Year of the Customer: Top 5 Customer Experience Trends Revealed

Business plan presentation on digital tablet

We are well into 2016 and it has already proven to be the year of virtual reality among other new technologies aiming to deliver flawless customer experiences. The following are just a few more of the newest trends that are reinventing how enterprises spend their marketing dollars this year.

1. Getting Personal
Marketers are getting even more personal with their personalization and tapping into streams of first party data. From CRM data to Voice of the Customer (VoC) data, and leverage predictive modeling to create contextualized experiences, individually tailored experiences are changing the face of the customer experience.  With customer expectations higher than ever and their constant connectivity, hyper-contextualized personalization is on the rise to meet the demands and wants of the individual this year.

2. Entering into the Mobile-Mature World
Mobile searches have surpassed desktop searches because more and more individuals are connected on multiple devices and more websites are user friendly. In fact, Google made sure that websites were more mobile-friendly by announcing those websites that weren’t would be penalized in mobile search rankings. Finally, customers are getting the relevant, high quality website experiences they want across multiple devices. This year even greater innovation for mobile is taking place. Seamless integration between apps, eCommerce and social outlets is becoming a reality. Companies that provide excellent mobile experiences for their users will not only stand out from the crowd but grow.

3. Year of the screens
While more searches are being done on mobile devices, the trend is moving towards a post-mobile world where devices are meshing to expand beyond traditional mobile devices. From wearable devices to tablets, watches and the like, the number of screens users come in contact with on a daily basis is expanding. Because of this, marketers are faced with the task of creating and delivering seamless experiences that continue throughout all points in the user  customer journey. Keeping the experience consistent and complete is key. Brands that understand their users are interacting with numerous digital touch points will go further in keeping their customers satisfied.

4. Intent Data Will Drive Intelligent Retargeting
Retargeting is key to converting visitors to customers and those companies who are smart about the way they do their retargeting will succeed in 2016. This is done by recognizing needs and align campaigns to increase visitor engagement with pertinent messages and calls to action. Companies that take note as to why visitors are coming to their site – to research, browse or buy – are better able to guide them towards making a purchase by offering them a relevant incentive or by showing them appropriate content immediately. Even something as simple as offering free shipping or a discount can encourage a new visitor and retarget their customer experience. A more frequent shopper may need more aggressive retargeting.

5. Customer Experience Analytics Will Be King
Analytics is becoming crucial for brands to obtain a competitive advantage. By utilizing analytics, companies are able to better anticipate and deliver superior experiences to customers and potential customers. Although, at times, the data can be overwhelming, using the right type of analytics is key to extending the ROI of varying marketing efforts and creating a seamless customer experience. This year is all about using the right type of analytics streams correctly. One example of this is utilizing analytics to recognize and personalize in real-time.

This is an exciting time for marketers as they create one-to-one experiences for their customers, become more mobile mature, deliver consistent and continuous experiences, and become completely customer-centric through mastering the use of customer experience analytics.

Top 5 Capabilities Your Web CMS Needs

Website SEO and analytics icons
Marketers expect much more from web CMS solutions now than they did five years ago. Today, web content management is much more about customer engagement and marketing activities than the publishing and content management it was a few years ago.

Because of this transformation, CMS platforms are becoming the central point for everything such as managing data from CRM, ERP, Marketing Automation and other applications, delivering personalized experiences, analyzing customer data and optimizing strategy, and even improving management of organization-wide digital assets. As customers come to expect, and often demand, a perfect experience every time, it’s as important as ever for enterprises to explore how today’s advanced web CMS solutions can help them achieve their goals. The following are 5 essential ways that CMS supports the digital experience.

1.  Efficient Management of Digital Assets
The use and management of both text and visual digital assets are easily done with CMS platforms. Everything from editing to resizing and previewing assets, as well as pushing media and documents to the web and social channels is simplified through the use of web content management. WCM allows enterprises the vital role of smoothly and efficiently delivering customized digital experiences.

2. Utilizing All Web Properties to Publish Content
At one point having multiple marketing teams for a wide range of products and global services may have worked, it just isn’t feasible now. That approach only causes redundancy of efforts, unwanted licensing and maintenance expenses from websites built on varying platforms, and outrageous marketing team sizes.

