Customer experience optimization
What is customer experience optimization?
Business leaders across the world are realizing the competitive advantage of offering a great customer experience and the value that resides within. This is not only in terms of how they interact with their customers and prospects throughout their life-cycle, but the way they shape their overall experience to increase conversions, lifetime business value, and brand loyalty. Where businesses once thought that differentiating themselves by product and efficiency was the best way to strive through tiff online market competition, distinction today lies in optimizing customer experiences to make them seamless and omnichannel.
But, what is an experience? In the simplest of terms, experience is the quality of interaction between an individual and an element, where an element can be anything – a brand, a website, its products, services, a message, an email, a notification, or even an individual as a matter of fact.
Optimization, on the other hand, means striking the right balance between a visitor’s expectations and a brand’s business goals. When performed on an individual level, optimization has the ability to shape business landscapes beyond imagination.
Summing the two fundamental terms together, Experience Optimization is the art and science of attracting, engaging, and improving a visitor’s website journey throughout their lifecycle while building or maintaining a brand’s image in today’s rapidly evolving, customer-centric online market. As “art,” experience optimization means creating an environment that is both welcoming and time-worthy. While “science” means putting together several building blocks to comprehensively improve an individual’s overall experience in real-time. Certainly, satisfied visitors will not only engage better and spend more, but showcase better and deeper brand loyalty as well.
Why is customer experience optimization important?
“The customer-experience landscape is changing rapidly, and knowing how to operate in it is becoming more and more strategically imperative.”
Online visitors are smarter than ever today. They have access to an array of tech tools that allow them to get exactly what they want and when they want it. And hence, they appreciate brands that strive to make their website journey an easy breeze. In the dynamics of value creation here, delivering experiences that are simple, immediate, and personalized, is what experience optimization typically focuses upon.
Rather than paying much attention to individual interaction touchpoints, such as billing, onboarding, service calls, and so forth, experience optimization urges businesses to move from ‘delivering services’ to ‘shaping experiences’.
1. To match business goals with visitor expectations
Individuals today look for value in everything they do online – be it buying products, subscribing to services, or as simple as browsing through a website’s content. More so, technology has also armed them with the unprecedented power to dictate the rules of how online vendors conduct their business. The reason being, a major chunk of website visitors expect online players to work in the ‘now’ framework – establish a connection within seconds of them landing on the website and offer them the same kind of immediacy, personalization, and convenience which retail stores provide.
To connect better with visitors, online players must put in place the right experiential building blocks which not only directly align with their business goals but effectively match visitor expectations as well. Businesses must explore the basic fundamentals of a visitor’s interaction with their various communication platforms and take the necessary steps to redesign their presentations (in a more customer-centric fashion) to maximize business outcomes.
2. To drive persistence and retention
Recognizing the importance of customer relationships is not only vital to initiate initial interactions but to develop healthy engagement loops as well. Meaning, rather than finding opportunities to optimize a visitor’s experience, businesses must create such opportunities to ensure their target personas get incentivized everytime they land on their website. This could either be through the means of personalization or offering loyalty rewards to recurring visitors and so forth. Many pieces of research also showcase that individuals are more willing to build long-term relationships with brands that pay much attention to visitor needs and retention through improved communications than transactional efforts.
Experience optimization suggests that businesses must deep dive into the nitty-gritty of a visitor’s online journey. Make use of sophisticated measurement tools to understand what visitors expect, empower business frontlines to match their visions, and lay down the foundation of customer-centric platforms which compel customers to turn into loyal advocates.
To conclude, experience optimization not only lends companies the ability to craft and deliver an integrated customer experience (turning visitors into brand ambassadors/advocates) but opens doors for enormous business opportunities as well.
How has customer experience optimization evolved over the years?
Experience optimization is not a term coined today. It’s a phenomenon that has existed for decades now. The only difference lies in the practical realization of the concept, especially with the advent of the digital age and technologically savvy consumers.
1. The road to customer-centricity
Time was when most companies operating in the retail market relied heavily on the superior quality of their products and/or services and the competence of their sales executives to pull off deals to generate high revenues rather than perfecting their ‘experience optimization skills.’ Meaning, they focused much on promoting their products in the market than taking into consideration the actual needs and demands of their end-users. Even as these companies shifted their base from the retail market to the worldwide web, their basic strategy remained the same.
But, with digitalization owning up the marketplace attracting 62.5 percent of the world’s total population, and competition becoming tougher day by day, businesses realized that customer-centricity was what they must bring to the online market as well.
Businesses understand that the best way to increase revenue and sustain is by integrating end-to-end experience strategies – immediacy, personalization, and convenience – which can turn visitors into customers and significantly increase conversions.
More so, it’s not just about mastering the art of fabricating the best products or services and displaying them in the most beautified manner across various business communication channels, but rather about striking the right balance between business goals and visitor expectations.
Furthermore, when done well, customer-centricity can also help businesses become thoughtful optimizers – step into a visitor’s shoes, analyze their browsing journey, map areas of obstruction(s) and implement intuitive changes to ultimately enhance the visitor experience.
2. Visitor experience digitization
Individuals today do not just buy products or services, they buy into an idea or an experience.
