Customer Experience vs. Digital Customer Experience
In a previous article, we talked about customer experience in general and the effects it has on satisfaction and retention. We also discovered that people don’t just buy a product- they buy the whole experience, the feeling it gives them, the connection with the brand, the story behind it. Now it’s time to take it up a notch and talk about the next logical stage: digital customer experience (aka DCX).
The definition is similar to the traditional one: it’s all about the sum of digital interactions between a customer and a company, resulting in a certain impression that a customer walks away with. CX and digital CX overlap at a certain extent. CX can cover anything from the traditional in-store experience and the good old customer service channels, to the new digital interfaces that people use to keep in touch with companies.
Digital CX only focuses on the latter. From the speed at which your website is loading, to its design, the digital customer service, witty updates on your social media accounts and chatbots… it’s all here, in the digital CX playbook.
Unlike in brick-and-mortar stores, where you can easily manage and adapt the atmosphere around the customers’ needs, creating a digital customer experience is a bit trickier. The warmth, your brand’s personality and its values, the ease, the seamless process… how do you put them all together in order to make it memorable? Let’s dive right in and see for ourselves.
Busting a couple of myths
First and foremost, let’s tackle a widespread misconception, as defined by our friends at Liferay: that customers actually care about digital. In fact, they don’t think of it at all, they don’t make the switch between online and offline experiences. It’s all part of a whole. They want to interact with the companies in the most convenient way possible. And since the new way of living includes digital to a large extent, the lines between the two types of experience are blurred on by one.
And another one: think of it in terms of sales and marketing and you will fail terribly. Digital experience should focus on consumers first. Make them enjoy the experience and they will consider buying from you. It’s a basic general truth we learn within the first weeks of our marketing training: people do business with entities (other people, brands, companies) they trust. So digital experience is basically about creating trust and connecting with possible customers in a genuine, pleasurable and frictionless way. It’s important to improve digital customer experiences in order to increase customer retention and sales.
Most of the time in today’s oversaturated markets, it’s extremely hard to compete on products and services because of the huge number of companies offering the exact same thing. But what you can always compete on is consumer experiences. Offer people what they want and never keep them guessing. You might have the most mind-blowing visuals and the most innovative way to present your products but are they any good if consumers get stuck during the checkout process or can’t get in touch with you via the contact form?
Digital Customer Experience Strategy
So, without further ado, let’s see exactly what you can do in order to create the best DCX for your customers. In other words- let’s talk strategy.
1. Know your people
The first step in any business endeavor is getting acquainted to consumers. What makes them tick, what they want from you, how they use your products and services and, most importantly, how they want to acquire them. Do they spend more time shopping in physical stores or they use their mobile devices to look up offers, compare prices and research brands before even considering to go out there and personally interact with their items of choice?
- Use demographics and psychographics to uncover the real motivations behind their online behavior.
You don’t want to offer a fully automatized experience to an older audience looking for personal interaction and clever storytelling. You need to be aware of how your users interact with technology so you can meet their needs and expectations.
- Create a buyer persona.
It helps you humanize your target and translates all your research in powerful insights that you can future use in improving the digital experiences. It’s like a social media profile of your average user, except it’s not created by them.
- Create an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
This section refers mainly to companies that are doing business with other companies. In other words- it’s about B2B. ICPs are very similar to buyer personas, except they recreate the profile of the company which is the best fit to the solutions you’re offering. Here are a few things you should focus on if you’re addressing businesses, not individual customers:
- Average size of the company
- Average revenue
- Ideal location of the company
- Technology they use
- Size of their customer base
- Organizational/technological maturity
- Use qualitative research to better understanding your target.
By building this buyer persona, you will be able to empathize with consumers, see the digital world through their eyes and meet them halfway. If, in turn, you work on B2B communications, the ICP will guide your efforts. Regardless of the side you’re on, qualitative research is particularly useful when you want to fill in the blanks and complete the profiles. Our Qualitative Research feature will help you discover how many of your visitors have purchase intention, which barriers you should eliminate and what makes them buy specifically.
2. Refine your strategy by addressing each stage of their customer journey
This one goes hand in hand with the customer persona. Just like everyone has their own story, every customer has a specific journey, with different expectations associated with each stage.
- Different intentions behind each step of the buyer’s journey
Are they in the awareness stage? You may want to make any relevant information available to them and carefully lead them to the next phase: the consideration stage. Are they frequent buyers that turn to you over and over again? Add a little something extra, like a personal e-mail thanking them for their purchase, to surprise them and convert them into lifetime customers or even brand advocates.
- Customize the experience according to their journey
Once you’re mindful of customer journeys and the intent behind their behavior, the experience you design becomes more and more personal and personalized. This means more potential for customization. The design should be user-friendly, highly intuitive and “humanified”, in the words of the people from Ttec. You must know at which point the digital channels play a bigger role in their behavior.
- Simplicity is key.
That’s the secret behind every successful designing process. Innovation is usually simple and obvious. User experience designers know it, you should interiorize it as well. Good design is invisible to the naked eye, as should good DCX be to the user. Another noteworthy detail: many digital natives are omnichannel consumers, so make sure that your research shows you exactly where you need to be present when they are searching for your product and service. Let it be easy for them to find you and get to know you.
3. Use their data to fuel your digital transformation efforts
According to Accenture, 75% of customers admit being more likely to buy from a company that recognizes them by their name, knows their purchase history, and recommends products based on their past purchases.