Ideally, with the right web CMS platform content will be automatically pushed to social media, public facing sites, internal intranets and any other channel that makes sense. This smoother process is not only more streamlined and efficient, but it also keeps the brand voice consistent across multiple platforms.

3. Optimize The Use of All Data
Once you have streamlined your ability to publish content, you will want to get a better handle on how you optimize the use of all that content and the user’s experience. CMS platforms that are equipped with full support for A/B Testing, customer engagement analysis, predictions and recommendations, goal tracking, campaign tracking and other actions related to analyzing customer data and customer journey tracking will significantly improve this optimization.

Additionally, CMS platforms offering intuitive backend interfaces with integrated BI insights as well as administrative ability to utilize the insights quickly will substantially enhance the process and raise the bar even higher.

4. Integrated CMS Platforms
To your customers, your online presence is not segregated into the web, social and other silos. To them, it is one entity. So failing to integrate CRM, portals, BI, analytics and other key applications will cause you to spin your wheels in your attempts to reach your customers from all angles in your CMS platform.

The task of integration is simplified with the use of out-of-the-box connectors while easily linking existing web applications through APIs. Everything from search platforms, e-commerce, language translation, major CRMs, analytics, databases and publishing platforms easily come together.

5. Personalized and Integrated Digital Experiences
Leveraging web CMS platforms is key for any enterprise managing multiple brands and/or products. Modern CMS solutions ease the ability to deliver personalized and contextual digital experiences by simplifying the process of personalizing the design and content for landing pages, making it easier to reuse code and display separate content to different user segments.

The Science of Personalization

science-of-person
Most successful businesses strive to give customized and personalized experience to their customers. As a tech-savvy society, we have grown accustomed to services that take into account our interests and preferences to the point where anything less is simply unacceptable.

Fortunately, for marketers, modern technology has made it easier than ever to personalize home pages, landing pages, CTAs, and emails to better reach customers and mold them to anyone engaging with it.  The psychology behind personalization is fascinating and understanding it can improve your marketing techniques and the success rate at which you reach your customers.

Why Personalized Experiences?
Researchers out of the University of Texas took a closer look as to why personalized experiences are necessary and came up with the two biggest factors that play into our desire for personalized experiences; they include: a desire for control and information overload.

Starting with the desire for control, customers like personalization because they feel that they are getting something different than everyone else. For that reason alone, their sense of control is satisfied. While viewing personalized content on a site page isn’t actually causing your customers to make a choice of their own, the perception of having some level of control with the content in which they are engaging, is satisfying.  This sense of control is quite powerful and results in positive effects on the psyche.  After all, who doesn’t feel better when they are in control? That’s not rocket science.

When it comes to information overload, the study discovered that customers prefer personalized experiences because it helps reduce the amount of information they receive. The reduction of information overload lets customers only see the content that is tailored specifically for them – leaving out the content that they (probably) don’t want to see anyway. With personalization, customers aren’t presented with thousands of resources that they need to sort through to find appropriate for them. Instead, the content is presented in a way which is designed exclusively for them, so they never have to feel bombarded or “overloaded” with information.

Relevance is a MUST
The key, however, is to let your customers know they are receiving personalized information. Besides their name in an email, this can be somewhat difficult. After all, if someone is not aware they are engaging with personalized content, then the above-mentioned feeling of being in control and having reduced information overload may seem pointless. Yet, giving people personalization regardless of them being aware of it or not, is completely worth it, and in fact, necessary for the success of your business. It all has to do with your customer’s’ brain reticular activating system (RAS) – the gateway that information is passed through to get to your brain. It’s the filtering system that information goes through and helps us decide what we should and shouldn’t pay attention to.

To make this a little easier to understand, consider the concepts of “selective attention” or “selective hearing.” The ability to focus on some information while simultaneously ignoring others is controlled by the RAS.  Because of that, your customers will naturally orient to information and content they are interested in.

What’s in a Name?
A person’s name is one of the easiest sounds for the RAS to hone in on. So, when you use your customers’ names in various settings, it triggers a unique reaction in their brain. More specifically, hearing, or in the case of online content, seeing their name, triggers greater brain activation, particularly in the middle frontal cortex (most associated with social behavior). Additionally, the middle and superior temporal cortex (associated with long-term memory and auditory processing) are also triggered leaving your customers feeling fulfilled and attended to.

