Many touchpoints are formal: advertising, public relations, and
organized events, customer involvement in Company operations
and new product development, and so forth. Other touchpoints are
informal: gossip and rumor (now professionally called, “word of
mouth” advertising), spontaneous events and occurrences (like
assembling a product at home), talking on the phone with a service
representative, reading an account in the paper that mentions the
Company or its products, and when a customer uses a product sold
by the Company. Retailing involves one set of touchpoints;
maintaining supply and value chain relationships, another.
Common touchpoints include listening to the radio, watching TV or
cable, reading a billboard, sharing a rumor, attending public
ceremonies, recommending the Company or its products to
someone, and so forth. In fact, touchpoints are so many, the
problem is not to find them, but rather to know which one’s to work
with and how in any particular situation.
Touchpoints are neither good nor bad. They are simply
opportunities to continue a conversation with the customer that is
intended to lead to a sale and continued business with the
Crafting touchpoint compositions is still an art form akin to brand
management, though the number of practitioners is. We call them
designers of experience (DoE).1 To be successful in this line of
work, designers must have a keen understanding of human
perception, cognition, and behavior; the ability to extrapolate
futures from current conditions; and the ability to shape how others
perceive, consider, emote, and finally act – thus, to design
It is the DoE’s job to manage the touchpoints – gossip mills, online
blogs, broadcast TV advertising, planes towing banners, riding a
mountain bike, listening to a radio account, climbing a mountain –
creating in the customer’s mind an impression that Company wants
him or her to remember and act on, now or in the future. But
because the customer can choose to acknowledge or ignore
touchpoints (often unintentionally), and because a score can be
interrupted or disturbed by “noise” in the information environment,
the customer’s ultimate Buying Experience may differ from what the
Company or the DoE intended. This is true of all marketing. There
is no absolute certainty when dealing with human beings
Designers of experience are also called “experience designers,” but this can be
confusing since website developers have used this term to describe what they do to
the exclusion of designers working in other media.
Although the tools for designing experiences are still primitive, it is
possible to imagine a future when the Company or the customer will
be able to turn on or turn off touchpoints at will (perhaps for
reasons of privacy). But the overall Buying Experience will survive,
because it does not rely on technology alone but is created in the
mind of the customer where perception, cognition, memory,
anticipation, and action form continuously changing meanings.
The Gemba Buying Experience Process
Gemba’s process for crafting a client’s Buying Experience is
Before doing anything else, it’s important to organize a Buying
Experience team comprising staff from all relevant departments and
members of the executive corps. The staff provides specific
expertise and labor; the executive members keep top management
involved and informed, and muster necessary resources (including
time allotments, funding, and official support) for the team’s
success. Once organized, the team, aided by Gemba expert
consultants, undertakes the following tasks.
A. B. C. D. E. F. G.
Define Develop Audit Compose Prototype Activate Evaluate
Company Customer Existing the The the Full and Revise
Themes Value Touchpoint Buying Buying Buying the Buying
Proposition s Experienc Experienc Experienc Experience
s e e e
Here the tasks are presented sequentially, but in a complex
organization, there may be several Buying Experiences operating
concurrently. In that case, the team will continuously be working
with Buying Experiences at different points in their development.
The team therefore must be appropriately organized to permit
dealing with different tasks simultaneously.
A. Define Company themes
1. Collect information that describes the Company environment
and situation: local, global, or both. These are its current
2. Identify and describe trends in the world that bear on the
Company’s operations and growth, based on its current
3. Divide individual and small groups of trends into clusters
4. Based on the meta-trends, choose themes that describe the
Company goals and aspirations for the future. These themes
are the basis of the Company’s “marching orders”: its
strategic, marketing, and Buying Experience plans.
Themes can be as broad or narrow as a Company’s scope and
aspirations. As an option, scenarios – portraits of alternative
possible futures – can be created to test the themes and their
implementation within these possible futures. How well do they
play out for the Company and each of its key stakeholders:
management, labor, investors, customers, and regulators?
B. Develop customer value propositions
1. Describe how the themes, when implemented, translate into
tangible benefits for the customers. These benefits can be
personal, social, or both.
