Are you Confusing Customer Experience with Customer Service?

Customer service and customer experience are two terms that are constantly getting thrown around in business, but do you know exactly what they mean? The phrases are often used interchangeably and, in some cases, thought to be the same thing, but in reality, they are different.

To try and put it simply, customer service is one part of the overall customer experience.

Customer experience is the journey a customer takes with your brand, from gaining initial awareness to post-purchase care and support. Customer service, on the other hand, refers to a single instance when a customer reaches out for help and support during this journey.

What is important to understand is that both are equally as important when it comes to the success of your business. You can’t do one well without the other, which is why it’s so important to understand what they are and how they are different.

 

The Customer Experience

Like we said up above, the customer experience, often abbreviated to CX, is the entire journey a customer takes with your business. It is one of the things that allows you to stand out from your competitors and make you and your brand shine. And for a lot of customers, it can make or break their chances of buying from you again or referring you to their friends, family or extended networks on social media.

It’s so important that from a survey SuperOffice ran with business professionals they discovered that customers spend 140% more and remain loyal for up to 6 years when they rate a company highly for customer experience.

‍Customer experience always involves all the different customer interaction points you have on offer. It covers things like your website and your eCommerce store, your social media channels, any kind of live or video chatyou might offer, and even your in-store experience (if you have storefronts).

The key to creating an awesome customer experience, which is something we should all be trying to do, is to make sure all the different points where a customer interacts with your brand are linked up, easy to use and offer the same level of attentiveness and care. Making things seamless and convenient will pay for itself countless times over.

Offering the ability for customers to jump between channels like from your social media to your website to onto live chat, as part of an omnichannel customer experience is vital.

 

Customer Service

Where it might be hard to come up with an example of customer experience, we can all come up with an example of customer service, be that good or bad, pretty quickly.

Like we mentioned up above, customer service a single instance when a customer reaches out for help and support during their journey, be that at the beginning, middle, end or even post-purchase.

And because customer service makes up one part of the customer experience, providing good customer service is essential to providing a good overall customer experience.

Getting this wrong can be an expensive mistake. Consumers are 2 times more likely to share their bad customer service experiences than their good ones and 82% of customers have ceased business with a company because of poor customer service.

And if you think you have it right, it is always best to triple check that you have. In a survey undertaken by Bain & Company, they found that 80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service. When the same question is asked to customers, only 8% of people think these same companies are really delivering.

So, what can you do to get these two right?

Although they’re part of the same journey, the tactics are a little different. The biggest thing to note is that for the most part, customer experience is proactive and customer service is reactive.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared to deliver the best possible customer service at any given time by having processes in place and being timely with responses.

The one thing I can tell you from personal experience is that no communication is way worse than communication that sends the update that there is no update. People hate being left in the dark and letting them know that someone is thinking about or doing something to resolve their issue is worth its weight in that proverbial gold.

We’ve found a few tips that will help you not only develop a great customer experience but tie in customer service and make them both shine.

 

Develop a relationship mindset, not just a transactional one.

You want to be creating relationships with your customers and not look at things as a series of separate interactions that just happen to take place.

This means keeping track of what they’re doing with you and tools like Zendesk and Hootsuite can work well together and bring everything into a single place and when linked with customer purchasing and browsing history you can create a solid profile of who your customers are and the types of experiences that resonate with them.

 

Follow the data and the money will follow.

And following on nicely from that is another great tip. Customer experience is strategic, not tactical, you need to know where the value is coming from, and where you’re throwing good money after bad.

If you know what makes your existing customers both tick and run away, you can optimise to do more of what they like and less of what they hate without the need to just rely on instinct.

Invest in good data with things like user testing, A/B testing and keeping a record as we mentioned above and you’ll for sure get better and what you do.

 

Close the loop between customer service and customer experience and learn from it.

Customer service shouldn’t be a dead-end or an island unto itself. Develop feedback loops between customer service and other key departments. Every single customer service interaction is an opportunity to learn and improve and do better.

If you’re just sticking the information somewhere and patting yourself on the back for a job well done, you’re literally hiding gold. Don’t do that. Share it around and find ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

Need some help with either?

If you’ve read this and gone ‘that’s great but where do I start?’ you’re bound to not be the only one.

The answer is to come talk to us. We have a team of experts in our Experience team that do this stuff for a living, and they love nothing more than being able to share their wisdom with others.

When you reach out to us, we can have a chat about your goals or frustrations and make a plan to fix them, achieve them or absolutely smash them out of the park. Just know we’re here when you need us.


Here’s What Customers Want From Direct To Consumer UX

If you hadn’t noticed eCommerce is on the rise and has been for a while now but alongside traditional retailers finding a way to get their store online, there has been another shift taking place. It is gaining momentum and there are more and more examples of it becoming a defining point of success for businesses.

What we’re talking about here is Direct to Consumer. More and more manufacturing brands are taking advantage of the benefits of taking total control of a sales channel and selling directly to the people that are using their products.

However, along with all the benefits and just like everything in life, there are a few challenges. One of which is the expectations of your customers. You might expect that they would be the same as what they would be for multi-brand and traditional retailers. And to be fair, that is not a bad assumption to make but new research from Baymard is letting us know that this isn’t the case.

