The Online Customer Experience

Written by  May 7, 2007

Many web businesses focus solely on technology and design when building their websites and forget about two of the most important elements. They add some content, they launch the website satisfied and feel poised to sell their product or service. Unfortunately, their customers aren’t satisfied.

To really make an impact and influence customers, businesses must move beyond a seller’s perspective to achieve high-performance (seeing things from a BUYER’S perspective). Generating business value happens by creating a customer experience driven from the buyer’s perspective.

Website Usability

Usability guides the placement and direction of content within the design and technology. Its focuses on creating convenience for the visitor’s interaction. Powerful usability enables a frictionless customer experience where intuition versus thinking drives the visitor’s movements.

Usability creates a well-designed website with intuitive and instructive navigation, clear call-to-actions, articulate value propositions, credibility-building communications, convenient order process – all elements that create fluidity in the visitor’s movements towards their goal achievement.

Customer Influence

Influence is where seller guides buyer down a deliberate sales process. A usable website generates average sales; an influential and usable website can skyrocket sales. An influential website is like a consultative sales person providing information, helping to evaluate alternatives, adding reassurances, feeding the emotional appeal, and skillfully pulling the visitor towards the purchase not always “now” but assuredly at a point in the future.

Influence is the website comparable to the customer experience created by a neighborhood grocery store owner. Personalization, suggestive selling, relevancy, trust, assurance, sincerity, helpfulness – are the objectives of influence.

Influence is not manipulation. It is not the stereotypical used car salesperson tactics of cheap talk and deceptive ploys. Powerful influence is about intimately understanding the visitor’s needs to provide them the right information at the right time. It moves them clearly and easily through their buying process.

Usability and influence are buyer-driven because what is usable and what influences a purchasing decision is entirely controlled by the buyer. And just like you can’t manage what you don’t measure; you also can’t influence what you don’t understand – the visitor’s intent.

Website Design

Design is the fa├žade around the technology. It adds curb appeal to the website and directs the visitor’s eye towards a desired experience path. Great design directs a visitor’s actions through the effective use of colors, graphics and lines.

The design is initially recognized by the visitor in forming their first impressions about our web business. Design is like a person’s clothes or dress style; it doesn’t provide substance but it forms our willingness to interact, to commit time, and to frame the possibility of fulfillment.

And like people’s clothing style, we naturally associate stereotypes to a design to speed our decision process.

Whether fairly perceived or not, design plays a crucial role in setting expectations. With the average visitor spending 10 seconds or less determining our website’s relevancy with their goals, our designs either connect or expel them.

Ultimately design plays a supporting role to usability. Great design drives great usability.

Technology

Technology is a website’s foundation that must work seamlessly supporting the customer experience. Visitors shouldn’t notice the technology and typically only do when it is broken.

Technology is like a car’s engine; most drivers don’t know or care how it works, it’s just a vehicle to get them from point A. to point B. But it quickly grows frustrating when it slows down, breaks down or falls apart.

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