By making user experience (UX) your top priority when designing your customers’ online experience, you could reap rewards from 2:1 up to 100:1 on your investment (Forrester Research). With such compelling rewards, it is easy to see why marketers are looking to UX tools and techniques to help improve user engagement and increase revenue.
While UX is a long established principle, in the last few years more attention is being paid to the subject beyond simply designing a user-friendly interface. In this article we look at what UX is, why it is important and offer a peek into some UX techniques that could help you improve your digital experiences to increase user engagement, loyalty, and ultimately revenue.
What is the user experience?
User experience is about creating moments of delight for a user. It is the point when you meet or even exceed expectations and the customer thinks to themselves, “that was easy!” The key elements of UX for marketers, UX experts and stakeholders to understand are the ‘user’, their ‘goals’, ‘tasks’, ‘journeys’ and ‘scenarios’. Let’s take a look at a fictional example, in which a watchmaker is seeking new customers online:
Users – who are they, what are their values, preferences, abilities and limitations? Our watchmaker has built a profile that says a typical use is 28, male, tech savvy, fashion conscious, influenced by peers, and will pay more for high quality products.
Goals – what is the user trying to achieve at the end of their experience? In this case, the answer is simple: they want to have a new watch.
Tasks – what needs to be done to achieve the goal? The user needs to research prices and read reviews, before finding a store or website to buy their new watch.
Journeys – These are the routes that the user takes to achieve their tasks e.g. using a website’s online search function, looking at related items, and reading independent reviews.
Scenarios – The context in which users undertake their tasks, goals and journeys. Do they need to replace a broken watch or are they treating themselves to a luxury purchase?
This sort of detailed understanding of who, when, why, what, where and how a customer buys a watch is critically important for a retailer commissioning a website geared towards selling watches. The world of UX can be a complex one, with many facets to explore and understand it can be useful to have a UX expert assist with this.
Why is the user experience important?
It is estimated that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator and with 88% of online consumers not returning to a site after a ‘bad experience’, it is easy to see why marketers should make UX a priority.
“Simply improving customer journeys has the potential to increase customer satisfaction by 20% but also to lift revenue by up to 15% while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20%.” – McKinsey
When you read that 67% of mobile users say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they're more likely to buy a site's product or service- (Think with Google), it becomes clear that customers’ digital experiences have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line.
Top UX techniques you can use for your digital experience
Here is just a peek into some UX techniques that can help you improve your digital conversion rates.
1. User personas
User personas are a key tool in your UX arsenal. These fictional representations of your real customers are designed to identify needs, motivations, attitudes and goals to help craft tailored experiences and journeys to help increase engagement and ultimately revenue. To create your user personas nothing beats speaking directly with your customers, either through focus groups or over the phone, to provide valuable insight. Your sales team should also be able to provide useful information to help build up the profiles. This valuable insight about what your customers love and hate, where they spend their time online, which social networks they use, who influences their decisions and where they look for information, is of enormous use beyond simply creating a website or mobile app that converts. This information can also help you with product development, prospecting, messaging and overall marketing strategy.
2. User testing
The best way to understand what users think of your digital experience is to watch them in action! Observing 6-12 real consumers undertaking set tasks, such as researching or buying a product, can uncover up to 85% of hidden UX issues. Heat map technology, eye tracking software, verbal feedback and body language can reveal where users get lost, stuck or frustrated on your site, app or web-based platform. User testing can be done to review the existing usability of a digital experience and also at the post development stage. By undertaking this research you can test whether the user interactions are as expected, and make iterative improvements to optimise the experience. Undertaking this vital exercise will provide invaluable insight to help revolutionise the performance of your site or web-based application.
3. Customisation of the online experience
There is an online population of over 1.8 billion users, and the same experience will not please all of them. It is now possible to customise different parts of your website to provide a much more tailored experience. E-commerce sites like Amazon, Missguided and Homebase all analyse user behaviour and offer suggestions in line with them. Streaming sites like Netflix and Spotify also offer a similar service. You can even use automated personalisation software to address returning website visitors by name.
How to improve UX? A case study
Apple’s smooth omni-channel experience Apple has led an innovative approach to their product development and they have seamlessly integrated this with a highly engaging and consistent customer experience. A well-designed user experience is the key to a higher conversion rate and an increase in brand loyalty.
Apple offers a smooth omni-channel experience from a consumer’s first awareness of the brand, to the moment the product arrives and all the way through to post-purchase and beyond. For example, one of the contributing factors to their success has been the gradual introduction of feature iterations, allowing them to bring consumers along their evolution journey. Unlike, for example Microsoft’s approach with Windows 8, when the impact of such a dramatic change left many users frustrated because it ignored all of the intuitive expectations which users had learned from previous iterations of the operating system.
Another examples of how Apple has improved their UX includes revolutionising the tedious task of redeeming iTunes vouchers. Rather than typing a long complicated code on a mobile keypad, you can now simply point the camera and it auto-recognises the required information to activate the credits.
Finally, the introduction of the Airpods caused quite a stir at their launch. Using existing technology in new ways to delight the user experience, the wireless headphones have optical and motion sensors to detect when they are in your ears and help prolong battery life. Their functions include simple actions to make and take calls, change a song, adjust volume and activate Siri. Voice-activation technology is also a growing trend that Apple have now extended to their desktops.
Understanding the user expectations, implementing existing technology in new ways and evolving new technology demonstrates how Apple put the users at the heart of the experience and helps place the brand ahead of its market equivalents.
Getting ready to put UX first
Armed with a thorough understanding of your users and their intentions will enable a project to successfully flow through the various stages, from planning the structure and process flows, to the content and design. When visitors arrive at your site or web-based application, the design needs to hold the attention of your audience and provide clear paths for their journey.
By taking a research-based approach, you can discover your users’ habits, patterns, wants and needs. This will enable you to design and develop your website or mobile application based on data, not assumptions, to maximise your conversion rate.
Here we have just scratched the surface on creating a positive user experience. It’s a multifaceted operation that can only be completed through truly understanding your prospective customers and their needs.
Originally published on 18 October 2016 by Alaina Roberts at DotLabel.