What Is Multiexperience & Why Does It Matter?

February 5, 2020 Damian Kowalski

For anyone following the development of multiexperience, it’s simultaneously the most important topic and most unheard-of subject right now. Everyone’s talking about it, but nobody seems to be talking about what it actually is.

So let’s change that. Here’s our assessment of multiexperience; what it is, what it involves and how you can (and should) get started.

What is Multiexperience?

Multiexperience is a concept pioneered by Gartner late in 2019. The concept is being championed as one of the biggest developments for 2020. In fact, Gartner states that “more than 25% of the mobile apps, progressive web apps and conversational apps at large enterprises will be built and/or run through a multiexperience development platform” by 2023.

In short, multiexperience is about adapting to the increasing market of different devices and their respective experiences. Applications now need to run on different platforms and adapt easily, all while providing a consistent experience from a business perspective.

Why is this relevant? For one, it’s because a few companies are already doing it and, for another, it’s because the average individual currently owns 3.2 different devices. In other words, it’s becoming the increasingly expected norm.

But, other than a few key examples, little more is known than this. This is where we’re here to help.

Multiexperience vs Omnichannel

Previously, we all heard a lot about Omnichannel, and it’s very easy to see the similarities here. However, it’s important to understand that multiexperience is essentially the next step (or evolution) of what the Omnichannel process started.

While Omnichannel refers to ensuring a singular, up-to-date account that lets users maintain their current information or progress as they switch channels or devices, multiexperience looks at this a little different, but in many ways is part of the same wider philosophy: that of a tailored digital integration.

Multiexperience design looks to cater to the unique experience of each device, stream or channel, rather than just bluntly adapting or porting over. It seeks to provide a smooth experience on any channel or device. It focuses on creating solutions that seamlessly adapt from smartphone or laptop to wearables, or even audio-controlled devices. Whatever device, platform, it should provide a smooth, native result. That’s the multiexperience.

Multiexperience in Action

For a great example of multiexperience, we really have to look no further than the banking sector. The industry has traditionally been a sole brick-and-mortar business but, with the advent of the internet, organisations have been forced to open up online banking and account management services. Now? They’re doing so much more.

Fast forward to today and nearly all banks have adopted mobile applications and a greater sense of digital connectivity. They are certainly Omnichannel in the strictest sense.

But what about smart hubs? Will users want updates on their banking via voice command? This is just one example of where the financial sector is evolving – and where multiexperience is becoming more and more important.

A key example that Gartner highlights is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Specifically, users can pay bills via chatbot, voice-activated ATMs, smartwatches, smartphones and, of course, via the bank’s website.

What Makes Multiexperience Consistent?

While your business should, of course, provide a different experience native to each device, there’s also an element of consistency. There are some factors related to your business that customers expect to find everywhere.

This isn’t just the same data and progress on all platforms (that can be solved with a properly organised backend system). Companies also need to consider their branding and style – what people expect from their company and its services, specifically. Your UX should be consistent, so that when customers migrate from device to device, they don’t need to learn entirely new navigation – everything should feel instantly familiar.

The best way to do this is to develop a core Design System, featuring central assets and design rules. This way, expansion is even easier, as much of the UX work has already been done. We’ve previously discussed the wider benefits of a Design System, as well as how much time a Design System can save you here, so let’s focus back on multiexperience.

Multiexperience Development Platforms

Since everything in a multiexperience business should be connected, there is a growing need for companies to create or implement multiexperience development platforms – tools to create multiple applications across various devices. However, this isn’t necessary a necessity.

Such platforms are large, expensive and can be quite cumbersome to set-up with existing architecture. The most important factors are to develop a central system to build off-of. This way, the core assets are in place, and you only spend time and resources factoring for each unique experience.

It’s often better to use something that’s both simpler and more elegant, such as the Cloud. Using a Cloud-based ecosystem in the back can ensure all applications are connected to the same data and services – whether you build them now or in the future.

Multiexperience Channels

So now that’s all out of the way, what are the growing channels that need to be considered as part of a multiexperience platform?

Desktop / Laptop

While the desktop and laptop have long been digital staples, their inclusion in multiexperience still shouldn’t be ignored.

Desktops use a large screen size with clear controls via keyboard and mouse. As far as UX and UI goes, few businesses have major problems making desktops work for their business or service.

Laptops can also be included here because, quite frankly, the interaction is very similar. However, as a ‘mobile’ device, companies can also make use of geo-targeting support, if useful.

The biggest advantage of traditional computers is that they still retain a large audience. Most users have either a desktop or laptop computer and, while individual usage may vary wildly, it’s still a vital part of daily life. This is even true in work, as most offices work on computers, not mobiles, tablets or other more modern devices.

Smartphones

In the vast majority of cases, the mobile device is the core of the business model. In many sectors, such as banking, this is a highly vital fact: people no longer need to go to a physical location in the vast majority of instances, as the mobile device (combined with a bank card) gives them all the information and services they need at their fingertips.

Likewise, modern devices also have geo-location targeting, cameras and other additional sensors, allowing for a wide range of versatile solutions.

In fact, this is so important, it’s a topic we’ll cover in another discussion entirely – as it’s vital to get the mobile experience right. For now, it’s worth stating that smartphones are one of the core elements of any business and, as such, should always be a priority.

Tablet

Are tablets distinct from smartphones? In many ways, yes. Immediately, their screen size puts them in between desktop and mobile devices, but they feature touchscreen controls similar to the latter.

In other words, they’re interactive in a way that’s similar to smartphones, but the larger screen size allows for more information to be present, as well as easier navigation.

