To start with – there are two ways you (as a company/service) can be digital. You can start as digital – your core service is digital so your product is delivered to end users via web or mobile. You also can go digital – you already have a service in the offline world and now you want to expand.
Whatever your path is, there are so little services that can exist only in digital or only in analog. Companies that started digital at some point face the need of real people on board – whether it is for customer service, packing orders or processing invoices. On the other hand – companies that started in analog now are under the “everyone has it” pressure when it comes to digital presence. Little do both of them know that it is not “just” hiring new people or “just” creating the mobile app. The key is to keep the service cohesive throughout.
Where is the complexity?
First step we need to take is to define – what are the touch points. Where, how, and under what conditions does the customer interact with your brand (as it is, no matter if digital or not). Why is that important? Because there you will probably find little gaps in which you want to add new blocks. And trust us, if those blocks do not fit perfectly or even blend in well – those gaps will get only bigger.
Below we will try to outline a few things to keep in mind if you want to focus (or start focusing) your business on digital. Enjoy!
What to consider when being digital?
Why do you even bother?
So, this question may look strange for companies whose service is digital at base. However, for companies for longer practise on the market in the form of non-digital service it can be challenging. Try not to get caught up in the “it is a natural next step” story. If the only reason why you want to become digital is because your competition does so – we have a long ride ahead of us. You need to have clear goals and it would be nice if they came from your customers.
Look into the data – what are their behaviours and needs, what are the trends, how context of use changes. What is important here – you should not only be looking for things to improve but also things that seem to be the real value of your business (things that customers love, what makes them choose your service, etc).
However, there are always two sides of the coin. If your business works perfectly from users perspective – amazing! But maybe there are some back office processes that could be improved? Digitalization is not always about creating shiny things for your customers to play with but also to make your team’s work easier or more effective! You may ask “What do my goals have to do with the user experience of my service?!”. Well, if your product is for nothing specific, no one will really care to use it. And care is what you need to begin with.
Finding gaps to cover
In the introduction to this article there was something about digging into the touchpoints of your service. In fact, that is probably the most important part of creating the digital products. First thing you should do is mapping out the processes you want to cover (of course starting with the most important ones). Then, think about each step of the process. If it is good and delivers value, what is so good about it? If it causes trouble, what is the biggest inconvenience? Again, it is helpful to try getting two perspectives – yours as a business and your users.
When the mapping is done, there is one more, very important question to ask. Should your digital product be equivalent to your service or its supplementation? And there is no better or worse answer to this question. However, it will define what you should do with those pain points. It might seem obvious – your digital product will enhance good things and improve what it can. Not so fast! The complexity lies in cohesion. If you chose that the digital product will be equivalent to your service, are you ready to introduce these changes also offline so the experience of your users in both are aligned? Because if you do not, there is a risk that your customers will lean toward the solution that they find more pleasing and drop the other (which sounds like a waste of money on one site). It is surprisingly easy to focus on your new digital product and forget about all the offline issues that come around it. Nevertheless, if you choose to supplement, wouldn’t it be better to first focus on how you would imagine the whole user journey? Again – if customers do not like your brand, why would they bother to like the digital add-on to it.
But do not be scared. It may seem more complicated than it really is. The key to success here is, as stated in the previous paragraph, to take a high level look at your service, decide on what you want to achieve and build on it. Maybe creating a digital product is in fact a great opportunity for your business to evaluate the work already done and mark new directions? Investing your time in creating cohesive user experiences will definitely pay off in the long run.
It is conversation not provocation
Another important matter that you should take under consideration is how you communicate with your users. To illustrate it in the most simple manner – let’s say that your digital product is designed as this cool and easy. The way it communicates via little pieces of copy with the customer is resembling the friendly chat with a colleague. Then, one day your user will be about to interact with your brand offline and what they see is black suit, exclusive style, and formal greeting. They do not only feel all confused, but also intimidated. They no longer can say that they like your brand. They liked only a specific part of it. In order to avoid such dissonance, you should put some effort into keeping your brand and its products/services cohesive throughout.
Therefore, cohesivity is not only about the communication style. It is also about the general look and feel. Remember – you want to interest your user, make him feel comfortable, encourage him to stay, act as one part of your service is concierge for another. Your digital product should not be a provocation. It is also not a good pattern to add some shocking product or feature to a basic and common solution (tryouts like that often end up with losing more customers than was acquired).
Please note that “basic” and “common” are not negative adjectives in the product’s universe! They often mean “products that get things done” – solutions that no one knew they needed before they existed (mainly because even without them the service was good enough). That is the funny thing about users’ experience – the best one is the one that is barely noticeable.
Can you handle it?
Let’s say that you developed your digital product. Looks good, feels nice, works as it should. You are ready to ship it. But are you really? The biggest mistake that you may do is to focus on product development (however great such an approach may be for us) or on the marketing of it. But after the first bell rings – there comes the back office process. There are orders to be packed, invoices to be addressed, mails from customers to reply, bugs reported and no resources to deal with all that. You have set the goals for your digital product and it works as expected – but you did not think about how it will influence the rest of your business! And yes, this is a user experience case. Why? Because users judge the product by the whole process aligned with it (for example – if you are selling something online, the customer will evaluate the experience not after he clicks “buy” but after he gets his order).
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to “being prepared” for introducing a digital product is that most businesses evolve. So should your product. It is a good practice to always think ahead about your service/product development. Keep it agile! Start small (ok, optimal) and have a few already proved ideas kept in your sleeve. When the market evaluates your product and there will be time for next steps – you will be covered. There is no bigger downfall for user experience than a product not living up to its debut.
With great power comes the great responsibility
It is not about how you start, it is also about how you finish (or better fitting here – how you keep on going). You aligned your digital product with every offline process needed to be there for it. Now, be ready to keep up. From now on most of the business decisions that you will make should be followed with the question “how it influences our online/offline presence”. Because as it was already said, you do not want to face the moment when your customer will hear that they _have to_ switch to online (e.g. your mobile app) or offline (e.g. actually call the store). And it is not that one method is better than the other. It is about _having to_ do something. Your users came to you because they wanted to – encourage them to stay, do not force them to do so.
It may seem that matters described above are not really about “the UX” of digital products. However, in fact it will never be just about how easy it is to perform the action on the platform or how beautifully the mobile application module is done. The user’s experience is much more complex and often may be defined by the processes that we thought the end user will not even notice. Well, they always do.