Digital customer experience: what to know and how to Improve It

Consumer behavior has changed radically in the past few years. People make more online purchases than ever before, and e-commerce sales rose by 43% in 2020 alone. Now that more aspects of our lives are transitioning to cyberspace, it's time to rethink the traditional customer experience.

What is digital customer experience?

The digital customer experience includes every online interaction a customer has with your brand

Customer experience encompasses every interaction a customer has with your brand. Digital customer experience, then, includes every online touch point your customer have with your brand, such as:

  • Advertising
  • Point-of-sale transactions
  • Company blogs
  • Customer service
  • Social media posts
  • Fulfillment and shipping
  • Customer feedback surveys
  • Online forums and review sites

Customers use some or all of these channels at different points throughout the customer journey. For example, someone might research products on their phone and move to their computer when they feel ready to purchase. Or they might come across your brand's social media page and move to your website or download your mobile app to learn more.

Adopting an omnichannel mindset, which covers all your customer-facing digital channels, is essential for creating excellent online experiences.

Note that omnichannel strategies are slightly different from multichannel strategies. Here's how they differ.

  • Multichannel: This "zoomed-in" approach focuses on improving the customer transition from one channel to another
  • Omnichannel: This comprehensive approach focuses on providing a seamless customer journey and meeting customers where they are across all your channels

A multichannel approach helps you work on specific brand goals, but an omnichannel approach is better for improving the overall customer experience.

The Starbucks customer experience is an excellent example of a successful omnichannel strategy. Customers can order through the app to earn points and rewards or scan their rewards number in the store using their phone. Plus, the company's website provides a self-service knowledge base so customers can answer their own questions quickly and easily.

Although a multichannel strategy also includes multiple platforms for customers to interact with a brand, the experience isn't seamless like an omnichannel strategy is. Every company that markets in more than one way — say on social media, through email newsletters, and via an app — is inherently "multichannel." But to be omnichannel means connecting the customer's experience from one place to the next.

How does digital transformation drive customer experiences?

It's impossible to overstate the impact of digital transformation on customer experience — and vice versa. Creating a better customer experience drives the digital transformation initiatives of many companies.

Digital transformation is the process of digitizing each area of your business to meet evolving technology needs. You can start by digitizing only specific departments or processes or take a more comprehensive approach. Either way, digital transformation fundamentally changes how you do business — especially regarding customer service.

The key is to use digital transformation to upgrade your customer experience. Any time you add a new tech tool or revise internal processes, consider how it will improve the customer experience.

Elements of digital customer experience

Here are the six most critical components to creating amazing digital customer experiences.

User interface

Your user interface (UI) includes all the graphical components of your website or app, such as buttons, text, entry fields, and images. Your UI includes everything making up the digital world your customers interact with, so it's crucial to the customer experience.

Your user interface includes everything your customers interact with on your website or app

First impressions matter online. According to research from Google, approximately half of web users say a website's layout is an important factor in their perception of a brand.

An intuitive, easily navigable UI is vital for delighting customers. How the customer uses your app or website should mirror their expectations and thought patterns. For example, if the customer taps on a "buy now" button at the end of a blog post, that button should lead them to a product page or shopping cart.

A well-designed self-service knowledge base also adds value to the digital customer experience. Customers don't have to wait for an answer when they can look up their questions themselves, and a smart search feature helps them find what they need in seconds.

Mobile responsiveness

While optimizing the desktop experience is always going to be important, neglecting the mobile customer experience weakens your brand even more these days. Mobile traffic is one of the most critical touchpoints of the entire customer journey. According to recent data, 59.16% of website traffic now comes from mobile devices.

Desktop design doesn't usually translate automatically to mobile browsing. Mobile devices have much smaller screens and less processing power than most computers, so more complex websites are often slower and harder to navigate on a smartphone than on a laptop or desktop. And when customers have trouble finding what they need, they're significantly more likely to bounce. Since mobile devices now outnumber desktops, a mobile-first design is essential for any digital improvement project.

Some of the elements of mobile-first design include the following.

  • Simple design: Mobile websites should look clean and uncluttered, with simple fonts and ample use of white space
  • Clear visual hierarchy: Place the most critical content highest on your site so viewers can quickly read and understand it before scrolling down or navigating to another page
  • Loading speed: Compressing images, using sequential loading features, and switching to safe HTTPS protocol reduces the time your site takes to load on mobile devices and improves overall performance

Mobile-first designs are simple, have a clear visual hierarchy, and load quickly

Functionality

The way we live has changed radically over the past few years. Today, more people work, shop, and even socialize from home than ever — but our new lifestyles are only possible when our tech works like it's supposed to.

