Until very recently, how we engaged with brands and organisations normally spanned a multitude of touchpoints – online, in store, telephone, email and social media. As stores have shut and customer service centres shifted more heavily to digital solutions, the online touchpoint has become, in many cases, the only touchpoint.
This has impacted the customer journey of almost all organisations and many are struggling to keep up with these changes.
How are organisations coping online?
At the most extreme end of the spectrum you have the companies that had no online presence or at least one that wasn’t geared up to be their only source of trading. Primark, for example, has gone from making £650 million in sales per month to nothing after it was forced to close all its stores. Their website is simply there to showcase products available in their stores but, with widespread closure and no ecommerce offering, there is no way for customers to buy their products and no way for them to make money.
Other businesses have been much more successful in scaling up their online activities. While some were initially overwhelmed by the dramatic increase in demand, causing sites to crash and products to run out, many are now up and running almost as normal. Homeware stores, such as B&Q and Wickes, took to placing customers in a virtual queue to avoid overwhelming their website. Most websites offer clear delivery messaging across the site so expectations are set from the outset.
However, not all offer a seamless user experience.
How to improve your online customer experience?
As pointed out in a recent eConsultancy article, the main problem is a lack of data. More than two fifths (42%) of participants in a recent eConsultancy and Marketing Week survey say that they “do not have sufficient information about the new customer journey(s) to make informed decisions” with “more than a third (34%) saying that they rely on ‘mostly instinct’” when making decisions about customer experience.
This isn’t a new problem but one that has been thrown into stark contrast since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. It is a one that can be solved, however, by filling this data gap with original user research and analysis of online analytics.
Customer journey mapping tells the story of how a user interacts with an organisation both through the website and other touchpoints. Maps can be used to define the structure and content, or help re-engineer a digital process which is currently damaging the customer experience.
“To be convincing and compelling, journey maps must be based in truth, rather than a fairy-tale like depiction of how we would like users to interact with our products.” – Nielson Norman Group
Which means they must be based on actual research with users, rather than guesswork by internal teams.
In these challenging times, when most of us are simply thinking about how we can keep business afloat, staff employed and services delivered, conducting original research is likely to be far down the list of priorities.
However, if the dramatic transition from retailer to e-tailer is highlighting problems with online customer experience, a quick round of discovery user research is a sure fire way to identify where improvements can be made and help businesses cope with these unprecedented times.