The best way to use this knowledge to the benefit of your business is to start using personalization in all your online digital channels.  One of the best ways enterprises can do this is to have a modern CMS that can automatically target your brand’s audience at any time, on any device and at any location. This will make it possible for marketers to easily connect and engage with customers. Allowing for not only a deeper connection but an increase in brand loyalty and ROI.

When you utilize smart content and technology, there’s absolutely no limit to your marketing abilities!

8 Innovative Web Design Elements That Drive Revenue

8-Innovative-Web-Design-Apr2016

Website design is evolving so quickly that if your site is more than two years old, it’s probably time for an update. Keeping up with these rapidly changing internet technologies can be tough, but with 68% of all Americans owning smartphones, systems like mobile marketing are a requirement for success on the web. Your consumers demand a modern design optimized for mobile, and the future of your company depends on it. The following are a few other elements required for modern web design worthy of your consideration this year.

1. CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (CMS)

Although CMS have been around for over two decade, they are still the most popular and most versatile way to allow for easy updates to your website content. With CMS, no technical coding skills are required because many systems provide the ability to easily drag and drop elements to easily create basic design changes.

There are many CMS platforms but Crafter Software is the difference your company has been seeking.  Crafter offers an open source, agile, and modern Java-based alternative to closed, proprietary WCM solutions from Oracle, Adobe, HP, OpenText, Documentum, and others.  And Crafter provides a much higher performance solution when compared to other open source solutions that are tightly coupled and based on SQL databases or JCR (e.g. Apache Jackrabbit) repositories.  Crafter leverages best of breed free and open source software, including the Alfresco content platform, the Spring Framework, Freemarker Templating Language, Bootstrap, Google Analytics and Apache Solr.

Keep in mind when considering a CMS platform that site speed is crucial for search and your web design should be properly optimized for it. A slow website will turn your current customers and potential customers away. Because of the importance of site load times on smartphones and tablets, having a responsive design is a must.

2. RESPONSIVE DESIGN

Making a responsive website is essential.  Mobile commerce is now 30% of all e-commerce with over $400 billion in revenue generated each year. Because of this, it’s safe to say that over half of your website traffic comes from mobile devices. Keeping your site load times at a minimum is as important as ever. If your site loads too slowly and customers have a difficult time viewing your site – especially on their smartphone or tablet – they may move on to a competitor’s site.

3. BUSINESS BLOG

A business blog is a great way for you to present relevant content to your audience while giving them a reason to continually come back to your site. It educates your customers and prospects with an opportunity to build trust and a relationship with your brand and business.

Because the blog content needs to be fresh and relevant, it’s smart to begin blogging when you have the time to devote to the long-term commitment. If now is not the right time to start, don’t wait too long. Your competition could be blogging and over time this will work against you while you wait, they will be gaining valuable market share, referrals, inbound links, and of course, customers.

4. SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING

Promoting your business via social media is a given. And, if you have a business blog, there’s no better way to reach your target audience than by promoting it on social media like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In addition to promoting your content, social media is a great place for your customers and site visitors to connect and share your information.

Trust is important when promoting on social media, so be sure to take time to share relevant information to targeted audiences who will be interested and most likely to share. Avoid spam posts, they will only annoying people.

5. CONTENT PERSONALIZATION

Creating personalized content for your buyer personas will help increase conversions for your website. One great example of a site that shows just how content personalization works is overstock.com. Once you’ve created an account on the site, you will notice products you have shown interest in are recorded. By watching your behavior, the site is able to suggest and promote similar products.

6. CONVERSION PROCESS

The conversion process begins on the landing page. The sole purpose of a landing page is to convert visitors into leads. Your landing page can promote offers, be an opportunity to get site visitor information, offer whitepapers, ebooks, guides and other information.

Be wary of where you try to convert your website visitors into leads. Doing so at too many spots in the buyer’s journey can actually turn them away as they many find it obnoxious to be required to include contact information in order to simply get access to your website’s content.

