Creativity and Analysis: Finding the Perfect Blend

I passionately believe analysis and insight lies at the heart of improving the online user experience. My new job — working with one of the leading customer experience consultancies in the U.K. as the person responsible for driving its analytical services capabilities forward — will present some great opportunities to grow and learn. It’s never too late to stop learning!

For me, marketing has always been a blend of art and science. In the digital marketing space there is more science available to those who want to take advantage of it.

For many organizations, though, it has some time to adopt the ability to improve the online customer experience through measurement and analysis. At times there is often a tension between the “creatives” and the “analysts.” The reality is that each is needed and each need to be blended.

Many organizations have “adopted” measurement and analysis, having plumbed in a Web analytics system. They may be regularly measuring customer satisfaction. They may be routinely doing testing. They now have access to the science. However, they haven’t managed to integrate the science into the way that they do business.

Decisions are often made on the basis of judgment, even when the data is available to them. But the trouble is, as someone once said, “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” Or, as an old boss told me after I had made some mistakes: “Neil, all experiences are learning experiences. It’s just some are more pleasant than others.”

A key role of data, analytics, and insights is to help us avoid having too many unpleasant learning experiences.

So the opportunity going forward is to blend the art and the science in a seamless approach to improve the user experience. That includes creative designers working alongside analysts to understand the impact of their design changes in a collaborative fashion. And quantitative analysts, such as Web analysts, working alongside qualitative researchers, such as usability consultants, to understand the user experience from all the angles. Not just looking at what users did but also understanding why they did it and what they felt about the outcome.

This kind of integrated approach will need integrated thinking based on integrated data. Integrated thinking will come from the recognition from all the players that they only have a part of the solution and their instinct should be to go and seek out the other parts.

The difference between adoption and integration will come down to organizational culture and processes. This is a theme that I keep returning to because it’s one of the biggest industry challenges at the moment.

People still worry too much about technologies rather than worry about what they’re going to do with the technologies. Organizations and their agencies must start thinking about how to build the science into the creative process in a systematic way and how to view the creative process as an iterative, cyclical process rather than just a linear process.

The physical manifestation of this vision might be a room full of designers, information architects, analysts, usability experts, and brand marketers collaborating about what the user experience should look like. Each must contribute their perspective and to the final outcome. Not on an ad-hoc basis for big projects, but on a regular basis, constantly iterating the solution week after week.

It might take a while to get there, but I’m looking forward to the journey.

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