Your online customer experience is a vast, sometimes intimidating concept to tackle, made up of all your company's interactions with customers online. It's also something that almost every organization wants to improve, and we'd like to help.
However, since there have been books written about improving the online customer experience, this article will stick to only primary touchpoints directly within your control - aka the web properties you own.
There are several components to the online customer experience that you own, many of which revolve around your website. They include:
- Navigation and search on your website
- Content (varied lengths and kinds of media)
- Features (like an online community or bulletin boards)
- Loading times (it's impossible to have a great experience if it takes your site minutes to load)
- Mobile device access
- Appealing visual design (inspires people to remain on the site)
The Importance of Knowing Your Audience
There's a lot you can do to improve your website and the online experience of your customers, and it all begins with understanding your customers and their needs. If you don't do this, you may adopt a flashy new design that's too difficult to navigate and alienates your prime customers.
To start creating a better customer experience, take a look at your buyer persona. Buyer personas, while owned by the product management or marketing departments, should be accessible to everyone involved in your website. This means designers and developers, including outsourced positions. If everyone understands your target audience and their preferences, they're more likely to provide meaningful suggestions that will appeal to your customers, instead of just presenting trendy ideas.
Businesses can spend tons of money to improve the online experience based on their buyer persona, but there are four key improvements that will maximize your impact.
4 Easy Changes That Improve the Customer Experience
Change #1) Optimize Site Navigation
Focus on Your Audience
Base your site navigation on your audience and their preferences. For instance, millennials (and most other internet users) often use smartphones and tablets to access your website, so your design should be responsive to different devices. Baby Boomers, who also use mobile devices, prioritize readability as well and want clear fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman. Knowing who your audience is will help you create a design they will enjoy.
Create the Right Menu
Ideally, your business needs a simple menu structure that doesn't provide too many options, but does allow people to find things quickly and easily. Some businesses prefer a long homepage with everything about themselves on it, which is ideal for many millennials.
Prioritize Space Above the Fold
Whatever your design, remember that your most valuable real estate is the area â€œabove the foldâ€ on your homepage, or what people see without scrolling down the moment your page opens. The information your customers need to make an informed buying decision should be easily accessible above the fold.
Try not to make your homepage too crowded. Too many links and resources can be off-putting, so don't put all of your resources on the same page. Instead, include clear navigation to helpful content. Start with identifying the top 5 things that visitors to your website want to know (Hint: this often includes price).
Change #2) Incorporate Reviews
If your organization has reviews, include them in your design - they're a powerful influencer. A 2014 survey by PowerReviews found that 86 percent of consumers see reviews as essential to making purchase decisions, and 56 percent specifically seek out websites with reviews.
If reviews are not applicable to your business, customer testimonials are also effective. Further social proof can be provided through comments and posts on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, which you can pull onto your homepage or link to from your website.
Change #3) Keep Them Close
Don't make people hunt for a way to contact you. After you've spent time and money creating a site that people will enjoy navigating and contains the content your audience wants, make sure your company contact information is prominently displayed. Think beyond your address, phone number, and a simple link to a contact us form or email address. Get creative. Try adding a call to action to ask a question, schedule a call directly from your website, or a get a free consultation.
Along with direct contact options, consider adding options for ongoing communication. If visitors are interested in your product or company, they should have the opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter, email list, or join your online community. If they like what they see on your site, you don't want to miss this opportunity to stay in touch.
Change #4) Give Them Something to Do
Websites are no longer merely information portals. Companies are building a sense of community and actively engaging customers around their brands because it keeps people coming back. One of the best ways to build this type of platform with customers is through a private online community, which can be integrated with or connected to your website.
Private online customer communities solidify branding and fan bases by giving members a place where they can participate on a continuing basis. They're ideal for current and prospective customers, user groups and support questions. Customers can support one another using peer-to-peer discussion forums, and other self-service options are often available through a file library of helpful documentation, how-to videos, and much more.
Online communities also serve as a research and development platform. You can use them to easily and privately survey customers about product innovation, such as new features. Customers often love sharing their opinions through these surveys. They love exclusivity as well, so consider sharing company information first in your private online community or offering special deals just for community members.
Exclusivity, the opportunity to contribute to product innovation, and access to peers and experts all improve the customer experience by providing ways for people to participate. They build deeper relationships with customers, making them more excited about doing business with you.
Takeaway: Constructing a Great Online Customer Experience
There are a lot of techniques you can use to improve the online experience for your customers, but one of the best is listening to your audience and providing for their needs. When customers are engaged, educated, and inspired they'll be more likely to want to do business with you. Start by thinking of your customers' and prospective customers' biggest challenges and how you can use your website to meet those needs, and you'll be on your way to creating an amazing customer experience.