What Is the Customer Experience?
When it comes to ensuring your customers have a superior digital customer experience, it’s first important to understand what the customer experience actually is — including all of the moving parts.
Essentially, the customer experience is the quality of all of a consumer’s encounters with a company’s products, services, and brand. This includes all of the experiences throughout every stage of the customer journey, including pre-and post-purchase experiences, as well as every interaction a customer has with your brand.
Is the Customer Experience the Same As the User Experience?
Although they may sound the same and do have similarities, the user experience is different from the customer experience — and can’t be used interchangeably. The user experience is how a user interacts with and experiences a specific product, narrowing in on how the product can be improved.
Both concepts prioritize improving the quality of a person’s experiences and interactions when they come into contact with the brand or product.
However, the user experience focuses on the product itself, and ensuring the design of a product is easy to navigate, intuitive, and addresses user needs. Whereas the customer experience focuses on the customer’s brand experience as a whole and aims to attract customers to the brand and improve services through every stage of interaction. For more on the differences between the customer experience and the user experience, check out our recent blog on the topic.
Why does the customer experience matter?
In a digital age where almost anyone can start a business, and there are hundreds and thousands of options to choose from, the customer experience is what can set your brand apart from the rest.
Not only has a strong customer experience been shown to produce more customers, but it increases brand loyalty, which creates additional brand buy-in to any products you may produce in the future.
However, many companies still struggle to find the right formula to improve their customer experience because they lack focus on one vital piece of the puzzle — the digital customer experience.
What is unique about a digital customer experience?
Unlike an in-person experience, where there are multiple other factors at play, a customer’s digital experience typically only consists of two parties, the customer and their device.
Whether it be a computer, laptop, tablet, or phone, it’s usually the focus of the person’s attention.
And although there can be distractions at home or work, when a person is having a digital experience, they often choose a time and place where there isn’t much else going on, unlike an in-person experience where there are multiple individuals having their own experience simultaneously.
This one-on-one digital experience allows for much greater influence on behalf of the business. It’s important to understand that an overall customer experience and a digital customer experience are not the same and that each one needs its own strategic plan. Online and offline shoppers have very different needs.
What factors determine the customer experience?
When it comes to the customer experience, there are a variety of factors that can influence whether the experience is positive or negative — many of which are out of the company’s control when the experience is in person.
This includes :
Customer service — How the person serving the customer (who may or may not directly work for the brand) treats them
General environment — the background noise, lighting, temperature, etc.
Other customers — including their behavior and whether or not it will impact the person’s experience
However, most customers can recognize that some of these factors are out of a brand’s control, especially if their product is being sold by another business, such as at a retail store, and they are likely to be a bit more patient and understanding.
When a person has a digital customer experience, they are much more likely to be in an environment they chose, which tips the scale to the interaction starting off positively. However, they are also less likely to be as patient and understanding when it comes to mistakes.
This means that a company’s digital presence online has a massive influence on whether or not the customer will purchase the product and is just another reason why the digital customer experience should be prioritized.
When a person has a poor experience online, they almost always fault the company.
What should businesses prioritize to have a superior digital customer experience strategy?
If the digital customer experience is the key to business success, then how should companies ensure they are providing a positive one for customers?
In order to do so, businesses should focus on the following:
Nowadays, people are becoming more vocal about their values and are looking to brands that do the same.
Consumers have vocalized they prefer brands that:
Solve a problem they care about
Stand for the same values
But most importantly, they care that brands are consistent. Let’s face it, although many people want to shop small and locally, there’s a consistency that smaller brands need to compete with when it comes to big chains.
If you’re in a new town, looking for a cup of coffee, you can try out the new guy, or you can roll up to one of your favorite nationwide retailers and get the same order you get every day near your own home.
This is where the digital experience comes in.
Instead of worrying about human error, the digital experience allows businesses more control than ever over brand consistency, ensuring the customer will experience the same great product and service over and over again.
And when this happens, you’re much more likely to get repeat customers or potentially even customers that abandon a brand they have used in the past for years.
However, when a customer consistently experiences inconsistencies and frustrations while interacting with your brand, they are more likely to jump ship and find a new company to meet that need. Brand consistency is one of the first opportunities for a business to gain loyal customers, especially when it comes to e-commerce.
One of the most underrated steps of a digital transformation is prioritizing visuals to optimize the customer experience. Although some people may not care to admit it, when it comes to consistency, it’s not just product and brand values that matter — aesthetics are important, especially on social media.
