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Anya Jamar Podcast Transcript

July 20, 2020
To listen to the full episode, click here

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and Experience podcast from CloudApp, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us. Hey everyone. I am excited to be at my house this morning in my bedroom podcasting with Anya Jamar, Isaac Otto. Uh, Anya has a PhD in cognitive science. She’s a researcher at heart has been doing research for a very long time, uh, for lots of different tech and B2B companies, um, and was connected me through Finn, uh, our head of product over here at cloud app. And I’m excited to connect with Anya on a few different things as a researcher background myself on customer experience. And then probably also just talked about this craziness that we’re going through. Um, Anya, if you wouldn’t mind giving us a little background on yourself and kind of where you got to where you are now,
Anya: (01:02)
For sure. So yeah, I’m happy to join you from my living room slash office. Uh, so yeah, so I’m a researcher. I have a PhD in cognitive psychology ended a postdoc in cognitive neuroscience. Um, so most of my kind of academic research was around how people think, how they, reason how memory works, all of these kind of nitty gritty of thought. Um, but at the same time, I was always interested in design. So I was reading design blogs and like thinking about decorating and all of these, uh, more aesthetic interests, I guess. Uh, and so I wanted to find a way to combine these two loves of mine. So now I work on research, uh, related to the built environment mostly, and, um, the way that the digital and physical environment interact. So connecting all of this great research that we have from psychology, from cognitive science, building science and improving, uh, experience in environments, given this, uh, big background, as well as conducting new research to answer specific questions.

Joe: (02:04)
That’s, that’s so cool. You know, one of the things I loved about that kind of brought me into marketing was more because I was so fascinated by consumer behavior and like why things happened. And I kind of took my, you know, finance data background into marketing with that in mind. And at Adobe, you know, we actually, as I was leaving, we were hiring a whole bunch of PhDs in basically the exact background you just said. Um, and they were, you know, leading surveys and consumer research and really understanding, uh, customer behavior and the journey and like how we can kind of make changes along the way with a world full of distraction and so many things going on. How have you found ways to kind of cut through the noise and, um, understand what a customer is really thinking?

Anya: (02:57)
I would say, um, really having empathy, uh, and trying to take the perspective of a customer is really important. So, uh, I think oftentimes if you just ask what people want, they don’t know, and the best products that get created, people don’t know they need. So I think really taking into consideration, um, how people’s lives could be improved, uh, any pain points that they’re experiencing, that they might not be aware of and then trying to build a product to that and understanding really how to message as well so that people can recognize that they need this thing that they didn’t know, they, they needed.

Joe: (03:41)
When you’re designing, is something kind of digging in on that a little deeper when you’re designing either a, you know, a survey or something to get to understanding the behavior or designing the experience itself. Uh, what, what is kind of a, a secret sauce that you like to go to?

Anya: (04:02)
Uh, so for surveys, I think one thing that we can use is the kind of metaphors that people use a lot. So people tend to, for example, uh, visualize things going up towards the right and upgoing, uh, or more going up. And so I’ve seen a lot of bad surveys out there where, for example, good is on the left hand side of the scale. And that is on the right hand side of the scale. That’s completely against what we know from cognitive science. So kind of going back to first principles of like, what would, how do people interpret space? How do people interpret, um, questions and then trying to design around that? So like understanding how people work and then designing, for example, survey questions, or the way that you’re wording, uh, certain scenarios, understanding how people would interpret that rather than kind of going from what you would like to see, or maybe how you would interpret a question.

Joe: (05:00)
Yeah, it’s funny. Like, I feel like I’m a little jaded with any type of research having done it for so long, and I’m sure you’re the same. Like, I I’ll look at like first, the sample size, you know, and some people will put out data that has like a hundred survey respondents and I’m like, well, that’s, that’s, you know, debatable if that’s worth putting out. And, uh, then I, then I secondly, think exactly what you said, like, well, how did they structure the survey? Like was their garbage responses in there? Um, yeah, that’s really, really, yeah. And I think it really depends on the methodology. So let’s say do have a hundred people, but they’re representative of the population. I think often you can get a really strong signal. And then obviously if you have more people, you can get more. Um, and then when you’re testing people’s experience, I think sometimes you need very small sample sizes. So for example, I worked at this, uh, lab called the well living lab where we, um, examined the impact of the environment on people and people would be in this space and we would change different environmental configurations and see how they reacted. We would only need a sample size of, let’s say 10 people, because we were making these changes and seeing how people reacted. And if everyone reacted the same way, let’s say when it got cold, we could infer that in general, that’s a kind of a phenomenon that happens. So I think it depends on the question. It depends on the methodology. Um, so I think there’s a lot of variables there.