The Baymard research team spent 1,440 hours usability testing and researching Small Catalog, Direct to Consumer website features, layouts, content, and designs leading to their latest research study on Direct to Consumer UX.

The research is based on more than 217 qualitative user/site usability test sessions following the “Think Aloud” protocol (1:1 remote moderated testing).

The test sites covered smaller Direct to Consumer brands with smaller product catalogues including beauty, apparel and accessories, cookware and fitness. Some of the brands included Allbirds, MVMT & Daniel Wellington.

What they found even with testing a broad variety of smaller Direct to Consumer sites, was that users would repeatedly abandon Direct to Consumer sites due to issues with the layout, content types, or features. In fact, the users encountered 1,370+ medium-to-severe usability issues on the smaller Direct to Consumer sites.

For the report, they analysed and distilled the results into 413 guidelines found within their research study. These cover most aspects of the Direct to Consumer experience, at both a high level of general user behaviour as well as at a more granular level of specific issues users are likely to encounter.

What you'll find here is some key highlights that’ll help when you’re working toward getting a Direct to Consumer offer into the market.

 

Things To Consider When Making Direct To Consumer A Success

 

• Customers Want to Get to Know You First

One of the things that Baymard discovered during the research is that where customers of traditional B2C businesses are likely to be looking at the product price, variations and returns policy, for example, when making buying decisions, consumers are rarely making buying decisions based solely on what they think of the brand itself.

In stark contrast, users on Direct to Consumer sites typically want to “get to know” the brand and products at a deeper level before they make a purchase decision. In fact, many users want to feel like the site shares their tastes, values, and goals.

And this is supported by research from Diffusion. They found that perception is driving purchasing with 44% of consumers believing Direct to Consumer brands produce a higher quality product at a lower price point than traditional competitors and nearly a quarter (23%) perceive Direct to Consumer brands to be an authority of what’s cool and on-trend.

All this dictates the type of information you need to provide on your Direct to Consumer site beyond just “the basics”. That being what is expected by users on almost all e-commerce sites. Things like product titles & images of the products. But it also changes where and how the information is presented.

 

• The Homepage is More Important Than You Might Think

What Baymard found during the research is that when consumers are visiting Direct to Consumer sites, a first step for them was to spend more time exploring the homepage than what’s typically observed or expected of users during general B2C testing.

As an example, consumers on more traditional B2C sites like John Lewis or ASOS, will often start by going directly to the search bar or the main navigation, to quickly drill down into the site to begin finding products of interest.

But, during their Direct to Consumer testing, consumers tended to first scroll through the homepage, considering the highlighted content, to determine if they should spend any more time on the site.

 

• They’ll Dig Deeper to Find Information Before Buying

Another thing that came out during the research was that consumers spent more time digging deeper for particular pieces of information. This included heading to About Us pages and for lists of faqs so that they could answer not only basic questions but also more specific ones.

Our tip here is to 1, make sure the information is on the site and 2, it’s easily accessible. This should help entice consumers to stay around longer. If they’re able to answer a question with a piece of information either about your brand or products it could pique their interest and engage a buying motivation.

 

• How the Site Looks is Just as Important as What is on it

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and the devil may be in the detail but there is one thing that the research found that, for me, has always been a suspicion.

When it comes to big retailer websites, the ‘industry experts’ can point out the differences all day but to the standard end-user, they’re much the same. While some aspects of design differ, for most users the design aesthetics of larger e-commerce sites rarely have much impact on their decision whether or not to purchase from the site. For them, usability is much more of a driver.

However, when it comes to the smaller Direct to Consumer sites, users tend to want to feel like a site is representative of their own individual taste, or at the very least that the site’s design aesthetics aren’t offensive to them.

And take note of this little insight. The research found that some users during testing were observed to abandon sites solely due to their dislike of the design aesthetics — not even venturing off the homepage to support their decision.

Now, what nobody would ever advocate is trying to cater to every individual user’s personal design-aesthetic preference because frankly, that is an impossible task. But pulling in some of the more eccentric design decisions and going for a simpler but still, bespoke approach was observed to perform well for most users.

 

Final Thoughts

Direct to Consumer sites have many challenging tasks facing them when it comes to perfecting the user experience.

There is no one size fits all approach, and each brand is going to face a slightly different set of challenges, but the good news is that the research is out there to help and even more importantly, there are experts out there that have made this their business and passion.

One of those businesses is us. At Eclipse we’ve got a team of experts in the Customer Experience team that can design, implement, test, optimise and further develop the customer experience for your business and drive continued growth through conversion rate optimisation and a long-term optimisation strategy.

Through user testing and experience testing, directly with the types of people that buy your products, the research and data help remove emotion and gets to the core of creating a great customer experience.

All you need to do is reach out to us and have a chat. We’re here to help you build, test, develop and optimise your Direct to Consumer channel.

And if you’d like a copy of the research, you can get access to all 413 DTC UX guidelines, available today via Baymard Premium access.


Things Customers Hate About Websites (So You Might Want to Avoid Them)

Websites have been around for what feels like forever at this point and people spend a lot of time online. The amount of time people spend online has only increased massively since the covid-19 pandemic changed the way we live our lives.

