I conducted a webinar along with partners AB Tasty and FullStory, where we discussed digital trends and results from a survey FullStory conducted about how consumers rate their digital experiences. One trend that stood out is that consumers care less about brand loyalty, and more about a flawless digital experience.
One point I made in the webinar is that few brands, such as Amazon, Netflix and Google can command attention from a massive user base. But if you’re not a brand riding that kind of momentum, then creating as close to a “flawless digital experience” as possible becomes paramount in order to compete for attention. Of course, brands generally acknowledge the importance of digital experiences, but they typically fall into one of three traps, preventing them from succeeding in developing their version of a flawless experience and instead, ending up with a non-differentiated digital experience.
What does a flawless digital experience look like and how can organizations achieve it?
Flawless Digital Experiences Can Be Achieved in a Variety of Ways – Let’s Look at a Few Examples
There are many reasons why Sephora has made it to the top of the Retail Personalization Index list. Their ability to connect the digital-to-store experience, even if the customer browsed online (but didn’t buy) then eventually purchased in store, is seamless. Additionally, they personalize the digital shopping experience through quizzes. Just by answering a few questions, Sephora can personalize product and product application recommendations for consumers. Their messenger bot on their website also displays relevant content matching an individual’s needs or preferences.
Zappos is a personal favorite of mine for a few reasons. They’ve managed to make buying shoes—a product that you truly need to try before you buy—easy to do online. But it’s not just about a seamless digital experience. They’ve eliminated friction across the entire customer experience by providing a free 365-day return policy and by creating high-quality online videos that answer consumer’s questions (which traditionally they would have asked a salesclerk at a brick-and-mortar store). From digital shopping to post-purchase, their digital experience is second to none.
Casper, the now Omnichannel mattress company, has revolutionized the industry in a couple of interesting ways. Similar to Zappos, Casper makes it easy for customers to try before they buy with free, no-contact delivery, a 100-night risk-free trial and free returns.
Additionally, they’ve made the online mattress shopping experience feel human by adding a surprisingly helpful chatbot, a mattress quiz that helps shoppers choose one that meets their personal needs, and if you prefer to speak with a Sleep Specialist, you can “Book a Nap Appointment” online and skip the line in-store.
The Key to Success Is to Innovate And Differentiate
Of course, geeking out over companies that have great digital experience is fun, but understanding what makes them unique is key. It’s not the similarities brands share with competitors that make digital experiences flawless, it’s how they innovate and differentiate. For example, if Zappos started by opening a brick-and-mortar store, they wouldn’t have been unique and wouldn’t have had the same visibility. It’s likely you may not have even heard of them. The same holds true for Casper. If they didn’t offer an innovative digital experience, consumers would continue to buy mattresses in-store. The reason people are aware of these companies, and they are recognized as leaders in the industry, is because they challenged the status quo and found innovative solutions that their competitors didn’t offer. That’s what makes them great. That’s what makes them flawless.
Brands Fail to Deliver Flawless Digital Experiences for A variety of Reasons
There Are No Defined Priorities
In business, we tend to create large corporate projects spanning many months such as website redesigns, new messaging strategies and rebrands. The common assumption is that when these projects are complete, shoppers will be more delighted and eager to buy your products or services. However, these projects can be delayed due to other priorities such as ecommerce platform migrations and data platform integrations. Sound familiar? When operating with no defined priorities, a dizzying number of projects pile up at the expense of short-term incremental progress. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
Creating Is Not Innovating
While we feel like the act of doing is the same as being productive, problem solving and creating innovative digital experiences, it isn’t. Simply moving (doing) is not innovating. Innovation can take many forms, and it often involves a combination of creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and strategic planning. Successful innovation can lead to a competitive advantage, increased efficiency, improved customer satisfaction, and growth. When inertia is in action (moving but not innovating), we tend to ignore strategic processes which ultimately prevent progress.
Focusing On Individual Touchpoints Instead of the Overall Customer Experience Leads to Larger Problems
When moving quickly, because everything is a priority, we zero in on specific issues or touchpoints that we want to address. For example, a seemingly poor checkout experience, an outdated homepage or the shortcomings of an existing technology platform may be considered a priority. While these and other issues are probably legitimate concerns, focusing on individual touchpoints will force you to lose focus on the larger problem at hand—the overall customer experience.
Sephora, Zappos, and Casper are best in class because they have not lost focus of what got them to the dance in the first place, delivering a superior customer experience.
What Can Be done To Improve?
Address Data Deficiency Within Creative Teams
Creative teams are traditionally the most data deficient department within organizations. Because they lack the hard facts or data about what their customers want, need, and how they behave, they rely on what they know best—being creative. But, when creativity happens in a vacuum, and it isn’t balanced with business metrics or consumer expectations, then mistakes are made.
For example, I used to work in the ecommerce department for a big box retailer. This retailer had a relationship with a local creative agency and their job was to create new and innovative shopping experiences for certain microsites. In essence, they were reimagining the digital shopping experience but in a very extreme way.
At face value, they were creative and designed beautiful digital experiences. But the microsites were so different and creative that consumers didn’t understand how to navigate them. They had completely reimagined what it was like to shop and buy products and there was no mental map for users to follow. You can imagine what that meant for sales.
It’s ok to be creative, but balance creativity with practical business and user data. If the agency had behavioral data to consider and done research on what consumers wanted and problems they were facing, their creative solution would have been more practical and more effective, yielding a higher return on investment (ROI).
Fortunately, more and more creative teams are driving their concepts with data, but there’s still room for improvement. If your organization struggles with informing creative processes with data start by democratizing digital experience intelligence (DXI) data and user research data. This will humanize the digital experience and help creative teams be more empathetic to users.
Adopt An Incremental Experience Optimization Process and Avoid Radical Redesigns
If your organization falls into the trap of not having any defined priorities, it’s likely that every few years you’re undergoing a site redesign. This is a common mistake most companies make. Data has shown that radical redesigns don’t produce results and are lackluster, at best. It will take time for users to adjust to a new design so it can stifle incremental progress.
Instead, adopt an experience optimization (EXO) process. EXO allows businesses to improve digital experiences with incremental design changes in order to test the overall impact on consumers. Through the process of incremental changes, you can be more strategic, agile, and data-driven. As a result, your digital experience will evolve over time and be much more likely to produce a positive ROI.
Develop A Culture of Experimentation
Experimentation is important for data-driven organizations for several reasons: knowledge and learning, innovation and problem solving, decision making and risk mitigation, continuous improvement and optimization, as well as adaptation to change. While experimentation is a critical step in developing a flawless digital experience, it’s not easy. For this reason, successful companies embed it into the fabric of their culture. Most tactics should be hypothesis driven and validated with experimentation and data. For Zappos, this was key at a very early stage and why they are recognized as a category leader.
Design Your Flawless Digital Experience
While a flawless digital experience may be different to every company, it doesn’t mean you can’t deliver the best digital experience possible. As you’ve seen from the above examples, Sophora, Zappos and Casper, what makes them unique is their flawless digital experience. This differentiates them from the competition.
In summary, a flawless digital experience involves being a data-driven organization, developing testable hypotheses and embedding experimentation into your business culture.