Sunday, December 16, 2007

Influencing the customer experience through the internet

How well a site matches users ...

"It may once have been regarded as a specialised technology for specialised purposes, but few would dispute that the web is now an integrated business tool. It provides a new and different way to connect with customers and extend their brand experience with you. Moreover, today’s Web 2.0, with social networking and interactive capabilities, means that business-to-customer interactions are evolving and becoming increasingly social in nature.

The capabilities, philosophies and social dynamics behind Web 2.0 have transformed online interactions from technically limited, company-centric, individual experiences to rich, user-centric, social experiences. Many companies are realising that this phenomenon is changing the way business is done online. The proliferation of online communities, well-segmented audiences and the unparalleled volunteering of personal information represent new opportunities for engaging customers with your brand.

Consumers, though, are increasingly more sophisticated, not only expecting but demanding positive, online experiences that meet their needs and aspirations. Understanding what motivates your customers to initiate and build a relationship with your brand is crucial to influencing online decision making and increasing conversion rates.

The objective is to help people make decisions that we intend them to make without deceit. In marketing, a conversion occurs when a prospective customer takes our intended action. On a website, the point at which a customer makes a decision about interacting or transacting is defined as a conversion goal. Feeling satisfied, engaged or motivated to buy, donate or read more are examples of critical behaviours. Whatever a site’s conversion goal, it is now more about people than product or services.

Most people think that decision-making is guided by conscious, rational thought but emotion is also critical. In fact, it is often the driving factor behind starting the decision-making process. Moreover, decisions are not usually strictly emotional or rational. By understanding what motivates customers to keep clicking through a transaction and which design elements hit exactly the right note, we can improve their online experiences and measure the value delivered to them.

Reinforcing credibility

In the past, building a successful interface was based on understanding users’ needs, designing for ease of use and validating through usability testing. Traditional usability testing, however, deals almost exclusively with the rational, behavioural aspects of the customer experience, such as whether people can buy a product online, access information easily or learn to navigate the site.

To attract and engage customers, online usability must now address the much broader concept of user experience, one that encompasses people making decisions and taking actions on variables that they are not consciously aware of. This includes how people are feeling; how they are reacting emotionally and how we grab their attention."    (Continued via MyCustomer.com)    [Usability Resources]

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