Digital Customer Experience (or Digital CX) is more than a buzzword or a trend—it’s a pillar of marketing, right up there with consumer research, digital strategy, and brand identity.
Good Digital CX happens at the crossroad of innovative technology, smart analytics, and impactful content. When these things come together, they create a positive, memorable experience for every person that encounters it.
Consider the fact that 60% of companies think they have a great mobile experience, but only 22% of consumers feel the same. This discrepancy is one of the many reasons that smart, data-driven Digital CX matters. If a brand hasn’t been considering what role Digital CX plays in its strategy, it’s time to start doing so.
It is not a customer journey.
It is not an ad campaign.
It is not a content marketing plan.
At its core, Digital CX is an important part of brand identity and customer experience. Take for example the fact that 73% of consumers use more than one channel during their shopping journey – if a brand’s dedication to the customer ends the moment someone leaves a brick and mortar store, they’re going to remember that and potentially hold it against the brand.
So how does a brand ensure their Digital CX is up to par? Here are six steps:
Understand audiences and their habits.
Know what customers consider good CX.
Align on and execute a cohesive brand identity and strategy.
Get the right systems in place.
Know when to add a human touch.
Test, track, and optimize.
1. Understand Audiences and Their Habits
As with all things in this industry, great Digital CX starts with understanding an audience. After all, a brand can’t build a satisfying experience if they don’t know who they’re building it for. A comprehensive audience understanding is non-negotiable. This type of research is ongoing, and its value cannot be overstated.
It requires a two-pronged approach – knowing who the customers are while also keeping an eye on new technologies and understanding how customers will react to those technologies.
There are a variety of ways to make sure research is up-to-date and accurate:
Look at all the data: Most brands have a treasure trove of customer data somewhere. Taking the time to look at all of this data holistically, with an eye for patterns, is exactly where this research should start. Look for trends, common pain points, rave reviews, bad reviews, and more. Conduct surveys, host focus groups, gather as much data as possible. The patterns in this data will guide the strategy.
View data with an unbiased eye: A brand may not like or agree with everything they see in the data they review, but the data doesn’t lie. Find a way to look at the data outside of biases and insider knowledge. There may be new patterns that emerge that tell an important story.
Go where your customers go: While this may require some educated guessing, it is an important element of research. Figure out the types of places an audience hangs out online and in-person. Go to those places and see what that audience values when they don’t know a marketer is watching. Reddit, message board sites, and Facebook groups are great places to start for this step.
Be proactive about understanding new tech innovations: In 2020, innovation will only continue to speed up. Staying on top of new services, devices, and products is the key to success. When a big announcement comes out, ask if this would be relevant to the brand’s audience, and, if so, how that brand can capitalize on it. Subscribe to every relevant newsletter or podcast and take time to read, listen, and understand.
2. Know What Customers Consider Good Digital CX
Just as there are many types of audiences out there, there are also a variety of good Digital CX systems. With a thorough understanding of a brand’s audience, figuring out the right system for them will be much easier.
There are six areas to think about when figuring out what Digital Customer Experience will work for consumers:
Channel Flexibility: Where are the customers already? How many channels will they expect to be able to access a brand on? How easy is it for them to switch between these channels? Can actions from one channel follow them to the next?
Reachability: Is the brand easy to contact when customers need them? Do they know where to go for the most effective response?
Service Convenience: Do services match customer needs? Is the brand optimizing as those needs grow and change? Is end-to-end support available?
Ease of Purchase: How difficult is it to conduct a purchase across multiple channels? How available is information on purchases? Does the brand remember payment information from channel to channel? Is it easy for a customer to complete a purchase from anywhere they first see a product?
Simplicity: Is the design of every channel intuitive? Does it follow broadly accepted UI/UX patterns? Are journeys simple and guided? What’s the learning curve to use said channels?
Personalization: Is the brand doing an appropriate amount of personalization? Are users aware of the data they’re giving and their privacy rights? Does the brand strike the right balance between personalized and respectful of privacy? Read more on using personalization and data appropriately here.
A prime example of great end-to-end CX is Starbucks and their Starbucks Rewards program. They know their audience is on the go and values a balance of flavor and convenience. Their app is incredibly user-friendly – users can load their card up ahead of time, order ahead, customize their drinks, earn points and rewards, and pay all from one channel.
The program also tracks personalized information like preferences and birthdays so that they can provide their customers with rewards that feel meaningful and desired. And as the cherry on top? They have regular challenges and games with enticing rewards to keep users engaged and coming back.
Their platform succeeds because they took the time to understand their audience, and so they’ve built up a loyal fan base.
3. Align On and Execute a Cohesive Brand Identity and Strategy
When designing or improving a Digital Customer Experience system, always make sure that the brand shines through in every interaction. Experiences that aren’t cohesive or feel off aren’t just jarring – they can harm brand image if a consumer uses something with a brand’s name on it that doesn’t go with the rest of the brand.
