UX Is the New Customer Service

For the past two years, I’ve had a seriously difficult time pushing clients to focus on good digital user experience. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m not just referring to user experience design but the overall consumer experience delivered when someone interacts with a brand. This involves website, mobile, content, social and video.

I’ve spoken with brands that spend millions of dollars a year but refuse to deploy responsive or mobile-optimized pages on their websites. A brand even told me it does not want to offer its customers the ability to purchase products online because it would rather the customers come into the store to experience its great service. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world does business these days. Brands that don’t adapt are going to find competitors eating their lunch.

Mobile Experience
Reiterating the need for a good mobile user experience, or talking ad nauseam about the “rise of mobile,” wastes everyone’s time. We all know the statistics on skyrocketing smartphone penetration. Yet some major brands haven’t reacted to the fact that providing a good mobile experience increases the likelihood of a return purchase by 68 percent Even more impressive, retailers with in-store app function see five times more engagement with their apps than retailers without.

Brands implementing both a good mobile Web experience and a good mobile app experience will start running away from the competition. Both of these tactics require relatively little effort and money to implement. People love the brands that have gotten this right and have no problem shopping somewhere else if they don’t find the experience they are looking for.

This one should be a no-brainer. If you sell products, customers should be able to find them online, purchase them and have the products sent to their doorstep or nearest retail location. They should be able to go through the entire process with one site search and a couple clicks. If you haven’t realized that this is paramount to your business, you missed out on a percentage of the $71.5 billion in e-commerce sales last quarter.

Brick and mortar stores are not going away. By no means should you ignore your in-store experience. All I’m saying is that the work you’ve done to optimize your retail stores, from door counters to flexible layouts to merchandise grouping, needs to be applied to your online experience as well.

And enable PayPal. PayPal’s users are  everyone’s favorite consumer — a wealthy, well-educated man or woman who spends lots of money.

Supply Chain Design
Mobile and e-commerce are T-ball. You can find someone to build out all of those functionalities pretty easily. Your infrastructure is likely in place. You just need to pay somebody to plug everything in and validate your data. It can all be accomplished within the next six months if you pick the right partner.

Now it’s time to think about completely overhauling your entire supply chain! In the busy, everyday world of the modern consumer, we want things delivered fast. Startups like Instacart are partnering with Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods so that you can buy a box of Kashi and, for only $3.99, have it shipped to your front door within three hours. If you really have a hankering, Instacart will deliver within the hour for $9.99 (about double the retail price, but possibly worth it to some).

Amazon has also moved into this space with Amazon Fresh, which will deliver from select local artisans to customers within a certain delivery zone. The best part about these revolutionary approaches to shipping and handling is that they don’t require either company to keep any inventory, essentially removing the insanely small margins on which retailers operate today.

It’s Sounds Trite, but the Customer Is Right
Customer service has always been about enhancing customer experiences. But some people have a very hard time translating that into the digital realm. It’s really a matter of very simple word substitution. Take “customer” and replace it with “user.”

Don’t even do that, in fact. Your users are all potential customers and deserve the best interaction you can give them. Especially in the retail game, that positive user experience might be the only thing your brand has to leverage to turn an online browser into a lifetime customer.

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David Germano
David Germano

David is the VP of Content Marketing for Empower Media Marketing, and runs Empower's Content Marketing division, Magnetic Content Studios. For more than 14 years, David has been helping brands develop sustained content marketing strategies and operate like media to build their own audiences. David is often speaking on the topic, and is a guest contributor to Content Marketing Institute.