9 Essential Ways To Improve Your Digital Customer Experience
We’ve reached a point where it’s nearly impossible to attract, serve and retain customers without employing some kind of online channel, especially with this global health crisis we’re facing. As a result, the digital customer experience has become the most crucial aspect of a business.
It’s no wonder that online stores keep a sharp lookout for the latest eCommerce trends and bright ideas to improve how they cater to their customers. They know very well that unhappy customers can run to competitors in a blink of an eye (or in this case, a tap of a finger).
So how can a business improve its digital customer experience? This blog post will discuss 9 ways to do precisely that, including
- Measuring data
- Creating a unified experience across platforms
- Increasing brand awareness
- User-centered design
- Self service
- Consulting experts
- Mobile optimization
- Plan for post-launch
- Taking advantage of help
1. Measure customer experience using data
As with any method of problem-solving, the first step is to identify the problem.
You can measure customer experience in many ways depending on your industry, marketing funnels, and other factors. Customer surveys and review boards are rich with information you can use to hear what people say about your level of service.
However, if you think that customer surveys are too common and not enough to give you the insight you need, you can always go deeper using various analytics tools.
Image source: Google Analytics
One of the best things about running an online business is that data is readily available. Use that opportunity to analyze your customers’ behavior once they make it to your site or open your app. Look at what they do when they get there and study the patterns. You can identify which elements are working and which ones are causing issues, or making your customers leave.
From there, you can develop a strategy to address the issues identified and also to highlight the things that are giving your customers a better experience.
2. Create a unified digital customer experience across platforms
The availability of multiple channels for customers to interact with your business is a blessing, but sometimes it can also be a curse. Customers can get lost in all of the different touchpoints and environments, especially those new to the eCommerce marketplace. That alone can prevent you from giving them a great digital customer experience.
Therefore, the goal is to unify all those channels and create a seamless, coherent experience for your customers. They should also be able to switch between channels without losing context and see consistent information across all platforms.
Here are several specific ways to create a unified digital experience:
- Use instantly recognizable brand elements and visual designs
- Make the transition from one channel to another easier
- Save search history and preferences across devices
- Maintain a centralized system including inventory
- Synchronize ads and other promotional content
3. Work on increasing brand awareness
Every business move ultimately shapes your brand one way or another, whether it’s overhauling your website, launching a new app, or adding more service options for your customers.
But for some reason, businesses tend to forget their core brand messaging because they’ve become too preoccupied with enhancing the “selling” aspects of the company. Any disconnect between your brand’s image and how you cater to customers will almost always lead to an unpleasant experience.
The key is to know your brand inside and out.
You need to know what your brand represents and how you want it to engage on these digital platforms. Customers often don’t like engaging with a business that seems unsure of its own identity. Make sure you have that brand image positioned and align your online efforts to support it, such as a brand ambassador program.
How will you do it? One surefire way is to establish your company’s brand positioning statement. If you’ve never even talked with your company’s brand and marketing people, now’s a good time to start to sit down and let people know what your company stands for.
For example, this online printing service company uses straightforward taglines and messaging to establish its brand. They’re using the catchphrase “the Mixam way” to describe their own way of printing, which they also market as the most advanced on the web. The branding is well manifested on their website, and they even have a “Why Use Mixam” page.
Image source: Mixam
Additionally, you can launch a campaign to incorporate that message into every opportunity until it becomes more apparent to customers. You can use high-quality promotional videos and online events for that purpose.
Once the brand is well-known and widespread, you can now easily use that to guide you on how to deliver your digital customer experience more effectively.
4. Make use of proven User-Centered Design (UCD) processes
A User-Centered Design is an iterative design process in which designers put the users’ needs as the top priority in creating the designs. By basing the design on various research and techniques, you can build highly usable and accessible products for customers.
For eCommerce businesses, it’s essential to make sure they are using a UCD process so that everything customers do on their platforms is specifically designed to cater to their needs.
Below is an example of a platform that uses UCD:
Image source: Mannequin Mall
This online mannequin store’s website uses navigation that helps the user promptly reach the desired section by specifying a category (for example, Best Sellers, Sports Mannequins, Photography Mannequin).
The design presents those categories so customers get directed to them without having to search. You will notice that other websites do not display those categories upfront, but in this case, it’s one of the first things you see.
The reasoning behind using a UCD process is that pleasant digital customer experiences don’t just happen; but instead, they must be deliberately designed.
Implementing this entails several steps:
Conducting customer research. A UCD process starts with research to understand customers’ needs, which you can synthesize and communicate with the project team to lay the groundwork.
Listing and shortlisting possible ideas. UCD project teams typically develop tens and even hundreds of potential ideas based on the research findings. At this stage, the goal is to list as many ideas as possible and not dwell on feasibility and likely constraints.
Iteratively prototype and test the listed solutions. Transform those ideas into quick and low-fidelity prototypes. Afterward, test the prototypes among real customers and employees for feedback. Do this not just once but multiple times.
5. Focus on self-service options
It’s not just eCommerce brands that are becoming more technologically inclined; customers are now also more used to doing stuff on their own online. In fact, almost half of customers prefer self-service over being assisted.
Furthermore, 70% of customers expect a company to offer self-service options. Below are the most commonly used self-service channels:
Image source: Super office
So when customers encounter an issue with your app or service, they are now more likely to look for answers online themselves than to call a service hotline or chat with someone for support.
This change in online behavior has pushed brands to implement self-service solutions. The challenge now is to make these options easy and comprehensive because if the self-service option is too complicated, customers won’t use it. And when they’re left with no alternative but to wait for a representative over the phone or chat with a buggy chatbot, they can get upset quickly.