As a result, we’ve all been exposed to more websites than ever before and there are things that some of them do that really annoys us. So much so that people will turn around and get the heck out of dodge, not sticking around to take a look.

We’ve done a little research and found the things that annoy people the most. Hopefully, your site isn’t guilty of anything of these things but if you are, now you’ll know and you’ll be able to fix it.

As always, if you need a little help the team at Eclipse are here for you. So, let’s take a look at what we found. And so you’re aware, there is no particular order to these, you’re going to want to fix them all.

 

Multiple Pop Ups That Come Out of Nowhere

Don’t get us wrong, if used well it is a great example of a feature that can help drive positive visitor engagement and can often be a good User Experience. A strategic pop-up – such as an exit notice or notification of an event or specific piece of content that relates to the page they are on – can be effective.

The problem comes in when pop-ups are everywhere, repeat way too frequently or are just plain nonsensical. It causes distractions and visitors to the site don’t want to have to be dealing with having to keep shutting down intrusive mini windows. You can be assured that their next click is likely to be away!

You did all the hard work getting them there, why put up barriers and click tests all over the place that distracts from the reason they arrived in the first place.

Ensure the marketing team is thinking about what is there already before adding a new one and always ask the question, do we really need it?

 

Slow Loading Pages

This feels like one we shouldn’t have to talk about anymore. Surely everyone understands that slow-loading pages are annoying. Having said that, it is still a problem for a lot of websites out there.

Visitors to your site expect swift loading times, and responsive website designs that function brilliantly on all browsers and devices. If you’re offering a slow experience, the visitor is going to bounce.

Amazon found that just a one-second delay could cost Amazon $1.6 Billion in sales – head here to find out why.

You can always check your load speed performance and you should do it regularly. Just head to Google’s page speed tool and enter your URL.

 

Little or No Contact Information on the Website

Having contact forms across the website and on your contact us page is great, and it is definitely something you should be using, but it can’t be the only way to allow people to get in touch with you.

It should not be a quest for fire when anyone goes looking for an email address or phone number. If your visitor or customer needs help, they want it now. They don't want to fill out a form and wait to see when, if ever, they get a response.

Let people get in touch with you via email, phone, and social media, and make that information available on your website. And if you’re able to man it well, live chat can be a great way to deal with quick questions people may have.

 

Asking for Too Much Information, Too Soon

So, your customer has added some stuff to the cart and is ready to check out but now you’re asking them to give you their life story before they can hand over the money. This is the fastest way to drive up cart abandonment and drive your conversion rate into the ground.

Requiring registration or even an entire account set up, before any transaction is a terrible idea. Users will be at best reluctant and at worse highly suspicious. It’s far better to let them check out as guests and offer them the ability to create an account post-purchase, should they choose to create one. And why would they be likely to do it post-purchase? Shipment tracking.

A usability test run by Jared.M.Spool allowed customers to continue and purchase on e-commerce websites without the need to register and the results were phenomenal. “The number of customers purchasing went up by 45%. The extra purchases resulted in an extra $15 million the first month. For the first year, the site saw an additional $300,000,000.” – Read the full article over here.

 

Spelling Mistakes and Out of Date Information

This is a pretty simple one, just don’t do it. There is little to no reason to have spelling mistakes all over the place.

There are countless tools, such as Grammarly and Hemmingway that take the basic spell check and kick it up a gear. Spelling mistakes really are in the category of unacceptable and drive down trust with potential buyers. It is also just plain unprofessional. If attention to detail on the website is missed, just think about what impression you’re making regarding customer service. It does little to create ‘good faith’.

Out of date information falls much into the same category. You’re doing nothing to help build trust with both new and existing customer relationships by having it all over your website.

It talks about the attention to detail and duty of care. Personally speaking, I am not about to drop any money on a purchase with a website that gives me a moment to pause and think about its legitimacy.

 

You’ve Got Broken Links All Over the Place

It’s hardly a shocker that users want websites that work. Clicking on links that lead to a 404 – page not found is more than annoying. It doesn’t matter how cool or quirky you’ve made the page, visitors just don’t want to see it and in all honestly, there should be little reason to have broken links all over the place. It also creates other problems. Did you know broken links can also hurt your SEO?

When Google's search engine crawlers discover broken links on your page, it decreases your site's search rankings putting those sites with working links right in front of you.

It is common for links to break from a site migration, page update, change in site architecture, or even just a typo but before you make any changes make sure that you add link checking or re-direction to the task list. Don’t let it become an afterthought.

Broken links interrupt the user experience and ultimately translate to lost revenue for your business. A good web developer can do wonders in helping you fix your site’s broken links. You can also make sure your links are all working by crawling your site with a program like Screaming Frog or SEMrush.

 

This is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

The problems mentioned so far are undeniably annoying, but it just scratches at the surface of what drives people crazy and pushes them away from your site.

Things like difficult or broken navigation, out of date look and feel, bad cheesy stock images everywhere, not working on all browsers and devices and having forms with way too many fields that need to be filled in before they can be sent kills the user experience.

Getting a website audit done and starting a continuous programme of conversion rate optimisation that builds on driving iterative change and improvement to your site is the best way to tackle the problems, improve on the experience you offer and make sure that you’re making the most out of the customers that visit your site.