2. Test the benefits against customers’ current perceived needs
using surveys, focus groups, or most effectively, by having
customers work with the Company to describe these benefits
3. Adjust the benefits to meet customers’ needs, keeping in
mind that these needs may change and that the Company can
play a part in changing them.
4. Translate the benefits into customer value propositions –
arguments that can be made for customers to adopt the
Company’s themes as their own and ultimately, to buy the
Company’s products and services.
C. Audit existing touchpoints (also called “mapping” or
“inventorying” the touchpoints)
1. Identify where the Company currently provides customer
value propositions for its customers’ consideration, instances
or events where the Company and its customers come into
contact with one another directly or indirectly, by design or
2. Describe these touchpoints and evaluate their effectiveness
for the Company
3. Develop a net customer asset index (NCAI) as a measurement
tool – the proportion of existing and sought-after future
customers who are positively affected by each critical
Calculating on a continuous basis the Company’s overall NCAI is
one way to measure the effectiveness of its Buying Experience.
Individual touchpoints can be evaluated with touchpoint type-
D. Compose the Buying Experience score
1. Fully understand how the most important touchpoints
contribute to the Buying Experience (plus or minus) and then
determine how they can be harmonized for greatest
2. Decide where Company resources can best be deployed
among the most important touchpoints to ensure that the
Buying Experience is achieves its purpose.
3. Score the touchpoints, optimizing those that provide greatest
value to the Company, neutralizing unproductive or negative
touchpoints, and creating required new ones.
4. Review the score to ensure that there are no inherent conflicts
and that all essential touchpoints are covered. The team does
a virtual walkthrough accompanied by representative sample
E. Prototype the Buying Experience
1. For each type of touchpoint, on a controlled basis, “turn on”
the experience (e.g., store personnel adopt new techniques,
advertising broadcasts the message, internal Company
procedures – like enhanced CRM systems – are initiated, and
2. The team visits all physical and virtual touchpoints to ensure
their proper operation.
3. Customers are observed and interviewed to ensure that their
experiences meet or exceed the intended consequences of
4. Make necessary revisions to the score and adjust the
F. Activate the full Buying Experience
1. Do all of the above, “turning on” the touchpoints to their full
capacity (for example, extend services prototyped at a few
stores to an entire chain of outlets or from a few webpages to
an entire website).
2. Monitor the touchpoints as before.
3. Be prepared to make quick changes where unanticipated
insufficient or negative results are produced. Have alternative
solutions already prepared or procedures in place for their
rapid development, prototyping, and deployment.
G. Evaluate and revise the Buying Experience
1. Apply the NCAI and determine the effectiveness of the Buying
Experience per se.
2. Calibrate the NCAI findings with conventional objective
measures of business success like sales per product or per
line, revenues, gross income, and EBITA (earning before
interest, taxes, and amortization expense), per period and
over the entire run of the Buying Experience.
3. Calibrate the NCAI with conventional subjective measures of
business success like customer satisfaction, employee moral,
competitors’ reactions, press coverage of the Company and its
products, policy developments, and communications online
(e.g., in forums and chat rooms) and offline (word of mouth).
4. Make revisions in the continuing Buying Experience; prepare
for the next Buying Experience that proposes similar customer
value propositions; or repeat all of these steps to create a
new Buying Experience that better responds to changing
themes within the Company, changes in the business
environment, the pursuit of new customers, or any
combination of these factors.
Timing the Buying Experience Endeavor
Each company will tackle the challenge of creating useful and
productive Buying Experiences at its own pace, depending the
degree of urgency it feels and its resources available for the task –
keeping in mind that few major investments get cheaper with time.
Larger companies have many more touchpoints to incorporate in a
Buying Experience score than do smaller firms, but they also can
bring to bear more labor and greater investment. Each company
must look to its own needs in carrying out this relatively new
process, unless a competitor beats it to the punch, in which case it
may be forced to move quickly.
On average, from start to finish, a single, discreet Buying
Experience will take a small company three months, a midsized
company four to six months; and a large company, six months or
more. This does not include prior decisionmaking to go ahead with
a Buying Experience project, nor does it include evaluation of the
Buying Experience from a larger strategic, post-Buying Experience
perspective. But these things should be occurring constantly,
anyway, so that the Buying Experience can be slotted into a
company’s schedule without a great deal of external involvement
(for example, by executives or staff who are not part of the Buying