Below are some tips on improving your self-service portals:
- Feature the most relevant or most popular FAQs. You should not bury common issues under a library of information and how-to manuals.
- Use screenshots and videos as much as you can. Step-by-step instructions are significantly simplified when there are visual aids available.
- Update your content regularly. For a frustrated customer, there’s nothing worse than a knowledge base that’s not accurate or up-to-date. Imagine spending your time searching, following each step, and finding out in the end that the solution provided doesn’t work after all.
- Make sure the search function works well. A fast and logical search capability is the foundation of an excellent self-service journey.
- Use forms. Gather feedback by sending out forms. Be sure you respond to concerns or inquiries either by shooting them an email or having your outbound support team give them a call.
6. Consult experts to review your digital touchpoints
An expert review is also known as a “heuristic evaluation” or “scenario review.” It’s a quick (and relatively cheap) way to determine what’s currently not working on your sites and apps. But it’s not just about bugs and clunky designs. Experts will look beyond the basic shopping experience to a more in-depth review.
Image source: Designorate
A CX specialist will also look at navigation, customer trust, and presentation rather than just the final sale. They assess your site’s ease of navigation and its potential to convert visitors into paying customers. The goal is to give customers a pleasant experience while also motivating them to make a purchase.
Naturally, the first step to having an expert review your digital touchpoints is to reach out to reviewers who have solid credentials and are knowledgeable about your industry and your target market. For instance, an expert evaluating a store selling software as a service should have a general understanding of SaaS marketing.
Then, once you’ve selected your experts, conduct a briefing session so that they know precisely what they are supposed to do and evaluate. During this brief, you may ask the experts to focus on specific tasks, but usually, they will let you know which aspects are essential.
One of the fundamental goals of expert reviewers is to look for well-known customer experience flaws. These are specific problems that slow users down or keep them from accomplishing their goals altogether while in your site or app.
Image source: John Hutchings
7. Don’t forget to optimize for mobile
A study revealed that roughly four out of five Americans are now online shoppers, with more than half having made purchases using a mobile device.
That means eCommerce brands need to ensure that their website, app, or online materials are optimized for mobile. Simply put, the mobile experience should meet the expectations of the customer.
Two basic things that you should focus on regarding mobile optimization are page load time and ease of navigation. A study done by Google found that 40% of customers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. The same study found that 59% of mobile users have a more positive feeling about companies whose mobile sites or apps allowed them to make purchases faster.
Image source: Thinkwithgoogle.com
Page load time is another tricky metric. In this world of advanced AI and automation, consumers no longer have the patience to wait for your sloppy site or app to load, especially for businesses that deal with online ordering systems.
Ease of navigation is a no-brainer; nobody wants to use an app that’s difficult to read, has complicated buttons, and is not intuitive. The sheer experience of navigating through the app probably has the most significant impact on customer experience.
Look at how this skincare brand’s desktop and mobile sites are consistent and optimized:
Image source: KeyWest Aloe
Below are some other essential things you need to remember when optimizing your online business for mobile:
Make the experience interactive. Giving your customers a sense of control enhances the quality of the experience.
Understand mobile interaction behavior. Context first, design later.
Make sure the basic functions work. Forget the special features. It all means nothing if the usual button won’t even work. Focus on that search function and make sure it’s up to the task.
- Test regularly. Just because no one is complaining doesn’t mean your app is divine.
8. Plan for the post-launch reality
Launching a new website, app, feature, function, or service is just the first day in the life of a digital touchpoint. The real journey starts on the second day and all the days after that. Unfortunately, most businesses fail to make the most out of the ongoing hype they’ve generated.
Nobody can blame companies for putting an incredible amount of effort into initial launches. But if they don’t have a sustainable, long-term plan to keep it relevant, they’re just going to end up with an orphan app or a ghost town website that will either get their customers confused or angry.
Maintaining and improving existing sites and apps is crucial, particularly if your industry is rapidly changing.
The goal is to use a common measurement framework and provide a consistent (or improving) level of quality that spans all touchpoints.
Part of this is also to envision how to extend digital products and services to new platforms. If you think it’s already a headache to manage digital interactions across different devices today, imagine what it would be like a decade from now when there’s another wave of new platforms sweeping the digital world.
Post-launch planning ensures that you don’t get overwhelmed by the fast mainstreaming of a new technology platform. Whenever you launch something, discuss how the current content or feature set can be ported to future devices and platforms.
9. Take advantage of available help when necessary
Many businesses find themselves stuck while trying to improve their digital customer experience. Nobody sees the struggle within in-house digital teams and how they rack their brains out coming up with new brand designs and developments to meet the goals.
Sometimes, especially in today’s dynamic digital landscape, it can be pretty challenging for internal teams to do it all themselves. Even savvy marketing professionals can get into the rut trying to combat the ever-changing behaviors of online customers.
The solution? Get outside help and let the real experts take over.
Image source: Clutch
You don’t want to waste more time and money by simply guessing how to do things or keep trying to figure them out yourself. You can work with a customer experience expert or a third-party team of specialists who can help you establish the framework that you’ll be using on your own when the consultation expires (you don’t want to keep them too long). Leverage free project management apps so you can smoothly work with external professionals.
Initially, you can outsource a particular portion of your operations to meet a certain standard that you can then implement throughout your entire business. These outside experts have the experience, the tools, and the wisdom to help you polish your processes and ultimately improve customer experience.
Technology has made it possible for customers to do virtually anything they want. The power is in their hands. As this trend intensifies, eCommerce businesses will also continue to push the boundaries of making the digital customer experience more beneficial for both sides of the equation.
If you take a look at the list above, you will notice that the key really lies in putting the customers’ needs ahead of anything else, and from then on, everything follows seamlessly.