Industry folks often peg the term User Experience or ‘UX’ to pure-play digital experiences, including websites, apps, games, etc. But what they may fail to realise is that the user experience also should encapsulate offline engagements, from events to the layouts of brick-and-mortar stores. With such a definition, how can marketers, and brands, take the subject of UX and apply it to every facet of their customer engagement?
Providing customers with the best possible user experience is not just about creating beautiful user interfaces. Nor is it just about constantly coming up with new digital features.
Today it is common place for customers to interact with companies across a growing number of channels. Customers expect a seamless and consistent experience through all available channels encompassing mobile, internet and bricks-and-mortar.
According to Zendesk’s study, 67 per cent of online shoppers have made purchases that have involved multiple channels. However, just 7 per cent are ‘extremely satisfied’ that brands provide a seamless, integrated, and consistent customer service experience across channels.
In another study by NBC Universal’s Integrated Media’s study, it was revealed that consumers feel that a brand’s real-world presence impacts their purchasing decisions (49 per cent) nearly as much as a brand’s digital and major media presence does (51 per cent).
While UX for online interactions is one of the most hotly discussed and intensely studied subjects in today’s digital marketing industry, we must remember that customers are interacting with multiple touch points across the brand journey. Hence,brands can’t forget about the offline user experience as well.
Understanding principles of UX
We’ve distilled some key principles used in the discipline of UX, and would like to show how these can be applied regardless of the platform or type of interaction with the customer. Be it in a digital or physical environment, we believe these principles can be similarly utilised:
1. Be contextual
Today’s savvy users have higher expectations on personalisation; they want relevant content, offers and interactions. In order to properly personalise for customers, brands must know their customers inside and out – their wants and needs, their preferred devices, and what kinds of content and offers will get them to click and convert.
This means going from just demographic segmentations to a truly individualised experience using a broad source of contextual data (digital foot prints, real-time browsing behaviour, customer persons and prior purchase history etc.) to deliver the right experience to the right user at the right time.
For example, when it comes to the search element of online shopping, retailers are already delivering personal and relevant suggestions by anticipating what a customer might need based on their particular location and at a particular time. Combining context with content to deliver the right message at the right moment is an added value when it comes to customer service, as it can quickly turn intent into action.
As digital and in-store experiences get more interconnected, there are plenty of opportunities for forward-thinking brands to leverage such contextual data and newer technologies to provide in-store contextual experiences too.
For example, having a customer service representative recognise a loyal customer when they walk in, instead of the usual generic approach of “Hello sir / madam, how may I help you”, is a definite game-changer. With the help of wearables, service crew can be alerted when a VIP shopper arrives so that they are able to respond appropriately.
By tailoring UX to the needs of the user based on contextual data and scenarios, brands can focus more on driving the quality of each customer interaction, rather than quantity.
2. Keep it clear and consistent
A consistent design is simple for customers to remember because it re-uses components, colours, and aesthetic to reduce the need for users to rethink. Consistent design makes the system simpler and clearer to begin with, reinforcing familiarity with customers. It also gives the impression of a unified, well-organised brand.
Apple’s minimalist design is not just consistent across its digital applications and devices such as the iPhone. Some of the defining characteristics of all Apple Stores are that they have big glass windows, brilliant light permeating the retail space,and birch tables that intuitively align the senses and remind customers of the same, familiar Apple brand design.
To ensure users have a smooth and enjoyable experience with web and applications, visual hierarchy is important as well. The combination of text, colour, proximity to like items, graphics should be weaved together seamlessly to aid in the processing or finding of information.
When developing a website, not only must a page be well organised so that it’s easy to scan, but the prioritisation of information and functionality should reflect real-life usage scenarios.
Applying this principle to a physical experience, brands should make it easy for users to find what they want in their stores. Consider the item-finder idea as an example. What if a customer could create a list on an app prior to entering the store and upon arrival, the app would help the customer find all of the items on the list in the fastest way possible?
3. Be human
Even as digital weaves itself deeper into the fabric of customers’ daily lives, customers still remember the powerful appeal of face-to-face interaction. Brands need to understand human nature in order to make the most of new opportunities to deliver better customer experiences. It’s not just about better technology.
Currently, online retailers are exploring transporting the customer out of a transaction-focused environment and into a more engaging retail experience that provides more value for the customer. Interactive videos, 360 views, gestural controls are just a few of the ways brands are exploring to bring products alive on customers’ screens, opening exciting ways to close the gap between an on-screen image to the experience of being shopping in store.
Apart from humanising online interactions, it seems that the in-person shopping experience continues to play an important role in building loyalty for shoppers, loyalty that prompts online purchases to occur. According to a Forbes article, a study conducted by suggest that future ecommerce success will remain highly dependent on whatever levels of customer loyalty they can foster through the person-to-person interactions that take place in their stores.
Apple, for example, tries to maintain a 1:5 ratio of Specialists per customer meaning that should always be a Specialist standing by and accessible to engage the customer, giving the customer undivided one-on-one time at the store.
Apple’s focus on person-to-person interaction in their stores highlights their remarkable user experience approach to think deeply about every single “touch point” customers have with the company and its products – from end to end. As explained by Tim Kobe, CEO and founder of design firm Eight Inc., which has been the designer of Apple’s stores for the last 18 years, “All design is really for a better human outcome. Design should either achieve behaviour or create a context for behaviour that has a purpose.” As part of that, the design should also support the brand and its core values.”
The future of interconnected offline and online experiences
In a global survey conducted by Econsultancy, it was revealed that “a third of marketers are managing touchpoints in silos, while nearly two-fifths (38 per cent) understand the customer journey ‘but have little management across touchpoints.”
Brands and marketers should not just focus on digital channels, but also remember to consider offline channels and engagements as well, which could be key differentiators in the overall customer experience. As your customer base grows and diversifies, the variety of channels and touch points across digital and physical worlds will increase.
Looking ahead, consumers will become more appreciative of digitally-enhanced shopping experiences such as in-store assistance with personalised offers based on intuitive knowledge of their purchase history, directions to their needed items and more.
All in all, UX is not just about standalone experiences but considering the joined-up view of customer experience across the digital and physical worlds. By uniting offline and online engagements, brands are able to create customer experiences which are more meaningful and rewarding across all touch points, which will be key to success. The successful marketers of tomorrow will need to have a comprehensive understanding of implementing better user journeys, and evaluating the quality of the user experience.