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Whether you realise it or not, your company is in the user experience business.
Putting users at the centre of your strategy is key to a successful multichannel approach.
Here are five guiding principles to help you get it right.
The methods in which users interact with your brand are varied and unpredictable, a trend that will increase over time.
Smartphones are set to overtake computers as the medium for most website visits and unusual suspects such as television browsers, game consoles and wearable technology are already after a chunk of this traffic.
In this ever-changing technological landscape you need to be careful not to put all your eggs in one basket, offering multiple channels. Users now jump between touchpoints under the assumption they will see the same data and options across all platforms.
This changing consumer behaviour has resulted in the role of the UX professional growing from an initial consideration of web, mobile and email screens towards accommodating customer journeys that switch between many channels in a single transaction.
For instance, a consumer may do desktop product research before visiting a store, use a smartphone to check customer reviews and competitor pricing while in store, and later purchase via a tablet or even by calling a hotline.
Putting users at the centre of your multi-channel design is key to a successful omni-channel UX approach. It can transform your business strategy to achieve that elusive and brilliant experience for every user, regardless of how they have chosen to interact with your brand.
Here are five guiding principles to help you get it right.
Great multichannel UX is consistent
Your customers expect the same experience every time they interact with your brand, and ideally each experience should build their trust and strengthen your reputation.
If any channel fails to reach the standards set by your best channel, your brand’s credibility will suffer.
Each interaction a customer has with your brand is one piece of their overall experience. Every time an action isn’t available, a mode becomes unfamiliar, or a button isn’t where it’s expected to be, your reputation takes a small hit.
Take, for example, one of the UK’s leading supermarkets (no names mentioned). The website offers a 'save trolley' option while the mobile app doesn’t – even though app users are more likely to have their session interrupted, or they may need to wait until they get home and check the fridge before completing their shop.
This leaves app users confused or uncertain of whether their trolley items have been automatically saved. This might even tempt the user to uninstall the app.
A more consistent approach would create a better experience, ultimately leading to more use of their app and more sales.
Great multichannel UX is available
Availability means giving your customers options. People want to be able to choose when, where, and how they access your services.
Some people like to read newspapers at the kitchen table while others prefer to browse articles during their morning commutes.
A colleague of mine scrolls through headlines on Twitter’s mobile app and sends himself links to open later on his laptop.
Choice, and letting users decide their own experiences, is an incredibly powerful factor in omni-channel UX design.
Don’t make the mistake of limiting common activities to specific channels.
The top interactions users have with your brand or service must be available and enjoyable across all touchpoints, and you should strive to make less common interactions – tasks such as viewing order history or changing account information – available as well.
There are times when actions won’t make sense on every channel. When faced with these exceptions, sway the user to an alternative channel.
Apple does a great job when it prompts a user to register a new device by inputting a simple four-digit code on their existing one. The trick is to keep each transition quick and low-friction.
Great multichannel UX is channel-neutral
Channel consistency and availability are only the first steps. For a variety of business reasons, it’s often tempting to promote a single channel - with a new incentive, such as a discount for desktop users.
While this may improve the experience for customers that prefer a desktop browser, it has the unintended consequence of creating a poorer perceived experience for customers preferring an alternative channel.
Many customers hope to access similar features across all channels.
Customer experience improves when there is an integrated multichannel approach enabling them to choose which touch-point to use to access particular features or content, without being penalised.
Great multichannel UX is context-optimised
While availability is key, context-optimisation is also important. The Starbucks website, for instance, allows users to top up their Starbucks loyalty card and the mobile app allows users to pay for their coffee on the fly.
Design each channel to impress even if it’s the first or only touchpoint a customer will have with your brand. Also consider, though, how different channels might be better suited to different interactions, and how the context of those channels will influence those interactions.
Another example is a mobile banking app that might be optimised for a user to check their balance and locate the nearest branch, two common on-the-go banking activities.
Knowing that a desktop experience is better suited for more intensive activities, the same institution’s website might emphasise setting up a direct debit or creating a new savings account.
Great multichannel UX is seamless
Optimising for the modern customer journey means you need to eliminate technological divides. Users need to be able to jump between your website and mobile app, picking up exactly where they left off.
Even the divide between online and offline has disappeared as the digital world merges with the physical. For instance, Starbucks truly blurs the lines with innovations like allowing customers to order on their mobiles so their drinks are ready when they arrive at the café.
Disney’s impressive smartphone app allows park guests to perform tasks such as checking attraction wait times so they can improve their own experience in real-time.
It sets the benchmark even higher with “MagicBands” – connected bracelets that act as a painless central link between everything from purchasing food to unlocking hotel doors.
We are beginning to see brands take seamlessness to a whole new level. It’s worth taking a moment to consider how your brand could use technology to enhance what were once purely physical experiences.