Online visitors are more thrilled to land on a website that greets them, instantly understands their needs and preferences, and takes additional steps to make their on-site journey an easy breeze. Such a shift in visitor expectations over the last decade has compelled businesses to look beyond the basics and explore new marketing strategies to improve customer engagement strategies, create valuable relationships, and improve revenue generation opportunities.
Additionally, optimized and personalized digital experiences are more in demand today than ever. This is because:
- Visitors equate businesses with experience: Online visitors heavily associate brands with how they make them feel – from on-site customer services to digital journeys and retail ambiance – everything counts.
- Visitors are more demanding than ever: As per NGData, it takes about 12 positive experiences to reconcile the damage done by one negative on-site experience.
- Bad Reviews go Viral Faster: No matter how many good experiences a visitor has had on a website, one bad encounter is enough for them to bounce off, sometimes for a lifetime. Furthermore, it takes only a handful of angry visitors to ruin a brand’s reputation, especially in today’s age where technology has armed individuals with the power to dictate market rules.
What are the three facets that constitute experience optimization?
1. Web experience optimization
Web experience optimization, in its basic essence, is a scientific approach to creating an online platform with a targeted messaging strategy (across multiple visitor touchpoints) that helps increase visitor engagement, conversions, and builds a positive brand impression.
The use of controlled experimentations and dynamic web journey delivery allows businesses to vet their strategy and quantify the performance of their website in real-time. This further helps them to make amendments (if and when necessary) and upgrade a visitor’s experience.
Having said that, the approach circles around three stages namely: observe, hypothesize, and optimize.
1. Observe Visitor behavior: The first stage in the cycle of web experience optimization is to observe. This typically means mapping a visitor’s journey on a website through a progression of touchpoints.
- Make a note of all the web areas which make or break their web-interaction experience using qualitative and quantitative data gathering tools, and
- Pay attention to all the channels they use to arrive on the website to understand the complete journey end-to-end.
2. Create hypotheses and run experiments: At this stage, businesses must start by differentiating purposes and create data-backed hypotheses around how to improve critical visitor journey touchpoints, as identified in the earlier stage. Design supporting processes with visitor psychology in mind, run experiments, and set in motion a culture of continuous experimentation.
3. Optimize the website: As the last step, businesses must now deploy successful experiments which drive higher conversions and take notes from the experiments that fail.
2. Product experience optimization
Customers may most certainly be the end destination businesses long to reach. But, the product is the vehicle that makes the journey possible in the first place. Without a strong, strategically designed, and carefully crafted product, no company can survive the market heat let alone deliver intrinsic value to customers and increase their lifetime value.
Constant product augmentations and optimizations are very important. They serve as the two primary keys to opening doors to new business opportunities. For a simple reason that the more optimized a product is, the better will be the experience it offers and of course, the more shall be its market value.
In order to lubricate product-led growth and deliver constant value to end-users, businesses must use analytical tools, engagement facilitators, and feedbacks to do the needful. Here’s how they aid to product experience optimization.
A. Analytical Tools
Without good analytical tools and accurate data at hand, businesses are at the mercy of their top management team. This means they risk a lot of precious time and resources to craft a good product. But, with the right data, businesses can confidently deliver a better product experience that’s backed by human insights.
- Showcase how well or bad a product is performing
- Authenticate product feature hypotheses to drive growth and retention.
- Analyze visitor activities and identify unexpected visitor flows.
- Track visitor activities to know how visitors arrive at new product features.
- Highlight the basic adoption path for new users.
- Identify where website visitors are falling off, where they are moving next, and where they take the final action.
- Make a note of upsell opportunities basis visitor funnel flow.
Online visitors lack patience. Neither do they have the time nor the capacity to explore an entire website and discover its products or offerings on their own. They need to be engaged with the right kind of engagement activities to increase adoption and reduce churn.
- Use on-site or in-app guides and messages to help visitors navigate easily.
- Segment engagements basis targeted persona to optimize and personalize visitor experience.
- Raise awareness about the new brand features and/or developments using on-site or in-app notification bars.
On a most fundamental level, businesses must find the right ways to capture usage analytics, nurture engagements in-and-outside of the product to impact usage, and constantly ask for visitor feedback to iterate the product to enhance product experience optimization.
3. Messaging experience optimization
For a business, experience optimization shouldn’t begin and end on their assets (viz website and product) alone. Rather, they must extend to and cover all customer touchpoints including the messages being sent to prospects or customers. This is where messaging tools and techniques like emails, web-and-app push notifications, SMS, messenger, and other channels such as chatbots, and on-site advertisements come into play.
With such messaging tools and techniques, companies can send targeted messages to their customers and prospects in real-time and enlighten them about their products and/or services.
- Web-and-app push notifications allow businesses to reach users even when they’re not logged in.
- In-app messaging tools like chatbots serve as a guide for users to explore the platform in the most effective and efficient manner.
- Emails allow customers to stay up to date about a brand’s offerings and everything new.
Understand, messaging experience optimization is highly contextual and strives to deliver relevant and helpful information to users in real-time.
Getting started with customer experience optimization
Online operations and services are significantly raising the competitive bar in every industry. In order to capture every opportunity, businesses must develop a strong operational model which dramatically improves and enhances a visitor’s on-site experience.
