a lot of work, right? Well, the good news is, data shows that using design has some real, amazing results: Design-first companies tracked over 10 years, performed 211% better than companies without a design mentality, according to DMI. That’s impressive. Today’s most successful companies understand this and are making bigger investments in design initiatives. For example, both IBM and Capital One have hired thousands of designers recently.

So how does design thinking help these companies achieve incredible business value?

  • Faster time to market: Design-thinking helps companies rapidly test and iterate until they find the right solution. That helps them build products and services faster, giving them an edge on the competition.
  • Greater customer loyalty: When brands and companies use design to build personalized and intuitive customer experiences, customers are more willing to build relationships with them—and thus, spend more money. Think about all those in-app purchases you make on your mobile device, or how easy it is to order from your favorite ecommerce website on your mobile phone. When a company designs a relevant and easy experience, they unlock greater loyalty and value.
  • Expanded reach: Design thinking helps organizations deeply understand not only what customers want, but why they want it. Deep insights can uncover an unmet need, untapped market, or new segment of customers they hadn’t reached before.

Next, see how Salesforce can help you employ design thinking at your organization to get closer to customers and improve business value.


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