When creating the ultimate digital customer experience, no business is complete without a solid online presence. In fact, 65% of consumers said their experience on a website or app is "very important" in their decision to recommend a brand.
Anymore, though, it's not enough to simply launch a site and call it a day. You need to craft a digital customer experience that's engaging, user-friendly, and delightful for your audience.
Not sure where to start? Consider this your guide to digital customer experience — what it is, why it matters, recent trends, and how you can apply it to your business.
Table of Contents
- What is digital customer experience?
- The Importance of a Good Digital Customer Experience Strategy
- Digital Customer Experience vs. Customer Experience
- Digital Customer Experience Best Practices
- Digital Customer Experience Trends
- Digital Customer Experience Examples
What is digital customer experience?
Digital customer experience, or digital CX, refers to the total online interactions a customer has with your brand. Most interactions take place on your website or app. Yet other channels like social media, email, and live chat also play a role in how customers connect with your brand online.
The Importance of a Good Digital Customer Experience Strategy
Creating a delightful online experience with your product or service has become increasingly important.
Any number of competitors can meet the needs of your target audience, but if they look forward to interacting with you, they won't look to anyone else.
Digital CX touchpoints, such as chatbots and online forms, are just the beginning of a larger experience structure.
A thorough and thoughtful customer experience strategy gives you more control over how customers perceive your company.
It also helps you discover what your audience enjoys and dislikes about their experiences so you can actively improve, attracting return customers back to see what's new while also delighting new leads.
For example, those new leads should be able to easily navigate through the content on your website and understand why they should purchase from you.
Returning customers should have access to customer success and support features built into your app's user interface.
In addition to reaching consumers where they are in the customer journey, a seamless digital experience is crucial when it comes to customer satisfaction.
In a recent survey, FullStory found that 74% of customers expect companies to use existing technologies in new ways to create better experiences. What's more, 75% of customers expect optimal experiences through new technologies.
A good digital CX strategy can help you do just that.
It lets you anticipate and map out how users move across your online channels. Plus, good digital CX facilitates a cohesive experience that nurtures customers through every stage of your flywheel.
As part of HubSpot's "Gain Grow Retain" podcast series, Gainsight Customer Success Evangelist Dan Steinman joined the show to discuss digital customer success.
Listen below to hear Steinman discuss the importance of digital CX for your business.
Digital Customer Experience vs. Customer Experience
Digital customer experience is a key component of customer experience.
We know that customer experience, or CX, is the impression you've left on your customers throughout their entire journey with your brand. CX is a combination of customers' interactions with your people and your products.
Think of digital CX as the online arm of your company's CX strategy. It's the digital mediums your customers use to interact with those people and products. And, the perception they take away based on their experience.
Now that we've introduced you to the concept, let's review some best practices you can use to optimize digital CX at your company.
Digital Customer Experience Best Practices
- Know your audience.
- Create an omnichannel customer experience.
- Pay attention to mobile experiences.
- Adopt analytics.
- Collect customer feedback.
- Conduct user testing.
- Think like a futurist.
1. Know your audience.
Before creating a digital experience that your customers will love, you have to know who your customers are.
Buyer personas are a great way to understand who is buying your product and why. Personas make it easier to tailor your digital CX strategy to meet your target audience's specific needs and desires.
Collecting online forms from potential leads is the best way to let people interested in your offering introduce themselves and their needs.
Commonalities among answers on initial forms can help you better understand how you are first perceived. They can even indicate what you can provide in the future to meet more of your customers' needs.
Crafting, tracking, and revising the customer journey from beginning to end is critical for building excellent CX.
Mapping out the customer journey can help you determine which digital touchpoints are most important for your customers so you can optimize those points.
Luckily, there are advanced marketing reporting tools specifically tailored to help you develop your digital customer experience.
2. Create an omni-channel customer experience.
Omni-channel experiences generate customer delight by providing more communication options for your targets. To meet them there, you must know where your customers are.
Customers want to engage with a business through the platform that they're comfortable using.
Being forced to learn and work with an interface that is unfamiliar because the company hasn't gotten its digital ducks in a row? That's a negative customer experience you can avoid.
So how do you build something better for your customers? Multichannel is faster and easier at first to simply get a presence where your customers are, but your real goal should be an omni-channel experience.
The key differences between a multichannel and an omni-channel strategy are data syncing and CX continuity.
The more channels you support, the happier your customers will be, making them more likely to buy from your company again. But it's not enough anymore to simply exist on multiple channels.
Omnichannel CX ensures those channels speak to each other so that valuable customer details aren't lost in the spaces between platforms. Think of it like the notes in a customer account.
They allow later reps to review the customer's history with your brand.
