Over the course of the last decade business owners and entrepreneurs have found themselves dealing with a set of problems that they have never had to address in the past.

Internet and social media have become an overshadowing presence in all aspects of life agreement-2548138_1920and it has become difficult to keep up with the ever-changing world of technology. All businesses must learn to adapt and conform to the standards of digital influence and be ready to adjust quickly to the needs of their customers. For example, research shows that 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phone, but 85% of them will abandon the task if the site is not optimized for mobile. With those numbers it is easy to say that smartphone users are extremely particular about digital experiences and a bad one can make or break any business. Perhaps less obvious, but certainly a logical assumption, this information also tells us that a positive experience can generate loyalty and that loyal customers are more likely to return and recommend the business to their peers. Ignoring these insights could be fatal to a company.

Today, customer experience is dictated by the way customers interact with a business’

The vocal community surrounding the business also adds to the customer experience. Ratings, reviews, and social media are a big factor in customer decision making.

online presence. While not always explicitly, customers implicitly notice things like how fast the network speed is, how much information is available, what forms of communication are offered, response times, color schemes, ease of access, search results, FAQs, and much more. Each of these factors work together to create either a positive or negative reaction towards the business. The look and feel of each component can create as big of an impact as prompt and friendly customer service at a retail store.

Creating a positive digital experience for customers is key to a thriving business. Most customers now expect an online equivalent for all business forms and transactions, whether or not it’s for a storefront or a contractor. Studies indicate that shoppers are more likely to have already completed the decision-making aspect of purchasing an item online before even setting foot into a store. And while not all businesses rely on storefronts for success, every business must rely on a proper digital presence. A business without a website or one that lacks the necessary components for a website, such as an informative overview or guaranteed security for online transactions, will suffer dramatically.

The benefits of having a good web presence vastly outweigh the costs, including

Many people are more willing to conduct their business online for things like shopping, requesting quotes, or even ordering services. Having an informative FAQ and help section can answer most questions before customers even have them.

development, maintenance time, and fees. A strong web presence can provide the ability to reach many more customers and a wider variety of people – expanding the company’s reach. Digital platforms allow quicker access to markets - people prefer choice, and the internet offers countless choices, vastly boosting the initial customer base. With all that being said, even one bad experience can make a customer’s interaction with your business their last.

While many business owners understand the need to create a digital platform for their business, they may not understand the whole package. By 2020 digital experience will overtake price and product as the brand differentiator. It is also estimated that 73% of the companies not currently conducting user experience testing will begin to do so within the next 12 months. Simply having a good website with a phone number and address creates a presence, yes, but it won’t draw people in. Even something as small as a few second delay in loading time between web pages can discourage customers. They will leave the website and find another brand that appears more professional, has more to offer, or understands their needs better. Customers look at presentation, efficiency, immediacy, privacy, and expertise. While the business itself may offer all of those aspects, if it is not apparent through their digital presence they will suffer immensely.

Now comes the ultimate question: How can you enhance your business’ digital presence?A good rule of thumb is to always come back to these key factors when reviewing your business:

  • Information - What information is available, how can it be found, how can it be consumed. How much time does it take to find the right information?
  • Communication - How many methods of communication are offered? Do you offer online support? Email? Social? Do you have an automated response with a reference number for a follow-up call? Call center, automated answering, long call routing? Is support a two-way communication?
  • Immediacy - Here and now are key words in businesses today. Customers are now expecting information or order confirmation immediately. How fast is your customer service? Imagine how forcing a client to use a fax machine would impact your brand?
  • Privacy - Privacy is a big factor to watch for - most customers will hesitate to shop or submit personal information unless they feel that there is a secure and reliable business standing behind the process.   
  • Multiple platforms – The experience should be seamless. A ticket created by email, should be found on the website and then found by the chat representative. Customer service should be available via mobile, web, tablet, chat, etc. Your clients are dynamic; you should be too.
  • Community - Ratings, reviews, and comments are a big part of customer experience. Do you have a suitable platform for the community surrounding your business?

It is also equally important to monitor these factors over time and continually reassess the quality of your digital experience to ensure customer usage and satisfaction. This is where experienced partners really add value. Professionals who are experts in the discipline of digital can help in researching, understanding, designing, and implementing solutions that your clients are interacting with to ensure your digital presence is strong, sustainable, and compelling.

Maintaining a high-quality customer experience should always be among any business’ top priority. Offering your customers an attractive, intuitive, and easy to use experience creates a brand they can count on. A good rule of thumb when planning your customer experience is to always consider your competitors to be one step ahead of you, and then do your best to stay a step ahead of them yourself. Be the first to anticipate your customer's needs by optimizing your communication channels and reacting to customer feedback and lasting trends.

Online’s Digital Studio specializes in designing and building amazing digital experiences and products. We help businesses understand their customers better and create compelling experiences through web and mobile applications that are purpose-built to deliver business results.

Want to learn more about Online’s approach to building digital experiences? Feel free to leave a comment below, check out our Digital Experience blog, or contact us directly.