1. Understand visitor journey
A. Take advantage of user insights
Understanding a visitor’s experience and improving their journey by successfully executing user-centric business strategies can benefit companies in a plethora of ways. User insight tools such as heatmaps, form analytics, and session recordings can come in handy here. These tools offer an in-depth view of elements that may be making or breaking a visitor’s journey, and enable businesses to optimize their products and offerings, and further refine a visitor’s experience.
i. Funnels helps visualize where visitors drop off and why
Funnels are elementary tools that help identify on-site areas causing conversion leaks. They enable businesses to analyze the reasons behind why visitors may be abandoning the site using qualitative tools like heatmaps, clickmaps, session recordings and more. With advanced filters and visitor segmentation capabilities, businesses can further fabricate complex segmentations and use logical filters to generate funnel reports and examine the data.
ii. Session recordings help look for loopholes
Session recordings allow brands to visually look at a visitor’s journey while they’re there on the site. With such insights, it is easy for them to identify areas where visitors are concentrating their attention; where they’re dropping off; whether or not they’re taking the desired action such as filling the lead-generation form, completing the checkout process, and so forth.
Session recordings help understand friction points in a customer journey, and identify opportunities for growth and testing to further optimize and enhance end-user’s experience.
iii. Heatmaps help visualize visitor behavior
Heatmaps are smart analytical tools which, with the help of smart color-codes, enable businesses to identify areas where visitors are concentrating their attention the most. They collect and display real-time visitor behavioral data and allow brands to slice and dice data basis preferred segmentation. The hotter the on-site area, the more is the traction, and vice versa.
iv. Usability reviews help create winning UX
By connecting with industry experts and internet-savvy individuals across the globe, businesses can gain insightful information about their website’s UI, UX, usability issues, conversion roadblocks, and optimization opportunities, and use the gathered data to improve brand performance.
v. Form analytics helps analyze form performance
Similar to other analytical tools, form analytics studies form reports to analyze how visitors are interacting with on-site forms, what form fields they filling first, where they’re hesitating and dropping off the most, and the field areas which are causing maximum friction in the process. When combined with visitor recordings, form analytics proves to be all the more beneficial and a handy friction-finding tool.
B. Optimize across all touch points
By revamping traditional business operation models (which keeps brands from achieving their potential), and combining them with digital technologies and user insight capabilities, companies must optimize and create seamless customer experiences across all touchpoints to stay ahead in today’s competitive market. Here’s how:
i. Link visitor needs to business initiatives and KPIs: Identify visitor behavior and understand how their journeys actually run. Map the basic fundamentals that serve as visitor value drivers and align individual KPIs with business KPIs.
ii. Combine customer channel touchpoints with back-end system processes: Meaning, businesses must not just rely on their front-end design to lure customers. Rather they must create a seamless back-end process as well and link the two together. For instance, a quirky looking eCommerce website may have the prowess to attract visitors, but if its back-end process is not strong ensure, i.e. the website is unable to provide a seamless personalized experience, has a flawed purchase process, and so on, it will surely lose out on potential customers. Therefore, combine customer channel touchpoints with back-end system processes is very important.
iii. Identify visitor behavior Behavior: Through visitor journey analysis (using the above-mentioned qualitative and quantitative tools), businesses can easily identify how visitors are actually traveling through various channels and how they have interacted with different touchpoints all along their journey. This helps them to make considerable improvements and achieve the optimal balance between visitor satisfaction and brand proficiency.
iv. (Re)plot, reprioritize, and develop new touch points: Optimizing visitor experience basis different touchpoints can help (re)plot and (re)shape new brand offerings. At the same time, look for the right opportunities to provide the desired experience to visitors to improve their on-site journey.
Continuously monitoring visitor journeys serves as one of the best and most effective ways to transform and optimize business processes. This not only proves beneficial in terms of shifting from mere “instinct-based” or “trial-and-error-based” to “fact-based,” but results in less visitor resistance and more control over brand value realization.
2. Know what motivates your customers
While observing visitor actions provide meaningful information about an individual’s on-site behavior, but that may not be enough to know the exact reasons behind what visitors do and why they do on a website. Here, surveys come in handy.
Surveys enable businesses to understand visitor needs, preferences, and hesitation points by asking them directly about their particular actions or thoughts about the brand. Since such information comes directly from the horse’s mouth, the authenticity of data collected in the process is quite absolute and genuine. More so, it is better to seek product/brand feedback from individuals via surveys than asking them to be more vocal about it, especially in today’s constructive-yet-destructive social media age.
To create a great user experience, surveys can help businesses in the following ways:
- Learn more about a visitor’s preferences: Know exactly what visitors expect from a brand when they land on its website.
- Find out what is not satisfactory: Ask relevant questions to visitors about what they don’t like about the brand; what’s the one thing missing on a particular page; what was their main concern before making the final purchase; what could have been better, and so forth.
- Improve communication with visitors: Make filling surveys a fun activity for visitors. Opt for pop-up surveys, forms or poll solutions that are precise, easy to answer, and help seek answers against all questions which can affect a visitor’s experience on a website.
