Digital Experience 101: Everything You Need to Know About Personalizing the Customer Journey
Customers and the brands they choose to do business with interact across many touchpoints, and more often than not their conversations and transactions don’t occur face-to-face. It’s all thanks to digital transformation, which began several decades ago and accelerated rapidly in recent years due to the global pandemic. Now, the top brands in every industry are offering a digital experience (DX) consistent and personalized for customers.
What does this seamless approach look like today? In the past, organizations typically relied on websites as a marketing tool for lead generation. But today they’re a centralized touchpoint in the customer journey.
Leading brands build and optimize their websites — in addition to other digital channels such as mobile applications and social media — to help customers complete critical tasks often making or breaking the relationship.
Retailers investing significantly in digital experience, for example, improve everything from online ordering and in-store pickup to navigation and account management. But they’re also creating experiences personalized for each customer from the first interaction.
Consistent, personalized experiences are why digital experience is important when it comes to customer experience (CX). Digital experience is the difference between a customer feeling frustrated by a disjointed, clunky process or delighted by a seamless, intuitive one. CX is, after all, about providing customers with what they want, need, and expect — and an experience tailor-made to each customer does the trick.
Global ecommerce is rising, and digital experience is here to stay as brands aim to deliver engaging, intuitive, and seamless experiences that increase retention and strengthen customer loyalty against the competition.
What is Digital Experience? The Basics of DX Explained
Digital experience focuses on how customers perceive interactions with a brand using digital channels.
As a glossary term, here’s the definition of digital experience:
Digital experience, also known as DX for short, is the sum total of a customer’s digital-based interactions with a brand, product, or service.
Considering the countless touchpoints between a brand and its customers, digital experience may start with one platform and transition to others. For instance, a customer can start the journey on a website, move to a mobile app, and finish with an email. In this example, digital experience encompasses each of these interactions.
CX and digital experience aren’t identical, though. Digital experience includes channels such as websites, mobile apps, social media, smart devices, and more. Customer experience, however, expands far beyond these channels while also including them. In short, think of digital experience as an integral part of customer experience.
Why Digital Experience is Important to Every Business
With digital experience, an organization tracks interactions across multiple channels to better understand customer behaviors and preferences.
Nearly every aspect of business takes place online, so there’s an undeniable importance to delivering digital experiences that efficiently attract and retain customers.
To say that brands make (and lose) money due to digital experience is far from an exaggeration. Customers who face friction in their experiences are likely to choose a competitor’s products or services, but a happy customer — or a ‘Promoter’ if measuring Net Promoter Score (NPS®) — will stay with a brand for months and years to come.
Here are the reasons why digital experience is a top priority for every industry’s leading brands.
- Meet customer expectations: Consumers are tech-savvy to varying degrees, but they all expect experiences to be consistent, personalized, and efficient. A well-designed digital experience meets a customer’s expectations, boosting customer satisfaction (CSAT) and loyalty no matter where or when the interaction occurs.
- Build a brand identity and competitive advantage: Awareness, trust, and a positive reputation in an industry are indispensable. By providing seamless experiences across digital channels, an organization cements its place as a customer-first brand in a sea of competition. Every brand can offer a website and mobile app, but they can’t all optimize them to serve customers in the best ways possible.
- Engage consumers where they are: With digital channels, a brand’s customers are rarely in one region of a country or the world. Digital experience serves each customer where they are, and it shows all customers how accessible the brand is. Ultimately, this allows brands to forgo geographical boundaries and realize revenue-generating opportunities among a broader audience.
- Earn data-driven insights: A customer experience management (CEM) software platform provides valuable data on behaviors and preferences. This allows a business to make data-driven decisions and tailor products, services, and experiences to align with customers’ wants, needs, and expectations continuously.
- Adapt and innovate: Organizations with a deep understanding of digital experience are equipped to adapt to changing market conditions and leverage emerging technologies to innovate their way to success.
- Create cost-effective opportunities: Digital channels are typically more cost-effective than traditional marketing methods, enabling a business to optimize resources and achieve a better return on investment (ROI).
- Increase revenue: Improved digital experiences drive higher conversion rates, leading to an increase in sales revenue for a business.
Take a credit card provider in the financial services industry as an example. Credit card providers want customers to be able to make payments online. It’s a critical digital experience for their customers, right? If even one step is counterintuitive or error-ridden, customers panic that they can’t pay their bill and flood a contact center.
Not only is this a poor experience for customers leading them to consider other credit card providers, but it also causes operational costs to soar. Brands struggling to assess and optimize digital experience typically encounter other issues including personalizing customer experience and call center staffing.
But a credit card provider prioritizing digital experience alongside CX knows where customers are dealing with friction, and they act quickly to adjust the payments process before it ever spirals into a money-draining crisis that affects the entire business.
When the benefits of digital experience as a priority are realized and taken advantage of, an organization can dig deeper into the online customer journeys guiding a digital experience strategy.
