Q&A: Adam Fowler on the Importance of Optimizing Customer Experience Across all Interaction Points

Adam is Director of Experience Strategy & Design at Publicis Groupe Japan where he and his team focus on delivering connected ecosystems at scale for brands.

The capabilities within experience strategy and design are in high demand, playing an essential role in brands’ digital transformation as they seek to understand and address their users’ needs and behaviors, create user-friendly and engaging experiences, and measure success.

To get more insight into this world, we recently caught up with Adam Fowler, Director of Experience Strategy & Design at Publicis Groupe Japan, about why this is all so important.

Despite growing awareness around the significance of UX and UI, the cost of poor CX, and the value of design systems and service design, many people still aren’t quite sure what these fields of design really entail, and why brands are investing so much in them, with an estimated double-digit growth CAGR for CX services throughout the Asia region is forecast for 2030.


 

Over the course of our conversation, Adam talks about his role, the digital transformation journey taking place across the ad world, the cost of poor CX, and more.

Your title is Director of Experience Strategy & Design. Can you tell us about that role, and some of the projects you’re working on at Publicis Groupe Japan?

Simply put, my team’s role is to optimize and enhance the overall Customer Experience across all interaction points for our clients. With the aim of delivering connected ecosystems at scale for brands in Japan. This scale includes delivering and operationalizing a global design system for a leading automotive manufacturer, as well as supporting the design, implementation, and operations for the digital channels of a large CPG brand in Japan with around 9m consumers.

“The challenge is how to stay ahead of the products and tools at the tip of everyone’s fingerprints, and ensure the human touch is still recognized and appreciated.”

My role is ultimately to support the team in their delivery, and continuously explore opportunities to push our clients into new and exciting experience spaces. Today our projects span (but are not limited to) building loyalty through personalization in the CPG space, exploring new business models and revenue opportunities, or striving for digital excellence in the omnichannel commerce space.


 

What are the challenges and opportunities of working in this field?

The challenges and opportunities are not mutually exclusive. I can share two of the most pertinent:

#1 Many Japanese businesses of today are amidst their own organizational transformation – with CX and Digital commonly core tenets in corporate directives and strategies.

The challenge here is that Japanese businesses have long-standing ways of doing things, and transformations take time. The opportunity, however, is that stakeholders within Japanese businesses recognize this – and value the need for external inputs to accelerate initiatives.

#2 The rise of AI in the experience design space – with new AI products and tools launched seemingly on a weekly basis.

The challenge is how to stay ahead of the products and tools at the tip of everyone’s fingerprints, and ensure the human touch is still recognized and appreciated. The opportunity is to leverage these tools for better and more efficient outputs, creating opportunities for clients to see sustainability in the investments they make with your business.

At Digitas Japan, we’re still exploring what AI really means for our output. Recently we’ve begun introducing automation into our workflows on a CRM program covering around 9m consumers, and previously on a global design system program for a leading automotive manufacturer. These are small steps towards the inclusion of AI into our workflows, and we’re fortunate to be connected with Publicis Groupe’s top creative technology teams in APAC (led by Laurent Thevenet in Singapore) to stay abreast of the AI revolution.

Creative and Advertising agencies are amidst a digital transformation journey. How is this playing out in the industry in general and at your agency?

I see it almost as the coming together of three traditionally separate industries: Advertising, Marketing and Media; Business Consulting; and Technology Partners. Consumers expect a service – but they consider how this service reaches them to be irrelevant. As a result, those three separate industries come together to provide brands with in-market offerings that are ‘transformed’ from their traditional business models.

At Publicis Groupe Japan, one of these in-market offerings is Digitas and we have competitors not only from the Advertising, Marketing and Media industry – but also from the Business Consulting and Technology Partner industries. It forces us to think differently about how we go to market, how we merchandise ourselves, how we source great talent and structure our capability teams.

In terms of value vs. cost, can you talk more about the cost of poor CX, and how you communicate the value of investing in CX to stakeholders?

Fortunately, many businesses in Japan already have a grasp on how important it is to invest in CX – the challenge really is how we help them quantify these for conversations with their finance teams and legacy business functions.

“One of the most effective ways of communicating the cost of poor CX is to bring to the surface the measurement of Customer Lifetime Value.”

One of the most effective ways of communicating the cost of poor CX is to bring to the surface the measurement of Customer Lifetime Value. Brands with high customer satisfaction scores see customers spending more and repurchasing from them more over time, even when a cheaper alternative is available. In Japan, that conversation is easier than in other markets, because we know that high standards of service and product experience are valued by Japanese consumers.

With the rise of technology and connectivity transforming the way businesses must approach customer experience, how can design systems help organizations create consistency and efficiency in their design process? What are some of the challenges?

Design systems exist for that very purpose: consistency and efficiency. By offering consistent foundations, principles and guidelines, they harmonize design endeavors and expedite development, ensuring uniformity in the creation of digital products and experiences throughout the entire organization.

Design systems are commonplace globally, but in Japan, brands are still on that journey to understand the value they bring. One case study we commonly share is our work with a Japanese automotive brand; the design system we introduced and the governance surrounding it turned into a rather compelling story that helps with brand value, particularly from a brand consistency and design production/development cost reduction perspective.

“By offering consistent foundations, principles and guidelines, they harmonize design endeavors and expedite development, ensuring uniformity in the creation of digital products and experiences throughout the entire organization.”

Conversational UI and chatbots are changing the way we interact with technology. Can you talk more about that as well as the psychological aspects of human-computer interaction?

Any interaction that is designed around the concept of conversation or dialogue creates more natural and accessible experiences. However, these experiences are only as good or as sophisticated as the technology powering them. Best-in-class conversational experiences come from brands that invest not only in the front-end experience but also in robust natural language processing algorithms and effective error handling.

From a psychological standpoint, conversational UI taps into some key aspects of human nature like anthropomorphism, where humans tend to attribute human-like qualities to non-human entities. When interacting with conversational UI, users often perceive them as more personified due to the natural language interaction. This can lead to increased user engagement and emotional connection.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in your field in 2024?

Read a lot. Not only new material but also material that set the foundations for what CX, Service Design, UX, and UI are today. Those foundational principles and frameworks are built on significant and extensive research and insight over time – and although they are free to be challenged, of course, it is those principles that will keep us true to what we’re here to do in these times where new technology is (positively) rife.


Quick Hits:

Book everyone in the industry should read:

Lateral Thinking, Edward De Bono

Favorite show you’ve been watching lately:

At Home With The Furys (Netflix)

One album you would take to a deserted island:

Robbie Williams, Sing When You’re Winning

Something you want to learn or wish you were better at:

Japanese!

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