Digital CX should function like a mosaic – a thousand different, tiny touchpoints all working together to make one large, cohesive image. Customers will remember that mosaic when it comes time to make a decision, whether that decision is to abandon a brand, make a purchase, or post about an experience.
Here are a few tips to help ensure a mosaic is functioning the way it should:
Have a style guide and stick to it: Make sure every touchpoint uses the same basic logos, tag lines, and colors. While not everything has to look the same, it needs to clearly be consistent. Everything a customer sees should follow the same set of rules.
Maintain a consistent tone: How a brand speaks to its consumers is how they remember it. If a brand is funny and tongue-in-cheek, maintain that attitude across the board. There can be some flexibility depending on the platform, but it should still feel like the same person is talking.
Only require one ID: Don’t require customers to create a new account at every touchpoint. Enable Facebook authentication wherever possible and let consumers carry the same login between apps, websites, and in-store experiences.
Regularly audit brand consistency: Have someone who isn’t as close to the brand go through and try the digital experiences on a regular basis. Listen to any feedback provided about the experience feeling clunky, inconsistent, or ineffective.
4. Get the Right Systems in Place
Integration is the key to Digital Customer Experience. Making smart use of data and technology can help a brand ensure that customers are receiving a holistic experience. This step takes a lot of organization and planning – not only does a brand need many systems to succeed here, but they also need to be able to effectively manage them. CRM systems can make a big difference.
There are several systems that need to be in place for an effective Digital Customer Experience:
Touchpoints: Consistently checking in on touchpoints and how they work together goes a long way towards great Digital CX. A brand’s touchpoints need to function as one, cohesive system. There a variety of ways to do this (spreadsheets, audits, CRM tools, etc), and the best method will vary brand to brand.
Records: Data is at the heart of Digital CX, so a cohesive system of records is needed. Records include consumer interaction data, POS data, eCommerce data, site data, social data, and more. Find the right analytics tools and use them to the fullest extent. Keep data clean and access transparent.
Tools: Managing all of the data and touchpoints that Digital CX requires can be a complex process. Having a suite of effective tools (and people who know how to use them) will ensure a cohesive, end-to-end experience for the consumer.
5. Know When to Add a Human Touch
Digital CX isn’t something that can be put in place, automated, and run by AI. There will always be a time and place for a human touch, as humans are using the platforms. The level of human interaction will vary depending on the age, needs, and wants of the customers.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding where to add that human element:
Be Omnichannel: Make human interaction available on more than one channel. Only having it available in limited places forces users to ascribe to that channel rather than giving them the chance to choose where they engage.
Close the Loop: Regardless of where consumers engage with a brand or a person, if a brand’s Digital CX experience shows them taking feedback into consideration and improving, that humanizes the brand and builds trust. If something seems to not be working or customers provide specific feedback in a survey, acting on that feedback can make a world of difference.
Add a Human Touch to Analysis: Consumers leave all sorts of bread crumbs of feedback outside of surveys, and certain bits of data are easier to translate than others. Instead of relying on purely just numbers, make sure data is looked at through a humanistic lens.
Make “Talk to a Human” Available: Sometimes consumers encounter issues that could be solved with a simple conversation but not AI. In these situations, consumers want to be able to reach a person as soon as possible. Make it easy for them and give realistic expectations of how long they can expect to wait to speak with someone.
6. Test, Track, and Optimize
Now that a thorough Digital CX ecosystem is in place, it’s time to make it run smoothly and focus on optimization. While the information above can provide great groundwork for an effective ecosystem, that ecosystem will not reach its full potential until it has been thoroughly tested and optimized.
Keep the following in mind while optimizing your Digital Customer Experience:
Master A/B Testing: A/B tests are one of the most proven testing methodologies. Brands should learn it well and create a process that works for them. The key is consistency – only test one thing at a time, test for long enough to gather results, and implement the findings.
Perform Regular Audits: Comprehensive end-to-end audits are time-consuming, but they are an integral part of maintaining an effective strategy. Brands should audit their Digital CX every six months to a year, depending on their audience and vertical.
Keep a Record of All Findings: Make note of everything tested and keep all notes in the same place. This will allow for a quick answer to questions like whether or not something has been tested before, what worked in the past, what has changed, and why. It can also aid in onboarding new team members.
Be Aware of Audience Shifts: One a brand’s Digital CX ecosystem has been optimized, the audience should still be tracked for shifts in sentiment, needs, or expectations. Staying ahead of the curve on audience preferences enhances any brand.
Keep an Eye on Competitors: A brand should first and foremost be focused on perfecting their own Digital CX, but knowing what competitors are up to is important as well. It can help brands find gaps in their own systems while also helping them know where they outshine the competition.
Digital Customer Experience is a complicated, but important part of a brand’s identity – both online and off. While the guide above provides valuable information on what makes a good Digital CX ecosystem, we’re happy to help you implement those learnings.
If you’d like to connect with someone on our team for more insight into how we approach Digital CX, please let us know.