Joe: (06:25)
So with the DNA of what is the DNA of a customer experience to you, let’s say that you get these survey results and you’re kind of presenting them to a marketing or strategy team and kind of helping them come up with a design for an experience. What other things kind of come up with a survey result?

Anya: (06:48)
Uh, I think understanding people’s personality. So people tend to prefer products and objects that fit their personality. So understanding who you’re building this for. So you’re not building this for yourself, you’re building this for someone and understanding who that is. Um, as well as the importance of human connection. So people like feeling that someone’s making something for them. So I don’t know if you feel like this, but to me a sandwich that I don’t make tastes a lot better than a sandwich that I bake, if it’s the same sandwich. Uh, so just knowing that someone made something for you and kind of leaving that human touch is important as well.

Joe: (07:27)
That’s a really good point. Yeah. I like the, um, you know, we, we always talked about a customer feedback loop and that’s a key piece of, you know, any good product is doing a lot of customer interviews and understanding the pain points and trying to make those, you know, less of a pain. Um, so that’s, that’s empathy, like you said before, and also just putting yourself in the shoes of other people is really important And understanding how maybe their life experience is different. So, you know, the way that a parent would see a product versus a non parent in a home, or, you know, different life stages or different jobs or different lifestyles that all really matters.
So you mentioned design earlier and how that’s kind of been a, been a piece of your journey, how can video or visuals, imagery really enhance that experience?

Anya: (08:23)
So I think one way that we mentioned a little bit is human connection. So obviously people feel a lot closer when they can see another person’s face and how they’re reacting all those non visual cues or non verbal cues. Um, I think another way is that people adapt more to other people when I’m speaking versus writing. So we know that, for example, if you’re talking to someone who’s a non native English speaker, you’re going to adjust more in your speech than if you were writing. So I think that’s a great way to either maybe get to customers who aren’t native or even to teammates who are not from the same culture as you. Um, I think another way is that, uh, the way that people see the world, they are kind of imagining themselves in the world. So let’s say that your trying to show people what a space would look like or what a product would look like. Obviously having video and having some sort of, um, information about how a person might interact with that product would give them a lot better of a sense of whether they would like it or whether they need it. Then if you just see an image or, um, you know, maybe a description that would be the worst of all worlds, because if you’re imagining something else.

Joe: (09:31)
Sure. And is there really good? Like, um, is there anything that you know about the top of your head of like being able to have, uh, more resonance with, if an image is stuck in someone’s head, like kind of like a jingle, uh, draws you back, is there something that you can do as a business to, um, you know, create imagery or videos that really have good remembering factor with people?

Anya: (10:01)
So I think this is a finding, I’m not quite sure, but I think that people remember things better when they’re from a first person perspective. So I think if you can, for example, do a video where you would be interacting with that object. I think that would, might have more engagement at the time, but also be easier to remember for people. Um, another finding is that when things are slowed down, people kind of imagine themselves more in that situation. So I don’t know if you’ve seen, like if someone’s doing a high jump or something and it’s really slowed down and you can almost feel yourself in them, even though you might not know how to do that. So perhaps using some of these techniques that, um, get people’s attention and get them to feel more like they’re, they’re in there.

Joe: (10:44)
This is, this is a little obscure op topic. But like, as you’re saying that I’m thinking about like a DVR and how people skip commercials now, but I noticed like commercials have a lot more brand pops, um, like the big text and things that can like catch your eye, like at a fast speed. Um, yeah. I’m kind of wondering your thoughts on like how maybe advertising on television has kind of evolved with like DVR speed.

Anya: (11:17)
Um, I actually, haven’t watched a real TV in a while, but maybe, uh, with like YouTube, I can talk about that or, uh, I guess more story-driven it seems like people care more about narrative these days. I don’t know. It seems like things are more narrative is not just like, Oh, here’s the thing. It’s more like, Oh, here’s the story around that thing that you’re, you’re trying to sell or that,

Joe: (11:43)
And like trying to drive you to a different device. I know, like when I was at Adobe, we did this one, um, we did this Superbowl advertising, commercial, commercial kind of analysis. And, um, it was like the second device. So we analyzed both, um, TV Watchers, and then also people that were using their phone at the same time. And a lot of brands this one year is probably like 2014 or something we’re driving, trying to drive traffic to their website. So we saw like a, I don’t know, 50% spike in Superbowl advertisers versus non Superbowl advertisers, um, to their w like core website. Um, cause it was like BMW for some reason, I think BMW did like a James Bond commercial and they’re like, they showed like 10 seconds of it. And they’re like finished the movie on, you know, or something.

