25 expert opinions on the importance of UX in marketing
If you build it, will they come? And if they come, will they be able to use it?
What do we know already know about marketing?
Well as a very experienced digital marketing writer person, I believe it’s something about the sizzle and a potentially disappointing visit to a steak restaurant.
Perhaps a better aphorism than the standard cliché is, “There’s no sizzle without steaks” because hey, what’s the point of marketing if you don’t have a user-friendly product to offer?
What if someone who was attracted by your red-hot, scorching promises, comes to your product and has no idea how to use it? What are the implications of a poor user experience on your brand? How the heck do you UX test a steak?
Basically, what we’re trying to say is…
What is the importance of UX in marketing?
We asked 25 UX experts from the world of digital marketing, SEO, CRO, content and beyond most of the above questions. Mainly the ones that aren’t bizarre mixed-metaphors. They patiently obliged with the following blistering insight…
UX is a qualitative foundation for all marketing
Angie Schottmuller, Growth Marketing Advisor and Keynote Speaker
Marketing without UX is like throwing darts in the dark. Don’t hope to hit a goal when you can use data to understand context, emotion and needs to ensure a bullseye.
Never assume. ASK (… and then test). To optimize completion of your business goal, simply focus on helping users accomplish theirs. How do you make users feel? How do they want to feel? What information do they need to make a decision? What info is unclear or incomplete?
UX is a qualitative foundation for all marketing. If we’re not focused on helping users make good decisions to overcome challenges and accomplish their goals, what’s the point?
Good UX leads to clearer marketing messages
As marketers all we’re trying to do is explain how our product or service moves a customer to a specific before-state to a desired after-state. We’re professional explainers. That’s it. The great marketers know there are several ways to to do this:
- Improve targeting. Your message is in front of the right person at the right time.
- Develop an attractive offer.
- Articulate that offer clearly, concisely, and persuasively.
Number 3 is where UX comes in. Sure, when we explain things we must rely on the words we use, but copy is just one element in the user experience that will educate and persuade visitors to take action. How we layout our pages and utilize on-page elements is central to our marketing efforts (and our success).
Great experiences work towards conversion
You can’t have one without the other.
I’ve always considered UX to be a big part of marketing, not only due to the direct impact it has on revenue and conversions, but also because it influences the user’s overall feeling towards a brand or product.
UX isn’t just about readability and optimised fonts; it is also about creating memorable experiences that drive brand perception, recurring visits or purchases. UX also provides invaluable insights about what users do and about the psychology of the user, which lead to smarter marketing.
We keep hearing people say that UX has no common ground with marketing, that it only focuses on creating the best, most intuitive, flawless experience for the user. But great experiences always work towards some type of conversion.
Simply put, UX and Marketing need to co-exist. A website with good marketing and no UX is like serving microwave food at a royal party, while a website with good UX and no marketing is like throwing a royal party without any guests showing up.
Positive gut feelings about your brand come from good UX
If your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room, UX needs to be a strong part of your organization’s brand strategy.
Your site or app is the front door to building trust and credibility in your organization. We’re seeing nonprofits, higher education institutions and even government agencies start to use digital marketing strategies from the private sector, but only an excellent user experience can generate the kind of visceral trust that builds satisfaction and a strong reputation. When it comes time to ask for donations, tuition checks or votes, gut feelings matter!
We no longer live in a world where users will accept that an organization is operating on a shoestring, and adjust their expectations accordingly. If your site doesn’t project quality and attention to detail, or it frustrates users in any way, it will paint an unflattering picture of your mission, leadership and values. Any organization that wants to succeed at branding must bring UX professionals into the room.
Marketing without UX is a confusing and unwelcoming place
What would happen if you had to get your groceries from a warehouse? And I’m not talking Costco, but a real warehouse where the boxes are all brown and stacked and look the same and you have to have a detailed map and spreadsheet to find stuff?
That’s what marketing without user experience design is like. Your audience is standing at the door thinking, ‘I don’t know where to go. It’s dark. It’s cold. I want to go home.’
If you want your audience to feel that way about you, don’t invest in UX.
The best brands are driven by their customers
User experience, in my opinion, is now the foundational pillar of all marketing functions, and if a marketer isn’t familiar with its tenets they should quickly jump on the bandwagon and learn more about it.