When it comes to the customer experience, prioritize functionality over perfection. Each channel needs to provide the information or digital services customers need at that stage of the journey, and do so well.

Let's say you have a mobile apparel app. At a minimum, your customers should be able to browse your catalog, add items to their carts, and check out. You might also add a virtual try-on feature for customers to see what clothes look like before they buy or a loyalty membership page so they can earn rewards on their purchases. Knowing which of the above functions are core necessities and which can be added on later helps you get to market faster.

Personalization

Research shows 73% of customers expect a customer experience tailored to their unique preferences. Today's consumers want brands to treat them as individuals, not numbers.

Nearly three-quarters of consumers expect a personalized customer experience

Here are some ways personalization appears during the digital customer experience.

  • Customer profiles: Creating detailed customer profiles allows you to save customers' unique preferences and their basic demographic information
  • Customization options: Customers like being able to make products their own with customizations and upgrades
  • Purchase tracking: Remember customers' favorite orders to provide personalized product recommendations and other benefits
  • Feedback opportunities: Listening to your customers is one of the best forms of customer research because it reveals exactly what they want
  • Personalized messaging: Use the information from your customer profiles to send unique messages that speak to each person as an individual

Customer support

Excellent support is critical for adding value to the customer experience. Customers have three main expectations for support.

  1. Self-service: Customers like being self-sufficient, so providing digital self-service solutions like FAQ pages and community forums is essential
  2. Real time: Whether they connect with a customer service rep or access your knowledge base, customers want the interaction to be quick, streamlined and simple
  3. Human: Consumers overwhelmingly prefer speaking with a human customer service representative to solving complex issues through a chatbot

In the digital realm, an intuitive UI allows customers to access the support they need quickly, which minimizes frustration and improves the overall experience.

Accessibility

Many companies create a standard experience for all customers, which excludes people with disabilities by default. But universal accessibility is critical to creating a great overall customer experience.

Investing in accessibility allows people with disabilities to navigate the digital experience just as easily as others do. It's also essential for your reputation. Conscientious consumers care about accessibility and choose brands that prioritize providing services for everyone.

Importance of digital customer experience

The digital customer experience is critical. Here are the most significant benefits of providing an excellent digital customer experience.

An enjoyable digital customer experience fosters loyalty, enhances your brand reputation, and increases sales

Fosters customer loyalty

Previously, companies believed their products or services were the main draw for repeat customers. But that belief isn't quite correct, and the shift toward digital business has made the truth clearer than ever. It's not your product that makes customers choose your brand over others — instead, great experiences create regular customers.

In a 2022 survey of 1,000 individuals, 44% of respondents said a poor customer experience was inexcusable. While many people are open to giving the brand a second chance, others will go to another company after just one poor experience. Providing a positive customer experience both on and offline is vital for sustaining your customer base.

Enhances brand reputation

People who have a positive experience with your brand are more likely to recommend you to others. Whether they choose to leave a five-star review or tell their family and friends about your company, their feedback boosts your reputation and extends your brand's reach.

The key is to strive for consistency in the customer experience. If one good experience is enough to bring a first-time customer back, many good experiences in a row will make them excited to share it with others.

Consistently good customer experiences encourage people to share your brand with friends and family

Increases sales and revenue

Creating an experience that retains loyal customers and builds a positive brand reputation significantly improves your revenue and opens up new digital revenue streams by connecting all your channels.

Not investing in digital-first initiatives means missing out. Positioning your brand as forwardthinking and tech-savvy helps you get ahead of the competition. Creating an enjoyable digital customer experience helps attract and retain valuable long-time customers, boosting your bottom line.

Challenges of managing the digital customer experience

The digital customer experience is critical for your brand's survival, but certain roadblocks make it difficult to succeed. Here are some of the top challenges you might experience.

Fragmented data and information

Many companies lack visibility into the customer journey. Understanding how to serve your customers well is challenging when customer data is incomplete or siloed.

Often, incomplete customer information is due to poor data governance or insufficient technology. Internal information silos happen when different teams or departments create their own databases without input from other parts of the company. And when you lack the tools to create one unified repository of information, these silos are nearly impossible to eliminate.