You can work around this by promoting free offers that require no forms. By giving your visitors an option to see your site and become educated about your business while being exposed to your ideas, they can make the decision to subscribe further.

7. EMAIL MARKETING & NURTURING

After you have converted leads, you will want to offer additional content that they might find useful. By doing this, you are essentially hooking them and nurturing them throughout their buying journey. Email marketing is the best way to stay in touch and provide content that is useful to them. Again, you do not want to spam them or over email. Keeping their trust and building that relationship is key. Segmenting your leads by persona type and by stage in the buyer’s experience can help make your email marketing efforts more effective.

8. CONTACTS DATABASE AND CRM

For the best result in both sales and marketing, integrate your website with a contacts database. You will be able to store contact information for all leads and customers. You will also be able to store important information about how your contacts are interacting with your site pages, email marketing, and offers. This invaluable information can be used to create offers to your customers and leads at the most opportune times.

Integrating your contacts database with your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform allows your sales team to gain insights to each lead and where they are in their buying experience.

TAKEAWAYS

Websites are constantly evolving and are becoming more complex every day. Technology empowers customers in every part of the buying experience while also empowering businesses to provide better and unique user experiences. By embracing it, you give your company a better advantage over the competition and stay current with the latest trends.

Digital Customer Experience Is Your Enterprise’s Best Investment

customer_is_king

“By 2020, customer experience is expected to overtake both price and product when it comes to differentiating a brand.” (Biz Report)

Years back, price and product ruled the market. In many ways, the cheapest product sold the most and because communication was more difficult brands could even get away with customer complaints related to product/service shortcomings. However, this is no longer the case today. Customers expect that each and every time they interact with your brand, they will encounter a memorable experience. Something that attracts them, something that is different and at the same time seamless and effortless. Deliver on their expectations and they won’t worry if you happen to overcharge them. Because customers pay over the top knowing that you can deliver a great customer experience and engage them completely. Yes! Nowadays, ‘the experience’ just about triumphs everything else.

Successful enterprises not only know this but also understand that the best  customer experience investments their company can make are ones that focus on a strong digital customer experience.  Companies that consistently rely on modern technology to close gaps in performance, to offer a more personal experience and to build trust, regularly see happier customers, increase in sales, and more loyalty as a result. Yet, many companies longing to achieve these results struggle to identify the best plan of action for the perfect digital customer experience. This doesn’t have to be the case; it just takes a little knowledge and understanding of how to make the most of your investment.

Prioritize Your Outline Customer Experience
When it comes to an online experience, consumers are far less patient. A recent study by Nielsen concluded that a 10-second wait for a page to load can make almost 50% of consumers give up, leave, and search for a competitor. In fact, researchers at Microsoft found that if a website takes 250 milliseconds longer to load than a competitors, consumers will move on. Bottom line: when people have a less-than-favorable experience online, they immediately fault the company. In these times, there is no excuse for a bad digital experience.

Create Brand Loyalty Through Consistency
A consumer’s impression of a company is created by a variety of individual touch points. It’s when companies do not provide consistent digital experiences that the consumer ends up with a disjointed and poor impression of the business and brand. Over time, it’s the frustrations caused by these inconsistencies that can erode brand loyalty.  To avoid major issues, do your best to identify customers’ digital interactions and devices. Understand the goals of your customers, motivations, and strive for as much detail as possible. Research your customers so that every phase of their digital experience is accounted for and is unique to their individual needs throughout their customer journey.

Improving Customer Experience Can Also Improve Your Operations
Companies that specifically work towards improving the customer experience are also improving other parts of the business such as online support, mobile customer experience and personalized digital experiences. In this way, the company meets the site visitors where they are and in turns helps themselves through smoother interactions.   An obvious example can be found at any Apple store.  Apple changed how point-of-sale works.  No one waits at a register.  Any Apple employee can ring up your purchase.  The customer wins. Apple wins.  Look for these win-win opportunities that make your customers happy and at the same time, make doing business easier and faster.

Digital Experience Platforms Shape the Technology Investment
The best software platforms to invest in are those which targeted customer experiences, marketing and commerce on smartphones, tablets and computers – really any device where a customer will be interacting. Therefore, it is crucial to optimize the use of digital tools and technologies, so your customers are getting the fastest, most accurate, next level experiences every time they visit your site.