Another factor to consider is connectivity. Tablets can have internet access, but its not as common. Because most models still don’t support SIM cards, they rely on wi-fi connectivity. When this isn’t an option, internet-based applications are no longer useful.

Wearables

The wearables market is one that’s constantly growing – experts suggest it will peak at around 560 million devices in 2021. That’s a lot of devices that your business might not be actively engaging with.

The big challenge of wearables, however, is that they have limited display space and often have very simple controls. A smartwatch, for example, can only display specific information at any one time, with controls that need to be simplified to a few basic touches.

On the other hand, a key benefit of wearables is their interconnectivity. Smart watches, for example, connect to a smartphone and use many of the same features, simply acting as an extension of mobile applications or solutions. Even on their own, we are even seeing some products support SIM cards for data roaming.

Currently, the leading wearable is the smartwatch, accounting for about 30% of purchased wearable devices. However, many expect this segment to fragment further as audio devices and even smart glasses become more commonplace.

So, what can you do on wearables? How about notifying people about any changes in their bank balance – so they know if a payment went through or if it was successfully received.

Smart TVs

Smart TVs have the benefits of a PC when it comes to screen size, but they are utilised very differently. The main issues are controls and how they are used.

For the former, most people access their smart TV via a remote control. This is not as intuitive as a mouse or keyboard, so designers need to develop custom solutions to make this work – as few clicks as possible and large, clear UI to guide the way.

However, while it has a very large screen, it’s important that TVs are not treated the same as a computer. The nature of TVs – specifically the remote control and its subsequent interface – limits them in many areas. Similarly, the fact that TVs still have a primary purpose – watching media – means that most extra uses need to be designed in such a way as to not disrupt this.

The perfect example of this is Domino’s, which allows customers to order through their Smart TV, which is ideal for people who are hungry but don’t want to interrupt their current viewing experience – exactly the kind of market that would order a pizza. While people have many ways to do this, such as reaching for their smartphone, the TV adds extra convenience and encourages people to use the company’s service over a competitor that hasn’t made the multiexperience leap yet.

IoT

The Internet of Things includes all of the other devices not on this list. It includes anything that is sensor based or otherwise digitised.

It’s also one area where each industry can really shine. The financial sector for example, is full of contactless payments, ATMs and other specific hardware – all of which is full of sensors and connectivity options to help build a more consistent, yet fluid, experience.

The main problem with IoT, however, is that it’s a catch all term. Wearables are part of IoT, as are Smart Hubs and other devices with connectivity built in. What’s important to mention here is that, while these other sections are becoming established, there are still a range of IoT devices and subgroups that might be relevant to your business.

Smart Hubs

Smart hubs potentially demonstrate the biggest changes when it comes to interaction and interfacing. There are no displays or physical controls. Everything is voice enabled. Clearly, traditional software doesn’t work here.

What companies can do, however, is allow people to ask questions and gain key information, as well as even make orders, via verbal commands. This is still an emerging sector, and one that relies on natural learning processing and other machine learning sectors to fully work, but the emergence of various hubs in the typical home can’t be ignored.

Third Party Integration

Multiexperience isn’t just about device-native platforms, either. After all, if an essential part of your strategy is to go where your customers are already active and could use your service, why not include the likes of social media?

This is something that’s already happening in the real world, with many companies using the likes of Slack, Facebook and Twitter to interact with customers. While companies many companies do this, some even take it a step further – Domino’s (again! They’re really good at this business model) also interact with Ford’s in-car system, enabling drivers to order pizzas while driving home.

The main benefit of third-party solutions is that they’re already built – the technology is already there and the audience is already established. The downside is that this then limits your own options, as you have to use their API or build solutions through compatible, supportable means. However, given the benefits, in the vast majority of cases this is hardly a drawback.

Should You Go Multiexperience?

That being said, it’s also important to not rush into the process all at once. Like any strategy, you should develop the core systems first – namely desktop, web and/or mobile. Then, it’s about expanding to the solutions that most fit your business or product.

Adapt or Die

Like any other development, those that adapt will thrive and those that don’t will lose out to the competition.

Usability is defined by convenience, among other factors. This relates to multiexperience in many ways:

• Users can shift to some devices but not others? If their preferred methods aren’t used, they will lose interest and drop engagement.
• Your service is now on their desired apps, but isn’t seamless across devices? If people have to start from scratch every time, this frustration is something competitors (and their respective digital services) can use to their advantage.
• You’ve moved your product to a new device, but simply ‘lift and shifted’ rather than intuitively use the advantages and unique factors of that device? Outdated services will quickly fall out of favour.
• Your app works across various devices, but it doesn’t take into account increasingly popular devices, such as wearables or wider IoT devices? It might not be a priority, but users may disagree.

How To Integrate Experiences

Another key factor to note is that you don’t need to do everything right away – development platforms aren’t necessary a good idea in a lot of situations. It’s more important to focus on the core domains (such as mobile) and move out to secondary options, and so on.

In many ways, this is not unlike the DevOps approach – by focusing on Continuous Development and Continuous Improvement, the most important benefits can be harnessed sooner, with quick expansion following. A similar philosophy here can ensure your business isn’t waiting for a wide range of less-than-necessary applications at the cost of having any strong presence at all.

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Summary

Multiexperience may be a new term – but it’s been a growing expectation for a number of years now. As technology becomes both increasingly diverse and integrated with daily life, users are expecting more and more immediate access to the companies they depend on. Whether you’re a digitally-native eCommerce or a traditional bank, these new expectations need to be met – and a smooth roll-out can ensure you get there ahead of the curve.

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