It’s 2019, and the digital world is evolving faster than ever, but marketers are still struggling to execute a customer-first approach.
Econsultancy released its “State of Consumer-First and Omnichannel Marketing” report in September 2018, stating that 91% of businesses recognize the importance of putting customers first, yet 51% say they don’t fully do so.
When it comes to improving websites, it’s far easier to stay up to date with the latest design trends, such as phasing out infinity scrolling or using vibrant color palettes, than it is to make data-driven changes to improve the customer experience.
First, a Customer Experience Primer
As Blake Morgan with the CMO Network explains, “Customer experience can include a lot of elements, but it really boils down to the perception the customer has of your brand. Even if you think your brand and customer experience is one thing, if the customer perceives it as something different, that is what the actual customer experience is.”
For example, if your customers find that your website’s navigation is confusing and the checkout process is difficult, it won’t matter if you sell high-end or bargain-barrel products. The customer’s perception of your business is going to be less than desired.
The truth is that customer experience is nothing new; it’s been around for as long as we’ve had a retail-esque process.
One of the earliest examples of customer’s sharing their experiences with a merchant, albeit a poor experience, comes from a carved clay tablet from ancient Babylonian, now housed in the British Museum.
The tablet was carved by Nanni, a consumer who lived around the year 1750 B.C., who was angry at a merchant named Ea-nasir.
We don’t know what Ea-nasir did, but it wasn’t good. Through the carving, Nanni etched his demand for a full refund of the purchase price.
Nearly 4,000 years later, customers can share the same experience. Instead of carving a clay tablet, upset customers today head straight to social media and review websites to share the experience they received.
The reality for businesses is that customer experience is about so much more than just selling a product.
As Steve Jobs famously once said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.”
Your business shouldn’t be about conversions or selling; it should be about what you can do to make your customers happy through a better experience.
Unfortunately, even in 2019, customer experience isn’t the priority it should be.
Customer Experience Predictions and Reality
As much as customer experience helps build a positive environment to produce return customers, customers themselves want it.
According to PwC, 73% of all people say customer experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions.
Meanwhile, nearly half of the people surveyed say companies simply don’t provide good customer experiences.
If that doesn’t catch your attention, it should.
Shouldn’t we should have far less than half of consumers say companies aren’t providing good customer experiences in 2019?
There’s just no excuse.
In 2015, Gartner, Inc. released its survey of information technology and business leaders who worked on or were familiar with customer experience projects.
Based on the data collected, Nick Ingelbrecht, research director at Gartner, who said, “Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than 50% of organizations will implement significant business model changes in their efforts to improve customer experience.”
Now that 2018 has come and gone, let’s just say that the prediction hasn’t quite come to fruition.
According to Forrester’s customer experience research, released in February 2019, it’s not that the case for customer experience has waned. In fact, it’s stronger than ever.
Customer experience has been shown to grow revenue faster, drive higher brand preferences and justify higher product prices. If you listen carefully, you may even hear the whispers of the “cha-ching.”
Despite this, customer experience is stuck.
As Rick Parrish, principal analyst for Forrester explained, “Our Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) showed that in 2018, CX quality languished for the third year in a row.”
“What’s worse, most firms fail to perform the 12 CX management activities with the four facets of discipline — rigor, cadence, coordination and accountability,” he adds. “As a result, we’re unlikely to see broad improvement in CX Index scores in 2019.”
Harley Manning, Forrester’s vice president and research director, blamed the stagnation on a few things:
Brands aren’t doing what they need to do for the big gains. As Manning puts it, “If their [customer experience] programs were home improvement projects, we’d say they were decorating, not renovating.”
Customer expectations themselves are rising. We’ll get to that in a little bit.
Regardless of the reason, your customers aren’t going to wait for your business to get your customer experience priority in order.
Choose to ignore customer experience, and you have a ticking time bomb on your hand.
53% of consumers have cut spending after a single bad experience with a company.
How much revenue would you lose if 22% of your customers took their business elsewhere simply because their experience?
Now that you know what happens if you ignore customer experience, what happens when you make it a priority?
The Customer Expectations Advantage
When a company provides customers with a good experience, customers feel heard, seen and appreciated. They are treated like more than just a number or a KPI.
Good customer experience makes customers feel heard, seen and appreciated.
The results can be measured in more than just customer satisfaction; it can be measured in actual dollar figures and sales increases that add up quickly:
43% of consumers would pay more for convenience
42% would pay more for a friendly, welcoming experience
65% find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising
One more statistic to digest from McKinsey further proves the benefits of customer experience:
Improved customer experience can grow revenue by 5% to 10% and cost 15% to 20% less over a span of three years in addition to building customer loyalty and making employees happier.
Did you catch that?
Customer experience not only increases revenue and builds customer loyalty. It also makes employees happier, too.
