Customer Experience Optimisation should be on every brand agenda

Like it or not, ‘Customer Experience’ is a phrase that’s currently everywhere in mainstream marketing. To be honest, I’m guilty of using it a fair few times myself to get a point across. There are lots of reasons why the phrase is very relevant in terms of digital, as what we called ‘channels’ are now blurred. There is and there isn’t an online-offline divide as campaigns become omni-channel, and with so many chances and situations to engage with a customer, just saying “touch points” doesn’t cut it.

As marketers we aim to make every one of these situations something more than a simple touch, more than a one-way prod to make the customer remember we’re around. We look to elevate this into an experience (I personally also like ‘moment’ as it conjures a nice image of something captured and remembered), a deeper connection that drives an emotional response and becomes something they talk about or remember in a positive way. If they are also a customer – someone that wants the product or services we provide – then we’ve got that special kind of magic.

So what’s Customer Experience Optimisation?

So with all the above in mind, I like to think of customer experience optimisation (CEO for the sake of this article) as something a bit more fundamental to the whole process. In all honesty, this isn’t something new; I consider it as simply being a better brand. We’ve all seen, heard, or been a part of a bad experience and thought how we could improve it, so why wouldn’t we want create better experiences for our brand and more importantly ones that outrank our competitors’?

I also think that something brands tend to forget is that CEO isn’t a single discipline; it would be impossible to consider every experience you create for a brand from one background and expect it to apply the same way in a different context or channel. This is the same when it comes to optimisation; making these experiences better requires knowledge and understanding in the moment.

Give me an example

Let’s take an example of a brand that sells clothes: it has a bricks and mortar store, a responsive ecommerce site and a mobile app available from all good app stores. There are so many experiences that can be created, shaped, and then optimised in this example. Lets list a few for fun:

  • Walking into the store
  • Standing at the till ready to purchase
  • Seeing a product in the window and doing a price check in the app
  • Browsing the catalogue during the sale/payday weekend
  • Returning a product because it’s too small
  • Reading a post on Facebook about the latest range
  • Spotting a Tweet that announces the launch of a flash sale
  • Adding a whole outfit to the basket
  • Getting an abandoned basket email and remembering you were interested in that new jacket
  • Checking out and making that first purchase
  • Getting 10% off your next order

As you can imagine, improving each of those experiences could be achieved in many different ways, and also depends on who you are asking at the time: the sales staff in store, the customer services team, or the ecommerce manager.

Enter the technical bit: Optimisation

In order for optimisation to work, you have to select a measure, choose (ideally) one metric that has real business value, and then try to improve this. Another requirement is your hypothesis: this is your statement of intent around how you will improve your metrics.

Take the first item, walking into a store – how could we optimise this experience? Let’s first choose the metric; we want to increase the number of customers that continue into the store to browse, decreasing the number that immediately turn around and leave.

Our hypothesis: if we move some of our most popular items/stock to the front they will take a look and then move deeper into the store. This is a pretty straightforward example that would require someone at the front of the store creating a tally chart, but would enable us to see the improvement in the customer experience.

OK, so running and optimising a shop isn’t my core skill set, but you get the idea. Moving into digital, however, things start to get a lot more fun.

Why optimising is easier in digital than traditional marketing

1. There is more data in every sense
This is true in as much as you can collect a lot more data online, and you can also infer a lot from visitors, users, or customers and monitor their direct actions.
2. It’s easier to get that data and shape it
You don’t need an intern to log the data and create charts for you, it’s all in a nice and tidy database ready to be worked on.
3. People have created tools to specifically measure
Depending what you are trying to optimise, there a hundreds of tools available to play around with.
4. There tends to be more traffic/test cases
If you are a brand with presence both offline and online, then chances are your online store is your biggest and most profitable outlet therefore achieving a statistical significance is much easier.

The most widely used form of CEO is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) as this is usually linked to a very clear metric on ecommerce sites: sales. Make more customers convert to a purchase and you have more revenue. This is a very real and direct correlation: the better the experience, the more revenue you achieve.

CRO can have very quick wins because of this direct relationship to the metric, but there is only so much it can do on its own. You can keep tweaking that checkout form, changing the field labels, and improving your validation messages, but ultimately you are working with customers and the ones that enter in to that process (and lets face it, even Amazon doesn’t have a 100% conversion rate, apart from on my account).

We can get the most out of CEO when we add into the mix some additional activity with their own metrics and hypotheses. Let’s consider the CRO above: 100 customers entering the checkout with a conversion rate of 5%. Realistically, tweaking the process will give you +/- single figure %. But what if we could double the number of people going into the process? Get 200 people to the checkout can double our revenue. Sounds brilliant!

Of course there’s more to it than that, as we need to make sure we get the right 200 people to the checkout. So this is where we begin to bring in some User Experience (UX) style CRO. The UX elements of the website involve things like how customers navigate, what clicking “Add to basket”, “Add to cart”, or “Buy now” does, and what can we do to make viewing your basket feel better in terms of layout and terminology.

In terms of ecommerce experience, one of the biggest differentiators for brands can be content. Whether it’s product content, supporting content, or reviews, all of these items help make the shopping experience on your site better than that of your competitors’. If the clothes we are selling in our example store are from a third party supplier then we need to convince potential customers its better to buy from us than competitors, so the site needs to look great, represent the brand, work well and be unique.

To end on a high

Customer Experience Optimisation is not something new or magical, nor is it a single discipline; chances are, you’re thinking about it in some form. Whichever elements you can combine together, be it Conversion Rate Optimisation, User Experience review and updates, implementing personalisation, A/B testing or Multivariate testing, they are all trying to do the same things: make the Customer Experience better, make your brand memorable, and (if you do it right), make the experience better than any of your competitors’.

This is why all brands should be have Customer Experience Optimisation on their agenda.

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