Conversion Rate Optimisation Statistics You Need To Know | Infographic

We spend a huge amount of time, effort and money getting people to our websites. This might seems like a pretty hard task at times but in all honesty, it is the easy part. The challenge comes in when you try to get those visitors to convert.

This is by far the most important part.  The smallest difference in your conversion rate can make a big difference on your bottom line. If you can increase your conversion rate a single percentage point from 1% to 2%, you could double your revenue.

We came across an awesome blog by Startup Bonsai where they pulled together a list of CRO Statistics and we took a few of the key ones and put it into this infographic. They're the stats you need when it comes to winning over the key stakeholders in your business on the subject of CRO and the benefits of an investment into a long term CRO strategy made up of continuous testing and improvement.

Give it a read, share it around and when you're ready to create a strategy and put it into action, come talk to us.

 

 

Keep an eye out for our upcoming infographic on CRO tips and tricks and our next eBook, the first in our 'How To' series, How to Take a Business Online.


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You're Not Thinking About Accessibility Enough

Broadly speaking, making a site accessible means accommodating the range of ways that users can interact with your product, regardless of experience, capability or disability. Often people think of accessibility in terms of extremes; how would a blind person interact with a site? 

While it makes sense to prioritise things that are going to take more effort to integrate and test, the truth is, your potential user base is almost infinite its combination of characteristics and capabilities, and a truly accessible site should be able to accommodate them all.

It can sound like an unachievable goal, and for product owners trying to apply accessibility standards to an already existing site, knowing where and how to start can be difficult. However, the key and most important things are to start. 

Legally required levels of accessibility are no longer things reserved for government organisations. Legal requirements mean predetermined standards and probably the most widely adopted standard are those laid out in WCAG. These are a set of standards created in cooperation with individuals and organisations around the world, to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organisations, and governments internationally.

It’s all too easy to decide “this site will be AA accessible”, by which it meets the mid-range level of conformity, and work backwards and forward from there. Making a site accessible can simply become working through a checklist; do images have alt tags, are the contrast ratios high enough on the buttons? While this in itself can be a valuable process to go through, but it isn’t the whole story. At the end of the day, it’s crucial to remember the whole reason for undertaking accessibility improvements; your users. 

User experience is the ultimate test of success on your site. Better user experience often means a better conversion rate. Your user base can vary widely, and while you can follow best practices and accommodate the 95th percentile, at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for user testing. 

It can be achieved many different ways, at Eclipse we often use A/B tests to decide the best approach to design. However you do your testing, you can be sure of two things; one, that it will give you a better insight into how people interact with the site, and two, there will be results that you were not expecting.

In a recent example, we were looking at the design of a CTA button. By adhering to the brand’s guidelines, the button was bright orange and the label text in the button was white. 

Following AA standards, the contrast ratio wasn’t high enough to be considered accessible. On paper, the label text should be dark. But that’s not the whole story. A sample group of test users actually found the dark label less easy to read than the white version.

 

 

 

It’s not uncommon; there are numerous examples of similar tests producing the same result. The contrast ratio guide is supposed to ensure that the label is legible for people with visual impairments like colour blindness. But even when all the users questioned where colour blind, they favoured the white label over the “accessible” dark label. 

There could be numerous explanations for this, but it’s important to consider the human factor in everything we design. The way we see things is inherently imperfect and everything needs to be considered in context. 

In the case of the button label, the preference for the white label could be explained by the irradiation effect. In essence, when there is a border between something light and something dark, our retinas actually shift the divide towards the dark, so that the white seems to bleed over slightly.

In the case of the button label, the white text feels bigger or thicker to our eyes. Again, context is important; our eyes perceive colours differently depending on the colour around them. For this button, it was also being used on a light page. All the white space around the button increases the irradiation effect on the white button label.    

Obviously, standards and guidelines serve a purpose. Even in the button label tests, nearly 40% of the users favoured the recommended accessible colours. The fact of the matter is, users who struggle are often a minority.

 

 

Guidelines help factor the needs of a minority into our design choices. Design can be subjective and we need to agree on some ground rules. Particularly when it comes to factors or impairments that might not impact us directly. It’s almost impossible to preempt all your users' needs, but it’s important to try. 

However, it’s also important to know when to be flexible enough to break those rules, to accommodate your users. The only way to know that definitively is to be having regular interaction with your users. Guidelines help you start that conversation, but ultimately it’s user testing that will let you know if you got it right.


Conversion Optimisation Is The #1 eCommerce Challenge For Most Businesses.

Anyone who makes their living selling things understands the difficulty that the covid-19 pandemic has created. It shut down traditional selling channels and forced businesses to innovate, which has changed the face of retail for good.

eCommerce has become the shining light and the only real way to keep business moving but for those who thought it was as easy as just chucking up a website and waiting for the money to roll in has been the subject of a reality check.

eCommerce is absolutely the future of retail and it is going nowhere so truly understanding what it takes to make it work is vital.

 

A Website is Never Finished

The consumer is a fickle entity, and they shift and morph constantly. What you launch with as a shopping experience can very quickly become outdated and clunky. And more than that, for many when the rubber hits the road the potholes that appear ready to take you out are everywhere.