Anya: (12:45)
Yeah. And it’s interesting because if you’re a multi-device user, you’re splitting your attention between what you’re watching and what you’re holding in your hand. So you almost have to, if you’re trying to capture those people’s attention, you have to work a little bit differently than if you’re trying to have a really engrossing, uh, thing on the primary device, because those people are more like getting into it and super focused versus like, Oh, I’m here. What are you telling me to do? I’m going to go do that. It’s almost like designing for different people,

Joe: (13:14)
Right? Yeah. Good point. So as kind of in a consulting role right now, you’re working with a lot of different people. Um, take me through kind of like the process that you would take a business through. So where does it kind of start? What’s the end goal and I’m sure it differs by company, but maybe just broadly. Um, what do you go in and do as a researcher and what, what are you seeing businesses really trying to understand more about their customers?

Anya: (13:46)
Uh, so typically I would either apply existing research, um, to a problem that someone has or conduct new research for to answer their specific questions. Um, so, um, understanding what the question is that they have what the mystery is that has to be solved. Uh, and then, um, building specific research around that. So whether that’s survey or whether that’s observation or whether that’s an analysis of their data that they have already, um, I think what I’m seeing is that a lot of businesses are trying to develop new business lines because obviously the world is changing really fast right now. So, um, I think in that way, sorry, I have a cold, um, I think there’s a lot of research to be done to understand, uh, you know, like if you’re launching something new, you don’t want to go in into it blind. And the worst thing you can do now is throw a bunch of resources at something without having a guess of whether or not it will work. So I do think this is actually a good time to do research, to understand whether these new ideas that you’re having, um, that are probably from what you’ve done before and that you might not have expertise in whether they’ll work and, um, who the target audience is, whether they think that they need this thing, um, and all of these, um, pieces of information that can help you come up with a better strategy, cause we’re going into a kind of unknown, uh, time right now.

Joe: (15:12)
Sure. Yeah. And I think, you know, most businesses really are believers of data. Um, maybe too much sometimes that they try and decision makers try and get too much data. Um, sometimes you have to, you know, shoot from the hip a little bit. Um, yeah. It’s interesting to kind of see how that’s evolved.

Anya: (15:32)
Yeah. And I think a lot of science is making good predictions sometimes from not a lot of data. So integrating a lot of different sources of, um, evidence. So prior studies or, you know, what has worked for other companies, what do our customers say integrating all of these pieces and coming up with a strategy. So not having, not being able to necessarily to point to, okay, this survey says that this is exactly what we should do, but rather like combining all of these pieces of information, here’s what we would predict and some way to test that or prototype it and test it,

Joe: (16:10)
Love that what’s a, you know, let’s put you in the customer seat or the consumer seat what’s a brand or a company you’ve recently had a good experience with and what really stood apart for you.

Anya: (16:24)
Uh, so I would say the New York times, uh, so, uh, I live in Montreal, uh, I’m an American, but, uh, and my husband is also an American. So we’ve been getting the Sunday, New York times delivered as a kind of connection to our home, um, as a way not to use screens during the weekend as much to kind of like get engrossed in reading. And I have to say in the past few weeks it has become so much more meaningful. First of all, we don’t have interactions with friends the way that we would. And so our weekend kind of starts becoming like our week and that it’s hard to distinguish the days and having that to look forward to like, okay, it’s going to be Sunday. We’re going to get the paper. We’re going to kind of like structure our experience around it. Um, and also supporting, I think a lot of people feel like the supporting the businesses that, um, the value right now is really important. So both supporting local businesses, but also like your times, it’s something that I value a lot. I’m afraid that they might have less money that they’re going to do layoffs and it’s such an important service. So feeling like I’m supporting something that I value as well as having this experience that connects me to my home when borders to the U S are closed. And so it feels like family’s far away and are kind of like cultures further away. So having that connection.

