This is a guest story by Stewart Dunlop from Fieldboom.
As any entrepreneur will tell you, one key to running a successful business is not just attracting a large number of customers to your brand – but keeping them on board for the long haul. While providing high-quality products or services to your customers is, of course, essential to maintaining them, the modern consumer expects even more before they consciously decide to become loyal brand followers. To truly keep your customers engaged, you should provide them with an overwhelmingly positive experience across the board – not just from your main offering.
Why is user experience important? As you may have ascertained by now, the user experience you provide is a huge part of this. In this article, we’re going to dive into the modern consumer’s main expectations regarding UX, specifically focusing on your website’s design, functionality, and content.
Before we start, let’s clarify the difference between customer experience vs user experience. UX is a part of CX, and CX covers aspects of a company’s customer-facing services that UX does not.
While CX focuses on all the things a company provides its customers, UX focuses on aspects of the company’s initiatives that are specifically developed with customer engagement in mind. As stated in Interacting with Computers from Oxford University: “The goal of user experience design in industry is to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.”
Again, these factors – utility, ease of use, and pleasure – are what we’ll be focusing on throughout this article. Let’s get started.
How Site Design and Functionality Can Increase Customer Engagement
Okay...this probably isn’t anything new to most business owners or managers. A study by Econsultancy found that 95 percent of professionals in customer-facing positions agree that providing a positive user experience “just makes sense.” I mean, why wouldn’t you want to provide a positive experience to your customers through your company website? While it’s most likely true that no entrepreneur is going to design their website in a way that purposefully turns off their customers, there are certainly a number of ways in which a company’s website can unintentionally disturb the user’s experience and cause them to become disengaged.
It’s also worth noting that, even if a user does become re-engaged with a site after being disrupted, a lot was lost (both for the user and the company) in the meantime. However, as we’ll discuss momentarily, it’s much more likely that the user will simply abandon their experience completely upon facing any kind of interruption. This is what makes user acceptance testing such an important part of the process.
At any rate, there are a number of reasons a user may end up abandoning a website before they’ve accomplished what they had hoped to. Let’s take a look at the most common ones and find out what makes a good user experience.
Site Aesthetics and Design
When it comes to engaging your site’s visitors, both aesthetics and functionality are incredibly important. Of course, the debate between which is more important will likely persist until the end of time. For our purposes, let’s make clear that they are both important, albeit in different ways. Let’s first shine a spotlight on aesthetics.
According to a study conducted by the University of Surrey, a consumer’s judgment of a website’s credibility is 75 percent based on the site’s aesthetic design. Additionally, such judgments are made within the first four seconds of clicking over to the site in question. In other words, visitors to your website will almost immediately form an opinion about your brand as a whole based solely on whether your site is easy on the eyes.
Another point worth noting, as discovered by Adobe 66 percent of consumers would rather read and engage with content that is “beautifully designed,” as opposed to a plaintext version of that same content. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that beautifully-designed content of poor quality trumps plain content of high quality; it simply means that, as long as the value of the content remains the same, the more attractive version is more engaging.
Of course, no matter how beautiful a site’s design is, it’s not going to engage visitors if it doesn’t work properly. According to data collected by Vendasta, 85 percent of consumers will abandon a site due to poor design – be it poor navigation, a lack of hierarchical structure, or overall lack of accessibility.
Additionally, 94 percent of visitors will stop trusting a company if its site’s design is clearly out of date. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should implement new, cutting-edge website technology without having a clear purpose for redesign, and without knowing how your visitors will respond. For example, a paltry 1 percent of website visitors engage with content sliders or carousels. Again, while you certainly want to ensure your website has a modern feel, don’t simply add features and make changes just for the sake of updating it.
Now that we’ve discussed how your site’s overall design and aesthetic feel can affect your visitors’ engagement levels, there are a couple other related topics we need to go over.
Mobile Responsiveness and Optimization
Let’s begin this section by pointing out two very important pieces of data:
- By 2020, there will be more than 6 billion smartphone users in the world
- As of 2017 (and even as early as 2016), more people use mobile devices to browse the web than use desktop computers
Mobile vs desktop Internet usage worldwide Source - StatCounter
Essentially, this means that creating a website with mobile users in mind is no longer just a suggestion – it’s a necessity. In fact, since mobile users now outnumber desktop users, it’s actually more beneficial to design your website with a mobile-first philosophy in mind rather than creating a mobile version of your desktop site as an afterthought.