Many people look to brands that represent a certain lifestyle, and oftentimes that includes a specific look and feel that consumers come to expect from a certain brand and others like it. Visual consistency also allows your consumers to recognize you immediately and ensures they can pick your products out of a crowd, especially if they’re already loyal to you.
Many brands fail to realize just how much things like colors, fonts, and aesthetics play into the overall success of their brand, even down to the details.
A company that sells products that are meant to inspire and empower will likely find much more success with bold and bright colors and gripping visuals. But a company that sells a product that relies on stability and technicalities may use less color and find more success with minimalist visuals.
The average company has fractions of a second to catch the user’s attention, and visuals play a key part in this equation.
Understanding the Digital Market
Just as businesses adapt to many changes and fluctuations in the market, they also need to adapt properly to how that market is functioning. Now more than ever, people are online. That means curating an exceptional online experience should be a top priority for businesses.
However, it seems that some companies still don’t truly understand how the digital experience works and how it is different from a traditional customer experience.
The goal is to create a digital marketplace that simplifies the buyer’s journey in some way, either by saving them time or even providing monetary incentives for shopping online if it benefits the business in some way. This increases customer retention.
Intuitive User Experience
In addition to understanding the digital market, it’s also important to understand the digital user experience. Although it is important to note that a customer experience and user experience are different, it doesn’t mean that aren’t both equally as important.
If you’re looking for your customers to have a positive overall digital customer experience, their digital experience should be easy, and prioritize automation when possible, especially when on a mobile app.
Sometimes, companies add what seem to be inventive components but are actually unnecessary and complicated digital components to the customer’s journey that don’t actually benefit the customer at all. Just because there are endless possibilities for apps doesn’t mean yours has to have it all.
Flashy isn’t always better. Make sure you prioritize functionality and that your choices make sense to the consumer and ultimately make their overall experience better.
Taking Feedback Seriously
Customer data is key.
If a company wants to set its digital customer experience apart from the rest, they have to measure how a customer feels about not only their product but about the entire experience with the brand as well. From the first interaction, such as an ad, to the shipping process, and of course, the product itself — the experience should be fluid and seamless.
One thing many companies assume is that customers will bring any issues to their attention. And although that can be true for some people, many customers will either stop the process of purchasing a product or will keep the product and no longer purchase that brand if they have a negative experience.
One solution is to gather customer feedback. You can do this in real-time through customer support and messaging or, after the fact, through chatbots or customer surveys. Customer surveys, including exit surveys, can provide specific insight into why a customer did or didn’t purchase your product or what they did or didn’t enjoy about the interaction with your brand. This type of survey allows you to ask very specific questions to solve specific problems.
Use Market Research to Anticipate Customer Needs
Adopting a customer-centric approach is crucial so you can stay in tune with customer needs. Although it’s imperative to stay on top of customer issues and complaints, when possible, it’s much better to stay ahead of them — and anticipate customer problems before they occur. This is especially so when you provide an omnichannel experience.
One way to do this is through market research. Why do you need market research? Insight.
Market research allows businesses to see what traditional sales data doesn’t show. When looking at your year-to-year sales, you can typically tell things like which products sold, at what time of the day, week, month, and year they sold, and how much of that product sold compared to other versions of it. And although this is helpful information, finding out “why” these things happen can set your product apart from so many others.
Market research can provide insight into the following:
Retail partners and how to serve them
When it comes down to it, market research allows you to get insight into customer expectations and provide a personalized experience for customers that ultimately leads to increased customer loyalty.
Understanding the Product Life Cycle
A more nuanced part of the customer experience is the product life cycle. The product life cycle refers to the length of time from when a product is introduced to the market to when it’s removed from the shelves.
There are four stages of the product lifecycle.
Introduction — When a product is first introduced to the market
Growth — When a product begins to sell more
Maturity — When the product is selling at high to peak records
Decline — When the product sales start to slow
Understanding the product life cycle is a concept used by businesses to help determine when to take action when it comes to a product, including when to:
Expand to new markets
Although this may not seem as if it directly affects the customer, when products don’t sell or prices change too quickly, customers can begin to distrust the brand. There is a certain amount of patience and strategic timing that is required to be successful. And the more a company understands that timing, and its product lifecycle, the more successful it can become.
When it comes to creating or growing a successful business in the coming year, prioritizing the customer experience — specifically the digital customer experience — is key.
Learn more with SWARM
At SWARM, we offer a full range of product design and user experience services. We have ten years of experience working with startups and Fortune 500 companies. Our team of talented designers is ready to help you bring you to create a superior digital customer experience.
So let’s get started. Contact us today to learn more.