We spend so much time in the digital world that we don’t actually realize when we’re jumping from the physical world to a digital channel. Every interaction we have online with a brand is part of the digital customer experience that company created for us.
When do you evaluate a digital customer experience as being good or excellent? It certainly includes personalization, convenience, ease to switch between various digital channels. It’s just that seamless experience that makes you return to the same brand again and again.
How will you deliver that digital customer experience (DCX) that feels human? How will you use DCX to differentiate your brand from your competitors?
Stick with us until the end, and we’ll show you how.
What is digital customer experience?
The digital customer experience (DCX) represents the sum of digital interactions your customers have with your company that influence their perception of your brand and how the customer relationships might evolve. The digital customer experience includes various online touchpoints like your website, desktop or mobile app, social media, and other virtual channels you own and manage.
The whole business world is going through a digital transformation.
Every interaction a customer has with your brand on any digital channel impacts their digital experience and the overall customer experience.
The advantage of managing the digital customer experience is that you have plenty of customer data to know how you can optimize the process. The challenge is to use that data wisely and prioritize actions.
If you have a 100% digital company, your customer experience (CX) equals your DCX. If your company is present both online and offline, then your DCX is part of the overall CX, and your challenge is to make their journey as smooth as possible from one environment to another. Users and customers don’t see their journey divided into online versus offline, website versus the app, so they evaluate it as a whole and expect consistency.
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 (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 do overlap to 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 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, values, the ease, the seamless process… how do you put them all together to make it memorable? Let’s dive right in and see for ourselves.
The importance of digital customer experience
All decisions are based on emotions. What customers feel during their digital interaction with your company has a significant impact on their interest and trust in your brand.
Does DCX complement what your company can offer? We’re living in an experience economy, so there are several aspects that emphasize how vital digital customer experience management is:
Competition gets tougher and tougher
With so many competitors offering products and services similar to yours, you can only stand out by providing memorable digital customer experiences throughout their journey.
First impressions matter
The impression of potential customers that interact with your brand for the first time is crucial for winning their interest and building trust.
Your business thrives on high retention rates
The first user experience of your newly acquired customer is decisive for how your relationship will evolve. You’ll have to keep up to their expectations at every future interaction and order if you want to improve customer loyalty.
Customers spend more when they have positive experiences
Research shows that customers tend to spend more if they are pleased by the experiences you’ve created around your offer, or they can access a premium alternative.
Positive online reviews attract more people
Happy customers attract more customers like them, so positive reviews and word of mouth remain one of the strongest assets for building a positive DCX.
When customers are satisfied with their experiences, you get a better brand reputation, attracting more customers like your best ones. Happy customers mean happier employees too.
Benefits of digital customer experience
As digital customer experience impacts the overall customer experience, nailing online interactions comes with great benefits for your business.
Higher customer retention rates
First impressions matter, so if you want to convert a first-time buyer into a repeat customer, their first experience must be beyond expectations. Keep the same level of DCX at every order, and you’ll see that your retention rates go higher and churn decreases.
Improved customer loyalty
Customers that receive the treatment they expect at every digital interaction remain loyal to your brand despite the aggressive discount campaigns from your competitors. Stay consistent, and they’ll stay loyal.
Better brand reputation
Customers that are happy with their experiences are more likely to recommend you to their friends and acquaintances. Positive DCX helps you build a better brand reputation and attract new customers through your existing happy customers.
Higher customer lifetime value
With positive user experiences at every new interaction and order, you increase your chances to keep high potential, and high-value customers close in the long term. High retention, frequency, and monetary values lead to higher CLV.
What you know about your customers and how you use this knowledge to create better DCX helps you create something unique to your brand with your customers in mind, and sets your brand apart from the competition.
> Learn more about this topic from Karl Gilis in his chapter in the CVO Course: Customer Experience and its impact on the Customer Journey.
Busting a couple of myths around digital customer experience
First and foremost, let’s tackle a widespread misconception, as defined by our friends at Liferay: that customers 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. They want to receive natural human interaction beyond all your tools and artificial intelligence capabilities. And since the new way of living includes digital to a large extent, the lines between the two types of experience are blurred one by one.
And another one: thinking of digital customer experience 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. Within the first weeks of our marketing training, we learn a fundamental truth: 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 crucial to improve digital customer experiences to increase customer retention and sales.
In today’s oversaturated markets, it’s tough to compete on products and services because of the vast number of companies offering the 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 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 with consumers. Find 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 do they use their mobile devices to look up offers, compare prices, and research brands before even considering going out there and personally interacting with their items of choice?
- Use customer research 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 an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
Your ideal customer profile is defined by those customers who have the highest chances of becoming repeat and loyal customers. The ICP has to reflect the reality, so stay away from guessing or gut feelings, and put research and customer insights first. Stores that want to define and validate their ICP use behavioral segmentation and qualitative customer research.
> Discover how Jobs To Be Done interviews help you create the Ideal Customer Profiles.
Qualitative research is beneficial when you want to fill in the blanks and complete the ideal customer profile. 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. Like everyone has their own story, every existing 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 the digital customer journey and the intent behind their behavior, the experience you design becomes more and more personal. 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 important 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: they’re generally eager to give away customer 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 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 digital consumer experience, whether 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 expecting a cab. Ten 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 will take towards their objectives. Scrolling, clicking on things, filling in a contact form, etc. Make sure you’re not intrusive and eliminate useless obstacles in their path.
If they’re reading a long piece on your blog, they may get bored towards half of the article and want to get back to the home page. Scrolling all the way up to find their way back to the previous step is annoying, and most of them will abandon the process. Moral of the story: the fewer 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 a 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.
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 what 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?
Your interactions might happen in the digital realm, but they have to be as human as possible. Here are some tips about how you can stay connected to what your customers expect so you can nail DCX.
Tips to improve digital customer experience
A good digital customer experience allows people to interact with your brand in the most convenient way possible and perceive it as human despite all the technology involved.
Being connected with what your customers think, need, and want is essential for managing and optimizing DCX.
- Ask for customer feedback.
You want to ask for customer feedback in two key moments of the customer journey: pre-delivery and post-delivery. The way they perceive digital customer experiences dictates the future of your relationship. How will you improve DCX if you don’t ask for real feedback and identify what goes wrong?
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? They improved both their CX and DCX.
- Use the feedback for the necessary turnarounds.
After gathering many 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
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. A Reorder Skill was also incorporated, which allowed users to change their minds and update their order before coming to the store and picking it up. Using just their voice is 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 helpful to launch a survey every once in a while to garner more in-depth information.
Our feedback survey tool will help you determine 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 to stay top of mind. Come back to these essential principles of the great 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.“
Frequently asked questions about digital customer experience
A good digital customer experience should focus on consumers first. Do your research and find as much as you can about their likes and dislikes, monitor their satisfaction, and use this knowledge to improve the DCX using the best tools for your business model.
As competition gets more challenging, standing out with an excellent customer experience is one of the few differentiators that make customers buy and become loyal. Digital CX directly impacts important aspects of your business like retention and churn rates, customer lifetime value, and brand reputation.
Digital customer service refers to the customer support your company provides through digital channels. Some digital touchpoints that allow your team to interact with your customers are chats and messaging apps, emails, texts (SMSs), social media.