Understanding the challenges and preparing for them or making sure you have someone to reach out to when you hit them is fundamental to staying ahead of your competition and here at Eclipse, we do what we can to make sure we keep our clients, past, present and future, as well equipped and educated about eCommerce.

 

Challenges For Those in The World of eCommerce

This week Mollie, one of the fastest-growing payment service providers in Europe, published research unveiling the state of payments in retail today as well as the challenges and opportunities in the retail market following a turbulent year.

Some key highlights from the research when asked what the biggest challenges in online retail were, 65% of those retailers asked cited converting shoppers to purchase, 43% rated high costs for shipping or payment providers and 41% selected low margins. And for a third of online retailers (34%), cart abandonment is the biggest challenge with 30% reporting that 6-10% of carts were abandoned.

Other key findings included:

  • EU and UK merchants rely on a multitude of channels to sell: As bricks and mortar shops closed their doors, online has become far more important. Specifically, 46% of all revenue now comes from an online webshop. And on average, 37% of sales occur via third-party marketplaces such as Amazon. Finally, as much as 16% of annual revenue now comes through social media platforms like Instagram.
  • Two-thirds of retailers had revenues impacted by the pandemic: The pandemic has had both a positive and negative effect on retail sales. 23% of merchants saw sales increase last year. Conversely, 29% either saw no change or had sales decrease somewhat. And 17% saw sales decrease significantly. Of those who reported an increase, revenues went up on average by 29%. The average decrease in revenues was 27%.
  • Issues with the payments process can hurt sales and growth: 31% said that an issue with the payment service offered or the range of payment service options provided was the reason for abandoned carts. 41% cited a lack of innovation in payment systems as hindering growth.
  • ‘Buy now, pay later’ now offered by more than a fifth of retailers: With many consumers looking for more flexible ways to pay during the pandemic, 22% of retailers now offer ‘buy now, pay later’ or Apple Pay payment methods. And 20% offer Google Pay. This is set to increase with 31% looking to improve payment systems to help grow online revenue within the next 12 months.

You can get access to all the results, based on responses from 2,500 European retailers, in their report: ‘How a growth mindset leads to higher profits’.

“The retail sector has had a difficult year and this is reflected in the findings which expose a multitude of challenges and areas for development,” said Josh Guthrie, UK Country Manager at Mollie. “As the market also comes to terms with the Brexit deal, the ability to adapt and grow under pressure is paramount.”

 

Facing the Challenges Head-On

The first step is to identify if you’re facing these challenges and if you are, reach out for help. At Eclipse we’ve got eCommerce experts in all areas including conversion rate optimisation, design, user experience and the day to day running of eCommerce operations.

They know the industry inside and out and are here to help navigate you through these challenges and onto continued success.

Creating a conversion optimisation strategy that builds into a programme of continuous testing and improvements, for now, and into the future, ensures that challenges are highlighted early and fixed.

Our team of business consultants can work alongside the strategy and guide and advise you on ways to make improvements around returns, shipping and operations that can lift margins.

So, whether you’ve identified these challenges in your business or you suspect they might be lingering in the data, your next step should be to speak to us.


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Ecommerce Statistics You Need To Know In 2021

Last year changed the role of eCommerce in our lives forever and as we move into the second month of 2021, we’re still living in a world where for many, eCommerce is the only way to get what they need for their day to day lives.

Even after things start to return back to ‘normal’ there is little doubt that the role of eCommerce in our every day will be vital and for those who operate in the retail space, in any way, are going to become more dependent on it to remain successful.

We only have to look at the most recent acquisitions of both Debenhams and the hero brands of Arcadia including Top Shop, Top Man and Miss Selfridge by online-only businesses BooHoo and ASOS to see that the future for many is online.

But with most things, there is a need to stay at the leading edge of innovation and eCommerce is no different. Peoples buying habits are changing and the shifts mean that what was once a great digital storefront my start to develop ‘issues’ for shoppers and it is the job of the retailer to know the market and innovate to keep its customers coming back.

Some of these changes might be minor and other might need a little more work but to be able to know which are the areas you should be looking it first you need to know how the habits are shifting.

In that vein, we’ve pulled together some of the insights we’ve discovered that we think you need to know in 2021. These will help you in planning your strategy for this year and once you’ve got a good idea of what you need to do, we’re here to help. Just reach out to us and we can work together to drive continued success for your business.

Click on the image of the eBook below and give it a read.


Are you putting ‘Digital Excellence’ high on your list of priorities?

Are you putting ‘Digital Excellence’ high on your list of priorities?

Just so we’re clear, you absolutely should be. Among many things that retailers need to put at the top if their list, digital excellence has very quickly become one of the highest and is certainly non-negotiable.

In an article written by Noel Wurst and published on Total Retail, he says that Digital Excellence “enables your online visitors to be delighted by how easily they were able to accomplish a task or complete a transaction on your website and/or application.” He goes on to explain that “The term is highly subjective due to the endless number of tasks that your customers or potential customers may come to your website expecting to be able to accomplish. Maybe they’re just looking for pricing or sizing information. Maybe they need to track an existing order or chat with support. Maybe you need to make sure they know about a new promotional discount, rewards program, or payment options. Today’s successful retailers are making sure their online properties leave their customers impressed enough to return, and to encourage others in their personal and social networks to do the same.”

