Why the digital experience matters
June 2, 2015 11:09 AM
“This magic moment, so different and so new,” sang the late Ben E. King in a classic 1960 soul hit by The Drifters.
Now that I’ve planted that contagious melody in your head, here’s a thought to ponder: This classic song could be the theme song of every bank, airline, retailer, insurance company, healthcare organization and government agency in the world.
That’s because it turns out that magic moments and the power of emotion have never been more relevant in dealings between businesses and customers -- even as those interactions increasingly become more digital than physical.
A bit surprising, isn’t it? The common wisdom might be that human emotions don’t occupy quite the same importance in the cold world of 1s and 0s, where so much of our lives now play out.
But it turns out that the dynamics of the digital experience are very much like those that have governed commerce through time. It’s all about delighting uses in the moment. And when that digital experience means mobile, the bar is even higher. More than half of Internet users use a mobile device to access the Internet today, according to IDC. That's 1.6 billion mobile Internet users worldwide. By 2018, nearly three-quarters of the global population will access the Internet using a mobile device -- 2.7 billion mobile Internet users).
A survey of businesses that IBM conducted last year showed just how essential a good digital experience is to staying competitive. We found that most consumers now have their very first interactions with brands through digital channels. When "magic", these experiences increase loyalty and brand advocacy. The U.S. adults surveyed reported that after having an “excellent” experience on a web site or mobile app, they visit the site or use the app more frequently, recommend the site or app to others, and post a positive comment on social media.
Yet excellence is not yet the standard. Fewer than half (49 percent) of U.S. adults said their experiences using web sites on desktop/laptop computers are excellent. Only 25 percent said their experiences using web sites or mobile apps on tablets are excellent. As few as 18 percent described their experiences using web sites or mobile apps on smartphones as excellent. And the ideal is an omni-channel experience with seamless insight into user's needs regardless of whether they are engaging in-person, or via mobile or web. This doesn't mean just resizing information for a different device, but creating a personalized experience in the context of the moment.
The word “experience” comes from the Latin experientia – a trial or experiment. The connotation is that the first stage of any experience is a test. Does this delight me? Or make my life easier? IBM's Center for Applied Insights studied the best practices of digital natives [“Inside the mind of Generation D”, October 2014]. The best digital companies were two times more likely to engage their clients via mobile and social, and 1.7X more likely to personalize the experience. When they don't the impact can be dramatic. Harris Interactive estimates that online retailers may have lost $44.6 billion due to online customer experience problems - anything from slow response times to loss of personal information.
By creating a personalized, convenient, secure omni-channel experiences, companies can pass the digital test and engender repeat business. A few examples of those who have gotten it right:
- Prudential Insurance has integrated nine different lines of insurance business to provide a single view for their customers to access their entire portfolio. Customers can update their coverage, pay premiums and add new policies and coverage 24x7. In fact, Prudential has found that customers who use the portal for self-service have a higher loyalty rating that other customers. Prudential also has discovered that this is an effective tool for selling new services to existing customers.
- WestJet Airlines, a Canadian low-cost carrier, provides its 50,000 daily passengers meaningful notifications on their mobile devices from the moment they decide to take a trip to the day they return. For instance, if a traveler’s aircraft has changed to an alternate gate, they are sent a real-time notification containing the new gate information.
- Performance Bicycle, which operates more than 100 states in 19 states and is a popular Internet retailer, offers an online Learning Center that includes buyer’s guides, product reviews, how-to guides and riding tips. The feeling one gets on the page is a personalized connection to the riding community.
By investing in a well thought-out, technologically savvy digital experience strategy, these three companies are creating magic moments for their customers. That could create relationships that, as the song says, “will last forever.”