Tech or No Tech, Software is Now Your Brand

Embracing the Benefits of the Software-is-the-Brand Phenomenon

In today’s world, software has become the means by which customers not only can engage with a business, but often how they prefer to engage with it. With the swipe or click of a screen, they can be, virtually, at a branch, driving a car, or scanning data within seconds, anywhere, anytime. Whether mobile banking apps, vehicle infotainment systems, or diagnostic power plant monitors, software now represents a crucial part of the customer experience.

Because of this, software has gone from being a “nice to have” to a “must have” for a company’s brand regardless of what the company’s actual product or service happens to be. In effect, whatever the business does, makes, or provides, it will likely also become, in essence, a custom software company.

Custom Software As A Market Differentiator

No customer today, retail or commercial, has the time or will give the time to tolerate anything less than a stellar experience when interacting with a brand. And this is a good thing, because as software has come to represent a key part of the brand experience, so too has it come to represent a unique way to create even more market differentiation. That is, for every company astute enough to enthusiastically embrace the SitB mindset. Observing this phenomenon, Forrester’s John McCarthy and Charles Green have coined the term “software-is-the-brand” (SitB) to describe businesses that, though not technology companies themselves, are finding that it’s the quality of the software they employ that is making (or breaking) their brand. “It is the software that operates at key mobile customer touchpoints, defines the interaction with the consumer, and, ultimately, acts as the main product differentiator,” say McCarthy and Green.

Getting the User Experience Right

Once marketers have skillfully managed to capture the true essence of an organization, service or product in a brand promise and have successfully communicated it out by traditional means, the software experience must continue to reinforce that promise, believably and seamlessly.

To deliver this high-quality reinforcement, strategically thinking about consumer experience, also known as User Experience (UX) and how the company reinforces its brand through its User Interface (UI), is key. Otherwise, the company may end up building just another IT system that does nothing for its brand, or worse, may unwittingly help to destroy it.

To achieve the desired strong UX and UI interaction, Object Frontier Software recommends that every company start by asking the following questions:

1. Does the UI appeal to the company’s user personas and needs?

The UI must feel natural and intuitive to the customer base and delight them with unexpected features and design. In figuring this out, it’s helpful to conduct surveys and interviews with customers to assemble such information, then to evaluate whether the UI connects with the intended audience.

2. Does the UI help accomplish business objectives?

What is the company hoping its customers will get out of each interaction with its brand? Ideally, the UI should proactively guide them through the steps they take while interacting. The company should be taking them on a journey, not leaving them to wander around on their own and possibly wander away.

3. Does the UI embrace the concept of less-is-more?

Designing a UI that’s attractive but simple allows users to easily engage with a brand without having to stop and think, “How does this work?” Their time can instead be focused on products, services, and a great experience rather than spent in frustration that they’ll forever associate with that company’s brand.

4. Does the UI reflect the results of usability testing?

For this, consulting the results of usability testing on software can show how users actually interact with what’s been built, and then those findings can be used to direct future improvements and paths.

If you want to learn more about SitB and its practical applications for your business, you can find a quick-but-clear step-by-step guide to understanding software branding, published by Microsoft.


 

References

We’re All in the Tech Business Now: The Importance of UX/UI to your Brand, 2013.

NJBiz,The Software Is The Brand: Featured Speaker: John McCarthy, VP & Principal Analyst Forrester Research, Inc., McCarthy, 2013.

Software is Now Your Brand – an Event Featuring Independent Research Firm Analyst John McCarthy, NJTC TechWire, 2013.

Your Software is Your Brand, DeWolf, 2013.

Three Design Team Leaders on the State of UX, Wayne Neale, 2013.

YouTube video