The return of form and function; customer experience prepares for its 2023 close up

Digitization and Transformation


Kellie White

Jan 19, 2023

There’s a popular book on the market for all you post-Holiday shoppers: It’s called “What It Sounds Like,” written by ex-Prince engineer and current Berklee School of Music professor Susan Rogers. It breaks music down into its primal components (lyrics, tone, rhythm, etc.) and then connects them to the individual listener. For example, if you loved “Purple Rain,” Rogers combines that affinity to ’form and function,’ meaning you have found a mixture of style and sound that you respect, as well as love listening to.

Forgive me for co-opting such a heady mission here, but for the business payments industry, a companion book to Rogers could be “What It Feels Like.” Because the look, feel and importantly, overall ‘form and function’ associated with the customer experience is a trend to watch this year. The consumer experience is catching up to the client experience. And just as the grocery shopper has a series of intuitive, user-friendly experiences through which to pay, the commercial bank customer wants that same utility. In fact, smaller B2B payments are being placed on consumer apps like Zelle, even though the security and messaging are a far cry from the necessary components needed for business purposes.

This consumerization centres on super apps. Example: PayPal wants to be the only app necessary for a complete and seamless payments ecosystem. Go to their app and, if PayPal has its way, you shouldn’t have to leave. For entertainment, think Apple TV. For gaming, think Roblox.

Super apps are mobile or web applications that provide multiple services, from ordering food to booking doctor’s appointments and making digital payments. WeChat, a Chinese lifestyle app, has continuously adapted to meet customer demand by adding new services, features, and functionality to its repertoire, bringing together instant messaging, social media, and mobile payments; it currently has over 1.2 billion users.

Super apps build a tech ecosystem on open data and APIs that deliver a seamless customer experience in a consistent, unified interface – not an easy feat. Data is shared across service areas to develop a healthy view of customer behaviour, providing an environment which is ripe for advanced personalization that delivers targeted content and data towards an individual’s specific needs, thus improving immediacy, usefulness, and engagement.

What does this mean for the B2B and the fintech space, though? Revolut has been ahead of this trend for some time, providing open banking-aggregated accounts, budgeting, analytics tools, as well as wealth management features, where customers can trade stocks, cryptocurrencies, and commodities all in one financial management super app. With robust user authentication, customers will have the ability to access multiple tools and services to manage their company’s financial health, all in one place. This convenience may mean servicing the full order to cash life cycle to handle all aspects of the sale, including collecting the payment, shipping, creating invoices, and reporting on the end-to-end process, or other. Whatever the focus, you can bet your bottom dollar that this will be a continued trend to consolidate services and tools under a single umbrella.


Intelligent hubs

The second trend to watch in the user experience space is intelligent hubs. An experience strategy to cope with the abundance of data that a platform with multiple services, features, and functionality carries with it, the intelligent hub is a highly dynamic and personalized entry point into a platform’s services. It’s the typical starting point of someone’s workday. As that day progresses, it should contain all the most important information to them, dependent on who they are, their permissions, and the capabilities they have access to from across the broad range of products and services on offer. Intelligent hubs highlight the most meaningful changes for users to act upon within their specific business contexts and roles, with root causes, metrics, and actionable insights for easy consumption. Essentially, the intelligent hub ensures the most important picture is built for them, with all its moving parts, rather than relying on themselves having to create a picture by accessing several areas. Bringing value by offering a more streamlined and connected experience surfaces the things that matter most, improves engagement and efficiency, and increases visibility into business data.

These super apps and intelligent hubs intersect in what I call “smart working.” Whether made possible through interoperability or integration, customers’ expectations about how work gets done these days has changed. They no longer want siloed tools but linked experiences that facilitate connected conversation and real-time data sharing between people and teams in their day-to-day work. As a result, there is a push to make traditional desktop apps emulate the user experience on smartphones, where apps are aware of one another and share information with ease, making the user experience more productive and stickier.

Whether facilitating more powerful layouts, displaying unified conversations, or data visualizations flowing from one app to another, singular apps must be connected to others to make the journey work. Connecting applications with common business tools such as MS Teams for instance, can boost productivity and help to simplify user journeys, whether that is for developing software, gathering customer feedback, or taking payments. Ultimately, more complex workflows can be streamlined, automated, and optimized for efficiency.

Creating relevant and immediate data experiences that build trust through engagement and use is certainly advantageous in the fast-changing business environments of today, where quick and accurate decisions are needed. However, having great data and knowing what it means are two very different things. Users often complain that traditional dashboards make them feel helpless and incompetent because they cannot derive meaning from them. How systems present information significantly impacts how one interprets, understands and acts upon it—all essential points to consider as 2023 kicks off.

Related topics

Customer Experience UX

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Kellie White

Kellie White is the head of UX design at Bottomline with more than over 20 years of delivering engaging digital experiences in a number of roles both creative and technical.
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