At Eclipse we could not agree more. We’ve been talking about this for years and have built a team of experts whose very job it is to make this happen for our clients. It is so important to us that we believe any change, adaption or optimisation made to your website or strategy should be considered from the point of view of the customer first and foremost. If it doesn’t make it an easier and more enjoyable experience for them, why are you doing it?

The importance of getting this stuff right just can’t be overestimated. As we find ourselves still in a national lockdown with retail shuttered and little choice but to head online, customers are doing just that. And as you would imagine, the world is their oyster and the options they have when it comes to spending money are seemingly endless. What makes them spend the money, return to purchase again and even head to social to refer the business, is their experience.

 

Understanding the customer expectation.

We’re a fickle bunch whose patience has gotten shorter and expectations have gotten bigger. Whether we’re retailers or just straight up customers we all buy things and we all have the same standards when it comes down to it.

As Wurst puts it “Every time we interact with a website or application, we expect the world. No matter what browser we’re using, or what tablet or mobile device is in our hands, we expect to be able to find exactly what we’re looking for, that images will render beautifully, that pages will load, payments will process quickly, and that we can quickly get on our way. And, thanks to plenty of companies that are currently delivering digital excellence, we expect every company to do the same.”

And if you think you’re somehow excluded from this requirement, you’re not. “Whether we’re online to purchase nails and screws, adorable cupcakes, or a high-end sports car, our expectations are the same. No retailer is spared from this requirement to delight us, as consumers, in every interaction.” Wurst points out. “The retailers achieving the most success today understand the importance of not just meeting these expectations but exceeding them.”

 

What is the risk of ignoring Digital Excellence?

As you’d probably imagine low conversion rates, lack of return visits, low revenue generation from the website are just as few, but Wurst has an interesting take on the ultimate risk and we tend to agree with his assessment.

“I would argue that it’s the threat of a loss of trust that best summarizes the importance of what we’re talking about here. We don’t tend to befriend, recommend, share our personal data with, or conduct business with organizations we don’t trust.”

He adds “And as much as it might seem like slow-loading pages, crashed websites, missing images, and broken buttons are everyday occurrences, there are innovative technologies out there that eliminate these threats — and the threat of lost market share that comes with them.”

 

Here’s how to mitigate the risk

As we mentioned before, this is an area that Eclipse is an expert in. We’ve been doing it a long time and we’ve worked with some very big names in the world of retail and continue to do so.

We’re using the technologies that Wurst talked about and combining it with our years of experience to offer our clients an unparalleled level of insight, support and optimisation in this space. All you need to do is decide how important it is to you and the future of your business and if you think we’ll be able to help.

Come talk to us, it costs nothing, and we can talk you through what we’ve done for businesses like yours. Together we can develop a plan to get you delivering Digital Excellence every time and then you can decide if you would like some help putting it into action.


Couple working in coffee shop

The Continuing Evolution of Digital Design

Design as a whole has gone through rapid transition since the internet first came around. It’s really easy to look back and laugh at, what used to be, a playground of expression and opportunity for new sales channels without any real guidelines or understanding of users, but it was a different time. Internet speeds were much, much slower. People were still pushing the boundries of what was possible (and still are), but they were also much tighter boundries. So we thought we’d take a look back and see how a couple of the online giants did things back then, how they do it now and how design generally will likely change in the future. We will keep this pretty high level otherwise we may as well release a book.

GOOGLE

Google Beta screenshot

Everyone knows who Google are and what their core service is for now, but do you remember when Google first appeared? Firstly let’s pay attention to the fact there are so many links on the main search page in a bizarre array of turquoise boxes. We couldn’t imagine such noise on the Google homepage now, but back then, remember not many people even knew who they were so this was partly education for new users – some of which would have had very little exposure to the internet before. Clearly they’ve tried hard to further highlight the search bar with an additional grey fill behind the search bar, just in case you didn’t see it. Clearly they still had a playful side back then as they always had the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button, but realistically it doesn’t add any value other than encouraging people to search and discover more of the internet.

Also note the serif typeface – yes people still use serif fonts now and you can create some beautiful experiences with serif typography, but the selection is much larger now and screen resolutions are significantly better, but back then you didn’t have much choice. Accessibility wasn’t really ‘a mainstream thing’ when Google came about so elements like the contrast between between the link colour and the background wouldn’t have been considered anywhere near to the extent we do today.

When we look back, we should also look at their logo. The emergence of drop shadows, colour and embossing – look at all this cool stuff – let’s use it all. But to recap, as much as we can look back and laugh or cringe, this was all new technology. This was stuff no-one had seen before so it was in some ways, educating the world as to what we can do. And that’s still happening today.

If we look at Google today however, they don’t even need to establish their brand clearly – everyone knows who they are and what they do. In fact, in June 2006 ‘Google’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s true – Google it. They don’t even use consistent site branding, instead opting for abstract representations (Google Doodles) of which there are plenty. This is to both further demonstrate their creative muscle and encourage users to actually search for something they may not have considered searching. Other than that however, the page hasn’t actually changed all that much. The search bar is still the hero on the page, but you don’t need to be told what to do anymore – you just do it. Additional links have been down-weighted to the footer and other services hidden in a menu. Developments such as the integration of voice search have made an appearance and now they have user accounts that store huge amounts of data to provide more personalised experiences to users.

