For as long as there has been business, there have been customers. And for as long as there have been customers, businesses have had to prioritise creating a positive customer experience. The customer experience—how buyers feel about their collective interactions with a brand—defines and motivates customer action. It sets the tone for the entire company/consumer relationship. But with the advent of the information age and the communication technologies that support it, a new facet of customer experience has emerged: digital experience.
What Is Digital Experience?
Digital experience (also called digital customer experience or abbreviated as DX) is an extension of traditional customer experience. But where customer experience takes every interaction into account, the digital experience focuses more specifically on those interactions that occur with digital touchpoints. This includes communicating with a brand via social media, making a purchase online, receiving an email or text confirming an order, providing user feedback on online channels, using a company app, operating a digital kiosk or point-of-sale terminal, or even simply visiting an organisation’s webpage.
In other words, these touchpoints include a broad range of interactions and are constantly growing to encompass an ever-greater portion of the customer journey. As such, digital experience is a powerful tool for shaping essential interactions.
Factors that Impact Digital Experience
Because digital experience is an extension of customer experience, it is shaped by many of the same factors. These include the following:
How much effort does the interaction demand on the part of the user? Is the digital interface intuitive, or are there areas where a user might become confused or frustrated?
Does the touchpoint conform to user time demands? Is it accessible when the user needs it?
What kind of time commitment does the touchpoint represent? Does it load quickly? Is it responsive to user commands?
How well does the touchpoint help the user achieve their goals? Do they come away from the experience feeling as though it was successful?
- Pain Points
Are there any errors, non-functioning components, frustrating interactions, or other hurdles standing in the users’ way as they attempt to interact with the touchpoint?
How did the customer feel about the interaction overall? Would they consider it positive, or was it a negative experience?
Taken all together, each of these factors points toward a single element vital to digital experience: seamlessness.
Why Is It Important to Offer a Seamless Digital Experience?
As previously addressed, the number of digital touchpoints a customer may choose to interact with is constantly growing. And as digital communications channels continue to supplant traditional ones, even the most basic of interactions will soon depend at least partially on digital technologies. Perhaps even more relevant is the fluidity with which customers now transition between channels. The customer journey is no longer a single, straight path; it’s a complex web that must coalesce every digital channel into a unified experience.
But as intricate as these new journeys may be, it is essential that this increased complexity not get in the way of the customer’s ability to accomplish their goals. Users aren’t interested in the differences between channels or the specific challenges associated with digital interactions — they simply want to make a purchase or investigate a solution, and they will use whatever channels are most convenient to them at that moment.
With this in mind, the importance of offering a seamless digital experience becomes much clearer. Customers don’t want to restart (or even slow down) their journey simply because they decided to jump on their smart device or transition to a social platform. They crave consistency, efficiency, and flow, and any interruption is an unwanted intrusion.
What does this mean for businesses? It means that no matter how or where a customer decides to make contact, they should ultimately encounter the same, seamless experience where they can resume their journey without having to reconstruct the path.
Of course, while meeting customer goals and fulfilling their expectations is a worthy objective in and of itself, the right approach to digital experience also carries with it a number of business advantages:
- A seamless digital experience provides increased opportunities for gathering customer data and user feedback. By expanding on digital touchpoints and incorporating online channels smoothly into the customer journey, you not only give a voice to those that might otherwise go unheard, but you also exponentially increase the amount of user data available to apply toward marketing, sales, and overall company strategy.
- Digital interactions are more than just another way to connect with a business — they’re the most popular way. Unmatched in terms of convenience and capability, digital channels are the preferred method, a position that has only become more stable following the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Today, 8 in 10 consumers (or 81%) plan to increase or maintain their online usage even after COVID restrictions have been fully lifted. Improving the digital experience, therefore, is more important than ever for companies that want to meet customers on their terms.
- You might not suspect this from the flood of advertisements that clog news feeds and interrupt television programs, but traditional advertising is not as effective as it once was. In fact, Forbes reports that a staggering 96% of people are distrustful of ads. A positive digital experience, on the other hand, gives companies a more direct and less suspect avenue for engaging potential buyers. Instead of telling customers what they should do, the organisation becomes a trusted partner working with the consumer to reach a satisfactory solution.
