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Digital customer experience: Everything to know in 2021

13 min read
Digital experiences are fast, multi-faceted and high-stakes, far exceeding offline CX in complexity and frequency. What’s more, they’re increasingly the norm for your customers. So how do you harness the power of a great digital experience?


What is digital customer experience?

Digital CX is the aspect of your CX journey that deals with online platforms such as mobile and desktop, and with digitally-mediated experiences such as owned apps and social media content. It also extends to digitally-connected environments like IoT and voice-activated devices. Ultimately wherever your customers are engaging with your brand through the internet, it’s a digital experience.

Understanding your digital touchpoints and how they affect consumer perception and loyalty is critical – in a recent study, we found over 65% of customers said that their experience on the website or app would be at least a very important factor in their willingness to recommend a brand.

Our research shows that there are 3 fundamental ingredients to a good digital customer experience.

  1. Success – did the customer complete their task and achieve their goal?
  2. Effortwas the process smooth and easy?
  3. Emotion – did they come away from the interaction feeling good?

Of these, the third is the most powerful.

92% of people who gave a high score for ‘emotion’ said they were likely to purchase more from that company

XM Institute

Digital = multi-platform

‘Digital’ was once synonymous with desktop websites. But as mobile devices take center stage as our main route online, and digital experiences expand into technologies like Internet of Things and voice controlled tech, we need to broaden our definition in order to deliver a great digital customer experience.

Global mobile and tablet internet usage exceeded desktop use for the first time in 2016. We also see that 82% of consumers turn to mobile to help make a product decision. Consumers are turning more to digital for support, with web or mobile self-service support usage outranking speaking with an agent over the phone (Forrester, 2016).

It is abundantly clear that these digital moments, across platforms (mobile, tablet, desktop and beyond), are shaping essential KPIs that will inform the path to purchase, and ultimately retention. An omnichannel mindset as part of your CX program design and management is more important than ever.

The importance of a seamless digital experience

From a business perspective, the number of digital channels now available seems dizzying, as is the speed with which a user moves between platforms and channels during a single journey. Customer journeys are complex, with shoppers switching channels multiple times as they move from awareness to consideration to purchase.

But to a customer, it’s not complex at all – to them, the differentiation between online and offline, owned and non-owned, marketing and ecommerce, doesn’t really matter. What guides their journey is their own task or goal, and they expect to be able to go wherever it leads them.

Moving towards a customer mindset, viewing changing channels and moving between touchpoints as incidental to user goals and needs, is fundamental to developing an omnichannel experience.

That means making sure that wherever a customer finds you, be it on an in-store tablet, a third-party reseller’s website, your own app or in a shopping mall, they meet a recognizable and consistent presence that enables them to pick up the thread of their journey and continue it smoothly.

Seamless experiences benefit customers and businesses alike, and customers who engage across many channels are the most valuable to businesses. According to a study by Harvard Business Review, omnichannel customers are more valuable.

Harvard Business Review found that those who engage across multiple channels spend an average of 4% more in store and 10% more online. They’re more likely to stick around, too. Research shows brands with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, in comparison to 33% of companies with weak strategies.

What does a good digital customer experience program look like?

As we’ve seen, there is a massive opportunity for brands to transform their CX by acting on insights from experience data (X-data).

X-data – like CSAT and CES – is information about user experiences that enables you to understand the human factors that drive certain behaviors. When combined with operational data (O-data), telling you how your customer interacted with you, it becomes a powerful tool that helps you design and deliver personalized engagements boosting CX. It all starts with a deep understanding of your customer and an ability to empathize with their needs, goals and the context of their interaction with you.

To give an example, X-data can tell you the reasons behind online cart abandonment or high bounce rates. Informed by these insights, you can take action to resolve the issue to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Bringing X-data and O-data together is a game-changer for digital CX, helping you improve the customer journey at every stage, improve conversion and ultimately grow your bottom line.

Managing both X and O data through a digital experience program means you’re perceiving what’s going on, strengthening ties with your customers and making positive changes to how you do business, all through one continuous, system of action.

Best practices for a great digital experience

Bake these best practices into your digital customer experience management program to help ensure a successful outcome.

Omnichannel improvements and standardization

Aim to level the playing field across all of your customer touchpoints. Standardize the quality of the experience you provide so that your customer enjoys a consistent experience whether they are opening a package and reading the delivery slip, downloading your app from iTunes or Google Play, or picking up the phone to call their local branch or office.