Everything from personas, customer segmentation and targeting are all drawn from the amazing UX-realm. Marketers are, more than ever, adopting the best practices of design-driven UX to complement their work.
To me, user experience is about holistically listening to your customers, and writing for them – not your brand per se, as the best brands are driven by their core customers. As the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, the brands that stand out are the ones that know and understand their customers needs, wants and desires – and work hard to give them that.
Ignore UX at your own risk
Steve Jobs once said, ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ That’s the essence of UX. And that’s exactly why it should be central to marketing.
UX is foundational to all marketing efforts. No matter what strategies and tactics you are using to bring people to your business, if your core user experience is poor, your marketing will be wasted effort.
When UX design and optimization become central to marketing, all of your marketing will work harder for you. It’s the core experience of your product or website that will decide whether your audience is thrilled that they engaged with your marketing or whether they will instantly regret it.
When you ignore the importance of UX to marketing, you do so at your own risk.
Make your users happy and Google will reward you
UX has long been a requirement for any business that has a website and more recently, there have been benefits to come from this in terms of SEO and Google. To ignore UX in any marketing strategy where a website is involved is a little bit like not understanding the basic principles of keeping your visitors happy. Just because someone isn’t in a shop, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have a pleasing experience.
UX carries many benefits but the two I wish to point out are:
Google loves a happy user. If someone comes to your website and doesn’t leave to visit a competitor, then this is seen as a win. It means that they found what they wanted and had a pleasing experience. Aside from the obvious, this is going to result in increased benefit in the SERPs. Keep pleasing your visitors and Google will continue to feature you more highly.
More obvious but still forgotten, is that if a user is happy on your site, you will make more sales – stands to reason. However, some site owners just simply accept a level of drop out without actually looking at why or how to fix it. This is actually pretty easy to gain an understanding of by installing a live user recording service (something like HotJar or Inspectlet). This records every aspect of the user journey on your site for you to watch back. if you see issues, you can correct them – no need to guess.
The takeaway from this? Ignore UX at your peril. If you are unsure what to do or where to start, hire an expert to help get you started.
Put the needs of the user ahead of the needs of marketing
A successful user journey starts with marketing. Users may see an ad or read your blog before they truly become users. Setting the tone for the experience to come is an important bar to hold to all of marketings activities.
When done right, an excellent user experience will grease the wheels for high conversions from the top of the funnel on down.
At Appcues, we make sure every marketing person puts the users needs before our own. We use fullstory to watch user sessions on our website, we user test new pages, and we constantly watch our support inbox to see what questions users have that we can better answer up front.
As a tool that helps software companies improve their user experience, we have to prioritize our own UX above all else.
UX fulfils the promise of marketing
For me, they’re intertwined.
Without a strong user experience, whether encompassing the way customers interact with an app or website or the full customer experience from onboarding through to tracked success, marketing can’t deliver on the promises it makes – let alone take advantage of positive social proof and referrals.
I’m seeing a lot more companies get these two teams working together, and I think that’s hugely positive. When they’re working together instead of siloed, marketing and UX can be built up around each other to work in tandem and drive better results for both customers and the business itself.
If you help your customers achieve their goals, you achieve your own
UX is the advanced big brother of old school design.
Rather than designing for what looks pretty and supports the business’ goals, UX taps in to the most important resource and decision maker for your customer journey – your customer.
Using proven methodologies, in-depth research, testing and evaluation, UX focuses on creating high-converting marketing experiences your customers want and need.
At the end of the day, if you help your customers achieve their goals you achieve your own.
The blurred lines between CX and UX
I believe that customer experience (CX) is part of (modern) marketing. UX is a subset of CX. So, for me, UX is part of marketing.
UX focuses on the actual touch points and interfaces of experience but as the lines blur towards CX we can include everything from voice of the customer type insights (including, for example, social media monitoring and analysis) to customer service and satisfaction (e.g. Net Promoter Score) to customer co-creation and product/service innovation.
UX is about delivering on, and hopefully exceeding, your customers’ expectations when they interact with your people, products or services.
Solving your customers’ needs is why you exist
If you distill why a company exists, it’s to solve a problem or fulfil a desire in the world.
Content marketing is just solving the same problem or fulfilling the same desire as your product or service but through media that you create and distribute. And so, inherently, if you take that as your first principle, you can apply it to how you frame who your marketing is for.