Arguably, surveys serve as one of the best opportunities for visitors and customers to express their feelings about a brand. To convey their preferences, why they find the brand better than others or the reasons why they’re not satisfied with their current on-site offerings.
From a company’s point of view, surveys offer a deep perspective about elements that can help them dramatically enhance their digital presence and improve the visitor experience.
3. Hypothesize new ways to improve the visitor experience and create foolproof optimization plans
Coming up with the right hypothesis demands a lot of effort, especially intra-department commitments and additional digital elements, including agile delivery of digital technology through all customer journey phases, and more. It’s no surprise that a lot of experience optimization transformation strategies struggle to showcase results, considering the fact that inculcating necessary changes in an existing framework is a complex and multidimensional task.
At this step, the primary aim is to thoroughly rethink, reiterate, and craft ideas to ameliorate how the visitor journey should work, instead of only fixing or amending on-site inefficiencies. Let’s get started!
A. Hypothesize why visitors behave in a certain manner
A hypothesis, in the simplest of terms, is a prediction typically drafted prior to running an experiment, which clearly states what to change, what should be the outcome, and why is it necessary to make these changes. Hypotheses aren’t open-ended questions, rather they’re bold statements that enable brands to seek answers to important questions like, “What are the metrics that we should measure?”, “If we change this, will it help us achieve the desired goal?” and so forth.
To start with, below-mentioned are six key mediums that can help online businesses hypothesize why visitors behave in a certain manner:
- Communication channels: Are they good enough to engage visitors?
- Communication asymmetry: Where’s the lag happening?
- Process transparency: Is everything being conveyed to the visitors? Is the brand being absolutely transparent with its offerings to its target audience?
- Ease of engagement: Are visitors able to engage with a brand easily?
- Personalization efforts: Is the brand making enough efforts to personalize the experience of its target persona?
Moreover, from a visitor’s perspective, experience is often a single journey. Visitors are more likely to stick to brands that pay much attention (and have concrete answers) to all the above-mentioned factors and draw a sharp distinction between what’s feasible to them against what visitors must be served with.
B. Which elements can be improved upon and where
The basic elements across different digital touchpoints which every brand must identify, test, and improve to add value to their business are:
A website often serves as the first point of contact between a brand and its target audience. It offers a sneak-peak into what the brand is all about and answers all the potential questions a visitor may have.
Primarily there are five components to map the performance of a website running on the world wide web. These are as follows:
- Design layout: Exploring the fundamentals of visitor interactions and mapping the steps necessary to design and redesign a website in a more visitor-centric fashion, while strategically organizing it to achieve optimal business outcomes should be a brand’s top priority. When designing a website, pay attention to the below-mentioned six primary elements:
- Landing page design: The more aesthetically designed and optimized a landing page is, the more traction it will get.
- Content: Relevant, engaging, and eye-catching content is critical to make a website stand out. For content has the prowess to shape a brand’s persuasiveness and convert prospects into customers.
- Call-to-action: CTA is a call made to prospects and customers to take a desired action on the website. The stronger and crispier the CTA, the more are the chances of conversions.
- Navigation: A fluid and easy-to-navigate website can improve a visitor’s on-site experience, build a positive brand reputation, and significantly reduce bounce rate and increase retention rate.
- Forms: An important customer touchpoint, the more strategically designed a form is, the more leads it’s likely to generate.
- Page selection: Although every web page works towards the same business goal – getting more leads and conversions – some pages come with higher weightage (such as home page, pricing page, contact us page, etc.) than the others. These web pages demand extra attention, require specific tailoring, and additional checks every now and then. Ensuring that they are properly optimized and have all the right elements placed onto them is critical.
- Site speed and page load analysis: Site speed and page load time are the next two crucial indicators to check a website’s ability to attract, retain, and convert inflowing traffic into potential customers. Many pieces of research claim that any website that takes more than 3 seconds to load is likely to witness 40% more bounces than those which load faster. Website performance test helps evaluate pages basis multiple metrics, such as time to render, time to first byte, and time taken to document the page completely.
ii. Mobile apps
In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, businesses cannot launch a mobile application just for the sake of having one. They need to deliver a mobile experience that not only adds value to their business, helps capitalize on mobile-driven opportunities but even satisfies the ever-increasing, highly dynamic expectations of the users.
So, how to optimize a mobile app? Fortunately, two tricks work wonders here – develop robust application programming interfaces (APIs) and optimize the functionality of mobile apps.
- Develop high-performing APIs: APIs are the language of the internet. They enable applications to communicate with each other without the need for any human interaction in between, especially for data interchange purposes. Arguably, they serve as the most essential backend services to any website or mobile app and are the primary drivers behind the Internet of Things (IoT) as well. When it comes to consuming APIs, it is crucial for a mobile app to ensure that they work as fast as possible – reduce the round-trip time, latencies, and payload size. Therefore, businesses must use content delivery networks (CDNs) such as Cloudflare, Fastly, etc. and other optimization software to accelerate the performance of the APIs, further improve reliability and user experience.
- Optimize mobile app functionality: Post improving and optimizing the functionality of APIs, the next step is to enhance the overall performance of the app for a better user experience. Here’s how businesses can achieve this:
- Manage app storage and reduce processing resources by creating and storing derivatives on the edge of the internet.