Long-term mindset

Digital customer experience management is a major ongoing program of improvements, and you will need to recognize the scale and timespan, as well as the seismic potential for improvements. Be aware that the investments you make and the changes you begin to implement may not show results immediately, and that you will need leadership buy-in for your program if it’s to be successful. You’re not just changing processes – you’re changing culture.

Be aware too that the project will never be over. Instead, you’ll be building a framework for continually improving, adapting and excelling in a changing world.

Closing the loop

Closed-loop feedback is the practice of following up with customers who have offered feedback about a negative experience. Connecting with these customers in order to put the problem right can be a powerful way to turn bad experiences into good ones and preserve, and even strengthen, customer relationships. An important aspect of closed-loop feedback is knowing which customers to prioritize, since you won’t have the time or resources to do it for everyone. Develop a set of criteria for high-value customers you’ll adopt this approach with, and use ticketing software to make sure negative feedback from this segment of your customer base prompts an alert to the people who need to take action.

Transparency

Improving digital experiences is something your customers appreciate, and it’s something you can and should communicate to them about. When you implement their feedback, customers know that you care. If you collect customer feedback and use it to improve the experience, make sure you communicate about it through your marketing channels. This will help your audiences to understand your values and priorities as a brand and encourage them to offer more feedback in the future.

Improving the digital customer experience

Here are some foundational steps to improving digital experiences through your program.

1. Research your key customer journeys in depth

Touchpoints are the building blocks of a great digital experience. The key to understanding experiences is asking the right questions at the right moment. Focus on the high-stakes touchpoints such as checkout and payment, first visit to your ecommerce store or opening an account to see where your customers are enjoying the experience or getting stuck.

A number of platforms help brands capture these insights, including digital intercepts, personalized post-purchase email communications, and fast online-surveys.

2. Know your audience(s)

Importantly, make sure the feedback you capture is from the right audience. Having insights from the group you are trying to reach allows you to deliver products and services tailored to their individual needs.

For customers who have shopped with you in multiple environments (desktop, in-app, in the physical store), look for persistent pain points across their experiences. These people may have a lot to tell you about how well the omnichannel experience fits together.

3. Provide users with easy ways to provide feedback

Feedback is crucial for your digital experience program, but so is customer ease. To maximize both, make sure that users have a place to easily provide feedback that suits their preferences and takes minimum effort. Meet them where they are.

This can be in the form of an always present feedback tab, like the one we have on Qualtrics.com, a simple star rating interface or a website chat function.

4. Track and diagnose potential high-level problems within your digital experience

With your customer experience program underway, a key step is to figure out which customer journeys are the most common and diagnose the broad problems within them.

You should also find out what is resonating with your audience so you can keep that on the journey.

Here you’ll capture high-level metrics like the goal of the visitor, and the likelihood of the visitor to recommend or return to your site. You’ll want to establish baseline metrics so you can measure and assess trends over time.

Tools to improve your digital experience

Digital experience management is a game-changer, but it’s also highly complex. As well as human capital, it’s a good idea to invest in a specialized software platform that supports your efforts and centralizes your information, making it easy to analyze data and predict what might happen in the future.

Here are some features to look for in a digital experience platform (DXP).

  • Real-time reporting
    Your software should give you an accurate moment-to-moment picture of what’s happening, feeding in both O and X data. Human-friendly interfaces such as dashboards should allow users to see macro-level trends as well as detailed granular data from across your business.
  • User role profiles and permissions
    Digital experience management is everyone’s responsibility in an organization, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs access to everything. Your software should make it easy to manage customer data and keep information access specific to the roles it’s relevant to, making life easier and more straightforward for your staff.
  • Automated actions
    A ticketing system allows you to route information to the right people at the right time. Automatic actions allow you to pre-set tickets and alerts when certain conditions are met (such as for closed-loop feedback), so that the system not only highlights which actions to take, but gets the ball rolling by alerting the right person responsible.
  • On-board analytics
    Statistical analysis and predictive tools add a new dimension to your findings, giving you not only the information you need but the means to test your hypotheses and weigh up options before you take action.
  • Integration where it matters
    Experience management, like omnichannel, breaks through silos and engages every part of your business. That means you need your digital experience platform to be able to integrate with all the software you’re already using, such as CRM systems, social platforms, website and app backend software and more.
  • First-class support
    If you’re in it for the long haul, your software provider should be too. Look for expert support from people who understand your business challenges and are prepared to help you grow, both through a continual evolution of their platform and through personalized support services when you need them.

Go deeper into digital experience management with the Digital Experience Playbook