Four Ingredients That Make For a Great Digital User Experience
Experience is the currency brands trade in nowadays, especially online. If you want to lock in customer loyalty and repeat business in the digital age, brand recognition and reputation no longer cut it. It’s all about thinking holistically about how people interact with your brand, and how all those individual experiences add up to create a lasting impression.
The difficulty is, while most people agree that good customer experience leads to strong business performance, what makes an experience ‘good’ is not always easy to define.
Take this example from experience management specialists Qualtrics, who offer a three-part definition based on their own consumer research. The first two are easy to get on board with – Qualtrics says that customers define a digital experience as ‘good’ if they achieved what they set out to do and found it easy to achieve it.
But the third element – the one that Qualtrics claims is the most important to a positive perception of experience – is likely to give marketing executives cold sweats. People being people, they judge experiences purely on emotion, on whether they ‘feel good’ about it or not. How do we quantify and rationalise that so we can make it an achievable and repeatable goal?
In many ways it is easier to define what a bad experience looks like than a good one. For example, several years ago a piece of research into web page loading speeds found that 50% of people would leave a site and not return if they had to wait 10 seconds to access what they wanted. Microsoft subsequently found that differences in loading speeds of as little as 250 milliseconds correlated to differences in traffic between rival sites. Modern digital customers have high expectations.
Yet the stakes for meeting these expectations could hardly be higher. According to research from Zendesk, half of consumers now say they will abandon a brand on the basis of just one bad experience, rising to 80% if they have two or more negative experiences. On the flipside, three quarters say they are prepared to spend more money with companies that provide a good experience.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that 81% of businesses now say they compete purely on experience. But that still leaves open the question – what exactly makes for a great customer experience?
At Key Element, mapping out world-class customer experience (CX) journeys and building the technology that delivers great end user experience (UX) is a key part of what we do. Here are four ingredients that we aim to include every time.
There’s a reason digital technology has had such a massive impact on our day-to-day lives – it makes a huge range of tasks and activities quicker, easier and more convenient.
In terms of making purchases, it’s no surprise that 65% of people now say they want to buy from companies that offer quick and easy online transactions. People still like to visit shops, high streets and retail parks for a variety of reasons, such as the opportunity to try out goods first hand, meeting with friends or combining shopping with a bite to eat. But for sheer convenience, you can’t beat being able to pick up your smartphone and do whatever you need to do online.
Because convenience is such a key driver of why we use digital technology in the first place, digital experiences should be designed to maximise the level of convenience on offer. This can be broken down into three areas:
- Simplicity: Designing websites and apps to be as easy to navigate and user-friendly as possible, with intuitive layouts, straightforward interfaces and short pathways to get people where they want to go.
- Purchase Convenience: Enabling customers to complete the full purchasing journey, from browsing for ideas to completing a purchase, all in one place should they wish.
- Service Convenience: Providing timely, responsive support on demand and making sure all information is up to date and clearly flagged.
Another critical element of delivering digital convenience is choice of how, when and where customers can engage with your brand. Digital technology has created a multitude of channels and tools we can use to interact and transact. Whether it’s websites or mobile apps; branded ecommerce stores, marketplaces or social media; email, live chat or voice chat – people increasingly want the option to use them all, as and when is most convenient to them.
A Harvard Business Review study into online shopping habits found that 73% of consumers now use more than one channel during a typical buying journey. What is more, it also found clear evidence that people prefer to shop with brands that offer so-called ‘omnichannel’ options – brands rated as having the strongest omnichannel offerings on average retained 89% of their customers, versus just 33% for those rated the weakest. Not only that, but the study also found that consumers who used multiple channels spent up to 10% more on average online, and 4% more in store.
With figures like that, omnichannel becomes a no-brainer.
Effective omnichannel strategies don’t just depend on adopting a range of touchpoints technologies and then ticking it off as a job done. A multichannel approach where all the latest tools and widgets are present and correct might offer plenty of choice but little convenience if they all operate in their own isolated silos. A true omnichannel approach offers the flexibility to hop from one channel to the next at will, which is yet another driver of convenience.
This can be further broken down into two elements. One is availability or ‘reachability’, which translates as making sure all channels can be accessed across multiple devices and in different contexts. For example, you might be very proud of the web chat service you launch on your company website, but it could very well annoy customers that the same isn’t available on the branded mobile app they download.
Second, complete omnichannel flexibility is achieved when customers can switch channels midway through a journey or interaction and pick up the thread again without any back tracking or repetition. According to contact centre solutions specialist NICE, 72% of consumers now expect to continue talking with the same representative if they switch from phone to email to live chat etc.
Another example would be customers being able to add items to their shopping cart on their smartphone, but then complete the transaction later on their desktop – or even pop into a store to make the payment and collect.
Finally, implicit in the idea of being able to switch from one channel to another mid conversation or transaction and pick up exactly where you left off is consistency – ensuring the experience the customer gets is seamless and unified no matter which touchpoint they choose to use.
But consistency goes beyond speaking to the same agent or saving shopping carts so they can be accessed again later from a different channel. Omnichannel consistency also covers service levels, wait times, product availability, even the visual branding and ‘tone of voice’ customers encounter when they engage with your business in different ways. To the modern consumer, whether they step into your physical store or click on your website, engage with you via a web app chat widget, email or on social media, they see you as one company, one brand, and expect one type of experience. Inconsistency jars and can quickly erode loyalty.
Consistency across channels can be difficult to achieve, not least because businesses often fall into the trap of adding a mobile app here and a social media presence there in a piecemeal fashion. That will inevitably lead to a disjointed, inconsistent CX. Unifying the experience you deliver across your digital business ultimately requires a robust strategic approach that encompasses:
- Customer journey mapping. More than half of marketers agree that a major barrier to implementing consistent omnichannel experiences is not having a clear picture of what customer journeys look like for their business, how people like to and want to interact, and what the pain points they experience are.
- Fully integrated back-end systems. It no longer makes any sense to run an e-commerce store, a marketplace or social media shop front, a mobile app or even the POS system in a physical store as standalone, separate assets. To achieve consistency across all, you need back-end platforms running the lot, sharing data across channels and offering complete visibility at every point on the customer journey.
- Data intelligence. The best way to achieve consistency across all your channels is via continuous intelligence-led improvement. Once you have established integrated back-end systems to run all your digital touchpoints, you have access to a unified pool of data. Using analytics, this can be mined to compare performance across channels in granular detail, assess customer sentiment and predict potential issues.