- Offload infrastructure costs by automating processes, such as automatic creation of image libraries, prompting personalization, and enabling location-specific recommendations, and so forth.
- Increase rendering speed by smartly and seamlessly delivering the best app content to end-users basis the characteristics of their devices, network connectivity, and other factors.
- Improve user experience by offering personalized recommendations basis interaction history, IP addresses, and other similar factors.
- Work on mobile app design: A neat and clean mobile app with strong and uncluttered UI is what makes it a success amid the users. From as simple as the placement of buttons on the screen to images and even the CTA, everything must be placed in a synchronous manner.
- Keep content to a minimum. Use power words instead of long sentences.
- Try and keep the interface design as simple as possible and consistent across multiple products. For the simpler the design the better shall be the engagement.
- Make use of progressive disclosure techniques to show more options to the users. This involves sequencing information and actions spread across multiple screens to ensure users don’t get intimidated when they’re exposed to reams of content all in one go.
- Maintain visual consistency across the app.
- Ensure all interactive elements work similarly across all parts of the app.
- Offer visual distraction. When an app gives its users something interesting to look at while they’re waiting, users are more likely to stay and pay less attention to the load time.
- Improve in-app form functionality: Just like in the case of websites, forms are crucial to mobile apps as well. They help minimize user input load and promise a comfortable experience. Here are a few practical ways to optimize mobile app forms
- Try and ask for only the most important and relevant information from the users.
- Provide input masks. Such a technique helps users format the text automatically as a form field is being filled out. This also enables users to focus on the required information and eliminates the chances of errors.
- Use smart features like auto-fill or autocomplete. This helps fasten the form filling process.
- Add real-time information validation APIs to reduce errors and double checks.
- Customize the keyboard according to query type. Display a numeric keyboard when asking for numbers, and vice versa. Include @ symbol when asking for an email address, and so on.
- Create compelling app content: Clear communication must always be a top priority. Draft content that’s not only easy to understand but clearly communicates a brand’s offerings. Try and avoid using any kind of technical jargon which may irritate the users away, making them uninstall the app.
- Use catchy headlines.
- Work on body content. Ensure it’s clear and concise.
- Avoid using jargons or writing long sentences
- Make use of power words and keywords to convey the desired message.
- Maintain content harmony across app pages.
- Pay attention to font size, font family, color contrasts.
- Optimize app speed: More than anything, the load time of a mobile application is extremely important, especially from a UX standpoint. The faster an app loads, the lesser is the bounce rate and vice versa. The following image explains the same in a detailed manner.
Maintaining an ideal load time and speed may be a problem for some businesses. In such cases, using the following optimization strategies can prove beneficial.
- Concentrate on loading enough content in the visible area to fill the screen and engage users
- Let users know when content is loading. Show a loading spinner which makes it clear that something is happening.
iii. Messaging platforms
Conversational discourse has been the foundation of human interaction since the beginning of time. No matter how well-equipped a website or mobile app may be to present a brand’s offerings to its target audience, a one-to-one interaction makes a lot of difference. This is where messaging platforms come into play. They not only enable businesses to establish contact with people but keep the interaction going. Messaging platforms also serve as a perfect way to bring back lost customers and reduce churn rate to a great extent. Therefore, focusing on optimizing these one-on-one conversation mediums is very important.
Domino’s on the other hand, uses push notifications to engage with its customers. The pizzeria chain through its food ordering app sends personalized push messages to compel its customers to place an order and take advantage of its services.
Here’s how to optimize and improve the performance of these mediums:
- Optimize and breathe some life into message content by adding certain power words, keywords, strong images, and emojis. Showcase a sense of urgency in your messages in the form of CTAs. This helps ensure messages are persuasive enough to make the receivers/viewers take the desired action.
- Segmentation and timing are critical to high conversions: Try to segment target audience basis their likes/dislikes and relevancy to ensure the right messages reach the right kind of target audience at the right time, further triggering the right areas.
- Ensure quick replies and reduce barriers to response.
- Test when to deliver messages to the target audience.
- Create different messaging strategies for target personas according to their time zones.
- Choose the right messaging channels. At present, there are nearly twenty messaging platforms extensively used by businesses across the globe. The most popular ones being email, SMS, web and app push notifications, hello bars, messengers (such as Whatsapp, Snapchat, Wechat, Facebook Messenger, Viber, etc) and chatbots. Using and optimizing the right messaging platforms according to target persona is very important. For instance:
- Use emails to majorly target professionals and businesses.
- Use SMS and push notifications to target end users.
- Use messenger channels and chatbots to develop a two-way communication.
- Use hello bars to inform web and app visitors about what’s new and also encourage more sign ups, subscriptions or registrations.
- Try and keep the conversation flowing by building a two-way communication channel. Automate conversations by using chatbots. Power communication channels by using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
- Make design a priority: If not all, most messaging channels do demand some sort of design work, such as emails, push notifications, etc. Make them look attractive, engaging, and compel users to take the desired action.
- Use the right kind of colors to create a harmonious effect.
- Ensure visual consistency. Match design with message content and images.
- Ensure all interactive elements work similarly.