Google homepage 2021
Google homepage 2021
Google Doodles
Google 2020

They still have the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button which I believe is purely for nostalgic reasons. If people come to this page, they’re coming to search for something in particular – they don’t need their hand held in the process. The key difference is the education of how. Users no longer need to be told how to do the basics and the rate of learning is almost second nature too many users. It’s on this basis, that companies will inject more of their own personality and unique experiences in to their sites. Their dominance in the space is evidenced by the fact they don’t even need to show their brand anymore – their Google Doodles have become almost as synonymous as the core logo itself.

AMAZON

The behemoths of online shopping. Love it or hate it, the journey they’ve been on means they can do pretty much anything they like to their site and users will still use it. Much like Google is that dominant force in online search (although Microsoft, Apple and many others are trying to change that), they are the ‘go-to’ marketplace for many online shoppers. They are so dominant, the largest of businesses also sell via their platform due to the sheer number of users visiting their site every day. So let’s see how it’s evolved over time. As before, we’ll focus on the homepage as we could release a series of novels if we went in to too much detail.

The snapshot above is from 1999 and it looks as though the hyperlinks are partying together like it to. What started out as predominantly an online bookshop, has tried desperately hard to highlight they sell other stuff too. Links to music, clothes, software, DVD’s (anyone remember those?) were all on show to entice people into their site, but a clear lack of hierarchy makes it painfully difficult to navigate or understand what to do. Suddenly we are seeing different font weights and sizes which are starting to introduce hierarchy, but structurally it’s all over the place. The times when pages were built with tables were still rife across the internet. But wait – remember users weren’t really familiar with navigation like we are today. We see tabs, burger menus, mega menus and the like – these are second nature to us now, but back then the mainstream may have been just getting used to this. Again – as much as we can look back and cringe, Amazon were also taking the user on an educational journey. Look at all this stuff – you don’t need to leave the house to shop. The whole idea of being able to see physical products on a web page was novel, but the ability to find the products was key. Unlike Google, back then Amazon didn’t really make much of search and it was tucked away in the corner.

The use of gifs, flashes and product images starting to test your 700kbps internet connection but at the time Amazon hadn’t really understood the importance of search as much as Google. And why would they? It wasn’t their primary business, at least it ‘wasn’t’.

Now let’s look at Amazon today.

90s screenshot of Amazon
Amazon 2020

Suddenly Search is clear and prominent right at the top of the page. They realise now that their product catalogue is so large, it would be insane to try and highlight everything to users. People want ‘stuff’, so let’s have them tell us what they’re looking for and we’ll find it. Using the analogy to their origins in books, it’s a bit like asking the librarian if they have a particular novel in. Too much choice needs some assistance. People aren’t patient – they just want to be told how to find what they want in as little time as possible. There are just as many (in fact more) links as there were 10 years ago, but now there are graphics, rich imagery, clean typography and stripped back navigation. But then that brings us to something that Amazon do particularly well – upsell, cross-sell and personalisation. Just to clarify, I’m not a big fan of Amazon. I truly believe if Amazon was created today, it would look and behave completely different. Product names are painfully worded for the search reasons and the gargantuan level of information is daunting and often hard to read. However, they have such an abundance of traffic and data, they have the luxury of running hundreds of experiments at a time, learning more and more about users every second and customising experiences to get users to spend more money faster. Go on to the site now – you’re probably seeing several experiments running at the same time.

Now we’re seeing suggested categories and products, bright vibrant offers, gift ideas, seasonal deals – the list goes on. Users know that an image will usually link to the product. We also have user generated content in the form of reviews and own images – day to day these experiences are both used and expected as a way to buy with confidence. This goes even further when you’re logged in to your account. The level of personalisation is immense from browsing history, to order status and suggested products based on your search history. There are flaws in this however – once you’ve bought a product, you don’t need 100 suggestions of the an alternative product that does the same thing.

Amazon 2020
Amazon Desktop
Amazon screenshot on Tablet
Amazon Tablet
Amazon iPhone screenshot

Then we obviously have the abundance of resolutions across mobile, tablet and desktop. Much more considered thought is now put in to how sites are designed. We wrote a piece a while ago about how users buying behaviours have changed as smartphones hit the mainstream. Desktop shopping came down, mobile shopping went up. With the current climate they are now at around 50% in terms of traffic split as more people work from home. It’s common practice now to create a responsive site that optimises the experience of mobile users. In Amazons case, they’ve done this well, but also have their own native app that ensures you can stay logged in all the time. Spending money has never actually been easier and people have built trust in these retail platforms to do that.

But to recap, as much as we can look back and laugh or cringe, this was all new technology. This was stuff no-one had seen before so it was in some ways, educating the world as to what we can do. And that’s still happening today, but expectations are higher than ever and they’ll continue to rise in the future and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next and push the boundries of the possible. The internet used to be a tool for research and very quicky, became a $3.5 trillion tool for commerce by 2019 and is expected to grow year on year.