One technology platform that can help any large-scale enterprise with the challenges of digital customer experiences is a modern CMS platform. Modern multi-channel CMS platforms help companies digital customer experiences faster, create brand loyalty and increase revenue.

Digital Customer Experience Must Be More than Meets the Eye

digital-cus-exp

Today’s distracted, preoccupied, and unpredictable customers carry their high customer experience expectations with them as they effortlessly move across their devices and touchpoints. Customers are beginning to demand a unified experience from every company with which they do business.

In the age of the customer, digital transformation is as important as ever. Web features and functionality, design, native mobile apps vs. mobile web, etc. are all features in which we naturally think of in terms of improving the digital customer experience. Yet, everyone is working to improve the front-end experience, so it’s up to you to not only keep up, but raise the bar.

Online retailers such as Zappos and Netflix are obsessed with ensuring a great customer experience in both their behaviors as well as the digital experience. Large organizations like these have a lot of resources to invest in customer experience.  But what about the lesser-known companies that have worked just as hard, if not harder, to create a great digital experience for their customers? Consider New Belgium Brewing a company out of Fort Collins, Colorado. The company is owned entirely by its employees and their non-traditional business approach goes to their customer service as well.  This small beverage company is driving substantial company growth through their digital success. Because they invested in the front and back end and created a new website, as well as launched a new mobile site so their biggest fans could order directly from their phones,  they have seen tremendous revenue and profit growth. Since the employees own the company they are as invested as ever in ensuring it succeeds, keeping customer service on point, is a big part of that.

As an organization you may be thinking, that’s great for those companies, but how should my company invest in the future? One easy yet important place to start is to focus on two dimensions of your marketing: the digital customer experience and digital operational excellence.  You must figure out what you need to improve by leveraging data, assessing existing touch points from the perspective of your customers, and by giving your customers a more personal experience and reaching out to them.

Additionally, consider redesigning the experience you currently offer by adopting a proven user-centered design process.  You should be consistently assessing opportunities and restraints of devices and touch points, while continuing to enhance, test and understand your customers.

With your brand in mind, ensure the digital experience you offer your customers supports your objectives and supports the overall experience and ecosystem of the company. It should create metrics based on your business goals while unifying the overall customer experience in a seamless approach.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, due to the importance digital has in driving customer experience, as well as the major impact it has on company growth, your company should do whatever it takes for digital mastery. Each business should focus on their own set of customer needs, competition, and capabilities that lie internally.

It’s important to keep in mind that businesses should pursue both digital customer experience and digital operational excellence simultaneously. One is not more important than the other and both are critical to improving the customer experience.  By implementing these practical ideas you can make big impacts on both your business and your customers.

Crafter Software Recognizes Top Community Contributors

top-com-con-mar2016-01

Crafter Software has had an incredible year of producing innovative technology and enabling digital business transformation for organizations globally. This year, we are thrilled to acknowledge the excellent performance and notable achievements of our top community members

The strength of open source software is the community of people who collaborate and contribute. This year we recognize the top community contributors for outstanding contributions of enhancements, fixes and community participation.

Top community contributors for the Crafter CMS open source platform are:

Want more information about Crafter CMS, the most modern open source Java-based platform for crafting personalized digital experiences at blazing speed? Visit craftercms.org for more info and free downloads!

Top 5 Reasons Visitors Prematurely Leave Your Site, and How Personalization Can Fix This

per-blog
It only takes minutes, or even seconds for potential customers to be unsatisfied with their experience on your website and click on to a new one. Instead of accepting a high bounce rate and hoping that a new prospect will come along, it’s time to make your website work for you. Nothing is more effective in solving this issue than by personalizing the user experience with content relevant to the user. Luckily, the tools to make your site more likeable so prospects don’t leave, are available. All you need is a little content personalization to make your site a hit. The following are the top 5 reasons why people aren’t sticking around once they get to your site and how content personalization can help.

