Joining The Dots Between Marketing And User Experience

by Gillian Ingram Figaro Digital

Collaboration between User Experience (UX) and marketing teams is vital. Together, these two cohorts of brand strategy combine context with construction; resulting in the overall customer experience which defines, and therefore makes or breaks, a brand. Figaro Digital spoke to Steve Kato-Spyrou, Customer Experience Manager at John Lewis, who explained some of the misconceptions marketers often hold about UX, how marketing teams can effectively utilise UX processes, and how to build a seamlessly collaborative atmosphere to maximise your marketing output.

Big Challenges Facing John Lewis

John Lewis is a brand renowned for its big-budget marketing, as we are all reminded during the festive season. And this rich content is at the core of a digital marketing strategy that traverses several different marketing disciplines. So how does the role of UX apply to the creation and sustainability of John Lewis’ content? “Our biggest challenge is producing content that is useful and inspirational, and understanding where and when it should be shown,” explains Kato-Spyrou. Maintaining consistency across the retailer’s huge portfolio of marketing channels and platforms, however, is not as straightforward. In order to provide a cohesive and seamless customer experience, Kato-Spyrou’s UX team work with the marketing department to align the content on these channels and promote a constant brand image and voice. “Our current challenge is the implementation of an underlying foundational project, to get everything aligned.”

Of course, this alignment sits with a variety of key stakeholders, and making sure that these separate groups are able to communicate and collaborate effectively is crucial. As John Lewis moves towards a channel-wide consistent voice, Kato-Spyrou explains that the UX team has a lot of valuable input to contribute to this process. “UX is based upon a detailed methodology incorporating customer testing and analytics, which we use to explain the decisions we’ve made and why we’ve made them.”

One general misconception is that UX and marketing teams can come up against each other when it comes to the creation and execution of a campaign. Spyrou explains, however, that this is a result of the way new work requests are often formed and decided. “In the many years I’ve worked in UX, a department will often have a new work request that comes with an inbuilt solution, as opposed to problems that need to be solved.” Spyrou explains. Once budgets are set and solutions begun, UX designers then enter the development and draw attention to other challenges within the process, which can sometimes slow down the process and cause friction between teams. But UX can be leveraged play a vital role within the marketing team.

Collaboration Is Key: The Importance Of Discovery Work

To align the work of UX and marketing teams, Spyrou explains, discovery work is vital. Fostering and encouraging this collaborative approach is something John Lewis already does successfully. “When UX jumps in before during the creation of the business case and helps the marketing team, that’s really helpful. The teams can work on the problems and solutions together, using the toolbox that the UX departments have developed”.  This should result in a smoother process when implementing the business case, explains Spyrou. “Because UX has already been involved, these logistical questions can be answered before the budget is set and the pressure is on. This is why I recommend that time is allowed for discovery work – I want to get the message out there that UX should be utilised by marketers”.

When pushing this kind of collaboration to the CMO, Spyrou advises that UX designers and marketers should present together, and show a united front. “Find something you can work on together, try and get good results, and use this as a business case to ask for change and more money – in every company I’ve been in that’s the way it has to happen.”

The Value Of UX-led Workshops

At John Lewis, the UX team takes the lead on workshops; creating a democratic environment which enables better focus on the customer; helping everyone pull in the same direction. “The UX department facilitates workshops which involve customer journey mapping, aligning KPIs and prioritisation. We try and help everyone focus on the customer”. This approach means the company avoids workshops that are just led by one person – “If there are too many people in the room, it’s difficult for one person to make a suggestion and get everyone moving in the same direction. It needs to be a little more democratic than that.”

UX allows companies to avoid the trap of treating customer-centricity as “a rebranding exercise rather than a retooling or methodology exercise. A lot of companies will lose sight of customer needs this way.” The UX department at John Lewis works in various ways to prevent a potential drift away from true customer focus: “In the products department at John Lewis, we start everything with a hypothesis of ‘what the customer is’, and then everyone is challenged to test that hypothesis. The test could be putting something live and seeing what happens, or it could be customer testing or a survey”. This UX methodology is something that can therefore be utilised by a variety of departments, including marketing, to remain completely focused on the customer.

Shared Ownership Of The User Journey

At John Lewis, ownership of the user journey is shared across the whole team, rather than sitting with one core group. “I think everyone should share in that ownership; if you can align KPIs, that’s much more helpful. At John Lewis, meetings focussed on user journey happen between people of different departments who have the power to make decisions. But we also cover user the journey from the point of view of the other teams, and we have customer journey managers, who are really good at getting different departments talking”. It is clear that strong relationships between the UX and marketing departments can gain better results, and preconceptions should not get in the way of this collaboration. John Lewis have created a model to aspire to, successfully creating a working environment that fosters this relationship and allows conversation to flow freely between departments. By keeping a customer-centric perspective front of mind across the whole business, John Lewis is able to save time, efficiency and stress when designing its campaigns, and rest assured that the end result is one in which the brand’s mission is communicated from start to finish.


To find out more about how your marketing and UX teams can be tied together, come and see Steve speak at our upcoming Digital Marketing Conference on 6 December. Joining him will be a host of other industry experts, keen to share their success stories from 2017 and give you valuable tips to inform your next year’s strategy. Read the agenda, and book your tickets here.