How a Seamless, Personalized Digital Experience Impacts CX
Everyone agrees that customer loyalty leads to long-term business success. Customers who are happy with and feel connected to a brand transact more frequently, spend more money, and promote the brand. Unhappy or angry customers, on the other hand, detract from brand equity and hurt profitability.
Customer experience is about, well, the experiences a brand’s customer face day-to-day, around the clock, and at any point in the customer journey. In most industries, interactions are now occurring through digital channels. And it’s the reason why digital experience is tightly connected to and impacts CX.
As customers flock to a brand’s digital channels, its online presence stands between success — in the form of loyalty and revenue — and failure.
Based solely on online presence, customers can (and often will) choose whether or to do business with a brand. First impressions are everything in life, and the same is true for business. So a brand needs to establish an online presence that’s attractive, simple, and intuitive to engage with prospective customers and build relationships over time.
By delivering instant, relevant experiences during every interaction, there’s also the chance to upsell and cross-sell new products, services, or add-ons. But this would be unknown without digital experience and customer experience working in tandem. Brands can’t guess what a customer likes or dislikes — they need to analyze the signals from direct and indirect feedback to understand behaviors as well as preferences.
The digital channels a brand uses to interact with customers unlock the significant opportunity to enhance CX and customers’ overall perceptions.
What You Need to Improve Digital Experience
Creating a better digital experience doesn’t happen overnight, but that’s no reason to avoid starting right now. And there’s good news: In just a few simple steps, an organization is capable of earning some easy wins benefitting both the business and its customers.
Leaders in digital experience use an array of mechanisms within a CEM software platform to manage digital properties and ensure they’re meeting — and exceeding, of course — customer expectations.
Here’s what you need in order to improve CX across digital channels like websites and mobile apps and redesign digital experience for better customer outcomes.
Customer journey mapping
Common thinking around behaviors on digital channels is that visitors follow familiar, known paths — they visit a homepage, click or tap a specific item, add the item to their cart, and check out.
But when you look at the actual journeys your visitors take, the reality is much more complicated. Visitors rarely behave as expected, taking shortcuts and moving through pages and screens out of sequence.
Customer journey mapping is important for this exact reason. It allows a brand to understand how customers move through digital channels to better optimize and personalize experiences for each customer.
Nothing replaces the voice of the customer (VoC), and listening to and acting on digital feedback leads to enhanced customer engagement. Digital feedback brings an understanding to what customers love about your brand and what’s causing friction during their interactions on digital channels.
When determining the questions to use for digital feedback, think about what you want to uncover. Brands in the retail industry, for example, use an abandonment customer survey that’s triggered when a customer leaves a website or mobile app without completing a transition. It helps understand the reason behind the customer abandoning their journey early.
Information captured and analyzed from digital feedback tells you the why behind CX metrics you should be measuring.
Customers use review sites and social media to share their opinions of a brand and its products or services with the entire world. If you’re delighting customers, it’s a wonderful tool to spread the word about your brand and attract new customers. And if you’re frustrating customers, get ready for a tidal wave of negative reviews that hurt your brand’s reputation.
Online review management — the act of monitoring, responding to, and acting on online reviews — goes hand in hand with digital experience.
What you may discover is that customers are more inclined to share their feedback publicly online rather than through your brand’s surveys. With this in mind, ensure that your CEM software platform also captures signals from review sites and social media. Combined with other sources of feedback, brands can use online reviews to analyze emerging trends and prioritize urgent action items that will help improve digital experience.
One of the most urgent questions brands have about customers is how they behave online. Analytics tools reveal what customers are doing online — such as where they abandon a journey, what elements they click on, and where they convert — but give little visibility into why customers do those things.
Behavioral intelligence comes into play for this reason. It gives brands insight into a ‘digital body language’ by monitoring digital behaviors such as frustrated clicking or tapping, engaged scrolling, and confused mouse movements. Top brands actually use behavioral metrics to trigger real-time interactions preventing prevent an issue or problem from spiraling into a poor experience.
Social Listening: What Do Online Reviews Say About a Brand?
Professionals normally think of websites and mobile apps as the only channels belonging to digital experience, but no organization can avoid social media today. Billions of consumers around the world gather online to engage with not only each other but also the brands they do business with.
Social listening is used by brands to monitor public comments on social media platforms. It taps into the real-time conversations taking place on social media to analyze what people are saying about brands, products or services, and their experiences.
Is a mobile app crashing repeatedly? Every brand would want to know this immediately. It prevents customers from signing up for or logging into an account, making a purchase, or completing another task crucial to digital experience. As a result, the door is open for competitors to steal customers, increase market share, and earn better reviews online.
While a customer may reach out directly to a brand for customer service, often they’re posting to social media so that everyone knows what they’ve experienced. If it’s a positive experience they’re sharing, great. But if not, a brand without any form of social listening doesn’t know the news of a negative experience is spreading like wildfire.
Use these tips to build a social listening strategy:
- Set clear goals and objectives: Determine what you want to achieve with social listening. Some examples include identifying trends, having a pulse on brand reputation, knowing the keywords and phrases associated with a brand, and conducting a competitor analysis.