Most businesses start improving customer experience by analyzing traditional analytics, like Google Analytics, but that isn’t really enough these days. Gathering customer feedback and using the right analytics tools can make all the difference.
Here are two examples; one using just traditional analytics and the other turning to feedback and conversion optimization insight:
Acting on Analytics: Visitor A
Using analytics data, a business like yours could map out the customer’s journey and discover your key business channels. Maybe you use Google Analytics’ User-ID feature or set up cross-device tracking.
You may want to see how visitors behaved on your website and look at what links they clicked or how quickly they left your website.
Maybe you wanted to use metrics such as time on site, pages per visit, pageviews or conversions. There are extensive guides available online just to help with this very process.
But what if that information isn’t enough?
How can you definitively isolate customer pain points and make your website a better viewing experience with that data?
Why it fails: For many years, these traditional analytics were the only data available to guide businesses in creating customer experience strategy. The problem is that type of data doesn’t paint the full picture of what visitors clicked on, how they navigated or what happened during their visits.
Traditional analytics tell you where a visitor went on your website, but they don’t tell you what they did or experienced while they were on those pages.
Part of the problem is that analytics data like Google Analytics can only show you a portion of the visitor’s experience but not explain what happened. It tells you the start and end of the visitors’ journey, but the middle gets murky.
In this case, let’s say there’s a visitor on your site – Visitor A – who is a woman named Katie. She visited your website and added a product to her cart. However, during check out, she was confused by your shipping information and abandoned the website after she gave up trying to figure it out.
What analytics would you use to know the confusing shipping information was the source of her cart abandonment?
Traditional analytics may indicate that the problem lies within the checkout process, but you are going to struggle to narrow it down to exactly what happened. Did the pricing page not show up at all or was it the pricing itself that was her issue?
Yes, analytics data can be a crucial part in finding patterns, but analytics data along just falls short in explaining what Katie, and other visitors like her, experienced.
The Face of Feedback: Visitor B
Now let’s say instead of just traditional analytics data, your business uses conversion rate optimization tools.
These tools aren’t just data points; they explain exactly what the visitor experience and captures the feedback to understand and connect with visitors before they leave your website.
While traditional analytics produce a lot of guesswork, going straight to the customer for feedback eliminates the need for it.
We’re going to break it down into two areas to help make that customer experience amazing:
Connecting with customers through polls and chat
Analyzing their experience with session recordings, heatmaps and form analytics
No. 1: Connecting with customers through polls and chat
While Katie left her shopping cart when she encountered a problem, let’s talk about another visitor – Visitor B – who is a man named John. He, like Katie, added a product to his cart but was confused by your shipping pricing.
Three seconds later, just as John was about to leave, this poll showed on his screen:
John could ignore the poll, but since he was having a bad experience, he selects “no.”
In the comments section, he explains the shipping information provided conflicting information. He’s not local, so it’s important to him to know how much shipping will cost before checking out.
Fact: Nearly 80% of consumers who view brands more favorably when invited to proactively share customer feedback.
It took John less than 15 seconds to complete the poll, and although John may have had a poor experience, he:
- Expressed his frustration,
- Felt his feedback mattered and
- Provided valuable insight for the business to clarify or simplify shipping information for other customers.
Remember: Katie ran into the same issue, but her only methods of feedback were to manually contact your business through your “contact us” page or social media.
Meanwhile, John also had another method of communication – live chat.
Whether he initiated it through a call to action button or an operator reached out to him after watching his struggle for a few seconds on the shipping page, John had direct access to your business.
Suddenly, now he had an easy and direct method to get his questions addressed.
In this case, he could compare two shipping options and ask other questions, such as shipping time or additional costs.
The agent could have also provided other means of assistance such as:
- A coupon code for free shipping. The agent knew John was on the shipping page, and if shipping were a major concern, the agent could have provided a free shipping discount code that would further entice John the complete the purchase.
- Link to help documentation. If your company had a document created just for customers who needed extra help figuring out shipping costs, the agent could have sent John a link to help him break down the shipping.
- Lead John directly to the right webpage through co-browsing. Sometimes the best move is to just be direct. The agent could have co-browsed with John to digitally show him on his screen where to go to find the right shipping information.
Why connecting through chat and polls works: Unlike traditional analytics, feedback through chat and polls give businesses the opportunity to connect with customers.
According to Salesforce data, 66% of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if they are treated like a number instead of an individual.
When you offer poll questions or a chat, you are actively listening and proactively trying to address their issues.
Though John initially had a poor customer experience, your business was able to act quickly and connect with him before he left your website.
With the right information in his hand, he could complete his purchase.
With the right information in your business’s hands, you can use it to dive into what happened and evaluate new strategies or updates that could improve the experience for all of your customers.
No. 2: Analyzing their experience with session recordings, heatmaps and form analytics
With the feedback from polls and chat in hand, you can use the feedback to organize your next steps in making the website a better experience for all.
