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Inside the Latest Digital Experience Trends and Why Personalizing the Digital Experience Matters

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Medallia Solution Principal Michael Mallett shares his thoughts on the latest digital experience trends and why personalizing the digital experience has become mission critical in this digital-first era.

With the rapid shift to digital, customers expect exceptional digital experiences that are fast, seamless, and meaningful. So which industries have actually lived up to those expectations? Medallia’s recent benchmarking study and report, Digital Experience & Conversion: Industry Benchmarks for 2022, reveals just that.

From overall quality of digital experience to user frustration and engagement, and digital experience’s relationship with conversion, this report establishes benchmarks and trends across 11 industries. Medallia’s Solution Principal for Digital Experience, Michael Mallett, helps further unpack the year’s latest digital experience trends, breaking down all things digital, including his insights on the report’s findings, along with digital strategy and advice.

Before we dig into specific insights around the report’s findings, what do you believe to be the ultimate driver of impactful digital experiences right now?

I believe the secret to digital experiences that drive the greatest results now depends on personalization. Companies that create more relevant, timely, and engaging experiences — whether through content, functionality, transactions, support, etc. — are much more likely to succeed in accomplishing their objectives. Meanwhile, prospective and current customers (along with employees or citizens, for that matter) are past the point of simply wishing for better experiences online. They expect you to know them — where they came from, what they’re trying to do, why they’re doing it, how this does or doesn’t relate to their last visit or session, and what they might do or need next. And since there’s already an expectation that the online channel is functional, easy, and enables expected transactions because of COVID-19 (if that’s not the case, then that’s a do-not-pass-go to personalization situations), what’s left is making customers feel heard and special online.

Luckily for businesses, it’s becoming easier to personalize the digital experience because of all the customer data collected through experience analytics and feedback solutions, providing both the indirect and direct answers to the question, “What do my customers want and why?”

The more each customer engages with a brand, the better that brand should know them and any similar customer segments. And honestly, it’s welcomed by customers at this point when there’s something in it for them. Messages, recommendations, marketing offers, solutions, and chat support could all be more personal, which leads to much higher likelihood of experience satisfaction. Differentiating through personalization is becoming foundational for success in digital.

Turning to this year’s benchmarking report, what digital experience results surprised you the most and why?

Average digital experience score from 0 to 10. Travel, hospitality, and restaurants received a 7.0. Manufacturing, 6.8. Consumer products, 6.8. Retail, 6.8. Financial services and insurance, 6.5. Telecommunications, 6.4. Media and publishing, 6.3. Technology, 6.2. Automotive, 6.1. Non-profits, 6.1. Energy and utilities, 5.9. The industry average was 6.5 out of 10.

There are plenty of insights and trends from this year’s benchmarking report worth discussing, but I think there were three big surprises out of three different industries that stood out to me the most:

  • First off, I’m surprised by the very strong relationship between digital experience and conversion within Automotive. Since 97% of goals correlate with our Digital Experience Score (DXS®), as calculated by Medallia’s experience analytics solution, Decibel, I think it’s as clear as ever that the quality of digital experience has a major impact on Automotive customers’ online shopping behaviors. Historically, it’s always been about the dealership experience, even as digital has matured. But given how the pandemic changed everything, this suggests it’s no longer a luxury to have a functional and an enriching website — it’s a necessity.
  • Secondly, I’m a bit shocked to see that Consumer Products’ DXS® registered so high at 6.8/10. Typically, websites in that sector carry a ton of content with plenty of images and product information, which can easily lead to technical, backend issues or users struggling to find the right content. And on that note, Consumer Products simultaneously registered relatively low engagement benchmarks, so I think there’s an opportunity here for the sector to actually improve upon its DXS® through the positioning and calls-to-action through its extensive digital content.
  • And lastly, I find it surprising to see frustration so low for Financial Services & Insurance. With so many contact centers receiving higher volumes of customer tickets amid the digital shift, you’d think flawed digital experiences may have played a large part in that. But with frustration so low, it suggests there have been steady digital improvements made in light of increased digital demand, and perhaps the contact center volumes have largely resulted from other factors within the industry. And with plenty of fintech disruptors emerging, it appears innovating with practical, easy-to-use digital offerings may become a major differentiator for brands in the sector. It also suggests Financial Services & Insurance are prime sectors where personalization can become a major focus for digital programs to further differentiate with all of their knowledge about their existing customers.

On the other hand, were there any findings from this year’s benchmarking report that you found unsurprising, and why?

When looking at this year’s findings, I’d say Retail’s benchmarks made the most sense out of the bunch. You wouldn’t necessarily expect Retail to own the most seamless, friction-free digital experiences based on the sheer volume of online customers, seemingly endless amounts of digital content that needs to be managed and optimized, and major disruption to their business models this past year. However, you certainly expect them to rank toward the top of the group, especially when it comes to engagement and conversion. The industry has been on the cutting edge of user experience, ecommerce, and marketing for a while now, often setting the standard for creative and unique digital experiences.