These insights help reps craft a more personal, meaningful, and informed interaction.
In the same way, data syncing between channels creates that omnichannel experience where customers can recognize that your business has it together and is ready to effectively help them wherever they are, whatever the issue.
Plus, an omnichannel strategy ensures you're creating a more consistent customer experience. CX continuity is something most customers couldn't define but can absolutely sense.
When experiences with various digital mediums are dissimilar for your customers, the continuity of your brand is noticeably disrupted. That disjointed experience feels unreliable, reducing customer confidence.
When you engage customers on the mediums they're already using — and create a seamless experience between those mediums — it's much easier and more pleasant for users to interact with you and the content you work so hard to create.
3. Pay attention to mobile experiences.
Whether you have a detailed website or a handy app, it's important to focus on the mobile experience. After all, over 90% of the global internet population uses a mobile device to go online.
That's because smartphones allow customers to compare companies while they shop. They can see how your brand stacks up against your competitors before they make a purchase.
If your website or app doesn't seem to fit their needs, chances are your products won't either.
When designing your digital customer experience, make sure it's mobile responsive. That means when it's displayed on a tablet or phone, the interface automatically adjusts to the smaller screen.
This dramatically affects the user experience and makes it much easier to navigate through your content.
4. Adopt analytics.
Like any other part of your business, you should be actively looking for new ways to improve your digital strategy. Fortunately, that's easier to do if you have reporting tools that monitor your digital customer experience.
For example, there's software available, such as Google Analytics and Apple's App Analytics, to track the features and pages that customers use most and help your team identify points of friction within the app or website.
With analytics, you can pinpoint where leads are abandoning purchases and can work proactively to prevent churn.
Or, for returning customers, you can review their favorite tools and adjust your page navigation so they're easier to find when users revisit your site.
Outside of your website or app, you can also measure other aspects of your digital CX. If you use email, you can identify ways to better personalize your outreach approach to improve open rates.
Or, if your brand is on social media, you can monitor brand sentiment and track engagement to further optimize your content.
Understanding how customers engage with your offers helps your team effectively refine your digital CX strategy.
5. Collect customer feedback.
Another way you can gather information is by asking customers for their feedback. Have them complete a survey after using your website or app and ask if they would recommend it to their peers.
You can use a Net Promoter Score, or NPS, survey to gather both qualitative and quantitative data on your digital customer experience. This should give you a good idea of how customers are reacting to your content.
Sample survey questions may include:
- On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague?
- Which product/service features do you value and use the most?
- How can we improve your experience on our app?
6. Conduct user testing.
User testing is another way to determine how much customers enjoy using your digital properties.
In this environment, a select group of customers is asked to test your product. Then, they provide feedback on specific aspects of the user experience.
This gives you the chance to tweak your website or app before releasing it to the rest of your customer base.
While there are a few different types of user tests, the most popular one is usability testing.
Usability tests assess how easy it is to use and navigate your product. Participants are asked to perform a simple task. Then, they're evaluated on their ability to complete it.
This shows your development team how user-friendly your website or app is.
7. Think like a futurist.
The digital world is changing at a breakneck pace — literally overnight in the case of Open AI's ChatGPT, which took the world by storm on November 30th, 2022 — which was a Wednesday.
What is your company doing to improve customer experience next Wednesday?
The future develops one day at a time, so you need to think about your CX strategy like a living thing that grows and changes quickly.
Your digital CX strategy in 2023 may look a lot different when 2024 rolls around — nobody would be surprised if you find you need to pivot more than once.
As technology advances, trends will emerge and influence customer perception.
Pay close attention to those trends and how your target customers respond to them, be bold enough to try to create some trends yourself, and be prepared to evolve what digital CX looks like for your business.
Speaking of trends, let's review a few digital trends that businesses are following (so far) in 2023.
Digital Customer Experience Trends
- Improvements in AI
- Increased Number of Chatbots
- Enhanced Self-Service Capabilities
- More Focus on Predictive Analytics
- New Augmented Reality Tools
- Personalized Customer Experiences
- Emphasis on Data Security and Privacy
1. Improvements in AI
When we think of artificial intelligence (AI), we often think of sentient robots that mimic human actions.
While these ideas make for excellent sci-fi villains, they aren't accurate representations of how AI is used in modern business, even with the recent warp forward in AI Natural Language Processing (NLP).
Most AI is used to automate business functions that assist employees. This saves hundreds or thousands of hours. AI can also help personalize experiences for the customer.
One of the best-proven ways AI helps improve the customer and employee experience is to incorporate AI into email newsletters.
Companies can send identical messages to their entire customer base that come across as personal, genuine, and sincere.
