The Three Most Overlooked Aspects of the Online Customer Experience

Digital Engagement
Customer Experience
Site design, personalization, and key performance indicators (KPIs) are not getting the attention they deserve in terms of the online customer experience,

Site design, personalization, and key performance indicators (KPIs) are not getting the attention they deserve in terms of the online customer experience, according to Kevin Cochrane, Adobe's vice president of product strategy and solution marketing.

"When people think of the online customer experience, they're focused on the design and 'sexiness' of their website. They don't do enough research into who their customers are and what they're trying to accomplish. Not all customers are looking for the same thing," Cochrane told me during a recent conversation on the topic.
Cochrane recommends that marketers establish user personas. To do so, they should conduct in-depth research to understand customers' motives and actions, including why they come to the site, what's their prior history, and what they're trying to accomplish. Without that deep research, they can't provide site design and functionality that's highly personalized and targeted, and that will work well for each customer type, he said.

"Design should support the entire customer journey, creating a personalized customer experience that facilitates customers' achieving their goals," Cochrane said. "This is the age of experience. You need to know who I am and what I'm trying to do. If I engaged you previously, you need to know so I don't have to rehash who I am and what I'm trying to do."

Another design- and research-related issue that's often overlooked is the mobile-web experience. Marketers have to think mobile first today, Cochrane said. "Everyone is first designing for web, and then worrying about the phone and tablet," he said. "They're retrofitting design. Again, marketers need to think about who the customer is and what she's trying to accomplish. Without research you don't know what to put in mobile."

Additionally, designing for smartphones and tablets first forces marketers to focus. Then they can "grow" the design up to the desktop Web browser. It's easier to design this way versus designing browser "down" to phone, Cochrane said. "Mobile is not the stepchild," he said. "It should be the priority because customers may be on the go."

What else needs improvement in terms of the online customer experience? KPIs. "People today are still not doing good enough job of KPIs," Cochrane said. "We to need provide a better experience, but we also need to show direct results. This means being explicit about the business outcomes we're looking to achieve. For example, by enhancing our online customer experience we'll improve acquisition by 4 percent, increase retention by 10 percent, etc. Then, when we're building the online customer experience, we can bake in the KPIs."

The primary reason site design, personalization, and KPIs are overlooked: Often these areas are led by two different teams--the Web design team versus marketing research and insights team. "For the first time, they need to come together to create a holistic strategy on what they're trying to accomplish and who they're trying to reach," Cochrane said, adding that they also must agree on the underlying analytics needed to track the success of these goals.

According to Cochrane, another silo is mobile and tablet design, which is often a specialty development team in IT. This often makes it difficult for marketers to design mobile first.

"Customer experience crosses organizational boundaries, that's why companies need a CMO to bring cross-functions together and do customer experience right," he said. "Marketing today isn't just about building brands; it's about driving revenue, about the strategic direction of the company." Marketing needs to know where to spend their dollars and the impact of that, and what they're getting for the dollars they spend--sales conversion, order size, revenue protection, etc. Their budget is directly correlated to the website and how it impacts the customer experience and customers actions, he said.

"Customers have lots of choice and limited attention," Cochrane said. "Connect with me, anytime and anywhere I wish. Engage me in 30 seconds or lose me."