C. How to plan experiments?
Experimentation is a systematic process to find out what would and wouldn’t work for a brand. If, as hypothesised, optimizing the copy of a CTA could get more sign ups on a lead generation form, or reducing the number of form fields could improve a customer’s checkout journey, then test the theory. But remember, to turn a line item into an experiment, seeking answers to the 4Ws + 1H becomes utmost essential:
- Why run the experiment?
- When and where to run the experiment?
- Who is the target audience for this experiment?
- What are the changes that the variation will show?
- How to measure the success of the experiment?
Keep in mind, maintaining a balance between optimizing existing items and building new, big ideas is very important. Start small. Build confidence. Analyze test results. And, only then make adjustments that help improve customer retention and boost conversions. Use VWO’s holistic experimentation suit for all your testing needs.
4. Test for the perfect experience across channels
Optimization may be the key to improving the performance of a business’s key assets (the website, mobile app, and various messaging channels), it’s not enough to add the ‘wow’ factors which may contribute to an excellent visitor experience. Running experiments and obtaining definitive answers to what works and what doesn’t, is where the difference lies. This is where A/B testing comes into play.
A/B test serves as a proofing mechanism here. It helps businesses seek answers to the whys and hows of visitor behavior by testing the performance of various web elements and understand where actual leaks are happening.
Let’s understand how the entire A/B testing process works.
A. Analyze Data to Find Problem Areas
As explained above, determining which areas of your business assets – the website, mobile app or messaging channels – can or need to be improved is the first step to planning/running an A/B test. Doing so can significantly help business reduce wastage of time, money, and efforts. For instance, if a brand has two main website landing pages, one of which contributes a 5% conversion and the other 30%, seek to improve the former over the latter. Look for elements, which, when edited or omitted, can increase the conversion rate from 5% to 30%.
B Decide which A/B test to run
Typically there are three types of testing processes – A/B test, split test and multivariate test.
While an A/B test helps to evaluate the performance of various web/app/messaging page elements to discover which ones work towards achieving business goals, a split test, on the other hand, helps to analyze two different versions of the same web/app/messaging page to check which one gets more traction. Meanwhile, a multivariate test enables testing all possible permutations and combinations of multiple platform elements to deploy a variation that aligns best with business goals.
C. Set up a test and be patient
After zeroing upon which elements to test and the kind of A/B test to run, it’s time to set up the process.
Use platforms like VWO to do the needful. Keep in mind that no matter which testing method is chosen, achieving statistical accuracy is utmost important. For if a test doesn’t achieve statistical significance, it’s results won’t be accurate. Furthermore, timing and duration of the test must be apt enough. Use testing calculators to determine test running duration.
D. Analyze test results and deploy changes
Once an A/B test completes, it’s time to analyze the results. Consider metrics like visitor confidence level, the percentage increase in conversion, the percentage decrease in bounce rate, and other direct and indirect factors to study the success or failure of the test.
If the test wins, deploy the necessary changes. Meanwhile, if the test loses or remains inconclusive, make necessary notes and use them to run future tests.
5. Use personalization as a strategy
People across the globe are accustomed to personalization and the ease of dealing with digital natives like Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Booking. They now expect the same kind of services from every brand present on the world wide web. Hence, giving them a piece of this cake should become a part of a brand’s experience optimization strategy.
But how can you use personalization to deliver value and drive more conversions? Let’s get into some nitty-gritty!
A. Have the right technology in place
Businesses must ensure that their current technology platforms are capable to handle data, segmentation, and automation, which is evidently the basic requirement for any effective personalization campaign to successfully run. Having the right technology in place also helps free up time and resources by automating tedious processes or segregating and analyzing huge data sets. Some personalization technologies a business must invest in include:
- Data collection
- Marketing automation
- Recommendation Engines
- Content personalization
B. Customer data matters
Here, it refers to gathering visitor data at every single touchpoint across a visitor’s journey. When a business knows exactly what a visitor or a specific set of audience searches for on their website or across other channels, it becomes easy to target them with relevant content, recommendations, and even incentivize them accordingly to generate leads and conversions.
Netflix is a great example to quote here. The online media service provider follows an empirical approach. It ensures that whatever is shown on its platform – be it the content, images, and even the videos – everything is backed by data collected from actual A/B tests it runs.
To collect this data, businesses must track metrics such as email open rate, click-through rate, shopping cart data (successful purchases and abandonments), and even purchase history. The more data a business collects, the more refined and effective personalization strategy they’d create and deploy. Having enough visitor data can also help companies draft constructive future personalization strategies.
C. Personalize across all platforms
Although most businesses operating in the online market focus mostly on creating and deploying personalization strategies for websites, they must widen their scope and personalize across all business communication platforms.
Add dynamic and optimized content or personalization tokens across all platforms. Use sophisticated techniques such as recommendations and incentive tools (discounts, buy-one-get-one-free, etc.) to deliver targeted messages to specific set of audiences. Maintain content synchrony on all platforms and even run A/B tests to validate actions.
D. Impact every stage of a visitor’s journey
Brands must also ensure that one’s target audience is adequately engaged and welcomed with personalization at every stage – while they’re browsing through a website or an app, when they’re on the cart page, while they’re completing the purchase process, and so forth.
