Are You Designing for Human Experience?

Elizabeth Searcy
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

What? Human experience looks beyond commercial needs to understand and meet human desires such as freedom, identity and creation.

So what? Companies that prioritize HX are able to deliver meaningful experiences that build relevance and value with their customers.

Now what? Harness data, explore patterns, systematically study shifting human values, and expose future trends to explain, rationalize and predict customer needs.

​Sept. 1, 2017

Human experience is the next frontier for winning over customers. Businesses must adapt to a new way of thinking to succeed in a highly competitive corporate environment

The days when brands were able to operate without regard for customer feedback and social media commentary seem like the Dark Ages. How about life without Amazon, Uber, Facebook or Apple? These companies designed their business models around user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX).

CX once served as a source of unique competitive advantage. Today it is the cost of entry. Organizations are challenged to deliver compelling CX in the face of heightened customer expectations and a constantly evolving business environment.

CX has created a marketplace of consumers who value corporate conscience and a demonstration of corporate values. Corporate responsibility is as important to many consumers nowadays as are cost, quality and customer service. Meanwhile, technology and unprecedented access to information is driving a shift in power from companies to consumers. Modern marketers know that consumers create brand stories for companies in real time based on their interactions with products and services, not the other way around.

Don’t get me wrong, CX is still relevant. It makes processes easier for people to work with you. However, with CX alone, the brand is everywhere and meaning is nowhere. This can be confusing for your customers. Without a more human side, they don’t really know you or feel like you want to get to know them.

UX Is a Digital Design Directive

As brands become more mobile-centric, the importance of impressive visual design must be balanced with more practical concerns.

HX is here. What is it?

While the vast majority of companies are toiling furiously to create a compelling customer experience, a few trailblazing organizations are already beginning to define what is next. These businesses are crafting and delivering a human experience (HX).

Companies focused on HX look beyond commercial needs to understand and meet human desires. Think freedom, identity, knowledge, friendship and creation. Companies that recognize and address fundamental human needs via HX, in addition to meeting functional and transactional needs via CX, are able to deliver meaningful experiences that build relevance and value with their customers, employees and partners.

The HX Evolution

HX is an evolution that demands a new mandate and a new operating structure inside your business, one obsessively focused on human relationships. It requires businesses to organize around purpose versus profit. It calls for emotional connections that go beyond basic consumer need or reason. 

There are core needs we all share as humans and from which businesses can learn and activate. How do you determine which ones matter to your customers? Learn what drives them by understanding their core needs, values and feelings. With an HX point of view, companies focus on human needs by listening and looking at the various target profiles of customers who use their products or services. This helps those companies understand the meanings and feelings that are important to different customer segments and address fundamental human needs, in addition to meeting functional and transactional needs. 

Successful companies look beyond commercial needs to understand and meet more meaningful human needs and values such as freedom, identity and creation.

People find meaning in creating things. If creation is the human value that is important to your customer segment, consider them as a group of creators. Give your target audience an opportunity to create something with your brand by delivering experience at the journey level. Coca-Cola’s freestyle machine is an excellent example where people can make choices and mix and match flavors based on their own preference and taste in the moment. It’s fun and it’s creative.


 Coca-Cola Freestyle


How to Get There

The evolution from customer experience to human experience challenges businesses to be something more. Companies must put forth various hypotheses to understand their brand purpose and how it maps to human experience. Which human values and meanings do consumers associate with you? Create an experience and a user interface where these values show up.

Remember that UX + CX + HX is the winning combination. Next, test your HX plan with customers and prospects to find if you have an authentic match. Are customers giving you credit for tapping into their human values? Did you create an experience where your corporate values show up, not just your brand story?

Last, validate your plan with research. The method you use depends on how customers interact with your brand: focus groups, surveys and ethnographic research. Follow people in stores or in their homes or at work. Use whatever means you can until you uncover empathy and other human values. Continue to do so regularly because the listening and the journey never ends.

Here are five HX principles that you can adopt immediately, serving as the foundation for an HX transformation:

  • Live your purpose. Purpose is the bedrock of HX. Use purpose as a clear and enduring reason for customers and employees to belong to your company. Start first by examining or establishing your true reason for being.

  • Consciously align all that you do. Organizations that successfully deliver HX use their purpose as the driver and filter for every single business decision: growth strategy, service processes, supplier choices, product pipelining and HR policies.

  • Elevate interactions through cognitive understanding. Experiences are elevated by an organization’s ability to understand customers on levels that are conscious and unconscious, concrete and abstract, intuitive and conceptual. HX leaders must harness data, explore patterns, systematically study shifting human values, and expose future trends to explain, rationalize and predict customer needs, then design and deploy experiences accordingly.

  • Infuse insights across an adaptive ecosystem. Companies should rapidly respond to customer needs and evolve to meet changing market demands in a way that is apparent and valued by their customers and stakeholders. Test frequently, research, learn by doing and adjust constantly.

  • Invest in the now and the next. HX is a major shift in both internal and external relationships, and, like any relationship, it takes cultivation. Delivering HX requires organizational commitment. Figure out what’s not working, come up with ideas to fix it, and prioritize the ones that you can start today.

Go Human

HX is key to create brand loyalists and brand advocates. Your company may commit to social good as part of CX, but HX goes beyond purpose and into deep meaning. People design their lives around experiences and things that connect them to their values. Customers choose products and services that validate what is important to them. Harness your humanity, tap into your potential and position your company to thrive in an HX-driven economy. 

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Author Bio:

Elizabeth Searcy
Elizabeth Searcy is global head of experience design agency Sparks Grove. She is a graduate of Florida State University and holds an MBA in marketing from Goizueta Business School at Emory University.
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