When it comes to successful digital marketing campaigns and digital platforms, user experience really is the key to success.

In fact, 84% of brands will prioritize consumer experiences in the coming year.

Plus, user experience design is expected to surpass both cost and company offerings as the top differentiating factor.

With all this focus on positive customer experiences and brand interactions, how can businesses analyze consumers’ needs and craft a campaign centered around them?

Simple – through design thinking, of course.

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What Is Design Thinking & How Does It Improve Business Growth?

Design thinking is less of a specific action and more of a mindset that helps businesses solve complex problems.

“Originally stemming from the design process, design thinking challenges leaders, individuals, and organizations to think like a designer, with your client at the heart and with a reiterative process of prototyping and testing at the core,” says Marisa White, Principle Analyst of Design and Innovation at Customer Management Practice.

Because design thinking is so strongly rooted in how your target audience thinks, feels, and what they need, it automatically improves user experience.

“The core of design thinking requires empathy with your user. This is enhanced by the reiterative process of prototyping and testing innovations with your market,” says White. “Understanding design thinking in the context of user engagement drives digital product seamlessly executed to your customer’s expectations and desires.

Design thinking implores brands to follow 5 simple steps in order to identify pain points, learn what consumers need, and create a solution.

These include:

  1. Empathize.
  2. Ideation.
  3. Prototyping.
  4. Testing.
  5. Reiteration.

These 5 steps help businesses:

  • Understand the mindset of their demographic.
  • Identify new and creative ideas.
  • Test campaigns and designs rigorously before they are launched, which improves the likelihood of success.
  • Foster a powerful brand identity and long-term success.

So, Who Uses Design Thinking?

Although design thinking has the word “design” in its name AND stems from the design industry, it can be utilized in any department or industry.

“The short answer is everyone can use design thinking,” says White. “However, we have seen an increased familiarity with practices touching digital experience and cultural transformation.”

Design thinking is commonly used in

  • UX.
  • Service Design.
  • Experience Design.
  • Brand Strategy.
  • Content Marketing.
  • Digital Marketing.
  • And more!

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5 Design Thinking Best Practices To Implement

Although design thinking can be integrated into any business growth tactic, its unique process may make it seem daunting to begin.

Luckily, there are some best practices that make implementing design thinking strategies a little clearer – and a lot more effective!

1. Begin With Empathy

Design thinking starts with empathy, so take the time to really put yourself in your consumers’ shoes.

“Understanding not only ways of using existing data to create visibility, personas, and understanding, but moving further into integrating customer feedback, ethnographic research, and immersion workshops can further your skill set,” says White.

2. Change Your Company Culture

It is imperative to note that design thinking changes the structure of your team and the way in which you work more than it does the actual end product.

So, brands need to take steps to alter how they create project timelines and even the company culture.

To begin this shift, Customer Management Practice recommends raising awareness and garnering buy-ins for design thinking through one or two-day workshops, week-long sprints, or multi-month engagements.

“However, design-led organizations such as Pepsi, Apple and Google are utilizing design as their culture, a continuous process and mindset,” notes White.

3. Constantly Collaborate

Along the lines of changing company culture and work processes is the need to consistently collaborate with team members.

Design thinking is less of an assembly line of autonomous tasks and more of a hive mindset that understands consumers and works to find creative and customer-centric solutions that make their life easier.

Therefore, brands need to keep collaboration at the core of the design thinking process, because it requires all voices at the table and a breakdown of silos.

4. Utilize The Voice Of Your Consumers

Design thinking improves strategies (in particular, marketing) by tying in the voice of the customer in each step.

That is what makes design thinking so user-friendly and, ultimately, successful.

Plus, Customer Management Practice shared that many design-led organizations are also evaluating their brand as a tool to create communities and ecosystems, rather than single channels of communication or transactions.

Try incorporated user-generated content or messaging that your target audience already uses or associates with your brand to find common ground with them.

5. Keep Your Eye On Longevity

Finally, there needs to be a respect for the continuous nature of the process necessary for long-term results.

Design thinking is not ideal for one-off campaigns that need swift results that aren’t sustainable.

Instead, design thinking thrives when it is geared toward achieving long-term results through high-level strategy.

