The 10 Principles to creating amazing online experiences - Part 1

Welcome to the first of a 5 part series on what it takes to create amazing online experiences.  Over the next few months we will look at the 10 principles required to work together to make this happen.

In order to deliver amazing online experiences, retailers need to first understand and visualise what amazing online experiences look like. Gaining this appreciation comes from reviewing great physical retail experiences to form a frame of reference.

What do amazing face to face retail experiences look like? Consider a scenario where a consumer has buying intent ("buying intent" is someone with a buying purpose or need) and has a one to one interaction with a great salesperson in a retail store:

  1. A great salesperson will modify the information they present based on a consumer’s questions and preferences.
  2. The salesperson presents relevant information based on these prompts.
  3. The information presented is easy to understand (no jargon).
  4. The salesperson has sales tools and deep knowledge to assist decision making and introduces this information at the right time.

The consumer feels this experience is personalised because it is relevant, its presented on his/her terms and the information assists decision-making. Across the various sources of research, physical retail conversion rates range from 20% to 40%.

What do amazing online experiences look like? Like the physical experience, amazing online experiences need to be considered from the consumer perspective and be based on a one to one interaction.

When a consumer has a buying intent he/she will:

  1. Seek out relevant information on the topic, product, or service on their device of choice.
  2. The consumer will choose the extent at which they continue this mission, and may complete it or pause it based on their immediate situation.
  3. If they pause the journey and continue it later, regardless of device, the consumer easily picks up where he/she left off and completes their mission to their satisfaction.
  4. The consumer completes the mission only once they have achieved their goal, met their need, or solved their problem and comes in many forms: online purchase, online booking, service request, consuming relevant content, heading to a physical store.

To meet this online consumer requirement, retailers need to be...

  • Visible in the right places
  • Be easy to deal with
  • Speak the consumer’s language
  • Add value (provide content to assist with decision-making)

To summarise the above four points, a retailer must be relevant to the consumer’s intent.  To deliver amazing experiences, the standard of relevancy needs to be high.

For retailers to deliver amazing online experiences they are essentially selling (presenting content) in the identical manner in which a consumer wants to purchase (receive content). Retailers are essentially in the business of helping people buy their products.

"We don't make money when we sell things.  We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions." 
Jeff Bezos, Amazon

For a retailer to match their selling techniques to the way consumer’s want to purchase, a retailer needs to build empathy ("empathy" - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another) towards consumers and their needs.

Brian Eisenberg, internationally recognised as a thought leader in creating amazing online customer experiences says.

Empathy demands you (the retailer) think about how the customer goes about the process of buying and that you find ways to make it easier. Empathy begs you to help them to make a more confident decision, remove their fears, and ultimately allow them to make the decision that is best for them, not just for you.

Nobody likes to be sold.

In Figure 1 below there are two circles, "How Retailers Sell" and "How Consumers Buy".  The overlap is a representation of a retailer meeting the expectation of the consumer. This overlap is a retailer’s online conversion rate (global average ranges between 2.3% to 3%).


Figure 1

In a retail world obsessed with personalisation, the act of helping consumers buy is creating personalised experiences. Personalisation and creating amazing experiences are alike.

From the consumer perspective, the difference between an amazing physical retail experience and an amazing online experience is minimal, and yet the gap in conversion rates are vast.

This is why lifting online experience to "amazing" levels is important and is the focus of this report.

The 10 Principles:

Principle #1 Consumers are on a journey


Not only are consumers on a journey, these journeys are becoming longer.  Consumers want to remain in charge and become more informed before decision making.

In 2015 Edelman and Singer from McKinsey & Company discussed their views of consumer journeys in the Harvard Business Review.  They call it the "consumer decision journey" and explain how it is "becoming central to a consumer’s experience of a brand – and as important as the products themselves in providing competitive advantage".

The HBR article talks about the recent shift in strategic planning "from being primarily reactive to aggressively proactive" in consumer journey analysis and how to leverage this insight.  

Those brands deemed sophisticated, work hard to recognise and understand these customer journeys and redesign their operations around it.

In 2013 Google conducted a study and found, on average, consumers referenced 12 sources of information online before buying online or in store. In 2010, the average was 5.

Takeaway. Design for journeys comprising multiple interactions.

Principle #2 Each journey comprises multiple steps

These are the actual steps consumers take on their journey. In the eyes of the consumer, a "step" occurs when he/she takes an action and new content is presented (or the same content appears differently).

If the presentation of content is relevant, it provides consumers the sense they are moving closer to having their need being met. In order for the steps to seamlessly flow together the right actions must appear at the right time and be obvious.

Does your site do this?

To find out, consider a highly trafficked page on your site and ask one question:

"What is the 1 (or 2) action(s) I want the consumer to take on this page?"

Once you know the answer, look to see how obvious the action is on the page.  This question and your answer helps you look at the pages through the eyes of a consumer.

Takeaway. Great experiences are filled with obvious actions for each step.

Continue reading this series by clicking here to see Part 2.


This article was as tagged as Customer Experience , Customer Experience Design , Digital Strategy , Google Analytics , Mobile , SEO , Usability , User Experience

Share it on LinkedIn