Delivering a Digital Experience That Counts
Jess Iandiorio, VP of product marketing, Acquia
It's easy to get caught up in the lingo associated with building, launching, and managing a website, but it's important for brands to never lose sight of the ultimate goal: the customer experience. When brands lose sight of their customers it becomes increasingly easy to miss key elements of delivering a great digital experience. And in today's digital world, that's just not acceptable.
Yet many companies—ranging in all sizes and across all industries—are seemingly still searching for the best approach to deliver a quality digital experience. Everyone knows the importance of ensuring that visitors can access a site at any time, wherever they may be—but there are a number of key elements that go into this. Shortcutting QA and testing, for instance, might help you launch on time, but the consequences may be severe if your site doesn't perform. And then there's the matter of mobile enablement: Should a brand create a separate mobile app or make a mobile version of its site?
With so many questions, it's easy to see how brands—many that are truly experts in their own fields, but may not understand the depths of the technology needed to deliver a great digital experience—can run into some unforeseen hurdles. So how can brands deliver a top-notch digital experience in a consistently high-quality way? By focusing on three phases: the mobile mind-set, site performance, and personalization.
Get in the mobile mind-set
We've established the importance of the digital experience; every brand knows it's a required element for survival in today's world. But to meet each customer's needs, brands need to get in the mobile mind-set. Every new website should be created with a mobile-first approach; rather than creating a desktop experience and trying to squeeze it onto the mobile screen, mobile-first design enables brands to create a great digital experience on any mobile device. This also ensures that brands can extend their mobile presence without diluting the desktop experience.
So how can brands do this? One option is responsive design. This approach lets brands maintain a single website that adjusts its layout based on the device and device resolution that a consumer is using. This ensures that the user has a seamless viewing experience, regardless of how he accesses a brand's site. Brands that take this approach will also have greater flexibility to deploy their digital assets without regard to medium.
Focus on performance
Once a brand adopts the mobile mind-set and creates a responsive site experience, the next step is to think about the site's performance. This applies not only to how it looks and reacts to various devices, but also extends to basic functionality. Basically, does the site work?
Let's be honest—performance and load testing are far from the sexiest things brand managers get to do on a daily basis, but they're increasingly becoming some of the most important, especially as marketers and IT teams work more closely together. Testing is crucial, particularly for high-traffic, mission-critical sites, and should be done iteratively and thoroughly. There's no reason a site should fail today; continuous testing should ensure a brand's site can always handle the traffic it will receive. And testing should be a core element of the plan before a big launch; there's nothing worse than realizing your best day could become your worst when customers can't access your site for information or place orders.
After you've successfully baked the mobile mind-set and performance into your website as critical components to success, the next phase for brands is to ensure that they're delivering personalized experiences for their users. The core site experience needs to deliver the right content to the right visitor at the right time in the right format based on user preferences. Whether done manually or through the use of many of the personalization solutions available today, the site should detect an individual's device as a referring source, and leverage geo-location elements, as well. This insight into user context gives brands an incredible ability to give their users what feels like a unique and individual experience across all digital touchpoints.
Today's digital world has completely changed the way brands interact with their customers—and how customers interact with their favorite brands. It's time for brands to own their image, their message, and their digital experience from every angle. Traditional approaches to creating and launching a website can put a brand in a tight place between being cost-effective, meeting deadlines, and delivering the quality experience that will attract and engage their customers. Today's engagement methods are about creativity, personalization, and experience—not a siloed approach. Silos are outdated, and will make your brand's experience feel that way, too.
Jess Iandiorio is VP of product marketing at Acquia