Thinking User-Centric: How to Better Understand Consumers

Users are increasingly becoming at the center of everything. Although it seems obvious, it’s necessary for marketing, IT, and design to be user-centric, especially as the service-based economy grows. Your end goal is often consumer satisfaction, so how can you best meet the needs of the consumer?

Sometimes, it’s easy to put yourself in the user’s shoes, especially if you have any similarities to them. Other times, it’s difficult to relate to the user and fully understand their experience. I’ve always thought that empathy is one of the two main skills for success, and this holds true while creating for the user. How can you ensure you’re understanding the user to the best of your ability?

PERSONAS

Developing and imaging personas is crucial to identifying users. While every user is a unique individual, you can create personas based on the main characteristics, like Mary the Millennial that loves Instagram and avocado toast (kidding, but not — merely mocking stereotypes as a reminder to remove biases and keep an open mind). These personas, no matter how specific, can help with imagining potential scenarios and mental models as well as researching insights. There’s nothing worse than someone thinking they understand the persona when they’re actually making large assumptions from their own personal biases. Even if you think you know the user’s basic course of action, it is always best to cite your source for more credibility and clarity.

LISTENING

That being said, listening to users is far different from monitoring users. This is especially important with social media, where monitoring is responding to someone who has mentioned you and listening is analyzing the engagement to draw insights. While both are important to engaging with end-users, thinking critically is necessary to address pain points. Is a user emailing you directly or are they using a simple contact form from your website? Is a user writing about their experience on Glassdoor because they have to or because they want to? What is truly being said? As awesome as automation may be, it’s hard to replace actually listening.

INNOVATION

Even if you think you’ve got your persona nailed down, fulfilling all of your user’s needs, are you constantly improving? With an innovative mindset, you can learn from the user’s behaviors and tendencies to create the next competitive design or technology. The way people use technology and products is constantly evolving, so everyone needs to continue to learn from user experiences in developing any new product. If you’re not the first to realize a new consumer trend or habit, then someone else will be.

As companies become more transparent, consumers want to buy into brands that are openly focused on the user. If they’re not focused on the user, they’re likely focused on the profits, and that’s easy to read for most people. With user-centric marketing, design, and tech, you’ll be able to solve problems faster and better. What else do you like to focus on when empathizing with the user?

++ Mary K

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