How to Improve the Digital Customer Experience
Customers have high expectations when engaging with a brand online. They expect a cohesive customer journey and have little patience for disjointed interfaces and interactions.
In this article, we explain what the digital customer experience is, how it can be improved, and why these improvements can have a positive impact on the digital transformation of a business.
In this how to improve the digital customer experience guide, you’ll discover:
- What is a digital customer experience?
- Why is digital customer experience important?
- How to improve digital customer experience
- Who owns the digital customer experience?
- Digital customer experience and digital transformation
- Improve digital customer experience, promote digital transformation
- 3 examples of great digital customer experience
- How to manage the digital customer experience
- Frequently asked questions
What is a digital customer experience?
However and wherever your customers are interacting with your brand is their customer experience. Digital customer experience is the sum of all their digital interactions with you, and the impression they leave with of your brand, your products, and your customer relations.
Customer experience is not just customer service — it’s far more immersive and, hopefully, emotionally connecting than that. The lines between online and offline are increasingly blurred for the modern consumer. That’s why it is important to present customers and potential customers with a consistent and seamless customer experience across both the digital and physical.
The digital customer experience includes interaction with your brand across a variety of touchpoints including:
- Mobile apps
- Social media
- Consumer messaging apps
- Online customer service
- Automated marketing content
More touchpoints will arise as digital experience inexorably pushes into our lives — into the Internet of Things and voice-activated apps such as Alexa. Customers flip between these different channels to find information and solve problems. A great customer digital experience enables this to happen efficiently, intuitively, and even pleasurably.
While the digital customer experience is shaped by the technology that enables it, there’s a much broader set of business and operational requirements that come into play. This involves everything from strategy to marketing to customer service, just as in an offline customer experience.
Why is customer digital experience important?
A customer can complete their whole sales journey — from not knowing they have a problem and slowly realizing it to making their purchasing decision — completely digitally. A company should therefore ensure its customer digital experience is personalized, streamlined and fun.
Here are some reasons not to neglect it:
- More and more customers are online. Customers constantly compare your company with e-commerce competitors. Purchases are no longer being made predominantly on desktop computers but on the fly, often with a single click, on a mobile device. Nearly 40% of sales on Black Friday 2021 were made on a mobile device. On Cyber Monday the same year, 54% of visitors arrived from mobile devices, while a third of purchases were made on a mobile device, up more than 40% from the year before.
- Customers’ expectations are higher. Ignoring these trends towards online and mobile buying, and failing to prioritize your digital customer experience, means you’re missing a trick — and lots of profit.
- Digital insights. There may be no face-to-face interaction on digital customer experience, but there are still plenty of chances to get to know your customers better by studying the metrics — traffic, page views and conversion rates — to gain insight into your strategy and understand customer behavior.
- Tailored to you. The data collection mentioned above can also help you knock off the rough edges of your digital customer experience, allowing highly personalized interactions with customers and potential customers. Emotional connections count.
- The quality of service matters to customers. It is more important than speed. The digital customer experience should offer personalized recommendations, virtual customer assistants and an optimized experience. Just because a customer is not dealing with a human being face-to-face does not mean they accept lower standards of service.
How to improve digital customer experience.
The process of improving the digital customer experience also helps to improve processes for all stakeholders within the business. And in fact, many organizations begin their own digital transformation when they begin to improve their customers' digital experience.
- Know your customer better. Leverage these insights into continual improvement. Collect feedback and listen to customer voices. Send surveys after purchases or free downloads and use data to see what rungs of your digital customer experience ladder are slippery enough to make customers fall away. A Salesforce survey revealed that 72% of customers and 89% of business buyers expect brands to know their unique needs and expectations. The same survey found 66% of customers are likely to switch to another brand if they feel they are treated like a number.