For instance, brands can welcome a visitor by incentivizing them with a discount coupon. As they move further and explore the brand’s website or mobile application, recommend them products or services similar to their browsing history, location, etc. Once the visitor adds an item to their cart, don’t stop personalizing their experience. If they drop off and do not complete their purchase cycle, send personalized reminder emails and encourage them to complete their purchase.
E. Continuously refine and update personalizations processes
Just like any other process, the key to a high conversion rate is to constantly optimize and personalize one’s marketing strategies. A best practice here is to run A/B tests at regular intervals to validate one’s personalization strategies and whether or not they’re moving in the right direction.
6. Gather customer feedback – rinse & repeat
The central question – Will the above-mentioned strategies work as planned? Will a company achieve its business goals and attain the pinnacle of experience optimization? Is it even possible to contemplate the results?
Quick answer – Yes! By combining efforts and using user insight tools like surveys, NPS, CSat, etc., companies can project success and even validate whether or not their efforts will pay off in the future.
For instance, running surveys, after implementing necessary experience optimization changes on various business platforms, can effectively help a brand to gather tangible visitor feedback, learn about their habits, and even study their behavior towards the change. Surveys also give individuals the freedom to be as honest as possible and share and co-create ideas by providing crucial insights about their functional and emotional needs to the brand.
Net Promoter Score or NPS, on the other hand, is a customer satisfaction benchmark that enables a business to measure its performance in the market, meanwhile, analyze the likelihood of its users to turn into evangelists and brand advocates.
The quantitative tool asks users to rate the brand (basis its performance) on a scale of 0 to 10. Individuals who rate anything between 0 and 6 are known as detractors. Individuals who answer 7 or 8 are neutrals, and the ones who give a rating of 9 or 10 are known as promoters. Subtract the percentage of detractors from the promoters and an NPS score is generated. The higher the score, the better it is.
NPS = Promoter % – Detractor %
CSat or Customer satisfaction score is another customer loyalty and brand advocacy measurement indicator. The service enables a business to look for improvements in its customer satisfaction and experience optimization strategies by identifying trends in interactions which lead to low scores. CSat is usually represented in the form of percentage, with 100% being a complete satisfaction rate. It is often used alongside surveys to gain better user insights.
Creating an experience that’s optimized and personalized requires continuous efforts and the use of the right tools and techniques across all business assets. To prosper, companies must become agile, create experience-led development processes, and continuously redesign their strategies to streamline visitor journeys.
Linking customer experience optimization with business metrics
Achieving business goals by mastering the art of creating and executing exceptionally good visitor experiences may be a challenge. But it’s certainly one of the most effective ways to grow through stiff online market competition as well.
Below mentioned are some essential business metrics which businesses must link with their experience optimization strategies.
1. Reduce bounce rate and increase time spent
Owing to all the activities done so far, everything must contribute to two of the important business matrices – reduced bounce rate and increased time spent across all brand communication platforms.
Bounce rate is typically the percentage of people landing on a website or installing a mobile app and deciding to leave without even going through a second page. The higher the bounce rate, the higher is the percentage of customers leaving (and probably not coming back). And, the same contributes to the amount of time spent by an individual. Experience optimization here, and its integrated techniques help reverse the effect. Meaning reducing bounce rate and increasing visitor time spent on a channel.
Below given chart explains the average bounce rate by industry.
Here’s how to reduce bounce rate and increase time spent:
- Look for elements causing distractions.
- Find the reasons behind the distractions.
- Optimize the elements and run A/B tests to validate the findings
- Work towards providing an optimized and personalized experience.
- Use elements that have the prowess to engage visitors, such as images, videos, strong CTA, etc.
- Plan a consistent content strategy.
- Target both engaged and abandoning visitors.
2. Work on conversions
Highly successful companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, etc. have realized that boundaries between products, services, and environments are constantly blurring. They also understand that having an integrated view of what their target audience expects and matching it with their business goals is utmost important. And, to achieve that level, meaning maintaining a high conversion rate, can only be done if they constantly design end-to-end experiences which are truly valuable to both, their prospects and the customers.
Furthermore, conversions aren’t just sales leads – people who make an appointment, fill out a contact form, or request a demo – they include all the desired actions which bring a business closer to making a sale, i.e. converting a prospect into a customer. Techniques like personalization and optimization also play an important role in getting more conversions onboard. They typically enable businesses to showcase the most optimized versions of their brand, make recommendations according to a visitor’s preferences and even help them make the right decisions. Other elements like brand copies, page designs, images, CTAs, and social proofing also add to conversions.
The conversion rate is directly proportional to experience optimization. The better a visitor’s experience on a brand’s platform, the higher are the chances of them converting into a customer and vice versa.
Conversion Rate = Conversions/Visitors x 100
3. Higher engagement across all marketing channels
No matter if a business is spending $100 or $100,000 a month on their marketing channels, if they’re unable to encash on even the smallest of opportunities and maximize their ROIs to justify their spending, it’s time they replan and relaunch their strategies.
- Invest into marketing channels that are sure to get more traction.
- Craft compelling body and call-to-action content that gets more clicks.