- The days when customers would accept subpar digital experiences are long gone. Today’s buyers expect seamlessness, consistency, and personalisation when they interact with businesses online. Simply put, the bar has been raised, and those businesses that fall short in the digital experience department are likely to be left behind. Brands with higher user satisfaction rankings for at least three years grow revenues 2.5 times faster and deliver up to 500% more shareholder returns over the following decade.
Each of these advantages leads to and reinforces the same outcome: Increased revenue and improved ROI on customer-facing initiatives.
Your Digital Experience Transformation Roadmap
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What Factors Make a Good Digital Experience?
Most businesses agree that a positive digital experience is essential. Still, there’s a big difference between recognising the importance of a good digital experience and knowing how to provide one. Here, we highlight several elements intrinsic to meeting and surpassing customer expectations online:
Making Omnichannel Your Top Priority
Omnichannel may be the biggest factor determining the success of any modern digital experience plan. But effective omnichannel doesn’t happen on its own; it takes dedicated planning and constant refinement to ensure that every channel is connected, consistent, and capable of providing a seamless user experience. Standardise your brand presence and pick up the thread of the customer journey regardless of when, where, or how your customers reach out.
Following Up on Customer Feedback
Customer feedback is essential to improving the digital experience — if something is failing to meet expectations or if a change significantly improves the experience, the customers are the ones who can give you the most objective reports. So, when they come to you to discuss the situation, don’t let it hang in the air. Follow up on every piece of customer feedback. This may be particularly important when addressing negative issues; working together to resolve concerns and then reaching out afterward to make sure that the customer is satisfied can help turn a potentially bad experience into a good one.
Investing in Long-Term Success
Digital experience is big. The touchpoints it includes are many. The possible ramifications are extensive. On the other hand, this means that seeing the results of any changes to or investments in your digital experience strategy can take time. Make sure that you and any stakeholders within the company are aware of this fact, and that everyone involved has the correct long-term mindset.
Being Transparent with Customers
Business earnings aside, those who benefit most directly from improved digital experience are the customers. As you invest in smoothing out their journey, don’t be shy about sharing. Tell your customers what you’re doing and why. Communicate with them and let them know how their feedback is helping optimise their experience. Above all, treat your audience as a partnership; when customers feel like they have a more active role in the business, they become invested in the success of the brand.
Breaking Down Silos
Providing a good digital experience demands buy-in and coordination throughout your entire organisation. This requires unrestricted access to relevant information, which simply is not possible when departments and tools are siloed. Data and communication silos are the natural enemies of centralising and optimising the customer digital experience—if you’re going to work toward omnichannel, those silos will have to go.
The digital landscape is constantly evolving—your strategy needs to evolve along with it. Always be on the lookout for areas where you could be improving. This means collecting customer feedback and analysing customer journey performance metrics, but it also means trying new layouts and approaches and charting their effectiveness in terms of helping the buyer achieve their goals. This will give you the insights you need to keep your strategy moving forward.
What Factors Get in the Way of a Good Digital Experience?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of hurdles that can trip up an otherwise positive digital experience. Here’s a list of some of the most common that you will need to watch out for:
- Confusing user interface (UI)
- Content not optimised for mobile screens
- Difficult or non-intuitive navigation
- Difficulty resolving support requests
- Distracting pop-up messages or advertisements
- Hidden fees or other unexpected costs
- Illegal or secretive data collection practices
- Improperly coded input fields
- Inconsistent brand voice between channels
- Delayed responses to queries
- Lack of payment options
- Language barriers
- Lost or delayed orders
- Poor web performance
- Scrolling issues on mobile devices
- Touchpoint outages
- Unfriendly or unhelpful brand representatives
- Unwanted or overly frequent email or text messages
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, which is why it’s so important to be open and responsive to customer feedback. Your customers will tell you where the journey runs into problems. Then it’s simply a matter of revising the digital experience to meet the users’ expectations.
Make Every Customer Experience an Omnichannel Experience
Digital devices, channels, and expectations are growing, and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. As such, the line that once separated customer experience from digital experience no longer exists. Instead, the modern customer journey is all-encompassing — an omnichannel experience to help ensure a streamlined and supportive customer journey for every buyer. By optimising the digital experience, you’ll be setting the groundwork for satisfied customers and improved returns for your business.