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Greater Impact on Customer Experience: Ads or Design?
By: Jason Will
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Let’s rewind to almost a decade ago when our social world was drastically altered with the introduction of Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook. It instantly seemed as though our live interactions started to be replaced with virtual ones. Also, this was the first time our personal preferences were captured to this degree and we began defining for organizations how to better understand individual consumers. How did this change in social behavior impact ad revenue strategies, user experience (UX) design, and the downstream impact on customer experience (CX) over the past decade? As more user data is captured online, companies are able to target their consumers in personal ways they have always dreamed of, but at what cost to CX?

Once businesses started to recognize that their consumer base exponentially replaced traditional television and print ads with online viewing, their ad strategies have also needed to change. It may have taken several years to pivot their thought process, but our exposure to ads on social platforms has also extended to online viewing sites such as Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube. Have targeted ad strategies become a nuisance or do they provide a better CX?

The purpose of a targeted ad is to leverage user data to better align consumers with products and services they most likely will be interested in. Since the strategies behind these ads are still in their infancy, there will surely be continuous improvement, but until then the algorithms that drive our exposure to content may display completely irrelevant information. The fundamental question companies must ask themselves is: How much longer will users accept this? Furthermore, how do the online strategies differ once they are extended to mobile devices?

The mobile ad revenue model has plagued many companies and single handedly caused Facebook’s stock to plummet after the IPO due to the fact they could not produce a clear strategy to shareholders, which is highlighted in the article Lack Of Mobile Strategy At Facebook Puzzles Analysts. A user who accesses their social media accounts from a mobile device today will see targeted ads based on their personal demographics, purchase history, and companies they may like or follow, and the formula appears to be never ending. It seemed as though browsing from a mobile device was the user’s only escape from ads up until recently, and now that has also been consumed. At what point will the increase in targeted ads become a detriment to CX, thus reducing the frequency of usage? On the other hand, could well-executed UX design positively impact CX enough to offset an increase in unwanted ad exposure?

There is a recent article that discussed Trends in User Experience that stresses the impact of UX design on CX. As a result of the necessity for companies to address mobile, their UX design strategies have progressively become simplified. Potentially with this increased focus there will be a large enough improvement in CX that additional ads be a non-issue.

In conclusion, there are many factors that impact CX across the Internet. Whether one can directly correlate the exposure of ads toward a positive or negative experience will vary by user. Also, as UX designs change, companies will lean towards what they perceive as aesthetically pleasing based on customer responsiveness. Please share your thoughts!

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About the Author
Jason Will is an avid traveler and entrepreneur based in San Francisco where he serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of Zipkick, which is the first travel site to completely customize the search results on an individual basis. Zipkick is Netflix for travel and their mission is to make travel search more accessible and mobile. Check out www.zipkick.com and connect with Jason via Twitter or LinkedIn.  
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