Let’s take John’s example again. After reviewing the poll results or chat log, you could follow up by watching John’s session recording.
Watching John’s entire journey, you could ask some big questions:
- Where did John click (or didn’t click)?
- Did he highlight specific words?
- Was he rage clicking?
- Did he experience any errors on the webpage?
The more you see, the more you’ll want to know whether or not his experience was an isolated event or indicates a widespread problem?
To dive even deeper into the website issues impacting your customers’ experience, you then can look at heatmaps for more information into how John, Katie and others like them were interacting with your website.
Here’s an example of a heatmap from our website:
You can see quickly where the most people are clicking, indicated by “warmer” colors – yellow, orange and red. It’s also clear where they aren’t clicking or if the CTA is missing its mark.
The trick to heatmaps isn’t just to look at overall traffic data. Instead, segment data by source, geographical location, device type or browser type to get a better look at what the majority of your visitors are experiencing, too.
But what if that wasn’t the end of John’s problems? What if John had mentioned to your chat operator that he ran into issues trying to sign-up to checkout?
The best course of action would be to run form analytics to see what fields were causing John, and others like him, problems or if there were bigger validation issues at hand.
When you can see which fields are causing the highest abandonment rate or taking the longest time to fill out, you can adjust the form as necessary. You may find that even one field adjustment can make a world of difference.
Why analyzing through session recordings, heatmaps and form analytics works: If John were on your website and giving you feedback through chat and a poll, it’s far too easy to dismiss this feedback as a one-off situation.
Instead, looking deeper at John’s experience with recordings, heatmaps and form analytics opened new opportunities to improve your website for all customers, not just John.
How Feedback Makes a Difference
Between Katie and John, who had the better customer experience?
While Katie ran into a problem that stopped her from checking out, there was no easy way for her to provide her feedback or tell you what went wrong on your website. The efforts to improve her customer experience had to come from her end, not from the business.
Meanwhile, you may only hear from a few visitors from social media or your support form that there may be a problem, but you really don’t have a way to look at your website from your visitors’ eyes.
Without that insight, you are going in blind trying to correct your issues.
John, however, had a completely different experience.
He had two methods to give his feedback. The poll gave him an anonymous opportunity to give his honest opinion about his experience, and he also was able to get his questions addressed quickly through chat.
Not only was his feedback helpful in convincing John to check out, he also provided your business with incredible information that could then direct your team to find out more about his experience.
With the knowledge, you could make actionable changes that would lead to real results.
If you put yourself in these visitors’ shoes, which one would you rather be? Would you rather have Katie’s or John’s experience?
We all know the right answer.
As much as Katie struggled, John walked away feeling appreciated and likely even bought the product he was recommended. Thanks to John’s feedback, you could see your website from your visitors’ eyes and make it a better experience from homepage to checkout.
A Real Life Example: MyBaitShop.com
Katie and John may be fictional, but the opportunity to improve your website using customer feedback is not. The Shopify store MyBaitShop.com is a prime example of how using this feedback and following up with deeper analysis works.
Keith Bell started MyBaitShop.com to share this love for fishing and his tremendous collection of fishing lures. He was able to grow conversions by 450% in 103 days with these tools, and here’s how he did it:
No. 1. He asked visitors directly what they wanted from his website. Instead of guessing what lures they would be interested in, he ran a poll to ask them directly. As a result, he found that his customers preferred vintage lures and increased his inventory accordingly. Sales went through the roof.
No. 2. Understanding customer patterns. Knowing that vintage lures are at the top of his customers’ interests, he looking at his website through dynamic heatmaps to find his top webpage elements and then analyzing what happened before and after visitors clicked on top elements by watching recordings. He could adjust the order of his dropdown menu, update his homepage and craft more effective CTAs.
“Knowing where customers go and where they leave is key to trying to find new methods of engagement,” Keith said. “Our biggest challenge right now is just keeping enough inventory in our store to meet demand.”
Parting words of wisdom
It’s about putting a spotlight on customers’ needs, knowing them inside and out, listening to them and understanding that their experience, however subjective it may be, has a definite impact on your bottom line.
In the end, it comes down to this: It was the best of digital times, it was the worst of digital times. It was the age of customer experience wisdom, it was the age of customer experience foolishness. (My apologies to Charles Dickens)
Which digital time will your business settle for?
Are you ready to gather and use feedback to make this the best of digital times, or will your business instead continue the path it’s on and face the worst of digital times?
Bio: Angi Bowman is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Lucky Orange, an industry-leading software business that provides powerful analytics features to help websites improve conversion rates and customer experiences. She drives content marketing strategies and social media initiatives that inform and engage a broad audience ranging from seasoned marketers to new e-commerce store owners.
Caption for tablet: © The Trustees of the British Museum