To accomplish this without burdening employees with hand-customizing thousands of emails, they use AI to pull data from the CRM and personalize each message with the customer's information.
This makes the email look and feel like it was written specifically for that person.
AI continues to develop in leaps and bounds, so you should expect lots of new features to appear in your marketplace over the next few months — and strap in because the next few years will be wild.
We know that changing this fast can drive some fear, but right now, one of the best ways to stay competitive is to take advantage of these improvements in AI.
At HubSpot, we're excited about this new wave of technology and are rolling out new AI features, including Content Assistant and ChatSpot.
Customers crave personalized experiences, and AI offers incredible opportunities to deliver to users what they want and need in the digital space.
2. Increased Number of Chatbots
Chatbots are about to explode in the retail space in North America and Europe because of how financially accessible NLP has become for medium and small businesses due to ChatGPT.
In the past, bots were very limited and could only perform a predetermined series of actions. This made for dull customer experiences that often did not provide the needed solutions.
There's still a lingering stigma that chatbots are just talkative phone trees that lead nowhere until you ask for a human being to speak with.
The good news is that chatbots are improving along with AI like a tide raising the ship. Juniper Research forecasts that global retail spend on chatbots will increase by 470% over the next five years.
This spending trend will significantly reduce the pressure on customer support teams to answer routine questions.
What's more, these automated systems companies are investing in can perform another layer of routine operations, such as opening tickets and assigning them to the proper representatives that can actually address that customer's issue.
With bots, support agents can refocus their time and energy on complex or time-sensitive cases that are more likely to result in customer churn. Chatbots were predicted to save businesses 2.5 billion hours by 2023 — and that was before the quantum leap in natural language processing in late 2022.
Like your overall digital CX strategy, chatbots can't simply be set up and left to do the work.
They require a hand at the helm to determine how to improve the customer experience at critical points along that journey to help the chatbot grow more useful to those customers, giving them the best possible experience.
When you can, spend a few minutes with this video that remains at the heart of the chatbot wave and provides guidance on using chatbots for your business.
3. Enhanced Self-Service Capabilities
Customers don't want to wait long (or at all) for support if they don't have to. More companies are focused on finding ways to help customers quickly help themselves.
In addition to chatbots, this may include:
- Knowledge bases. These searchable databases allow customers to find resources about your products and answers to FAQs. This makes the information-seeking process faster for customers. Plus, it releases some of the burden on your customer service team.
- Workflow automation. This involves setting up self-operating processes that run manual tasks, saving time and resources. For example, a customer requests a return on your website. An email is automatically triggered to send them the return label, rather than waiting for a customer service rep.
4. More Focus on Predictive Analytics
Predictive analytics determine how customers will react to changes in your business. These reports help business leaders understand customer behavior and the company's role in their customers' lives.
As AI and machine learning continue to improve, we can expect predictive analytics to become a fundamental tool used by companies with a digital presence.
These reports will be built into the internal user interface and updated with the most recent customer data. That way, business leaders will have all the information they need to confidently make decisions for their company.
5. New Augmented Reality Tools
Augmented reality (AR) presents fun new opportunities to improve digital customer experience. If you're unfamiliar with AR, it's a technology that supplements real images with digital elements, such as graphics or text overlays.
Here's an example from the NFL's Carolina Panthers.
There's a lot of potential for the use of AR in customer service. For example, some brands have used it to supplement in-person customer experience by displaying product information as customers shop.
When a customer is in the store, they might use their smart device to scan a product and see data such as customer reviews and product details.
This reduces friction during the buying process, making it easier for customers to find the product or service that's right for them.
Another popular AR trend is the "try-as-you-buy" experience. If your company operates mostly online, you can let customers test out your products by using an AR version on their computer.
That way, customers can avoid the hassle of buying your product or asking for a sample only to return it a few weeks later.
6. Personalized Customer Experiences
According to research, 70% of consumers would willingly provide personal data if they knew it was being used to improve their experience.
This means customers are willing to give you information. In return, they ask that you meet them where they are in their customer journey.
One great way to personalize the shopping experience for a customer is to send them an email with product recommendations based on their recent browsing or purchase history.
It communicates to your customers that you are using data to help them, making it easier for them to find what they want and need.
As you continue to collect customer data, it will be easier to create personalized customer experiences.
Not only will you have a stronger understanding of your customer base, but you'll also have the technology needed to distribute content effectively.
What's more, you'll be able to automate this personalization to maintain a delightful customer experience as your business grows.
7. Emphasis on Data Security and Privacy
With all of this data comes great responsibility.
Yes, customers are willing to share their data with you. But they expect it to be protected and used for the right reasons. Data breaches and security compromises push customers away from your brand.