It’s a quid pro quo: in general, they’re eager to give away their data in exchange for an experience worthy of their time. This is why Amazon is thriving: they found the secret recipe to customer happiness and satisfaction. Their algorithm promotes upselling by recommending products their users are highly likely to be interested in, based on a solid knowledge of their buying patterns.
4. The marketing mix has the 4Ps. DCX has its 4Is
More specifically: integration, innovation, interaction, intuition, according to User Report. Keeping them in mind at all times will help you design seamless digital processes that users will love to be involved in.
- Integration: for consistency and alignment
It refers to the overall consistency of your consumer experience digital, be it offline or digital. Every touchpoint should fit comfortably into a well-thought-out map and align with your company’s personality, values and vision.
- Innovation to better fit into their digital lives
This concept is somehow self-explanatory. Digital is all about new technologies and finding the right way to incorporate them into your strategy. Yet the concept uncovers a much deeper reality: innovation shouldn’t necessarily be all fancy and complicated. Sometimes it only solves a little problem in a visionary way.
Take Uber, for example. The idea seems simple and obvious, right? But do you know why it really appeals to its users? Because it creates a frictionless experience, eliminating the frustrating problem of anticipation. It connects users and drivers, configures the route and shows you exactly when the car will arrive. The waiting time feels different when you’re expecting an Uber versus when you’re expecting a cab. 10 minutes are much more bearable if you know that this is the exact amount of time you need to wait.
- Interaction: placing the focus on users
It’s all about the steps your user is going to take in order to reach his or her objectives. Scrolling, clicking on things, filling in a contact form and so on. Make sure you’re not intrusive. And be careful not to add useless obstacles on their path. If they’re reading a long piece on your blog, they may get bored towards the half of the article and want to get back to the home page. Scrolling all the way up in order to find their way back to the previous step is annoying and most of them will abandon the process. Moral of the story: the less unnecessary steps, the better.
- Intuition: design around the results of the research
The journey inside their minds you undertook in your research phase will finally pay off. Here is when you turn all that knowledge into simple, intuitive design, by anticipating their online behavior. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be your biggest allies as you become better and more experienced in delivering the best kind of digital experience. Food for thought: half of all online searches will be voice searches by 2020.
5. It’s all about convenience
They want it all and they want it now, if possible (Queen were right all along). Convenience in the digital realm is very similar to the one they’re looking for in their offline experiences. It’s like going to the closest shop for the best deal you can get. Except you’re doing it online, so the process has to be even quicker and more seamless.
Ask important questions to get the most insightful answers:
- What turns a prospect into a buyer?
- What are they looking for in their day-to-day lives?
- How far are they willing to go in order to fulfill their needs?
- What about the availability of products and services?
- To which extent can they be served digitally (digital service convenience)?
- How seamless is the transaction process?
6. Hear their voice
- Ask for feedback.
It’s the only way you can make relevant improvements to their experience and provide more value to their online journey. You probably can’t imagine that, at some point, Starbucks faced gloomy times and the perspective of closing 1000 coffee places. Yet it happened during the 2008 economic crisis, when their revenue dropped by 30%. What was their solution to revitalize the brand and pull it out of that chaos? Improving both their CX and DCX.
- Use the feedback for the necessary turnarounds.
After gathering lots of ideas and possible directions from their consumers, Starbucks launched “My Starbucks Idea”, where contributors could contribute feedback and suggestions. This eventually turned into a long-term strategy, with the brand committing to permanent innovation. Their image changed from a corporate coffee chain to a community of coffee lovers.
- Innovation and feedback: the power couple of DCX
More than that, in 2017 they integrated their iOS app with Amazon Alexa to enable voice search, extending the already existing features of the Order & Pay platform. This turned into My Starbucks Barista, where they digitally recreated the feeling of directly talking to one of their baristas. There was also a Reorder Skill incorporated, which allowed users to change their mind and update their order before coming to the store and picking it up. All of that by using just their voice- an essential feature for today’s busy, hardworking people.
- Keep it in line with your brand’s personality and values.
Innovation without a personal touch is like trying to create the perfect strategy without consumer insights and brand values. You may have asked yourself: what’s the main idea behind all these innovations? They’re nice, but what are they bringing to the consumer’s table?
“The Starbucks experience is built on the personal connection between our barista and customer, so everything we do in our digital ecosystem must reflect that sensibility,” said Gerri Martin-Flickinger, chief technology officer for Starbucks. It helped naturally integrate the brand and its dedicated app into the daily routine of their customers.
- Use surveys to get ahead of your competitors.
Surveys are a great, powerful tool. Apart from the regular feedback you’re asking your users to provide at the end of their interaction with your website, you may find it useful to launch a survey every once in a while, to garner more in-depth information. Our feedback survey tool will help you find out why 9 out of 10 visitors leave your site without a purchase. Use it to highlight the relevant areas of improvement and seize that long-awaited competitive advantage.
Whatever you do, do it with purpose. Whenever you reinvent your DCX, reinvent it with a human focus. Keep it simple, intuitive and personal in order to stay top of mind. Come back to these essential principles of the digital customer experience strategy and always look for relevant examples within your field for inspiration.
Use gap analysis and digital experience benchmarking to identify relevant areas of improvement and never forget who you’re doing it for: your people. Real people with real needs and real pain points. As Depeche Mode wisely put it:
We’re different colors and different creeds. And different people have different needs.