The State of Digital Experience & Mobile: Q&A with Brian Westendorf, Consulting Director
We recently had an opportunity to sit down with Brian Westendorf, Director – Digital Experience & Mobile, to ask him a few questions about the latest technology and business trends when it comes to creating immersive digital experiences. We touched on a variety of topics, including voice technology, user privacy, and more!
Q: When it comes to the digital experience, what are businesses investing in today? What should they be investing in to prepare for the future?
The great thing about DX & Mobile is that there’s always an end-user and it’s always going to be important to understand their goals and serve them better experiences. For the most part, DX & Mobile offers an easier way to access information, purchase items online, or do your daily work more efficiently than in person, over the phone, through the postal service, or some other alternative that predates the internet. In the retail space, its bridges the gap between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce to make sure customers are always having positive experiences with brands regardless of the medium.
In the future, hands-free integration through conversational user interface using voice technology like Alexa Skills and Google Actions is going to lead the next revolution in experience. Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft all offer voice solutions and integration with the Internet of Things through smart devices and hardware products like Amazon Echo and Google Home. These investments offer customers extensions of popular services and features that are just starting to gain traction and will change the way we behave and what we expect technology to be able to do. For instance, people have always been able to walk into a Starbucks and order a coffee, but now you can avoid all the lines by ordering and paying for one using Alexa or Google Assistant from your own home.
Q: Many people are concerned about user privacy and devices listening to or recording behavior, especially in their own homes. Do you think these concerns will be addressed? Or will this eventually become normalized?
This is a touchy subject. I believe that some concerns will be addressed short-term, but that much of the technology we view as concerning today will eventually be normalized. 10 years ago, the majority of people were concerned about doing any banking (or anything) online. At the turn of the century, people were afraid of electricity. Some people I know personally are concerned with making any phone calls not with a landline because someone might be listening, even though it used to be standard for live “operators” to listen to conversations. Many people today still worry about depositing money into their banks using an ATM machine. You’ll always have people resistant to new technology. You will also always have people, usually a younger generation, adapting to that technology and pushing the boundaries of what it can do.
When it comes to Digital Experience and Mobile, we’re interested in collecting data points on user experiences, not personal (PCI/PII) information. We want to learn how to improve the experience for users. However, there certainly has been some institutional trust lost between users and the companies who own products that collect data from users, and for a variety of reasons, not all of them harmless. Two great quotes apply here: “If it’s free, you are the product” and “with great power comes great responsibility”. We have to be careful about the exchanges we are making, and we have to hold ourselves accountable to society, as both consumers and as providers, but we also have to recognize that usability and experience matter and the only want to improve both is through the use of data.
Q: How should businesses prioritize spending when it comes to DX & Mobile? What are the fundamentals that every business needs in the modern era?
First and foremost, every business needs to have a digital strategy. You need to understand who your customers are, how best to engage them and how to keep them engaged. Innovation without user research works for proof-of-concept applications, but products need to be built for users. Users have to be understood and product journeys need to be defined. It’s important to build customer experiences that users “want-to” engage with instead of “have-to” engage with. That’s how you stay relevant and competitive in a digital world.
Q: If you were a college student today, what sort of technologies and languages would you focus on?
Technology is always changing. I think students should focus on what interests them most rather than trying to guess the market. If you are interested in mobile development and want to become proficient in today’s hottest technologies, build your own mobile apps using React Native, Swift or Android. There are tons of free courses online. But regardless of what’s currently hot you should always pick the technology that interests you most. Those make the best projects.