Millennials are taking over the world, bringing with them new consumer habits and preferences. Dated marketing tactics are no longer powerful enough to reliably bring in new customers, and companies are forced to compete in a new arena. Those who learn all the new rules of the game flourish and those who neglect them are destined to perish.
As Rodney Mason, global vice president of marketing at Blackhawk Engagement Solutions, puts it, “Millennials are savvy shoppers and many have come of age in a post-recession era, and our research shows that this group routinely compares shops on mobile to get the best value and shopping experience.”
The keyword here is “experience.” According to business consultants at Walker, customers experience will become the most important brand differentiator by 2020, overtaking price and the product itself. However, there’s no need to wait that long to see the impact of the millennial generation on the retail landscape. A research report prepared for American Express states that more than half of all customers do not object to spending more money on businesses that provide great service.
These same customers then jump on social media sites, where they recommend the business to their friends and followers, potentially triggering a web-driven avalanche of sales and visitors. The question that everyone must ask is then simple: what is a good shopping experience?
Recognising a Positive Shopping Experience
Research done by McKinsey & Company, a worldwide management consulting firm specialising in qualitative and quantitative analysis, has unveiled that customers base as much as 70 percent of their shopping experience on how they are treated.
In the past, most brands were interested solely in getting into the minds of their prospects. They would try to lure them in with advertising, convince them that their brands are superior, and make it very clear that there are no better products on the market than those sold by them.
However, as time went on, customers got tired of what they perceived to be a one-way form of communication. Instead, they wanted marketers to listen to them. That is how User Experience (UX) design has become inseparable from any good User Interface (UI) design.
While the latter focuses primarily on function (e.g. doors let customers in and out, a button on a website places an item into the shopping card), UX is all about customers’ interactions with the product or services. These interactions happen from the moment a customer first walks through the door to the moment when she leaves with a new product, and often even beyond that.
In other words, it is not enough for doors to open and close and for a button to add an item to the shopping card. Both of these interactions must be designed with end users in mind and in a way that delivers positive user experiences.
Creating a Positive User Experience
Keeping in mind the end customer, companies can use many different approaches to create positive user experiences. One of them is the user experience honeycomb developed by Peter Morville. It describes seven facets of UX: useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible, valuable. Peter’s honeycomb of UX design can be easily adapted and used as a simple test just by turning individual facets into questions. For example, you can ask, “How useful is my product?” or “How accessible is this feature to someone who does not know much about technology?”
To answer these questions, you need reliable data. The simplest way how you can obtain them is to simply ask your customers about their experiences. In many cases, you do not even need to ask because your customers will leave online reviews without you asking them to do so. This method of data acquisition has its limits, however. There’s only so much you can ask without bothering your customers, and the answers they give you are not guaranteed to be of any value.
Especially on the web, it is often much more effective to measure how your users are interacting with your product and to use A/B testing as a fireproof foundation of any sound UX design. Something as trivial as a change of two words in a call to action button care increase clicks by 300 percent.
You can then measure the overall effectiveness of your UI and UX by simply measuring whether it’s helping you achieve your business objectives, which could include greater conversion rate, more visitors, higher revenue, or improved customer satisfaction.
As we can see, it is customers who shape how businesses offer their products, market their services and design their websites. They do so through an ongoing two-way process of communication that encompasses every step they take on their customer journey.