Centralized solutions that improve data quality eliminate silos and help you manage up-to-date customer profiles, which you can apply to your customer experience initiative.

Manage the customer experience with centralized solutions to improve data quality and make it more accessible

Limited resources for managing the customer experience

Optimizing the digital customer experience is difficult if you don't have the right tools for customer relationship management.

If this situation sounds familiar, consider reviewing the customer experience tools you already have. Do you use them consistently enough to justify the cost? Do they have the features you need to complete your usual tasks? If not, it's time to make a change.

Inability to personalize the customer experience

Today's customers expect personalization at every level of the customer experience. Failing to meet that expectation puts your business at risk. According to a 2021 McKinsey report, 76% of consumers feel frustrated if they don't receive personalized service.

Lacking the right technology tools puts your company at a disadvantage by making it difficult or even impossible to connect with customers on a personal level. It also hinders your ability to provide effective service by limiting your company to slow, outdated internal processes.

How to improve digital customer experience

Cloud storage solutions help you create a great customer experience. The cloud is completely web-based, providing access to your channels from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. It updates in real time and saves content to one centralized location, so you can trust that your customer profiles are accurate.

Web-based cloud storage solutions save content in one place so you can access it from anywhere

Here are some other ways the cloud creates a seamless digital customer experience.

Centralized storage and access

Customers expect your company to remember their data and build experiences around it. But it's difficult to build and store a complete record of customer data without creating internal silos.

Cloud storage helps create a seamless, cohesive customer experience across all digital channels by consolidating your content into one centralized location. You can access this information from any channel and use it to add personalized elements such as product recommendations and messaging.

Plus, the cloud's flexibility makes scaling as your business grows easy. Anytime you need more storage, you can increase your plan to match — without waiting for costly hardware.

Automated workflows and processes

Even with a dedicated customer experience team, managing all your channels simultaneously is challenging. Automation, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) are excellent tools for streamlining complex processes and saving time, creating more value for the customer.

For example, because chat is such a high-touch customer communication channel, your customer service team might have difficulty keeping up. AI chatbots free up your team to address more urgent concerns.

However, the human touch is still vital for positive customer experiences. People want to connect to other people when they need help, so it's best to use AI prudently. AI chatbots often initiate the conversation, then transfer certain customers to human customer service reps. This setup allows you to leverage automation to create hyper-personalized digital experiences.

Collaboration and communication tools

Communication is critical for efficient work and effective service. The cloud enables communication anywhere, on any device, which is essential for providing consistent service across all your channels.

Here's how cloud communication and collaboration tools benefit your digital customer experience strategy.

  • High availability: Redundant infrastructure in cloud service providers' data centers reduces the risk of downtime, so customers have access to your channels whenever they need it
  • Round-the-clock service: Cloud collaboration tools enable asynchronous work, allowing employees to serve customers in various time zones and locations
  • Ability to leave feedback: Cloud-based instant messaging platforms make it easy for customers to connect with your brand and let you know what they're thinking

Cloud communication and collaboration tools reduce the risk of downtime, enable asynchronous work, and make it easier for customers to connect with your brand

Integration with other digital tools

Communication gaps between digital channels result when your tech stack consists of multiple disparate tools. These gaps cause friction within your technology ecosystem, making the customer experience even more frustrating.

Closing these gaps is vital for providing a seamless experience. Whatever platform you choose for managing the digital customer experience, ensure it integrates with the rest of your tech stack, including your CRM platform and document management system.

Cloud-based programs enable you to connect all your tools into one unified platform, eliminating information silos and facilitating easy digital interactions with customers. They also streamline internal processes by allowing your people to access the resources they need to provide excellent service without using multiple disparate programs.

Consider how your customer-facing technology integrates with the real world, as your physical location is another critical component of an omnichannel strategy.

Analytics and reporting capabilities

You can't meet customer expectations if you don't have a good grasp of who your customers are. Analytics software helps your company build more complete customer profiles with information such as:

  • Key demographics like age and geographical location
  • Typical consumer behaviors and purchasing habits
  • Customers' desires and pain points
  • Customers' values and goals

The cloud lets you compile all this data into one unified platform so analysis and reporting are easy and hassle-free. More accurate insights allow you to find new ways to provide ultra-personalized service across all your channels.

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