“Never view design thinking as a “one and done” workshop or sprint,” advises White. “It is a long-term commitment to customer centricity that needs to be continuously fostered, motivated and implemented.”

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5 Examples Of Design Thinking In Action

There are so many examples of design thinking that show its effectiveness. Customer Management Practice shared some of many success stories with DesignRush, including:

  1. Customer Management Practice had an F10 organization using design thinking to survey users, ideate, prototype, test and launch an innovative app within their stores in only 48 hours.
  2. They saw a multiyear project with a billion-dollar financial services institution creating a digital innovation studio from the ground up using design thinking at the core to create some of the industry’s most disruptive technology.
  3. One of the largest global CPG organizations is using design thinking to reframe their brand messaging and redesign their digital channels to extend beyond their singular product, creating a community, lifestyle, and ecosystem to engage consumers.
  4. And one of Customer Management Practice’s initial stories was from a healthcare behemoth that redesigned their organizational structure to allow for cross-functional collaboration, more effective user research, raising their stature as a division to the leading unit globally.
  5. Customer Management Practice also witnessed entrepreneurs disrupt enterprises with design-led, agile ideation and culture. Vice-versa, they saw enterprise organizations create and launch competitive businesses to self-disrupt and stay competitive.

What’s better? These stories are just the tip of the iceberg of the practical application and outcomes of successfully integrated design thinking and human-centered design.

Top User Experience Design Companies

How Can You Start Using Design Thinking?

Design thinking fundamentally changes the way a top professional and eCommerce company operates and requires the participation of all team members and departments that touch a project.

Thus, you can’t just “start design thinking” without getting everyone on board first.

Customer Management Practice shared two key pieces of advice they learned from organizations that ensure design thinking success.

You Must Have Executive Level Buy-In.

Getting your executives involved and on-board with a design thinking process is non-negotiable.

You will need resources, time, and commitment from the entire organization – and that is best fostered by top-level leadership.

“Brands that have made the quickest, 360-degree change had executive backing,” says White. “One of the best ways to engage these leaders is from the many success stories, but also from engaging them in the next piece of advice.”

Demonstrate Quick Wins.

Design Thinking framed as an organizational transformation tool, a human-centric culture, or a new way of work, can be intimidating – and, quite frankly, look like a giant cost.

However, some incredibly successful ideas can be actioned quickly.

What can you create in a week? 48 hours? A one-day workshop?

“Design thinking doesn’t need to be a brand redefinition,” says White. “It’s a singular channel. Or, in many cases, some of the quickest wins come from ‘design thinking’ an internal process or case.”

Plus, some campaigns or projects with fast turnaround and strong results may convince departments and executives to support design thinking processes long-term.

Integrating Design Thinking Into Your Business Strategy Will Grow Your Brand

Ultimately, design thinking helps businesses of all industries achieve immediate success and long-term growth.

At a macro level, design-led organizations are continually cited as providing a return on investment to shareholders and in revenues,” says White. “But, even on a micro level, the use cases of creating products, services, and ideas centered in customer empathy, collaboration, and testing yield greater results.”

The value consumers place on brand interaction and user experience is tangible and ever-expanding.

However, many brands are wary of overhauling their workflow, company culture and way of thinking – which could be to the detriment of their customer acquisition, retention rates and revenue.  

But design thinking is proven to improve all of those points and more.

To successfully integrate design thinking into your campaigns, Customer Management Practice recommends first networking, attending events, and hearing success stories from both brands and agencies.

“I am continuously amazed at the transformational ways design thinking is applied to brand challenges and the following impact across projects, products, and services,” says White.

Plus, work with experts who understand that you want to use design thinking to improve campaigns and are familiar with that mindset.

That will ensure that all of your projects place a similar emphasis on customer experience and are consistently branded.

And remember, there is no one agency dedicated to design thinking – it is a mindset!

If utilizing design thinking in the creation of a custom website is important to you, find a top website design company that also uses the process.

If incorporating design thinking into your marketing strategy is crucial, the best digital marketing agency for your brand will be an experienced firm that also uses design thinking.

There are experts in every field that are well-versed in the design thinking process.

All you have to do is find the partners who can move your projects past ideation into implementation!

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