The best way to attract and keep new customers is by creating a stellar user experience (UX). UX applies to both online and offline locations, illustrating the way customers feel about your brand after any interaction. A recent survey showed a seamless UX design without misfires raises conversion rates by 400 percent. If your site or storefront grabs the consumer and keeps their interest, they have no reason to leave before making a purchase.
The way people shop is ever-changing, thanks to broader and faster internet access and more people owning smartphones. Part of the user experience ties into changing technology, but some elements of UX have nothing to do with technology and everything to do with how your brand makes a customer feel.
The one area you have complete control over is the overall design of your locations — online and offline. Here are eight ideas for improving your UX today.
1. Get User Input
Designers may think they know what a client or client's customer base wants, but unless you gather feedback, you can't say for sure. From the very beginning of the design process, use a technique such as agile design, which keeps clients in the loop and gathers feedback on the functionality of the design.
Conduct user testing and see which design versions site visitors prefer, study heatmaps to see what attracts the most attention and cut unpopular elements and look at the site through the eyes of the consumer.
2. Improve Usability
Usability often refers to how natural features on a website are to use, but it also applies to the product itself. You must show customers why the product or service you offer makes their lives easier. In a store, set up displays of the product and let users try it out. Place the item in customers' hands, so they understand how it works and why it makes their lives easier.
Consider the exhibitions you've seen at trade shows — a presenter usually shows how the product works. Then, they invite people to come up and try the product out for themselves. Use this model when designing your store layout and keep an area aside for demonstrations.
3. Eliminate Problems
One way of improving UX is by eliminating problems before they arise. The best way of foreseeing website issues is through extensive testing. Click on every link and fill out and submit every form. Each element on your site should function without a problem.
Pull in colleagues to also test on different browsers, devices and from different areas of the world if possible. You might not experience an issue on your laptop that someone using an iPhone will have. Test, test and then test some more before you ever take a site live.
4. Incorporate Hashtags
Engage users even while they're at a trade show event or viewing some other display by incorporating a hashtag and keeping online users informed about your offline activities. Consider adding a photo booth opportunity and ask visitors if they'll upload the photos to social media incorporating the hashtag.
A photo opportunity doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should be fun, so it attracts trade show attendees. Tie a promotional giveaway into the photo op/hashtag event, such as giving them a pair of sunglasses with your brand name on the side and taking photos of people wearing them.
5. Mobile UX First
About 67 percent of consumers in the United States and 87 percent of consumers in the United Kingdom use mobile devices. A website without mobile responsiveness isn't user-friendly. If users have a poor experience on your mobile site, they're less likely to recommend your brand or do business with you again.
Think about the differences in the ways people use mobile sites versus accessing a website via a personal computer. The screen is much smaller, so elements must adapt to the smaller screen size. However, good mobile UX goes far beyond responsive images. You must also consider if a font looks sharp in a smaller size and how colors mesh together on a smaller screen. Are forms still easy to fill out and use? Look at your mobile design through the eyes of a consumer.
6. Offer Transitions Between Physical and Digital
Customers who love your brand tend to frequent both physical and online locations. Create a fantastic experience for your regular customers by integrating online and offline capabilities. For example, if a customer orders online and chooses in-store pickup, send them reminders of when and where they can pick up their order. Make sure directions for the physical location are clear and explain where to park and where to go once they're inside the store.
Figure out user-friendly ways to integrate your online and offline worlds, so the two seem as though they're part of a whole. Out of an item in the store? Offer to order via the online portal and send directly to the customer's home at no additional charge.
7. Highlight Your Products and Services
About 86 percent of consumers state they expect to see products and services when landing on a company's homepage. The story of your brand may be interesting, and consumers do care about you and what makes you unique — but save it for your About page rather than your landing page. Your landing page should highlight products, new items and drive the customer deeper into the shopping portion of your website.
For example, if you sell children's clothing, put yourself in the place of your typical customer. Jane is a mom to twin toddler girls, and she lands on your page because she's looking for matching sandals for the approaching summer. When she arrives at your page, she wants to see sandals or at least summer clothing — not a video explaining how the brand started. If she sees a selection of new sandals just in time for summer, she is very likely to click on one or more of those sandals and possibly place an order.
Figuring out what consumers most want to see on your landing page helps to increase conversion rates and drive sales.
8. Offline Communication
Labeling where to go and what actions to take online is simple, but how do you apply those principles offline? Adding clear signage is one way of improving the user experience and showing users where sale items are, how to find the restrooms and even where checkout areas reside.
A good user experience starts before the customer even enters your store. Outdoor signage informs customers about what's available inside. Think about big banners for store windows, a beautifully designed storefront sign and even graphics for the floor or sidewalk in front of your brick-and-mortar location.
Once inside the store, different categories of products should be labeled with additional signage, and directions hung from the ceiling. More floor graphics point to sales, new items and more. Think about what a customer needs to navigate your store successfully and label accordingly.
Be Yourself Everywhere
Customers have no reason to trust your brand, and reliability impacts overall UX. Know your values as a brand and be authentic about what you stand for and why you do business. Once you know who you are and who your customers are, it's easier to figure out the small features that will create a positive experience customers appreciate. A little effort toward a better customer experience develops loyal fans who return to your brand and also tell others why they love you.
Lexie Lu is a UX strategist and designer. She enjoys covering topics related to UX design, web design, social media and branding. Feel free to subscribe to her design blog, Design Roast, or follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.