Make sure you're up to date on the latest privacy laws and regulations that affect the way you do business with your customers.
Developing and maintaining trust is critical in any relationship, so be sure you are doing your due diligence to protect sensitive information entrusted to you.
Digital Customer Experience Examples
- Warby Parker's Virtual Try-On
- Apple's Omni-Channel Experience
- UNICEF's Chatbot for Societal Change
Digital Customer Experience Examples
- Warby Parker's Virtual Try-On
- Apple's Omni-Channel Experience
- UNICEF's Chatbot for Societal Change
1. Warby Parker's Virtual Try-On
Warby Parker is a retailer of low-cost, quality prescription eyewear, sunglasses, and contact lenses.
If you're interested in buying a pair, the WP app lets you virtually "try on" the frames before buying them using AR technology — all from the comfort of your couch.
They cleverly harnessed the mobile experience after noticing that people would come to their stores and take pictures of themselves in different frames.
They'd share those photos with friends and loved ones, gathering opinions and having a good laugh.
Warby Parker embraced this shopping behavior that developed with the rise of camera phones and folded it into the customer experience to delight their shoppers with something fun and new.
They were uniquely positioned in 2020 because they were already helping their customers shop from home using AR on mobile devices.
They had prioritized meeting their customers where they were both at home and on mobile, where 90% of users accessed the internet, and it worked out in their favor.
Loads of companies got on board with the AR shopping trend because it was a natural fit for their customers and their products.
Consider makeup shopping during a pandemic. Sharing lipstick samples at the store went from questionably hygienic to being perceived as a blatant health hazard.
Embracing AR, makeup retailers built digital customer experiences where their shoppers could upload a picture and see various shades on themselves from the comfort and safety of home — with a low-friction path to checkout if done well.
What we like: Warby Parker's digital customer experience strategy of embracing AR created more value than the obvious. These virtual shopping opportunities offer customers access to more products than can be kept on hand in store.
Even more meaningfully, they improve access for customers with mobility challenges and low-income customers who don't have ready access to transportation.
More people than ever now have access to the low-cost prescription eyewear they need, thanks to Warby Parker’s choice to think like futurists.
2. Apple's Omni-Channel Experience
Apple is a greatexample of a company that has created a seamless digital customer experience based on the customer's data.
Through iCloud, customers always have access to their data — like messages, photos, and contacts — and this is true regardless of which Apple device they're using.
It goes beyond Apple devices as well. Simply signing into iCloud from any device with an internet signal lets them access their digital storage.
This has made each iCloud user's digital life fit more harmoniously with their physical life in ways that affect connectivity and culture.
Consider one service they offer: AirDrop. Once upon a time, you had to store a file on a single, physical device.
Sharing it was a multi-step process that could be tripped up by file size, your recipient not having the right program, and other tedious problems of mismatched technology.
So much friction just trying to share a file — all while sitting right there at the same table! Oof.
With two AirDrop-enabled devices, you can just choose a file to send and tap AirDrop. It automatically transfers to the other nearby device, and you can move on with your idea sharing and projects much faster.
Pro tip: Some folks use digital storage far more than others, so Apple's iCloud storage comes in various sizes and prices. Their goal is to provide what people need to maintain their own continuity of experience.
3. UNICEF's Chatbot for Societal Change
Chatbots and touchstones of the digital customer experience are being used in innovative new ways to build better real-life experiences.
UNICEF re-directs the last step in the digital CX process — continually adapting and improving the customer experience. They take that idea and apply it to societal problems in the real world.
U-Report is a chatbot-based polling system created by UNICEF that asks questions about social issues, and those who sign up and reply are called U-Reporters.
Critical feedback is collected from these under-served populations worldwide, most often from young people in developing countries.
It's strange to think of U-Reporters as customers, but they are the target population served by UNICEF.
UNICEF provides communication access points on several digital platforms to meet their target populations where they are. U-Report gives these populations a voice that can finally be heard via a digital experience.
UNICEF then uses the feedback to inform its policy recommendations. These recommendations are presented to regional leadership, helping people in power understand and improve societal issues where they have enough influence to help.
What we like: Retail companies and non-profit organizations alike are getting more creative with using chatbots. This is at the heart of thinking like a futurist for the sake of those you serve — creating trends above and beyond.
Bringing It Back to Business
Customers want access to your brand whenever and wherever they decide they're ready to interact. Right now, digital channels are the place to be.
Whatever you're in the business of, prepare to be responsive to change. Be bold, get creative, and prioritize finding new and innovative ways to delight those you serve by continually optimizing your digital customer experience.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in February 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.