Many people in the digital and technology space overcomplicate the science and art of user experience (UX). But at its core, UX is simply a representation of how a brand communicates and builds relationships with customers, employees and other people, through digital channels. When considering the journey your customer takes, through the various touchpoints with your brand, whether digitally based or in-person, the brand character should appear uninterrupted. As such, when designing the foundation of a user’s digital experience, there is a lot we can learn from how we naturally interact with people in the real world.
Here are five principles from the real world that hold true for digital UX, too:
In most environments, B2B customers respond warmly to hearing their own names. They like speaking to sales and service reps who can remember how many kids they have or which football team they support. This kind of rapport is harder to build on a screen, but it starts with using data and analytics for personalisation throughout the digital journey. Calling someone “Dear valued customer” on your app or email newsletter is not the best way to build a long-term relationship. A service provider can listen and adapt in real time to the customer’s needs – on digital channels, this has to be planned and anticipated – getting to know your customer is key!
2. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes
Healthy relationships, whether they’re B2B sales, friendships or marriages, are based on empathy. A good B2B salesperson will be able to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and understand what their personal and business objectives are. Likewise, digital UX should be designed to help customers reach their goal. All too often, UX is designed to drive efficiencies or sales for the vendor rather than to help the customer reach their desired outcome. Think about why your customer has visited your website or digital channel, and place their needs first. Ask yourself if what they are looking for is easy to find and simple to share with their friends or colleagues.
3. Show your personality
One of the drawbacks of the digital world is that customers can choose from a range of lookalike apps and websites, that provide very similar products. These platforms may get the job done, but where’s the warmth and connection? This is especially true in the B2B world, where many ecommerce platforms and apps are bone-dry. That might be okay for a purely transactional relationship, but it won’t keep the customer coming back or spreading the word. Create connection and boost your customer’s enjoyment level – this not only sparks the desire to return, it also helps to build trust. That’s why it’s so important to create a clear brand personality and credible tone of voice that translates to your digital touchpoints consistently.
4. Give subtle feedback
In the ebb and flow of a face-to-face conversation, people communicate not only by using words, a deeper understanding of one another is also developed through the use of subtle body movements, facial expressions and tone of voice. In the best conversations, this happens without either participant realising it. By contrast in the digital world, it’s not unusual for a customer to be unsure whether their payment has been accepted or when their order will ship. They may feel stranded and not know where to go next.
"Elegant use of UX design should make the flow of an interaction so intuitive and provide the right feedback at the right moment that the user hardly needs to think about their next move. By being attentive to detail and nuance, you are letting your customer know that you really do care."
5. Tailor your responses to the nature of the relationship
To add to the point about personalisation, different real-world human relationships have different purposes and boundaries. In the digital world, UX should also accommodate for different levels of relationship, empowering the customer with control. Some will want to get every email newsletter or join the loyalty rewards programme. Others will feel stalked if your remarketing ad follows them everywhere on the Internet because they once searched for a price on your website. Focus on getting the balance right as you aim to nurture customer intimacy and take the digital relationship to the next level.