Joe: (17:41)
Yeah. That’s, that’s really cool. I, I, I love the paper newspaper still. Um, I don’t know I got into it kind of in, in and grad school, like, you know, the newspapers were free all over campus and so I just read them, uh, grabbed them and kind of got stuck to it. That paper of choice, uh, wall street journal probably. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think that’s, that’s the only one that I’ve subscribed to for a long,

Anya: (18:10)
Yeah. It’s interesting to see how many people feel that connection. And I think, you know, we would think that with all of these digital tools that may be everyone would be reading things online, but even now university students are still preferring to get, for example, textbooks on paper because you can then really focus and you’re not going to click on anything. You’re not going to get distracted. You have that kind of,

Joe: (18:32)
Yeah, there, there was this interesting finding, um, that we had, so Adobe had this product called the digital publishing suite and it was basically like the iPad version of, um, wired and New York times. And like pretty much every major publication you could imagine use this Adobe product for their iPad, uh, publication. And we found this trend. And again, this is all old data, like five years ago, maybe it’s switched, but there was this trend in people were doing more one-to-one sharing versus a social sharing. So it was more, I message was growing faster than Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter. Um, so there was this like contraction in that we reached like critical mass in all of these social networks. People were like, Oh, I don’t want to like share it with 10 million people. I just want to send it to my mom or friend that I think would inter would be interested in this. So it’s kinda been cool to see, like that type of stuff happened with critical mass of technology as well, where people are like, uh, you know, Screentime maybe isn’t the best. I need to think of ways that I can get away from my screen. And Apple started the, you know, weekly screen report and stuff. And I, it’s been kind of, it’s really interesting that that stuff type stuff fascinates me.

Anya: (20:01)
Yeah. I still get paper clippings from my, uh, in-laws who are really great at clipping anything that they see that’s relevant to us. Sometimes it’s like Montreal circles. Um, but I do think, I feel have that same experience, you know, like on, we have a family text thread, um, or like an SMS thread that we send in articles on. I do feel like that there’s this kind of desire to share, but like with people that you think will actually appreciate a versus like here world, like here or something.

Joe: (20:35)
Sure. Yup. So it’s an interesting trend. Well, as we, as we close out, there’s been a great conversation on you. I appreciate your time today. What’s look into your crystal ball. Where do you think a consumer behaviors going? Where do you think, um, brands are doing well? And where do you think? Um, there could be some improvement.

Anya: (20:57)
So I think in a time of crisis, people are, um, relying on habits a lot more. So I’ve noticed here in my neighborhood, there’s a bunch of grocery stores yet the ones that people tend to go to have huge lines and the ones that people don’t tend to go to normally have no lines. So people are relying on habitual behavior. And we see that also with, you know, like how Campbell soup has become really popular because people have these, um, habits or things that they can recall. Um, so I think any brands that can call upon, you know, you used to do this, you like to do this, uh, I think people are looking for some comfort in that, um, relying on habit. People also don’t have a lot of mental resources to make difficult choices. So I think any thing that you can do to simplify people’s lives right now and simplify decisions, um, would be helpful because again, people are not going to be doing some exhaustive search of like, what is the best? I don’t know the best of anything really. It’s like, what can I get right now what’s available and how can you make this easy for me? Uh, and then this is kind of my own personal interest. I think people will become more interested in the physical environment that they’re in right now. We’re all trapped in our homes. And so I think people start to do things to make their homes better because you kind of realize all the inadequacies and the unfinished projects and so on. Um, as well as the relationship between health and in our environment. So obviously, you know, like the way that disease spreads as well as other recent events, like, um, you know, poor air quality due to fires or, um, uh, due to pollution and so on. So I hope that people will take this time to kind of, uh, retool our environments, think about how to make them healthy, productive, and good places to be.

Joe: (22:43)
Yeah. I saw something on, um, Apple news or something maybe. Uh, but it was, it showed a picture of LA skyline like now versus what it normally is. Yeah. And it was like LA clearest skies it’s had in a decade or something. So that was, yeah, that was pretty funny.

Anya: (23:03)
Yeah. So I hope we take all this energy and try to learn from what we have to try to make the world a little bit better. Definitely. Yeah.

Joe: (23:11)
Thank you. Anya. Always love talking about consumer behavior, cognitive science, super fascinating. Um, best of luck with the projects you’re working on, uh, stay well and we’ll talk soon.

Anya: (23:23)
All right. Sounds good. Take care.

Joe: (23:28)
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