So solving a problem, fulfilling a desire, it’s not necessarily your problem or your desire – it’s the customer’s. And if the customer is not at the centre of everything you do, you don’t have a reason to exist.
Profit, promotions, readership, all these things are byproducts of you doing a good job, solving a problem, or fulfilling a desire for the customer.
CRO and UX: different abbreviations, same goals
User experience is pretty integral to all marketing efforts. It’s an increasingly important ranking factor for SEO, and in general, good user experience leads to greater virality, retention, and conversions. Basically, improving the user experience is almost never a bad idea.
I come from a conversion optimization perspective, so user experience and CRO aren’t really separate in terms of their goals – or at least shouldn’t be. They’re both about optimizing the user experience and providing more value to both the customer and to the business’s bottom line. The goals are the same, even if the professional background or the specific techniques can sometimes differ.
The conflict between marketing and UX
Marketing values business and UX values the user, but are they conflicting?
If the UX is good then the user may love the product you are trying to sell, hate it, or be indifferent. Good UX will not help you sell an unsellable product.
Bad UX will guarantee a bad experience and that could result in less sales.
Understanding how a user navigates content is very useful.
A good UX is frictionless – you can navigate a journey without getting lost or dropping off. A good UX leading up to a call to action can result in greater conversion (a bad UX may mean that the user never finds the call to action at all!)
A good user experience is intelligent and works for individuals or groups of people with similar behaviours. Add the ability to guide the user in the way they want to be guided and surely this can only be a good thing.
At the very least, UX principles should inform and guide marketing. UX is about understanding the user and designing to delight. Marketing is about understanding the user and designing to sell to them.
Obsess about your audience’s needs
The goal of any business is to make money, and the only way to make that happen is by attracting qualified leads to your website who convert into paying customers.
Your customers are the most important part of your business, because without them your business won’t be around for long. A customer-centric approach to marketing has shown to be the best way to convert prospects into paying customers, so at its core, marketers need to be obsessed with producing a message based on the needs of their audience.
You can have the best SEO strategy that drives large volumes of traffic to your website, but if your website is not optimized with UX in mind, then you will have low rates of conversions. This means that the only way to succeed in marketing, and ultimately as a business, is that you need to focus on your customer and the user experience.
UX is just good marketing
As marketers, we want to engage potential customers with our websites and our content. We can’t do this if we’re deterring them with poor experiences.
UX is just good marketing.
It’s about knowing what is important to your users and designing and creating content for them.
UX determines the success of marketing
It’s actually hard to explain the relationship between marketing and user experience. I wanted to start with ‘UX is an unloved child of marketing’, but that’s just wrong. Marketing and UX are heavily integrated, or at least they should be.
UX determines the success of marketing. No matter how much you invest in promotion, you’ll fail if your product, site or app is impossible or hard to use. Yet, marketing teams refuse to get involved in UX thinking; it’s something the graphic design team should take care of.
The most recent mobile usage growth illustrates the relationship perfectly. It’s clear as day that mobile UX is the future. Most customers read emails and search from mobile devices these days. Yet, 93.3% of small business owners’ websites still weren’t mobile-friendly in 2015. Mobile user experience optimization has been astoundingly, outrageously slow.
It’s not such a hard change too. For many small business websites it comes down simply to switching to a mobile-friendly theme or investing in a mobile app. Neither requires a huge budget. Yet, few marketing budgets include mobile user experience diagnostics, analysis or optimization.
This must change because it is not (and has never been) about nice looks. User experience is an integral part of digital marketing success.
Valuable experiences lead to retention
I think one of the biggest levers for a growth hacker is improving the user experience.
A valuable experience is what leads to retention. Without retention, there is no growth, so a good, valuable experience is both its usability and the path that leads there. User onboarding is a huge part of unlocking growth and unlocking channels. It’s really that end-to-end delivery of an interested person to that person actually experiencing what the product has of value.
And when you get those two pieces in sync all the way through the funnel, you start to build something pretty powerful.
Great UX creates loyal advocates
Building a positive UX for your potential or existing customers is crucial in boosting consumer satisfaction since it’s a key differentiator in a sea of other companies. It also helps in retaining more customers by maintaining great UX and keeping people loyal and satisfied.
