If an organisation or executive predates the digital age, it can be hard to drive home the importance of the digital customer experience. They can be forgiven for thinking that the quality of the product itself matters more, not the website or mobile app that springs up around the product.
Modern product managers know differently. Product management theory treats the “product” as the customer’s entire experience of the brand, not just the widget on the shelf. Some products, like Cloud services and software apps, are nothing but their digital experience. But even physical products depend this day in age on the digital experience.
87% of shoppers now begin product searches online. 47% of all customers will view 3-5 pieces of online content before ever reaching out to a customer service rep or salesperson. Hard to drive home or not, the importance of delivering an outstanding digital customer experience cannot be overstated.
Is your organisation prepared to deliver an outstanding digital customer experience? Here is a 10-point checklist to find out:
10 steps to an outstanding digital customer experience
#1 Don’t Do Everything In-House
Whether it’s small, medium, or enterprise-level, almost no organisation is equipped to design and deploy a world-class digital experience with the people they have on staff now. They might be able to maintain the experience with in-house IT, but outsourcing digital experience creation to a company like Bright is usually much more cost-effective and headache-free than trying to hire or reassign full-time personnel.
Equally important to outsourcing is letting go of the idea of housing the digital experience “on premise”—that is, on proprietary servers on company property. Even enterprises rely on Cloud services for their design and hosting because it is more cost-effective and scalable.
#2 Focus on Relevant Features
Some IT and design teams get lost in a cul de sac of innovation for innovation’s sake. They’re too impressed with themselves and their ability to make the digital experience come alive … without asking themselves if the experience addresses the core business purpose it was designed for.
Whenever Bright designs a digital customer experience, we go back to first principles—What niche does the client business fill? What is the core value proposition? What keeps customers coming back for more?
This “why” of the business should inform every feature that gets time, money, and attention within the development process. If it’s just for looks and doesn’t serve a core business purpose, forget it.
#3 Take an Iterative Approach
Developing a digital experience is not a “one-and-done” approach. Digital products need to be able to adapt and change to meet customer needs.
An iterative approach assumes that the experience being rolled out now will not be the final version … ever. Digital experiences succeed when they are in a constant state of development, adjustment, and deployment, released and re-released, updated and upgraded, in response to analytics and user feedback.
A digital experience is never “done”—it evolves and adapts, sometimes in surprising directions.
#4 Don’t Assume You Are Smarter Than the Customer
Organisations that try to outsmart the customer usually end up outsmarting themselves. If the customer doesn’t like your ingenious digital experience, into which you invested so much time and money, you can’t make them like it.
That’s why it pays to start with existing data, bolstered by customer surveys and other channels of feedback. This is how you get off on the right foot. A/B testing will then help you hone in on the best experience.
You like Version A but customers respond better to Version B? The customer is always right … and somewhere down the line a Version C or D might do even better. Your iterative approach will allow you to parlay customer feedback into a system of constant improvement.
#5 Coordinate and Communicate Across Departments
Great digital customer experiences don’t happen in a vacuum—IT doesn’t disappear into a cave and magically emerge with something great. Development and design teams must be cross-functional, in constant communication with marketing, sales, legal, and other departments that have a stake in the digital experience.
#6 Get Buy-In From Management
If any managers aren’t sold on the importance of the digital customer experience, get them on board. Any departmental or senior manager dragging his or her feet could derail the process, slowing down implementation or cutting off funding at crucial moments.
#7 Foster Understanding of Agile in your Organization
Agile is an approach to digital product development that favours quick development and an iterative approach, with cross-functional teams working in parallel without the choke-points of a linear development stack where everyone has to get on the same page before anything can be deployed.
Bright takes charge of the agile implementation, which involves assigning set roles and series of rituals called “scrums,” “sprints,” and “retrospective.” Here’s what your organisation needs to understand, though—deployment will happen quickly, and the first deployed version may not be perfect—it may be what agile developers call a “minimum viable product” (MVP) with the bare minimum of features, with the expectation that user feedback will be incorporated to make the experience better in future iterations.
Get it out and into user hands quickly, then refine from there—that’s agile.
#8 Manage Expectations About Worth and Value
Outstanding digital experiences cost money—not only to create but to promote. Departments and managers who don’t understand the importance of the digital customer experience may be surprised. Can’t we just make a quick website on Wix or Squarespace?
This approach misunderstands the potential of the digital experience to be a major revenue center for the organisation. This isn’t just theory anymore—hundreds of companies have laid the path, and experienced companies like Bright know how to follow the path.
Organisations that want to truly leverage the proven power of digital need to make peace with the cost and understand the value—it’s an investment, with tremendous potential return.
#9 Define Success Metrics
One of the great benefits of the digital customer experience as a revenue center for the organisation is that, unlike other revenue centers, the performance of the experience is easy to track. Identify problem points and strengthen the customer experience by interpreting such metrics as:
Net Promoter Score
Customer Satisfaction Score
Customer Lifetime Value
Customer Effort Score
Understanding the uses of these and other metrics helps you understand which parts of your digital experience are working, which are not, with an eye toward fixing problems in the next iteration.
#10 Prioritise Speed and Performance
Again, it’s easy to get caught up on making your digital experience as cool as possible, with animations and micro-interactions at every turn. But tempting as that may be, the biggest priorities of your digital customer experience should be speed and performance.
In 2018 Google published an analysis of mobile load speeds that demonstrated a 32% increase in the likelihood of a “bounce-back” (the user leaves the experience before it has time to load) in the difference between 1 second and 3 seconds of load time. The likelihood increased to 90% in the difference between 1 second and 5 seconds of load time. Slow loading and bad performance also hurts SEO.
The bottom line is that even the coolest digital customer experience does you no good if the customer never finds it, or gets impatient enough to leave before they even reach the call-to-action.
Bright employs every point on this checklist when we partner with an organisation to design or revamp its digital customer experience.
Companies that want to go it alone should pay careful heed and do everything in their power to get this right. The importance of a great digital customer experience will only increase, separating out the success stories from the might-have-beens.