Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How to deliver the digital experiences customers really want

Leigh Gammons, Chief Executive Officer, Cognifide

With more than a fifth of consumers feeling that brands are failing to live up to their expectations when it comes to online experiences, what do customers really want?

Organisations are being forced to think long and hard about the future of their businesses. But one thing is for sure. Digital investment will be a priority. It is time to reimagine how things are done: everything from operations right through to customer service.

One area that is leading the way in terms of digital acceleration and innovation is customer experience. As more and more consumers turn to digital to manage and live their lives, the pressure for brands and services to deliver has never been greater. But what are consumers really looking for?

There has never been a time when knowing what your customer really wants is so important. With so much of our lives currently being played out in the digital space, customer experience has the potential to make or break businesses. But there’s a clear disconnect between what consumers want and what brands are currently delivering.

Consumer frustrations

Our recent research identified a number of common consumer pain points when it comes to customer experience.

Out of their top frustrations, consumers say slow websites (37%), targeted ads (33%) and hard-to-navigate websites (29%) are the most serious. And when it comes to identifying potential deal-breakers, a fifth (21%) say a slow website stops them interacting with a brand altogether.

These are serious issues, mainly rooted in basic website performance. In fact, this emphasis on performance is reflected in the Google search algorithm which prioritises speed. Yet when decision-makers were asked how good their website’s performance was, 77% thought it was ‘great’.

Consumer priorities

We asked consumers to identify their top priorities with regards to online experiences with brands. These were getting the best deal possible (54%), feeling valued as a customer (48%), and having a seamless experience across all devices and channels (42%).

In stark contrast to this latter priority for consumers, only 11% of decision-makers saw a seamless, omnichannel experience as the most important factor when delivering a quality experience.

Brand priorities

While customers care about getting a good deal, feeling valued, and having a seamless experience between channels, the main priority for decision-makers is building personal connections, with things like website performance and delivering seamless cross channel experiences featuring lower down.

Concerningly, despite consumers’ grumbles about website performance, this isn’t a major focus for decision-makers, who believe they are already succeeding at fundamentals like intuitive design and optimisation for mobile.

Clearly priorities are not always aligned and whilst a significant number of customers are vocal about their frustrations, such as slow (37%) and hard-to-navigate (29%) websites, 77% of decision-makers think they are living up to customer expectations and that the online experiences they provide have improved.

The impact of COVID-19

With a potential second wave set to cause further disruption, there are clear lessons that brands need to take on for the future.

Consumer behaviour has changed, with 35% agreeing that they shop online more than they did before. And 34% say they now use more online services generally and 30% believe their online experience is now much more important than it was last year.

Convenience is key, as 62% of consumers say they expect brands to offer more convenience moving forwards. And crucially consumers are more critical than ever, with 46% saying they’re less forgiving of poor online experiences than before the pandemic.

Positively, online experience has improved generally for 44% of consumers since the pandemic started. In fact, 58% said they were impressed with how brands handled the COVID-19 crisis – indicating many companies have taken successful measures to adapt to the new normal.

It’s clear that businesses have generally been taking substantial measures to adapt in the face of COVID-19. During this time 33% of businesses have invested in their digital experiences and services and an impressive 72% now offer services and products that they didn’t before. Some 75% agree that without an online presence, they would have struggled to stay open during the pandemic. In fact, 76% say their online offerings saved their business.

Connecting the dots

Overall, our research paints a largely positive story. Companies are prioritising customer experience and actively putting in place budgets and initiatives to improve it.

They’re also acknowledging the impact of COVID-19 and taking steps to evolve with customer expectations. However, there is a level of mismatch between what customers really want and what brands believe they are delivering.

Personalisation is clearly important, and a key way to hone a competitive edge. Businesses are showing great innovation by investing in it – but the problem is, there are more pressing matters to attend to first. Businesses shouldn’t try to run before they can walk, particularly at a time when online experiences are under such huge scrutiny.