THE FUTURE

So what about the future? It’s an old reference that’s been used for years, but the UI in Minority Report was a mind blowing example of how people saw the future of digital interfaces. But let’s be real about this – we spend hours in front of screens every day. There’s no way we’re going to spend this time flailing our arms round to move files or design. Having said that, maybe you have arms of steel, but I believe you would get very tired of it very quickly. So it’s more about evolving UI in to more delightful experiences – I’m sure there will be many more iterations of the examples mentioned above. Creating more immersive experiences and taking advantage of newer technologies such as Augmented Reality, AI and new hardware such as Lidar that is now becoming more and more mainstream with consumer hardware brands.

Online will continue to grow – especially in the current climate and if you’re relying on riding it out or copying a competitor, you will be taking a significant risk. Having your own identity. Making your online sales process as painless as possible. Delighting users with the latest and greatest technology. These are all things that will help build your base and increase loyalty, so don’t leave it too late – your competitors are acting now and you should be too.

SO WHAT ABOUT DESIGN?

Design is obviously a very personal area for everyone. We have our likes, we have our dislikes, there are trends and there are bends (I needed a rhyming word, but I’m referring to slight deviations of trends). When we look at the examples above we can see people were still finding their way, but information was still the king of the swing. Now however, with new technologies, faster speeds, better hardware and higher expectations, simply accessing the information is not enough. The overall experience will have a significant impact on users perceptions of your business, so it needs very careful consideration.

One of the classic references is that of the abundance of skeumorphism. This was the art of making user interfaces look like real world objects. A clock looked like a real clock. A dial looked like something you’d see on a console. This came around with the release of the original iPhone and allowed designs to flex some serious creative muscle. Painstakingly crafting highly detailed icons and textures to the finest degree. At the time, it was great – it was beautiful. However this came to an end as users became more familiar with using these digital interfaces. Suddenly there was no real need to visualise so explicitly what a note file was.

Skeumorphic example
Image source dtelepathy.com

Then came the flat design revolution. Flat design came in and it came in with a bang. Big, bold colours in giant blocks. Regimented grid systems, no shadows or gradients. Just big, solid colour. The problem was that this definitely more of a trend. Suddenly everyones site looked the same and compromised on usability. Nothing really stood out and the overall experience is what I would refer to as ‘beige’. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few out there that did it well, but they were few and far between and I’m kind of glad to see this one fading away. 

Even Apple went all-in on flat for a while in what was quite a uncharacteristically poor design choice in their main OS UI. This ultimately ended up in a very frustrating experience where there was a significant lack of visual hierarchy and hidden menus, that ultimately made the software harder to use. This was evident across lots of websites, but I’ve called this OS example out given it was such a big slip up on a large scale.

iOS settings
Image source vandelaydesign.com

As people came to this realisation, the creative minds of Google came along and introduced the world to material design. This basically took flat design, put some hierarchy and tonality around the use of colour, gradients and depth in the form of shadows (hooray). But this wasn’t like the Google shadows of old which were harsh and jarring in the UI – this was softer and easier to comprehend. Suddenly the reintroduction of depth rose from the ashes of flat design (pun intended). This too, became hugely popular and still is, but designers are now tailoring designs and lending styles together to create an identity of their own.

Material design screenshot
Image source design.google

And this brings me on to an emerging trend – neumorphism. I would personally describe this as a hybrid between neomorphism and material design. Inputs and controls are using the realistic gradients and soft shadows of skeumorphism, but with the control of execution of material design. So it’s not exactly like the real thing, but it does look like something tangible you can interact with in a more simplistic way – designed for digital interfaces.

Neumorphic example
Image courtesy of bashooka.com

As of late, a hybrid has been utilised in the latest iOS adding more depth to the UI and bringing a hint of skeumorphism, neumorphism and transparency, which has now been rolled out to their desktop OS. Personally, I like the return of more life-like and 3D elements that have been introduced but there are some parts of the UI that are arguably less accessible than before. This is a new deployment however, so I expect to see this refined and iterated on in updates over the coming months.

Before you run off and start creating everything like this however, I would err on the side of caution. This is still relatively new and it hasn’t really been refined as a style yet. In examples I’ve seen, some controls are so blended in, they suddenly become almost invisible and unusable. So this still has some way to go to be established as a good approach. Yes – we can create these beautiful UI’s and subdued environments, but we must make sure it’s used in the right way with the bold colour use of material design and the softness of neumorphism. I actually see this as an opportunity to further introduce another level of hierarchy and identity in to UI, if done in the right way.


2020 fridge magnets

Our Top 5 Posts from 2020

2020 is behind us and the new year has begun but we thought we'd take one last look back at our Top 5 posts from our blog. We wrote a lot of different kinds of articles over the year from opinion pieces on the industry to guides on how to get the most out of your digital store front with design and CRO and these 5 are the posts that users were drawn to and spent the most time with.

Here is our Top 5.

 

AR & Furniture Retail | A match made in heaven? We Think So.

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Is Magento a good choice to launch your first online store?

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The ROI of UX & why not investing in it is a huge problem for you.

Read Post 

 

 

What it a User Journey Map?

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Testing in testing times

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We hope you enjoyed our posts and insights in 2020 and that you'll be joining us again this years as we've got even more great stuff planned.