The Future of Business Web Site UX: Get Personal!

August 10, 2015

Though it’s taken quite a bit longer than many frustrated UX designers thought it would, the business world is finally waking up to a fundamental fact: when it comes to B2B or B2C Web site design and development, a great user experience is not—and has never been—optional or merely nice to have. Rather, it is essential to a successful customer journey and as vital to organizational success and growth as product strategy. As consumer-behavior consultant and author Brian Solis has rightly noted: “UX packages efficiency and enchantment to deliver more meaningful, engaging, and rewarding consumer journeys.”

What’s more, given the link between great user experiences, rewarding customer journeys, and increased sales, ensuring that business Web sites spark this virtuous cycle is a high priority.

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User Experience as Competitive Advantage

Looking at the big picture, user experience is arguably a business’s most important competitive advantage—or, in some cases, disadvantage. As the Walker Information report “Customers 2020” predicted, within five years, customer experience will supersede conventional, heavyweight brand differentiators—such as product and price—as the most influential factor in either convincing customers to stick around or compelling them to take their money and loyalty to a competitor.

So, keeping in mind the ability of user experience to differentiate a product, it’s equally important to realize that providing a great user experience is vital to a business’s success—and even its long-term survival. However, while design and usability are essential elements of user experience, they don’t tell the whole UX story. As UX strategy expert Christopher Grant Ward advised in his UXmatters article, “User Experience Is More Than Design—It’s Strategy”:

“User experience is not just about design. It is about the strategic understanding of users and their behavior.” founder Jeff Bezos’s apt and oft-quoted metaphor echoes Ward’s insight:

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Indeed, while the perspective that Ward and Bezos have expressed is axiomatic to UX designers and has been a core part of their message for decades, many businesses have failed to appreciate its importance until now.

The continued—and, in some corners, unexpected—success of pro-UX champions like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Netflix means that businesses in general are finally accepting the connection between effective Web sites and great user experiences. Businesses that are starting to understand the value of user experience include many that don’t dominate their market space or have capital reserves larger than those of many small countries. But a great Web site user experience is fundamental to their success.

High Customer Expectations for User Experience

However, while businesses are reassessing and, in many cases, reinventing their Web sites to ensure that they align with Web and UX standards and best practices, something else has been going on that is adding a layer of complexity to the mix: customers have raised their expectations for user experiences, too. As CX consultant Coreen Head has observed in her work with leading companies around the world:

“[Today,] consumers expect their digital service experience to be clean, simple, and user friendly.”

In other words, businesses should no longer anticipate winning a Webby Award just for baking great user experience into their Web site, because customers now expect and demand no less. Fail to deliver a great user experience and customers will bounce away—often within seconds—never to return.

We can see that there are two complementary, but distinct forces advancing across the digital landscape:

  1. Businesses need to up their UX game for their Web sites—and, in some cases, to radically improve their UX capability.
  2. Customers expect a meaningful and impressive digital experience.

Because of these forces, the unavoidable questions that businesses must answer are: Where do these two forces meet? How can we get there as soon as possible, so we can embrace customers rather than chase them away? The answer is not a place, but a perception: they meet in personalization.

Personalization of User Experiences

Personalization is the next frontier for user experience—especially, though not exclusively, for business Web-site user experiences. By personalizing a user experience, you can ensure that customers find their digital encounters with your organization not only intellectually fulfilling, but also emotionally rewarding.

Indeed, a study by the customer data-analytics firm Janrain revealed that 75% of customers abandon Web sites that do not present them with a personalized experience—that is, with content that is relevant to their interests. Another survey of more than 1,100 digital and ecommerce professionals by the research and consulting firm Econsultancy found that 94% of them thought that personalization was critical to creating a successful user experience. Given these findings—which are old news to UX experts who have been sounding the alarm for bad user experiences on business Web sites for years and years—it’s clear that personalization is the best way to go.

This knowledge certainly simplifies things, but it also triggers another urgent question: how should businesses personalize their Web-site user experiences and, thus, make their customers’ journeys more successful?

Digital Walkthroughs

One strategy that is growing in popularity—both because it works and because it’s affordable—is to implement digital walkthroughs using a Web-site guidance and engagement platform. As the term suggests, digital walkthroughs layer automated audio guides on top of business Web sites—both B2B and B2C sites. On the fly, such guides construct personal, natural-language sentences and combine them with in-context visual elements such as demonstrations, animations, graphics, or charts to provide customers with a new kind of interactive digital experience.

What makes these interactions personalized rather than just friendly is that the messaging derives from specific, rule-based based routines that customer data and behavior trigger—for example, page referrer, form-field elements, APIs, location, time, date, or custom variables. Businesses can also conduct A/B testing to measure the effectiveness of these personalized interactions across various data points, including engagement, Web-site conversions, return on investment (ROI), and event tracking.

Last, but certainly not least, of particular importance to UX designers is the fact that, while you can graft digital walkthroughs onto bad Web sites and instantly make them better, the ideal approach is to fully integrate digital walkthroughs into new UX designs. Digital walkthroughs are a new tool in your UX design toolbox that you can offer during Web design and development discussions. They can help you to carry out your professional mission: creating Web sites that go beyond just working the way they’re supposed to work and make a lasting, meaningful impact for all the right reasons.

In this new era, when the risks of failure for business Web-site user experiences are dangerous and potentially devastating for businesses, Web-site user experiences need to get personal! 

CEO at Toonimo

Tel Aviv, Israel

Ohad RozenOhad has always had a passion for creating simpler, better user experiences for products. Prior to Toonimo, he conceived of and developed several products in other ventures over the past decade. He also created the first internal GUI system at Wilocity. Through earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and his experience as an algorithm engineer at Wilocity, Ohad has acquired vast knowledge of and experience in data analysis. Measuring and analyzing the data that Toonimo collects from users and implementing the resulting insights are crucial assets for Toonimo. Through his various ventures, Ohad has learned to manage businesses, approach customers, and understand markets.  Read More

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