Delivering a Sweeter Customer Experience

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Delivering a Sweeter Customer Experience
Delivering a Sweeter Customer Experience

Whether you planned a romantic evening out or ordered your sweetheart's gift last minute, it's clear that Valentine's Day has gone digital, with NRF reporting that more than 26% of consumers planned to shop online for their loved ones. In fact, online shopping showed significant growth during the week before Valentine's Day this year compared to last year, particularly with department stores where online sales grew 34%.

Mobile was a particular standout this holiday, as consumers made purchasing decisions on-the-go. Mobile sales rose 43% as a percentage of all online sales compared to the same period last year. Tablet shoppers continued to outpace smartphone shoppers by nearly twice the amount of online sales, while iOS users drove four times the percentage of online sales versus Android users.

With so many consumers turning to their mobile devices to browse, shop, and buy for their loved ones, it's crucial that CMOs, their marketing teams, and their technology colleagues pay special attention to the kind of digital experience they're delivering. As always, the devil is in the details, with seemingly typical consumer reactions, like zooming in or rotating the device, actually serving as key warning signs of consumer struggle. So, how do you avoid customer struggle and improve your mobile experience? Here are three tips:

Keep it simple: I was recently on a business trip in London, where my flight was canceled and I was stranded for the night. Angry, confused, frustrated, I needed to book a hotel and I needed to book it now. I opened my preferred hotel chain's mobile app. I was met with three easy options: book a hotel, review my current reservations, or access my account. In a matter of minutes, as I made my way to the cab stand, I found a nearby hotel and made a reservation. It was simple.

And simplicity is exactly what customers want. It's important for marketers to keep in mind that when consumers are using their smartphones, they're inherently mobile—they're walking to a meeting, boarding a plane, or multitasking. Customers don't have time or patience to wade through a confusing and convoluted mobile site or app. So make it easy for your customers and design through their eyes. Remove the clutter, the ads, and any other irrelevant information. Consider the most important things consumers need to do or find through your mobile experience and provide enough information for them to complete those tasks on the go.

Make it is easy: I'm a big guy, 6'5” with big fingers, so navigating a mobile device is never easy for me. But even the nimblest of smartphone users struggle with a poor customer experience, especially when it comes to being forced to fill out long forms, or type long strands of information. Again, mobile smartphone users are looking for a quick, easy experience. The best bet for marketers is to design for the finger. Make sure the most important information the consumer needs on your site or app is within the natural area that consumers sweep their thumb across the screen.

Another suggestion: Don't make your branding the customer's problem. Obviously, the customer knows who you are, or they wouldn't be visiting your site or accessing your app, so don't bombard them with large images or logos, which make it difficult to load your site, forcing the customer to wait to accomplish their task.

Be consistent: In the era of cross-channel marketing, consistency is crucial. Most consumers first interact and learn about your digital experience through your website. So when it comes to accessing your brand through your mobile site or app, make sure the experiences are similar. When brands provide a totally different experience from channel to channel, they're forcing the customer to learn on the go, causing them to spend more time just trying to figure out your site or app, as opposed to making purchase or booking a reservation. 

There are thousands of devices out there and as consumers increasingly look to smartphones and tablets as their key interaction points with brands, it's unrealistic to expect to design a tailored experience for each device type. So, more sophisticated marketers are looking to responsive Web design to help with consistency across channels. Simply put, responsive Web design relies on media queries to determine what resolution of device the site is being served on. The technology analyzes the device and then sizes the website to fit the screen, without compromising the experience. The benefit is creating one website that works seamlessly across multiple screens, as opposed to multiple versions of the same site.

In a world where, according to Datamonitor, more than $83 billion is lost in revenue in the U.S. alone, every year, due to poor customer experiences, it's crucial that marketers and technologists pay attention to customers' struggles across channels. Know the warnings signs and continuously seek to improve the experiences you're delivering—your consumers and, ultimately, your bottom-line will thank you. 

Bill Loller is vice president, IBM Smarter Commerce

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