Perfecting the Online Customer Experience

Here we uncover the role of UX and website design within the online customer experience as well as what the future holds for customer experience in the digital arena.

Customers vote with their feet online much like they do in the ‘real world’ and will continue to visit and bring custom to websites that provide the information they want quickly and easily and are backed up with end-to-end experiences that feel positive. And, when customers walk, they often take others with them. Forrester Research, in its report “Why Web Sites Fail”, reveals that every customer with a less than brilliant website experience shares this experience with ten other people.

Read on to find our latest thinking on how you can use great online customer experience to win customers, retain them, and then turn them into fans.

What is online customer experience and why does it matter?

Online customer experience is a crucial element of an overall business strategy, enabling a business to grow by focussing on the satisfaction level of those who buy the products or services. When a customer or prospect interacts with an organisation online, the business has a chance to convert them and hold onto their custom long term. By providing the best possible online experience, you’re doing all you can to generate and foster long term relationships with customers.

We’ve all experienced the frustration of poor online experiences: the websites that fail to optimise on mobile so you’re endlessly pinching the screen, the captcha security that has you trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of identifying US road signs or an endlessly long-form trying to capture information that feels entirely irrelevant to your interaction. It’s these tedious online experiences driven by lazy web design, poor data quality or the absence of UX that chips away at customer satisfaction and can ultimately see them abandon your site in favour of another.

The role of UX in online customer experience

User experience (UX) design is the process of creating web content and design with a focus on what creates meaningful and relevant experiences to users. According to DigitalGov, it “deals with people interacting with your product and the experience they receive from that interaction.” UX design includes aspects of branding, design, usability and function.

UX design bridges the gaps between customer need and expectation, and the product (or website) itself. Great UX design starts with detailed knowledge of the potential users.

Behaviour research is often the starting point for UX. Figuring out what potential users not only need but what they expect when they come to interact with a business online. Online customer experience falls over when companies fail to translate their understanding of their customers into an effective user interface. Therefore, making the first port of call for online customer experience excellence a thorough evaluation of the target audience and their drivers is essential.

When a business is able to anticipate what a customer is looking for, they can stay one step ahead and deliver exactly what is required. Back this knowledge up with insight about how and why they are visiting a website in addition to knowing what brought them there and a seamless and high-quality user experience are within grasp.

Website design for customer experience

Website design is, of course complex but the elements that most affect the online customer experience are surprisingly few.

The fundamental structure of a website, the site map that governs how pages link and at what level they exist is probably the most defining. Ordering website information carefully and clearly helps users arrive more quickly at the information they want and subsequently around the site. In writing about the importance of the right website navigation, Forbes say “The navigation bar is often the focal point of how users engage with your website. Keep the navigation bar as simple as possible.” 

Responsive web design is another important aspect of website design. Hubspot found that some 40% of consumers use a mobile device for research even before an in-person purchase and so a website design that will resolve and function effectively across a range of devices is a must.

Remember too that even great website design needs great maintenance. Be mindful to monitor your site to find and fix any broken links and continue to optimise your site to speed up load times.

The role of online customer experiences in data quality

Data quality is both a product of and an enabling tool for great customer experience both on and offline.

Gathering quality data should be, from a strategic position, a key objective for any website. Online forms and checkouts are the key data capture opportunity, yet consumers can quickly tire when they become time-consuming. When customers who are short of time arrive at a lengthy form or checkout, they become sloppy and look to cut corners or, worse still, abandon the process all together. The Baymard Institute suggest over a quarter of those who abandon a basket do so as a direct result of a complicated checkout process.

The repercussions of either abandoned checkouts and form fills or inaccurately completed ones have an impact directly at the heart of the business.

The abandoned purchase is a revenue loss (likely now and in the long term when potential repeat purchases go elsewhere) whist the badly completed efforts mean difficulties achieving delivery and the possibility of personalising follow up activity high on impossible.

One of the tools that can businesses can employ in order to minimise time and effort at the checkout or online forms is a smart address validation tool. This allows a website user to search any part of an address and predict the address they are searching for, even when typos are entered.

Online customer experience for the future

As businesses jostle in an increasingly over-occupied digital landscape, marginal gains over competitors make all the difference. When you create a website that is intuitive and easy to use along with interactions through checkouts and other data entry point which are quick and relevant, you stand to build relationships and emotional connections with your customers that will drive long term loyalty, repeat business and recommendations.