A recent survey of 10,000 UK consumers by Which? revealed that niche retailers are excelling at delivering customer experiences while, on the whole, the bigger brands are struggling to meet expectations.

While it has been suggested that smaller, more specialist retailers are able to deliver a streamlined and simpler journey for their customers, I wouldn’t say that the user experience (UX) is the problem. At least not, if you consider experience, the performance of their websites.

Why a superior user experience creates customers (not consumers)

Side by side, the functionality and hierarchy of the best and worst performers are very similar, although the better performing sites are supported with clearer content, simpler navigation and hierarchy.

The real issue and difference is around service and delivery.

Service design and delivery

The purchase journey may be frictionless. That’s what people expect. If you can’t meet shoppers’ expectations after they’ve clicked buy, then you’ll have a problem.

Fundamentally, the online and offline care are connected. Shoppers know this and they don’t really differentiate between the two. They interact with brands, not channels.

Customers want to know if a brand is being transparent, knowing exactly what they have in stock in real-time, when their package is coming (a simple reminder goes a long way), whether it meets their expectations when it arrives and if it doesn’t, that help and support will be timely and effective.

Report: Bridging the Customer Experience Gap

If you check out the best performing brands’ Trust Pilot scores, customers rave about quality and delivery. On the flip side, those who are unable to meet these expectations are at the bottom of the table.

Perhaps this is because smaller retailers like Richer Sounds know they need to make the extra effort to be transparent, personalised and timely. However, even larger retailers who get it right, like John Lewis, score highly when it comes to simplicity and the delivery promise. Their staff are on-hand to provide expert advice and customer support, not just drive sales.

Keeping up with the customer

Our recent survey conducted with Econsultancy (Bridging the Customer Experience Gap) identified that there is a highly significant gap between how businesses believe they perform and how they deliver against customer needs.

Love or hate him, Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon, once said: “One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static – they go up. It’s human nature”.

Customer experience resonates with people on a deep and highly emotional level. Websites are perceived to be performing badly because customer expectations keep going up and up. We all want the Uber experience. Now.

And with so many touchpoints accompanying customer journeys, across both digital and traditional channels, the challenge is becoming ever more complex.

Stock photograph of a map sitting in the middle of a table, surrounded by a laptop, a camera, two small pot plants and a notebook. One person's hand, holding a pen, is poised over the map. Another pair of hands cups a coffee mug across from them.
The challenge of keeping up with the customer journey is becoming ever more complex.

Meeting those raised customer expectations requires continual and ongoing investment. What was best-in-class a couple of years ago becomes out of date really quickly.

You might feel great because your website is now optimised for mobile – however, customers are now used to the performance and convenience of a native app. Or you work hard to integrate PayPal as a payment option – but now customers compare everything with the convenience of Apple Pay.

Take, Monzo, UK Challenger bank who has raised £85m in series E funding at a £1bn valuation. Before your Monzo card even arrives, you’re able to use your account and add it to your Apple Pay wallet.

Monzo’s transparency extends beyond alerts and customer notifications, extending to a community that harnesses new feature ideas and a transparent roadmap for future improvement. This type of service is why their Net Promoter Score is 81 / 100. Compare that to Apple who scores 72 and Amazon who scores 62.

Prudent UX for banking? Monzo designs ‘positive friction’

For me, this is where the rational (data, technology and platforms) blends seamlessly with the emotional (narrative, empathy, customer centricity). It is a hugely challenging mission for companies, particularly legacy brands who are not always as adept at adapting quickly.

In summary, to deliver a great experience, brands must think beyond the UX of an interface. Brands that are good at it are the ones that are genuinely committed to customer centricity, and continually invest in making sure their experience keeps up with customer expectations end-to-end.

Service design and delivery far outweighs interfaces when it comes to ensuring happy shoppers. Those who are winning are the ones who can connect the online experience to offline service. And do both brilliantly.

Learn more

For more insights into how companies can deliver experiences that meet their customers’ expectations, read Bridging the Customer Experience Gap, a report from Econsultancy in partnership with Zone and Cognizant.