And looking at the benchmarks for Retail, these expectations are mostly validated. There’s a close relationship between digital experience and business outcomes with 86% of conversion goals correlating with DXS®. When you turn to frustration, it sits higher than most brands would like, however on another positive note, engagement ranks on the higher end too. With these results in mind, I’d expect to see Retail continue its pursuit of continuous innovation and fine-tuning of digital experiences. It’s a matter of balancing their constant changes in content and functionality with the opportunity to launch new creative transactional, loyalty, and other engagements.

With this year’s benchmarking results in mind, how do you view the relationship between digital experience and business goals?

I’d look at this relationship two different ways: business objectives and program objectives. For business objectives, we’re considering metrics like conversion, sales, and customer lifetime value (CLV). For program objectives, the focus is on metrics like customer satisfaction, effort, loyalty, and experience analytics scores. 

The best way to achieve digital business objectives is through digital experience management. Alternative approaches — like smart guessing, iterative approaches using pure analytics, or product-centric approaches — only work to an extent. Eventually luck runs out or customers wise up. It’s been proven over time that there’s a direct relationship between experience and business goals, and this year’s benchmarking report backs it up as well. By continuously prioritizing experience, customers will recognize it, appreciate it, and respond accordingly with their wallets, loyalty, and referrals.

Fundamentally, digital experience management starts with gathering both unsolicited and solicited feedback to impact these overarching business objectives. Relying on a digital experience score like DXS® tells you how the customer is likely to feel about an experience  and why, while a customer response tells you exactly how they actually feel about an experience. Combined, you get two sides of the same coin about that one experience. 

Then it’s a matter of using that intelligence to prevent future negative experiences — for this person and others, optimize journeys, remove issues, create a more desirable experience, invite customers to these experiences, and then track how customers feel about it. They’re more than likely going to feel more satisfied than if you didn’t take any action, even for the customers who already had the issue you’re now resolving. If you continue to do all this well, you can personalize those experiences even more while preventing most negative experiences from happening and make them even more meaningful. Then all of your program metrics start to connect and relate back to business metrics like revenue and cost savings, which allows you to directly improve the bottom line goals of the business.

So if you were leading a digital strategy, based on current trends and benchmarks, what would you prioritize when setting out to improve digital experiences?

The rules of digital experience start with identifying breakdowns and positive opportunities in the online customer journey from the customer’s perspective. This means pinpointing where these take place already or identifying opportunity areas due to experiences that are new, changing, or closely tied to business goals. From there, it’s all about answering why those breakdowns or opportunities exist and how to deliver against them, which hinges on measuring the right data and asking the right questions. Then it’s a matter of determining who should have access to those insights during the experience to address those potential issues or ideas during the digital experience management process.

And to add to that, I believe breaking down silos between technologies, people, and knowledge is more critical than ever. Solutions that uncover these insights need to speak to each other within the digital channel and behind the scenes. You’ll want behavioral analytics, direct feedback, along with support and services delivery, adoption services and enablement, personalization, relationship management, fulfillment, and data platforms feeding into each other. And while this may seem all very complex to understand, the language of customer experience can be the great unifier. Training on what digital data is, means, and how it can be used — no matter what business you’re in — should be given while existing experts create a program that dynamically distills the key learnings and opportunities based on online experiences. Then you’re able to not only proactively and reactively drive change and deliver the experiences your customers expect quickly, but at scale too.

Is there an example of a company you believe models the right approach to digital experience that you just alluded to?

For me it’s Vodafone. They’ve been able to understand both sides of the same story, in the same place, and activate multiple parts of their organization in the process. In one case, they set out with the goal of reducing negative inbound traffic to their contact center by better supporting sales and servicing activities directly online in a way that’s best for their customers first. 

By using a combination of heatmaps as well as various types of feedback, Vodafone discovered that only 57% of users actually scrolled far enough to find the call-to-action on a page they’d designed to support customers online. And this is actually a very common problem in digital channels. So after moving the call-to-action higher on the page, far more customers completed the task. 

The support team was then better able to facilitate the handoff from digital to the contact center because of the improved experience understanding and now positive assisted channel switching from website to chat or phone. This led to smoother customer support experience online, which directly influenced increasing sales opportunities by hundreds of percentage points. 

Finally, customers began to realize these along with many other changes online. Coupled with more journey-oriented direct feedback placement — to ask if the improvements were helping and what more could be done — Vodafone also has seen a double-digit increase in response rates on both desktop and mobile sites. Higher direct engagement paired with their analytics solutions can enable even more preventative and proactive experience management, for more customers.

As digital experience continues to mature and evolve, what do you expect to become a key differentiating factor that could boost an industry’s benchmarks and performance heading into next year?

Content-related experience issues and opportunities — so any instance of content not being valuable, targeted, found, available, etc. — will become a bigger problem rather than technical or functional issues. Right now, it’s less common that a digital channel doesn’t have the right functionality or infrastructure to help the customer complete a task because this has been the extremely heightened focus of the past few years, and it’s more likely that the content strategy could be optimized. The reason customers are going to come, stay, and re-engage is not just because the digital experience works or is the only option to transact in the long run (there will always be a place for interpersonal, live experiences in some capacity), but because of how smart, meaningful, and engaging content will be. If companies don’t have the best content and engagement experiences for customers online, then will there even be customer experiences to manage? 

 

Download Digital Experience & Conversion: Industry Benchmarks for 2022 to discover the latest digital experience trends and understand why personalizing the digital experience is so important today.