- Select relevant social media platforms: Not all social media platforms or online communities are relevant to a brand, industry, or target audience. Research where customers are most active, and focus social listening efforts on those platforms. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and more are all potential options.
- Choose the right software: Two of the top CEM features to look for in a software platform are feedback management and data analysis, and a CEM software platform should do this for customer feedback available on social media as well.
- Define keywords and phrases: Make a list of relevant keywords and phrases related to your brand, products, services, and industries. It may include specific names or related terminology. Once the list of keywords and phrases is made, be sure to update this as the business evolves and new trends emerge.
- Monitor and analyze data: On a regular basis, review the data collected to observe trends, shifts in sentiment, common pain points, and recurring themes. Keep an eye on the volume of mentions for keywords and phrases to gauge the effectiveness of CX efforts.
- Respond and engage: Brands that utilize social listening don’t only listen — they act, too. Social listening also includes actively engaging with an audience. Respond to customer inquiries, address complaints, and thank customers for their communication. It’s authentic and helpful during interactions, enhancing brand reputation and CSAT.
- Integrate insights into strategy: Use the insights gained from social listening to inform strategy across digital channels, marketing, product development, customer service, and more. Data-driven decisions improve customer experience by addressing pain points and reducing friction throughout the customer journey.
- Measure and adjust: Put the success of social listening up against goals and objectives to track the progress of key performance indicators (KPIs) such as engagement rates, sentiment scores, and share of voice. Then be prepared to adjust to optimize performance and improve results.
Remember that building a social listening strategy takes time and consistent effort. Review and update the approach often to stay in tune with customers.
Don’t think it’s very useful to keep up with mentions and discussions on social media? Well, think again. 47% of consumers say they’ve avoided a brand due to its online reputation or negative social reviews. Losing customers means losing revenue. So plenty is at stake if a brand provides less-than-stellar experiences on digital channels and customers take to social media with their virtual megaphones.
Digital Transformation: Use a Digital Maturity Model to Launch, Refine, and Grow Experiences
Leading brands use a digital maturity model (DMM) to evaluate digital maturity, an organization’s ability to use technology successfully to optimize experiences across digital channels.
A digital maturity model is a step-by-step guide for an organization to know where digital maturity currently stands and the opportunities to make digital experience better. It allows experiences to be launched, refined, and grown so that customers’ interactions meet expectations.
When examining digital maturity, there are four phases to know: Beginning, Integrating, Innovating, and Differentiating.
During the Beginning Phase, organizations focus on the most critical paths customers are taking to interact with the brand and how they relate to business outcomes. It also considers whether or not launching an entirely new program is necessary or only a new piece to an existing one. When in the Integrating Phase of digital maturity, organizations look to create positive engagement opportunities and prevent critical issues from recurring.
Once in the Innovating Phase, an organization turns its attention to relevant, personalized content to make every customer feel unique. It’s all about using customer history and real-time actions to facilitate transactions.
And finally, the Differentiating Phase is when an organization is successfully automating one-to-one interactions with customers so that the emotional connections on which trust thrives can be established.
Overall, the use of a digital maturity model to pinpoint the phase of digital maturity an organization is in helps adapt digital experience for continuous shifts in needs and expectations over time and boost revenue.
Digital Experience’s Relationship with Customer Experience, Employee Experience, and Contact Center Experience
Given the digital-first mindset of consumers today, it’s no surprise that digital experience touches other types of experience. Its relationship with CX is clear as digital channels are more prevalent than ever. Employees, too, do much of their interaction with an organization through digital channels as hybrid and remote work remain popular.
Shopping around for products and services almost always starts off with a visit to the brand’s website. In this first interaction, the brand has the opportunity to do everything right — deliver relevant, personalized information that’s easy to understand and guide the customer through the buying process.
As the first interaction between a brand and customers is often through digital channels, digital experience needs to be treated as an integral part of a CX strategy.
Hybrid and remote work aren’t going away — a flexible approach to work is here to stay. With that, digital experience isn’t a customer-only concern any longer. Employees now interact with their employers almost exclusively through digital channels, from onboarding to training to communication.
Engaging with employees online allows an organization to understand all aspects of employee experience (EX), then take action based on employee feedback. This open dialogue over digital channels is critical to evaluating employee sentiment and controlling turnover.
Contact Center Experience
Customers turn to the contact center and a brand’s customer service team in order to receive help, and these interactions occur through digital channels. It can be through a live chat, an email, a phone call, or another type of communication. Regardless of the channel, a customer just wants to achieve a satisfactory resolution as quickly as possible.
But take a step back and realize how the contact center is impacted if digital experience itself isn’t optimized. Websites and mobile apps that create friction and frustration drive customers straight to the contact center.
What if there’s a broken button on your website preventing users from logging in? It’ll result in a huge spike in call volume to the contact center. When the average cost of a contact center call is about $5, the poor digital experience caused by the broken button quickly costs a significant amount of money.
Yet all the chaos and costs caused by a flood of angry customers can be avoided by fine-tuning digital experience to be free of errors and issues — and optimized with self-service resources.