- Build and optimize social media platforms and leverage them to one’s advantage. Add the element of personalization and work towards offering a delightful experience.
- Use effective consumer engaging marketing techniques like search engine optimization (SEO), search engine advertising (SEA), and offline campaigns.
- Use gamification as an engagement strategy.
- Use visitor experience assessment tools (user insights) and A/B tests to understand engagement channels and use them judiciously.
4. Higher repeat purchases/loyalty
Providing a good visitor experience is not just limited to reducing the risk of visitor-service mishaps. In fact, it should be a way for businesses to distinguish themselves in the competitive market – constantly optimize their customer retention strategies and increase repeat purchases.
Below mentioned are some ideal ways to boost purchases and convert customers into repeat buyers and loyal brand advocates.
- Use social media platforms to build a strong word of mouth and get more referrals.
- Run referral programs to grow visitor base
- Incentivize individuals. Offer them exclusive discounts or give loyalty points to customers, and more.
- Use messaging platforms like emails, push notifications, SMSs, in-app chatbot to retarget and win customers back.
- Run personalized campaigns to boost both new and repeat purchases.
The bottom line, understanding visitor needs is paramount in delivering a great visitor experience. But real transformations only happen when businesses adopt a comprehensive approach to create exceptional visitor journeys and align their goals with that of their target audience. Each metric mentioned above works towards offering a good experience. However, the full impact of these metrics is only when a business commits itself to the greater benefit of society.
Challenges of customer experience optimization
Investing in improving visitor experience surely pays dividends. But, it comes with its own set of limitations as well.
Challenge #1: Gathering the Right visitor data
Central to any successful experience optimization program is to have the right visitor data in one’s pocket. And, most businesses operating across the world fail at this very step, let alone reaching the experience optimization stage. Here are some data gathering challenges businesses face and must address:.
- Wrong sampling their audience base.
- Using and/or relying on untrusted data sources, especially third party sources.
- Using complicated and unstructured forms that lead to non-response or respondents filling random answers just to complete the survey.
- Using a time-consuming data gathering method, which results in negative statistical significance.
- Not using the right data collection and user insight tools or filters for collecting data.
Businesses must understand that without having the right data and maintaining a unified visitor view, analyzing the needs and preferences of their target audience or delivering personalized experiences would be difficult. Therefore, they must work towards realizing and rectifying the challenges as mentioned above.
Challenge #2: Coming up with the right hypothesis
Any experience optimization plan must begin by first creating an inventory of visitor needs, then comparing their expectations with the company’s offerings, finally identifying the loopholes to further run necessary A/B tests to improve visitor journeys.
Amid the identification of loopholes and running A/B tests comes a very important stage – formulating the right hypothesis.
To create a hypothesis, companies must follow the below-mentioned process:
- Collect as much data as possible. Use qualitative and quantitative user insight tools like VWO’s AI-powered free heatmap generator, clickmaps, scrollmaps, Google analytics, customer surveys, usability tests, NSP, CSat, etc. to do the needful.
- Evaluate observations and pen down all possible problematic areas.
- Create a detailed list of possible explanations to explore.
- Include all independent and dependent variables
- relevant variables
- specific groups or target audiences to study
- predicted outcome of the experiment or analysis
- Ensure the drafted hypothesis is “testable”
Challenge #3: Measuring the impact accuracy
For businesses to truly measure the impact of their experience optimization program, it’s imperative for them to hook their experimentation platform with a good analytics dashboard. There are a plethora of robust analytics suites available for companies operating across all domains such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Heap Analytics, etc. to use for such experimentation. A central component to accurately estimate the impact of one’s experimentations is to fire a revenue event when a visitor gets exposed to an experiment and pushes these events to an analytics platform.
VWO did a webinar with Ruben Ugarte where they demonstrated a real-time configuration of A/B testing data inside Mixpanel and also showcased how to build a revenue dashboard that helps measure the revenue impact the experimentation would bring.
Challenge #4: Doing once and stopping
Every agile experience optimization strategy will struggle to surface without a continuous cultural shift. Businesses must realize and demonstrate through their actions that experimentation, creativity, and continuous improvements must make for a necessary part of any customer experience transformation. For if a business stops optimizing its brand platforms to match the ever-evolving, ever-changing needs and demands of its target audience, it will face grave consequences.
By thoroughly analyzing visitor interactions throughout a business’s ecosystem, i.e. adopting a holistic visitor journey approach, businesses must not only strive towards creating a seamless digital experience for their target audience but also achieve their goals and walk towards growth.
Frequently asked questions on customer experience optimization
Customer Experience Optimization is the process of improving a customer’s journey throughout their lifecycle and accentuating your brand’s image in the eyes of the customer by creating stellar experiences.
A Customer Experience strategy involves gathering the right visitor insights, coming up with a data-backed hypothesis, continuous optimization, and measuring the impact of their program.
In order to optimize your customer experience, it is important to first understand your customer’s journey. Then you should improve that journey by successfully executing user-centric business strategies. Know more in this guide on how to optimize your customer experience.
A customer experience specialist has the key responsibility of tracking the journey of customers, maintaining effective communication with customers across all channels & platforms, and collaborating with all internal departments, in order to improve the experience of the customers.