Amran Khamis, Head, Digital Experience, Asia, Sun Life Financial
We know that customer experience is a key driver of today’s business success. More than ever before, brands are using data-driven insights, experience delivery, and digital innovation to satisfy unmet customer needs and generate value for their business. But there has been less discussion around how emotional design –which is designing experiences that feed on core human motivations – can contribute to the above.
More specifically, how can brands use emotional design to serve specific audience groups? Let’s take Asian consumers as an example. Granted, they are diverse in terms of culture and behavior but several trends are shaping consumer expectations across the region — such as mobile and wearables. With this in mind, here are three high-level experience design principles that technology professionals can keep in mind for creating emotional bonds with users in the region.
Tap into self-perception—Asians are more likely to pursue group or family-based goals
Research has clearly documented that Westerns audiences are likely to be more analytical and individualistic, while Asian audiences are likely to be more holistic in thinking and interdependent in behavior. What does this mean? For instance, Western customers may be moved by cues pointing them towards individual goals and content guided by a narrower visual focus. However, Asian customers may be more amenable to cues that suggest the achievement of family or community-based goals. They also tend to be more open to visual guides that drive attention to the larger connectedness of information for decision-making.
In order to deliver on the relevant emotional cues, experience design for Asian audiences should use language that reflects connectedness and community-building; while visual images used for digital engagement could allude to the concept of building and sharing. Similarly, the ethos of the brand should communicate how it is able to solve needs holistically and showcase that through the available products or services on offer. The ability to provide linkages to group-based emotional peaks, rather than individual ones, may work better in Asia.
The Asian millennial places less emphasis on face-to-face interactions than their Western counterpart
The millennial generation has become key participants and drivers of the digital economy due to their technological readiness and savviness. While country-level economics and individual cultural contexts will undoubtedly influence behaviors, Asian millennials do share some common traits. For example, global research by IBM showed that Asian millennials were much more comfortable in connecting with and maintaining digital relationships with other millennials they might never have contact with in real life, while Western millennials interact more with people they know via social media.
Gamification Refers To The Creation Of Immersive Experiences That Engage And Challenge Users In Non-Gaming Situations
What this means is that Asian millennials are potentially more comfortable with exclusively online digital experiences and communications, while Western millennials engage digitally as part of a multi-channel relationship experience with people they actually know. Such nuances mean that the user readiness for brands to engage and deliver purely digital experiences and value from start-to-finish is likely to be more prevalent in Asia. The success of WeChat and its app-in-app ecosystem in China and similar platform ecosystems such as Go-Jekin Indonesia signify this.
Asians are more than ready for gamification, and the effects last longer for them
Gamification refers to the creation of immersive experiences that engage and challenge users in non-gaming situations. Take for example financial literacy, where gamification elements are now used to educate and drive users towards desirable financial decisions.
According to Forrester, Asian audiences value the experience of learning through gamification as much, if not more, than the actual “reward” available at the end of the gamification journey. In addition, the gamification effect persists longer than with Western audiences – meaning Asian consumers will continue with gamification once they have been onboarded into the relationship and become absorbed through immersive experience design.
So while there can be no universal gamification strategy for Western and Asian audiences, when executed effectively for the Asian consumer, gamification strategies can have a much longer resonance and life than in other global regions. The emotional design for gamification should thus dovetail with an integrated mobility strategy, which also takes into account unique cultural norms across Asia. For instance, the public-versus-private balance in the showing of competitive standings (Asian audiences have different tolerance levels for what is shared or shown publicly), and the understanding of how far the “power of free” goes in attracting initial interest, will be key emotional design considerations for gamification for Asian audiences.
In summary, to capture the wallet, one has to capture the heart
Studies in psychology and other cognitive sciences have shown the significance emotions play in decision-making, intelligence, long-term memory, and behavioral adoption. Thus, how brands make their customers feel will have the most significant impact towards loyalty. The points raised above therefore suggest some starting points on differentiating emotional design in Asia – but of course, focused research and the contextual needs of the user remain paramount in producing actionable insights for experience delivery by businesses.