- The personal touch. Just because the customer is not talking directly to someone when interacting with your digital offering, it doesn’t mean they don’t want all the care and attention they would get from a friendly face. And just because they prefer not to deal with a human at all, but solve their problem quickly and easily, doesn’t mean you should skimp on personal interactions that seem like you know and care about them. Customers want personalized recommendations that are appropriate, and to be referred to by their preferred name. Make sure these elements are optimized.
- Open to omnichannel. Make sure your digital customer experience extends across all touchpoints. Statistics show that 47% of consumers admit to using three to five different communication channels to get in touch with customer service. Look at the usability and accessibility across all your methods of interaction and branding so there is no awkward jarring when switching between, say, Facebook and your website.
- Mobile optimization. As we’ve seen, an increasing number of customers are using their smartphones rather than desktop computers to make purchases. So, make their experience easier and more enjoyable — use lots of white space, large and bold fonts. 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than three seconds to load, and a slow load hurts Google rankings too.
- Post-purchase goodies. Follow up on each sale and add to your ranks of satisfied and loyal customers. You could send videos on how to use the purchased product, suggestions for accessories or similar products, or offer a free gift for filling out a survey on their experience. Make your digital customer experience frictionless — and endless.
Who owns the digital customer experience?
Most consumers don’t take time to distinguish between a digital or non-digital experience with a business. Rather, they want to find the easiest, least friction way to get the information they need and make a purchase decision.
Because of this, there is no single department or person that owns the digital customer experience. Stakeholders from across the organization must ensure the customer is getting the best experience whenever and wherever possible.
The stakeholders and their priorities are as follows:
- Sales. The sales team should ensure that sales landing pages properly reflect their sales messages, and contact forms and communication channels are easy to use. The back-end systems should be integrated to minimize the time that potential customers must wait for a response from a sales representative.
- Marketing. The marketing team must ensure that online content and promotions provide a seamless flow from external marketing channels to the service itself. Marketing campaigns will likely also provide valuable data and feedback from customers on how the service can be improved and tuned to better fit customer interests.
- Customer service. Like sales, the customer service team needs to ensure that existing customers can easily submit issues to them, and cases are processed promptly to provide customers with quick responses. Automated solutions can help expedite these processes.
- Strategy. Strategy affects all aspects of the business, so stakeholders here must work closely with the various teams that implement the operational changes that affect customer-facing experiences.
- IT. The members of the IT department will likely be working to stitch together all these different systems, processes and integrations. They must be involved with all of these efforts early in the planning stages to ensure that they correctly understand the purpose and intent of the things they’re implementing.
Digital customer experience and digital transformation.
Nearly half of all companies surveyed in a 2022 PwC study said efforts to improve customer experience and customer satisfaction prompted a digital transformation in their businesses. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 40% of all data analytics projects relate to an aspect of customer experience.
To provide a consistent and high-quality customer experience across all digital channels, a business must begin to integrate technology systems across the company, ensure compatibility, and begin automating many customer-facing systems. This digital transformation changes how businesses interact not only with their customers, but also with vendors, employees, contractors and all other stakeholders.
For example, improving digital customer experience often requires migrating on-premise databases to the cloud, so websites and other services can access them outside of a firewalled corporate network. By doing so, internal operations can also move more processes to the cloud, which allows the business to modernize how people interact with their IT systems.
Improve digital customer experience, promote digital transformation.
Because digital customer experience improvements impact other aspects of the business, invite other voices to suggest how changes are implemented.
Improvements should be based on how customers make their journey through the service and different systems. It’s therefore important to identify key components of this process and how they influence customers' perceptions and brand loyalty.
Consider which devices customers use. For many businesses, most customers engage with a mobile device, and therefore the business and its systems should be optimized for the mobile experience. In addition to an easy-to-use app, the mobile website, social media, messaging, and customer service experiences should all be optimized for mobile.
Digital customer experience improvements should be data driven. Collect reviews from customers about their positive and negative experiences, provide opportunities for customers to give unsolicited feedback, and gather and track metrics about the user experience to diagnose issues and locate bottlenecks.