#1 Too Many Generic Ads
Sure, advertising is important to help with revenue, yet, when done poorly ads can also do damage and create a negative user experience. For starters, you need to be as proactive as you can with your advertising messages. Personalize your offers to every individual that comes to your site. Although this may sound like a lot of work, it actually is fairly easy with the right content personalization tools. Modern CMS solutions like Crafter CMS help authors design rules and content that enable you to personalize ads automatically based on the user’s past site history and profile information. By using relevant content you can grab the attention of the right person and match the ad and its offerings with the user that needs them.

#2 Too Much Irrelevant Content
When engaging your website visitors you speaks directly to them and their needs so they stick around. Google’s search interface and algorithm took over the internet because it was simple, on point and provided effective relevant information to users quickly.  Your content and the user experiences that it powers needs to provide that exact same value.  With the right approach and technology, your personalized content will stand out and attract users.

#3 Outdated Content
If too much irrelevant content is bad, outdated or wrong content is worse. Sites should be updated regularly to demonstrate your commitment to quality and customer service. It is extremely important to keep your content as current as possible because it causes confidence and loyalty in your visitors.

#4 Your Lead Generation Tactics are too Overt
As you know, your content is extremely valuable. The trick is to making your audience see this value. A contact or “lead form” can be intimidating and off-putting to a user. Not every visitor that heads to your site wants to give their personal information. Yet, when you have the best set of fully-automated tools, your site can have the ability to have a timely call to action without being too aggressive. By doing so, leads are not lost and instead, are gained more rapidly.

#5 Not Being Memorable
By having an “exit intent offer”, you engage your prospects with a valuable piece of relevant content that they will find worthy enough to channel them back onto the page. By being strategic with your relevant content just before they exit your site, they are more likely to take another look and re-engage. This is a simple but highly effective strategy that can make a huge difference in the overall conversion of leads.

3 Major Advantages of a Headless / Decoupled CMS

In a nutshell, a headless CMS, sometimes called decoupled CMS separates the content of a website from how it is displayed on separate independent applications.  The term “decoupled” has been increasingly used as a synonym for headless in recent years. However, “decoupled” is also used by CMS technologies that completely separate content authoring and delivery technology. This kind of architectural decoupling has its own set of advantages.  The term “headless CMS” refers to CMS technologies that are capable of delivering content that is completely void of presentation concerns and is delivered to a content consuming application via APIs / Content as a Service (CaaS.)

Headless CMS/CaaS architectures are the best choice for enterprises who feel limited by the front-end restrictions of a legacy CMS. Rich digital experiences, content apps, highly custom layouts and JavaScript MVC frameworks don’t really fit into the architecture of a CMS which closely controls how content looks and is rendered.  In recent years, the CaaS architecture has become so important that several CaaS ONLY CMS technologies started popping up.  It’s our belief that CaaS is an extremely important capability but on its own it creates yet another content silo.  Any CMS worth its salt needs to be able to handle both traditional content delivery as well as CaaS to deliver the true benefits of a headless architecture.

#1 Get More Out of Your Content

A headless CMS helps to reduce the quantity of managed content by eliminating duplicative content with slightly different presentations and at the same time and by the same means reduces the time-to-market factor. Content editors are freed from needing to worry about the exact presentation on every single front-end that consumes content. The headless CMS will push the updates across all the digital properties, so you don’t have to. By separating content from presentation, you easily save two valuable factors: time and money.  With a headless CMS like Crafter, the possibilities are endless when a single content item is combined with a number of different presentations.

#2 Author Once, Consume Anywhere

Captivating the general audience and converting them to be your brand advocate requires a Customer Experience Management (CXM) tool that goes beyond simply introducing them to your website. The most effective and powerful brands create interconnected, simplified experiences on all levels of customer interactions. This means that both in-person and web touch points are crucial to connecting with users and potential customers. Technical agility as well as the ability to manage content is key. This is best done by providing businesses with a platform like Crafter CMS that has headless CMS capabilities that enable marketers to push their content beyond the company’s website. With a headless architecture, you can more easily manage the entire user experience from one central location and serve that content to any platform throughout the customer journey.

