Create Emotionally Engaging Online Experiences

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
Why are today's websites so boring? Ron Rogowski, principal analyst of Forrester Research, asked this question during his keynote this morning at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum 2010. "Today's web experiences leave an emotional void," Rogowski said.

Why are today's websites so boring?

Ron Rogowski, principal analyst of Forrester Research, asked this question during his keynote this morning at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum 2010. "Today's web experiences leave an emotional void," Rogowski said.

Fortunately, however, 67 percent of companies want their website experience to be a competitive differentiator, and are taking steps like improving web design and navigation, according to Forrester.

So, how can a website be emotionally engaging? Through emotional experience design; that is, by interacting with customers by catering to their emotional needs.Rogowski shared Forrester's three-part framework for emotional experience website design:

1. Address customers' real goals
People can't necessary tell you what these are. You have to try to uncover them through research. By doing so you can anticipate and answer questions before customers ask them. Customers will then see you as intuitive. Sallie Mae, for example, learned that parents were concerned about paying for college, not just saving for it. The site launched a tool to help parents plot out how they might pay for college, but also how that compares to how other parents are paying for college.

2. Develop a coherent personality
Be consistently recognizable and aligned with brand attributes, including the website's content and functionality. Progressive, for instance, has its advertising persona, Flo, all over its website. The site also shows its price gun in an area that helps customers "name your price," which is one of its core brand messages.

3. Engage a mix of senses
The more senses you engage, the more memorable the experience is. Start with investing in the site's production value; then provide a purposeful tactile experience that provides a smooth flow through the site. Also, use audio and video to enhance the experience. Instead of a static image, for example, Tazo's home page shows a steaming cup of tea, plays music as its menu options populate, then "pours" visitors a cup of tea.

To get started on the online customer experience journey, make your brand attributes meaningful for target users by documenting those attributes and relate them to target users. That is, create personas and offer content and the like that is targeted to each. Then plot and orchestrate the customers' emotional journey. Rogowski suggested using a journey map. Chart the current emotional experience at each point in the buying process (awareness to consideration to purchase), and then determine what the emotion should be (e.g., confused versus inspired). Take steps to move to the preferred emotion for each step.

If you can make the experience its own reward, Rogowski said, you can break through and engage customers on an emotional level.

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