By taking all these considerations into account and providing the customer with a streamlined experience between all your different systems and channels, you’ll also have an IT organization that has been modernized to accommodate these improvements — better integrations, cloud migrations, and comprehensive analytics and reporting.
Examples of digital customer experience.
- Amazon. The grand-daddy of digital customer experience, Amazon offers hyper-personalized digital customer experience that most of us are familiar with, even though most of us — apart from a delivery person — have never interacted with a single human working for the company. We are often surprised, and it can seem uncanny how the site has got to know us as people and its predictions for what product we want to buy, or its recommendations for other books we would like to read. Think personal, not personalized.
- Netflix. Love or loathe its recommendations for what you want to watch next, it is constantly changing in an incredibly competitive market. Its digital customer experience marketeers are ‘obsessed’ with its customers, not just thinking ‘Who are our customers?’ but ‘Who is this particular customer, and how can we keep them from being swept away by the other entertainment platforms out there?’ What the firm calls ‘consumer science’ is employed to drive an ultra-personalized, always shifting experience that puts customer delight at the top of their objectives.
- Apple. The computer giant offers an interesting example in that it mixes a digital customer experience with an offline customer experience in its brick-and-mortar stores. That is starting with the removal of the word ‘store’ from the buildings themselves and thinking of the outlets not as places to buy an iPhone or a desktop computer but more like ‘town squares’— an experience where everyone is welcome and where people can be shown how to use their tech better, practice their coding or hang out in comfort. It’s not about the products, it’s about the personal experience.
How to manage the digital customer experience.
A study by Gartner showed that ‘89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator.’ We’ve seen how crucial digital customer experience is, how it can be improved and the action points you can start to think about, but what is the best way to manage the process, and how can we measure if creating, designing and reacting to online interaction is working?
- Strategize. Digital customer experience must be integrated with the business objectives of all other parts of the company, from sales to the C-suite. Oversee optimization with an omnichannel approach through a dedicated team. Automate if possible, to remove redundancies. Choose between a holistic customer strategy, where digital and non-digital share time and money, or a digital-first, if your touchpoints are mature enough.
- Constantly refine with behavior analysis. Automated customer mapping, session recordings, customer journey reviews and so on can be used to allow a manager to have a granular and high-quality view of your customer from all angles. Use digital tools and, increasingly, artificial intelligence, to get an intimate and actionable portrait of your customers.
- Improve governance of data. See the pitfalls in the road ahead — GDPR and CCPA. Be careful how you gather, store, manage and distribute data.
- Optimize, optimize, optimize. Technology and retail are moving together at breakneck speed, and digital customer experience managers must coordinate this melding of worlds. Personalized messaging is no longer a luxury for example, so further optimization must be constantly sought and more meaningful data leveraged.
Frequently asked questions about digital customer experience.
Do B2B companies use the same digital customer experience as B2C companies?
B2C customers are part of a mass market and often depend on the forces of conformity, while a single customer may make up the whole of a B2B’s target sector. Digital customer experience can be undervalued in B2B, but businesses want as smooth, efficient and effortless a service as a B2C consumer, so develop similarly high standards.
Where do I start with great digital customer experience?
If you don’t know where to start, start with consistency and crafting the same look, feel, voice, tone and branding across all the platforms you are on. Digital experience platforms are available to get you going and catch up with the omnichannel frontrunners.
What tools should I look for on a digital customer experience platform?
Real-time reporting, user role profiles and permissions, automated actions, on-board analytics, first-rate integration with CRM, app backend software and so on, as well as good customer support. Digital customer experience works both ways here.
Improve digital customer experience with the right platform.
Improving the digital experience is a process that requires feedback and planning from stakeholders across the organization. It also requires technical systems that can properly integrate and track how customers engage with your business.
Adobe Experience Cloud provides all the tools necessary to track customers through all channels and understand how they’re flowing through their customer journey. Learn more about how Adobe Experience Cloud can help your business improve its digital customer experience.