#3 Build and Roll Out Content Enabled Apps FASTER with Content APIs

New content-enabled applications and use cases show up all the time.  The faster we can roll the out apps, the more we enable a great experience for our customers.  By supporting CaaS, we make it easier for our organizations to build content-enabled applications. Well defined APIs are what developers need in order to create applications quickly. A headless CMS like Crafter gives you those APIs and lets your developers focus on creating application features rather than re-inventing the CMS wheel or working around content deployment and presentation issues presented by legacy systems. Furthermore, APIs can be documented and made available to third parties or the public which opens the door for innovation outside your walls.  Simply put,  headless CMS technology speeds development and enables innovation.

5 Rules for Creating Loyal Customers

When it comes to attracting consumers, marketers are realizing they need to step up their game to keep up with the competition. Many of their competitors are undergoing dramatic digital transformations designed to increase customer engagement through targeted, individualized experiences across every channel and device (online and offline.) Brands are now doing whatever it takes to deliver standout service and capabilities to their desired audiences.  However, as brands scramble to go above and beyond, they often miss some of the most important rules on how to engage customers properly and thus don’t achieve the desired result. The following are 5 of the key guidelines to follow when designing digital experiences that align with your brand goals and customer satisfaction.
customer-v2-01

#1 Be Helpful

When a customer has a need and you make it easy to fulfill that need you are well on your way to creating a loyal follower of your brand.  Start by creating a helpful experience that comfortably guides customers through the purchasing process. From start to finish, make it simple and helpful.  For example, once a purchase has been made, provide assistance, and do it across various channels.  In the confirmation email or on the “proof of purchase” page, help cover the unknowns. How-to videos, images and infographics are very powerful tools for extending the conversation and covering unknowns. Let them know they can reach you on social media. Customers enjoy being part of the process and will feel more connected to your brand when given access to exclusive content.

#2 Make Content Engaging and Easy to Consume

Designing for the small screen doesn’t mean the experience has to be sacrificed by eliminating important content. It simply means the content you include needs to be extremely engaging and on point for your targeted audience.  Consider being more concise, use 10-second videos rather than those lasting longer than a minute or more. Your content should be contextual, responsive, and most of all, as flexible as your users need it to be. It should be able to go across all channels and devices – online and offline. Your goal should be to create an environment that is specific for the device while also having the ability to go beyond into diverse environments, be it an in-store experience or virtual signage on a billboard and so on.

#3 Personalize Without Being Creepy

Personalization and automation provide a lot of value to the customer. Yet, today’s consumers are savvy and many of them are mindful of privacy concerns. The last thing they want is to be creeped out and worried about privacy issues. Some advertising can come across as a little too personal and downright annoying. Just because I looked at a product does not mean I want it. Today a lot of “retargeting” on social networks are guilty of this simple assumption.  While quick follow up and reinforcement works, the smarter you can be about what you chose to reinforce the more likely you are to convert a customer.  Being annoying might coerce a few new customers but it can also do the opposite and turn potentially loyal customers away. The magic happens when you are helpful and relevant to the customer.  The internet is rife with stories of large companies using purchasing histories to suggest future purchases that “crossed the line.”  Making recommendations can be extremely useful for your customers and amazing for sales but make sure you are constantly asking / checking that your analysis and algorithms are non-invasive, so you don’t overstep your boundaries and end up embarrassing or creeping out your customers and prospects.

#4 Reuse Content

While it may sound like a faux pas, it really is in your best interest to reuse content. Equally as important as creating easy-to-use experiences, using familiar patterns and repeating calls to action will give the perception (sometimes illusion) of a faster solution. Reuse content modules and processes because it reinforces your branding and attracts customers by increasing awareness.

#5 Be Easy to Use, Be Fast

Whether your site visitors are making a purchase or just browsing, one of the single most important things you can do for the user is to provide them with a quick resolution. Many websites make purchasing easy for their customers by keeping the experience to a few clicks. Not only is that convenient for the visitor, but makes the ordering process quicker and streamlined. Ensure that you have a highly scalable platform that is capable of delivering the site quickly and that your front end code (images, CSS, Javascript, etc.) are optimized to render quickly to your users.

Although it’s never easy to truly know every potential hiccup you may face, by understanding the above mentioned five aspects of a great digital experience, you will likely avoid them, which will keep both your business and customers happy.

Do you agree? Comment below and tell us what you think helps create loyal customers!