UX is a fundamental factor in building bridges between your customers and your brand. Great UX delights your customers and creates loyal advocates, where people evangelize and build word of mouth for your product or service voluntarily (and for free!).
Engagement is at the core of both UX and marketing, so digital marketing campaigns shouldn’t solely focus on conversions but also engaging people with your product. UX strategy makes the execution of marketing initiatives more effective by ensuring value is returned to the business as well as the customer.
Treat users as real people, not conversions
The relationship between marketing and UX is comparable to the relationship between marketing and sales: they both depend on each other. And if you invest more than 50% of your time and money into either of the two in these splits, your brand is heading for a fall!
It can be defined as simply as this:
- Marketing drives people towards your brand
- Throughout ANY interaction, they must thoroughly enjoy their experience
- If they don’t, they’re out!
In a hugely competitive world full of choice, it’s easy to jump ship without a second thought. You must foster relationships of value and NOT treat people like numbers and merely conversions. This is the case no matter what their stage throughout your sales funnel.
Create a memorable, happy and addictive experience for your audience, and they will reward you with repeated sales, advocacy and sheer enthusiasm towards your brand. Often without much (or any) direct encouragement.
Without UX testing, you are merely guessing
We have always been told that great marketing is the result of being obsessed with the customer; it’s data-driven and everything is tested to delight your customers and prospects. So we build our personas, launch our assets and campaigns, have data coming out of our ears, with big fancy dashboards, and we try and make sense of it all. Find the insight. Drive the change.
Problem is, personas and data will only get you so far, they are a proxy for real people, and you need to understand your users and how they feel about your marketing touch points.
Without UX you are guessing, and, unless you have mutant superpowers to read people’s minds, you need to blend UX into your marketing process.
IF you focus on the users, and make UX part of the process in all marketing touch points you will be rewarded. Because customers, they are people, and they are tired, bombarded with information and consume in micro moments. They really don’t want to think, so if they have to think about what to do next, where to click, who you are and why they should care… well, you lose.
So make your marketing touchpoints seamless, fluid, easy to use. UX is the missing piece, it takes out the guess work and the marketing bubble you create when you’re too close to see what users want.
More than a pretty interface
User experience is a very important component of digital marketing. The UX determines whether the traffic flowing to a website is being effectively converted into paying customers.
User experience is not only about creating attractive interfaces. It also concerns each and every constructive step aiming to arouse interest in the visitors, and then gradually drive them through the sales funnel and towards a purchase decision.
The experience of the user in the rapidly expanding online marketplace is of paramount importance. Whether or not a consumer will purchase a particular product or service depends heavily on whether or not they had a good experience. And since user experience depends largely on design, a poorly-designed website can often be associated with poor conversion rates.
The user experience should give consumers a smooth online experience, by guiding them through the different stages of their purchase experience. Without an effectively designed UX, brands run the risk of losing out on a huge number of potential buyers.
Using best practice isn’t improving UX
UX has become an essential component of any online business’s success.
Recently, I was involved in a big research project about the current state of the travel affiliate market, in which I was forced to browse sites that have many ad banners, annoying pop-ups, and poorly-designed navigation. I simply can’t believe that any user who lands on those types of website can really click with a purpose somewhere.
Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of companies struggle to communicate effectively with their users to improve UX and be user-friendly; they simply use best practices and a general understanding of how it should be delivered.
To sum this up, you need to make sure that your users can effectively navigate on your website. Otherwise, any marketing will be a waste of time and money.
Invest in your visitors
I started in web design and SEO in 1996, trained in Human Factors in 2000 and developed what I call Holistic UX and SEO. Today, I include accessibility. Why? Because we are not marketing to search engine bots. They don’t have credit cards. You can rank in search engines, but if your traffic does not convert, that’s a lost financial investment. What can you do?
- Build websites and apps that perform as expected when rolled out.
- Conduct user testing with people who are your target market.
- Hire UX people trained in accessibility and conversions design.
Your positive reputation comes from happy visitors. Provide what they desire. Design an excellent user experience. They are your marketers, invest in them first.
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager for EMEA, which basically means the skipper of the good ship ‘UserZoom blog’. So far his requests for changing its name to the ‘USS-erzoom Blog’ have been rightfully denied. In his spare time, Christopher is a filmmaker and the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy, editor of Search Engine Watch, staff writer for ClickZ and features editor of CMO.com.