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Why Your Brand’s Online Customer Experience Matters More than Ever

And How You Can Improve It, Even on a Limited Budget

Jaimie SomlaiJaimie Somlai/Marketing Director
June 18, 20196 min read

Do you think your organization provides a stellar digital customer experience? Oh you do, do you?

Think again.

According to a recent study by Acquia, more than half of consumers say that brands fail to meet online customer experience (CX) expectations. Even more -- 63% -- say they will abandon a brand over poor CX. And 67% couldn’t remember the last time a brand exceeded their online expectations.

Ouch.

It gets worse: In a stunning disconnection from reality, 87% of marketers think they are delivering engaging online customer experiences.

The good news: Opportunity lies in the gap between marketer belief and customer perception. Marketers and brands who get CX marketing strategies right will shine bright among the crowd, encourage customer interaction with the brand, win new business, and build brand loyalty.

Some brands are, indeed, getting it right.

Starbucks

The Starbucks app makes it oh-so-easy to order your favorite latte, customize it, and pick it up. With a saved credit card number, it takes a mere two taps to replenish your rewards card balance. Easy ordering = more ordering. Starbucks’ recently updated rewards program gives customers more ways to utilize points at more frequent intervals. The coffee giant is determined to keep you coming back by providing the best digital customer experience.

A simple User Interface (UI), constantly expanded and improved functionality, fun games, star rewards dashes, and the ability to customize and pre-order drinks and food have made me – and millions of others – Starbucks brand loyalists.

Example of Starbucks Reward screen

Disney

If you’ve been to Disney World, you likely know about FastPass, an online functionality that allows you to schedule ride times for a set number of rides each day. This handy tool helps you avoid long lines and ensures access to your favorite rides. This adds value to your Disney experience, especially if your Disney time is limited and you have impatient kids in tow.

Disney makes it easy for app and website users to find show times, character locations, dining options and restaurant locations; to purchase event tickets; get wait times; and navigate the park with a real-time map.

Disney World aspires to be the most magical place on Earth. The company has carefully crafted a magical digital experience that supports every step of the customer journey. This relentless focus on ease and convenience continues to attract devout fans world-wide because it exceeds customer expectations.

Example from the disney movie Frozen

What do Starbucks and Disney have in common? They understand their customers deeply. They know what motivates them, they know what they value, and they’ve built their online customer experience around that knowledge.

But how do you do Starbucks/Disney CX without a Starbucks/Disney digital marketing budget?

Go Back to the Basics to Improve Your Online Experience

Naturally, big-budget marketers have an easier time wowing customers in the digital space. But even they don’t always get it right, and small organizations can create excellent customer online experience.

Get the basics right. Many businesses don’t. Shoring up fundamentals goes a long way toward improving your CX and improving your competitive position, and it doesn’t require a complete CX digital transformation.

Whether you’re big or small, start here:

1. Know your audience. How deeply do you understand your audience, their pain points, motivations, and needs? You must have this knowledge to create good CX. Acquiring that knowledge is Mission 1.

2. Ensure that your digital properties and efforts support your brand promise. Does your website experience support or detract from what your customers and prospects expect? Your promises, explicit and implicit, drive those expectations. Falling short feels like betrayal. Too many brands fail to align what they promise and what their online experience delivers.

For example: If your brand promises convenience, nothing says “not convenient” like poor site structure or ineffective site search. No one perceives the inability to find what they seek as convenient.

If you’re a non-profit and your brand focuses on telling stories of people you’ve helped, are those stories front and center on your website and easily found? Do you integrate those stories into your social media strategy?

3. Conduct a user experience audit. Spend some time and budget auditing usability (often referred to as UX) identify your site visitors’ most common pain points. Then work to ease that pain.

Sometimes, this can mean a total website or app overhaul. More often, you’ll uncover simpler problems with simpler solutions. For example:

  • A donation form that’s too long and frequently abandoned before submission. So shorten it.
  • Create an FAQ that answers questions visitors keep asking over the phone.
  • Rename confusing navigation labels so they say exactly what content lives beneath them.

4. Use a consistent voice across all channels. Your brand voice – the unique way that your brand communicates – should be channel agnostic. Yes, adjust tone based on your message and your writing style or medium, but do it within brand guidelines. Consistency creates familiarity for your customers.

5. Make sure your website is accessible. Is your website accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 1 in 5 Americans has a disability. If your website isn’t accessible, that 20% can’t use it, resulting in frustration for them and lost business for you. Read more about accessibility standards here.

6. Adhere to all privacy rules and regulations. Nothing damages a brand and online experience more than consumer mistrust of what you do with personal information. Our blog is full of helpful information about two of the most notable recent privacy laws - GDPR and the soon-to-go-into-effect CCPA. Make sure you understand them. Get compliant and stay compliant.

7. Consider the omni-channel brand experience. In today’s multi-channel world, consumers expect a consistent experience across channels and devices. They expect you to know them (“Good Morning, Jaimie,” said Starbucks) regardless of the device at hand. This piece is a big challenge for many brands, even the big ones.

If you can’t tackle that big issue, do what you can with the basics. Ensure consistent use of imagery, fonts, and logos across channels. Inconsistency across your digital footprint can throw consumers off. Anything that makes a site visitor stop and think before hitting a checkout or donate button costs you money and should be removed or improved. (Pet peeve: Third-party shopping carts or payment solutions that are not integrated with your site and thus look and feel wrong.)

8. Review your content. Is your content optimized for the web?

  • Do you use H1s, subheads, and bullet points to make scanning easy?
  • Do you write at a grade level that matches your users?
  • Is your content easily digestible? Does your content answer your users’ most common questions?

9. Analyze the competition. Sometimes, finding unique ways to stand out from the pack can be as simple as knowing what the pack is doing. Review competitor sites to understand the quality of the online customer experience they deliver. What unique online features and functionality do they offer? Can you find relatively easy, cost-effective ways to top their customer experience?

User experience improvements aren’t always expensive or overwhelming. After all, creating a great online customer experience – and a great brand experience - is all about removing friction.

Feeling obliged to create a Starbucks- or Disney-level digital experience can make even the most enthusiastic of us want to stay in bed in the morning. Don’t despair. Keep it simple. Go back to basics. You don’t have to be perfect. Your CX just has to be a little ahead of the pack. And as we saw in our opening statistics, the rest of the pack isn’t all that swift.

Learn more about branding and creating great online experiences. Join us on August 8, 2019 for our “What is an Integrated Brand Strategy and How Does it Impact My Websites?” workshop. Register here.

Jaimie SomlaiJaimie Somlai/Marketing Director

Jaimie has a passion for integrated marketing, helping both Northwoods and its clients create a consistent approach to brand and messaging across both traditional and digital mediums. Specialties include: strategic marketing, integrated marketing, digital strategy, digital marketing, analytics, branding, marketing communications, and writing/editing.

Connect with Jaimie on LinkedIn | Read Jaimie Somlai's Blogs

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