It’s Got to Work the First Time

As an Airbnb/friend’s couch kinda guy, I don’t often stay in hotels, but I did a couple weeks ago for an extended weekend. On the drive there, I pulled up the hotel app (I was a passenger). It greeted me with, “Today’s the day!” I’m already impressed. The app knows why I’m there and follows with some things I could do – none of which I knew were options. Check in from your phone, get a digital key on your phone, skip the line. I’m sure to seasoned hotel travelers, this is nothing new, but to me as a digital marketer, this is a NEW USER EXPERIENCE. Yay!

I dove right in, checked in, clicked the link for getting my key and waited. And waited…watching the spinning flywheel of death. Must have hit a dead spot. Nope; other apps are working fine. Force close the app, reopen, get “Today’s the day!” No memory of my previous visit. A little less impressed now, but all experiences have glitches here and there so I go through the process again, get hung up again. I must be too far from the hotel to get the key… Wait till I’m at the front door, “Today’s the day!” Ugh. Go through the process again and still nothing. Since I’m at the front desk by this point, I just wait in line and check in (the front desk had no record of my already checking in). A day later from inside my room, I still couldn’t get the key. This was beginning to feel like Pokémon Go for incompetent 50-year-olds.

So what did I learn from that? Your brand’s digital platform sucks. And because you made me sit through that repeatedly, I arrive at your property disappointed with your brand. To make matters worse, I didn’t need those things – I found them because you marketed them to me.

I’ll never know why that platform didn’t work. It doesn’t matter. I’ll probably disregard it in the future. If it hangs up when I’m trying to get the key, it’ll probably hang up when I’m exhausted and standing at the door to my room trying to get in. We see this a LOT with trying to drive digital wallet adoption with our financial services clients. Driving engagement and ongoing use is challenging because so many users had experiences with digital wallets where they didn’t work the first time – which is why first use is so important in driving ongoing behavior. Saying it’s got to work every time is a great aspiration, but I believe that if you aim for it to work at that very first engagement for every user, you’ll have an easier time driving adoption and getting it to work every time.

We have a saying in our industry – there’s never enough time to do it the way it should be done, but there’s always more than enough time to make it right. We try to reverse that thinking whenever we can, but this particular brand is leaning towards doing it the hard way.

So what can you do when launching a digital experience? If it doesn’t work, don’t launch it. If it’s glitchy, don’t launch it. If it works beautifully and you don’t have a contingency plan, don’t launch it. If you’re unable to kill a key feature or alert a user if something’s not working, don’t launch it. At the end of the day, whatever digital experience you’re creating, it’s got to leave the user with a favorable impression of your brand. The first time. (and every time, of course) Otherwise, why do it?

Interested in getting your digital experience right the first time? Give me a call.