It’s also worth noting that, in addition to being better able to meet the needs and expectations of the modern consumer, developing your website with mobile devices in mind will also help your search engine rankings, as well.
Now, all this being said, your goal shouldn’t be to simply recreate your website user experience on multiple devices. Rather, you want to improve overall user experience with your website as users engage with it on multiple devices. (According to research by Impact, 83 percent of mobile users say a seamless cross-device experience is an important factor in determining the quality of their overall experience).
So, it’s not enough to just offer a mobile version of your website to your customers. Instead, you want to figure out how you can leverage the functions of each of your customer’s devices to allow them to get the most out of their experiences with your brand.
A few examples, drawing on the modern Starbucks experience:
- Customers create a profile on Starbucks’ desktop site, allowing them to become Gold Star members.
- Customers use the Starbucks mobile app to link their credit card, load money onto their Starbucks account, and pay for their order without taking out their wallet.
- Customers can connect their Starbucks and Spotify accounts, allowing them to save the playlist being blasted over their local coffee shop’s sound system.
- At certain times of the year, Starbucks invites customers to play a Flash-style game on any of their devices – giving them the chance to win prizes (such as free coffee for life!)
Needless to say, the Starbucks experience is a whole lot more exciting than if the company were to simply offer the same coffee-related blog posts on multiple devices.
(Note: Keep all this in mind for later, when we discuss how the actual content of your website affects user engagement.)
One last thing to mention with regard to the functionality of your site is the speed at which your site loads.
According to CDNify:
- 52 percent of consumers say that a website’s fast loading speed contributes heavily to their propensity to become (and remain) loyal.
- 64 percent of smartphone users expect web pages to load in four seconds or less.
- A one-second delay in loading time leads to an average 16 percent decrease in customer satisfaction.
Simply put: If your site doesn’t load fairly quickly, you’re almost certainly not getting the engagement numbers you could be getting. The team at AltexSoft has recently published a guide for optimizing your site’s speed. Check it out here.
How Your Site’s Content Affects Engagement
Your website’s content typically falls under one of two categories:
Let’s take a look at how the quality of each can affect your user’s overall experience with your brand.
While customer centricity and the “age of the customer” are all the rage nowadays, that doesn’t mean you should neglect to include information related to your company on your website.
To be clear, the majority of your visitors come to your site specifically to find the information there.
According to KoMarketing, 86 percent of a site’s visitors want to be able to find information about a company’s products or services directly via its homepage. Additionally, more than half of consumers are surprised by and/or distrustful of a company that does not include contact information on its website.
Other company-centric information consumers typically look for on a brand’s website, according to Entrepreneur, includes:
- The company’s unique selling point(s), and its value proposition
- How the company’s products or services work
- Third-party validation, such as case studies and customer reviews
Again, being customer-centric does not preclude you from talking about your company on your website; after all, it’s why your site exists – and why most of your customers come to it in the first place.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of humble-bragging...as long as it’s all true
Keeping everything discussed above in mind, you also want to be sure to use your website to provide content that engages, educates, and informs. From this perspective, even your company-focused content serves this purpose – as it’s the exact information your visitors are seeking.
That said, much like you’ve provided info about your company not to toot your own horn, but rather to inform your customers, you want to provide them with the type of content they want to consume – not simply what you think they want. Ashley Poynter provides an in-depth look at how to do so in Fieldboom’s blog.
As Ashley puts it, the main goals of customer-centric content are to:
- Provide helpful content to customers and prospects
- Address the common questions/concerns of your target audience
- Understand your customers and prospects
- Tailor messaging to meet the needs of your target audience
Of course, a main company-facing goal when creating website content is to increase engagement and, by extension, conversions. Still, though, you want to be focused on the customer while you work to attain these goals.
Through the content you create, you want your site’s visitors to enter into a metaphorical journey during which you help them solve their most pressing problems. By mapping out each stage of this journey beforehand and providing content that aligns with each of these stages on your website, you’ll hopefully be able to keep your visitors engaged all the way to the point of conversion – and beyond.
As we said in the intro, if you don’t provide a positive website user experience to your customers through your website, they probably aren’t going to continue engaging with your company.
In some ways, such as optimizing your site’s navigational and loading speed, you merely need to meet your users’ expectations to keep them engaged. In other areas, such as your site’s content and the omni-channel experience your brand provides, you’ll want to strive to go beyond the status quo to stand out above your competition and improve customer engagement.
Simply put: As long as you’ve given your customers numerous reasons to keep coming back to your site, they almost certainly will.