Brand consistency has been a major concern for companies for years. They learned decades ago that consistent imagery, layouts, and even store architecture can have a major effect on brand recognition and trust. In today’s world, however, a company’s client-facing side is more than brick-and-mortar shops: it’s everything is online. Desktop sites, mobile apps, online dashboards, and more.
What happens when each online presence for a company has a different design or digital experience? You get a disjointed customer experience. Also known as a fragmented customer journey.
For those of you who have moved to the new version of Google Analytics (Google Analytics 4 or GA4), you’ve probably seen the phrase “disjointed experiences.” That’s because delivering an integrated seamless customer experience is a rising concern in online business. So big that GA4’s new features are designed to include the collection and comparison of cross-platform data from web and mobile apps alike. Because businesses need to know how customer interactions and retention compare across channels.
Today, companies and organizations can easily create websites, portals, mobile apps, and applications. Having multiple channels is easier than ever. Keeping them aligned, however, becomes more complicated the more you have, and 3 out of the 12 reasons projects fail can be attributed to UX failures per Dr. Susan Weinschenk. That’s why the new concern is around quality and alignment.
Here are some questions to evaluate the quality and alignment of your channels:
- How consistent are your sites, portals, and apps?
- Are they using the same UI/UX patterns and components?
- Are they targeting the same goals?
- When you make a change or add a new service, is it reflected across all the channels?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is, “No,” then, those digital channels create a fragmented CX – AKA, a disjointed customer experience.
What’s a Disjointed Customer Experience?
The Nielsen Norman Group summarizes a disjointed customer experience as what happens when the journey across channels is inconsistent or isn’t seamless:
“Seamlessness is a quality of any cross-channel customer journey where the transitions (or handoffs) from one channel to the next involve zero or minimal overhead for the users. Basically, if you can pick up where you left off, the user experience will be seamless. But if users have to reestablish their contexts and/or redo work when switching to a new channel, then the experience will feel bumpy.”
In brief, a disjointed digital experience occurs because there’s no single software encompassing the complete customer experience. Companies have ERPs, CRMs, and additional software with scattered pieces of information for our users. That’s why design that builds integrated user journeys is so important, and that cannot be done without having a clear understanding of user needs and goals.
A Disjointed Customer Experience and its Negative Impact
In 2016, a design study involving 408 different companies found that increased investment and focus on design resulted in…
- Higher sales,
- Higher customer retention and customer engagement, and
- Faster product cycles.
As Joanna Ngai, a UX Designer at Microsoft, said:
“Design-driven businesses have outperformed the S&P by a whopping 228% over the past 10 years. The bottom line, good design = good business.”
6 Main Reasons Why Fragmented CX Has Such a Strong Impact
1. Losing User Trust
It’s the same problem as being inconsistent with brand and experience in different brick-and-mortar locations. Users feel betrayed when a company’s mobile app doesn’t work the same as their website. And vice versa.
That disjointed CX can even make users feel like the company doesn’t care about them. 48% of users surveyed by Google said that when companies have sites that don’t work well on smartphones, they felt like the company didn’t care about their business.
Use Case: A university’s main target audience for its digital channels is its students.
Those students need access to online classes, grades, class schedules, libraries, transcripts, and more. If those user journeys are all accessible through a single site or app, that would be great. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. If the university can make the different sites and apps feel the same, however, then the effect for the student is the same.
On the other hand, when the many digital channels seem completely separate and disconnected, the experience is incredibly frustrating and jarring. Basically, the more differences are included in the views, steps needed, and access points, the harder you make the user work. And the unhappier they will be.
“Some technology only works well on one browser or is scattered across different websites. I should need Firefox or internet explorer to view my transcript. Also, I want all my info on one website. Snowbird, Vergil, SSOL, StarReZ housing portal, etc. One site, or even better, ONE APP! Yeah, a working app would be fantastic.”
2. Decreasing Engagement
Users don’t want to learn every time they go to interact with your company. Once they’ve learned how to deal with one user journey, they don’t want to have to learn again just because they’re using their phone this time. And mobile usage is growing. 52% of users surveyed by Google were less likely to engage with a company after a bad mobile experience. A detail that becomes more important as mobile traffic continues to increase.
And mobile use isn’t a stand-alone indication of online behavior. Many people utilize mobile devices and computers at the same time. In fact, according to Adobe, 83% of global consumers use more than one device at the same time (It averages to 2.23 devices at once). That means that the device they use to access your site may depend on which one is available – in other words, not doing something else at that moment. When you increase the difficulty to access your information from different devices, you increase the likelihood that the user will give up on your company and go elsewhere.
52% of users
surveyed by Google were less likely to engage with a company after a bad mobile experience.
3. Affecting Brand Positioning
An inconsistent brand gives the impression of disorganization and inconsistency. It shows a lack of maturity or experience in handling multiple channels. No, the end user isn’t going to think about it in those terms. But they absolutely will compare your brand’s solution with other brands’ solutions that they’ve experienced.
Let’s say a customer browses a furniture store’s website on a laptop and orders some chairs. Later, that same customer is out with friends and pulls out their smartphone to show off what they ordered. When they can’t get to the same level of detail on the mobile site that they did on their phone, they compare that furniture store to other companies that let them see everything no matter what device they’re on. Like Amazon.
It’s hard enough for smaller companies to compete with mega-brands, but nothing hurts brand positioning more than tangible evidence that a competitor has a better digital experience.
4. Limiting Loyalty
Users who don’t find digital channels intuitive or easy are less likely to return as often. While they might forgive the first time, frustration builds up with repeated negative experiences. And user patience and tolerance for negative digital experiences are decreasing all the time.
If cross-platform is a hard requirement for loyalty, disjointed experiences are a dealbreaker. This is particularly important with companies with complex business models, such as field workers using mobile phones and desk clerks using laptops. Sometimes a single B2B transaction involves 2 or 3 stakeholders during the process, and a disjointed experience will make it difficult for everyone.
Another use case is the newer generations—they want access and engagement through any channel available at any given point, and they know they can get it. With so many companies willing to invest in a unified experience and improved UX/UI patterns, users don’t have to settle. When their frustration reaches its threshold, they will look for other options with better solutions, and in this market, they are almost certain to find them.
5. Restricting Reach
Today creating a website or a mobile application is definitely easier than it was a decade ago. Everyone can have their online channels in a matter of minutes. But not everyone can build a long-lasting business with them.
When Marketing executives talk about “Omnichannel”, they refer to the ability to capture, engage, and drive sales in any existing channel. That means no matter where a lead was generated or where a user learned about your brand. They will be able to purchase from you.
If users engage better with one channel (such as a mobile app) rather than another, then, not all your channels are achieving their potential. Since most users multitask with different device types (83% of them anyway), then, you’re also reducing their options for interacting with your company.
How many times have you been busy with one task on your computer, so you did another on your phone? Or vice versa. In either scenario, if you can’t complete the task on the available medium, you have to try to remember to do it later on a different device. If that happens too often, you find a different option that lets you use whichever device is available at that moment.
6. Neglecting Scalability
A company’s web presence isn’t a single site any more than its physical presence is a single building – the sum of all the parts is greater than the whole. Having a consistent experience across channels is building a digital ecosystem where your business audiences can thrive.
If those channels all provide a positive touchpoint for your brand, they will all contribute to growth and scalability. And each channel has its own unique contribution to make. And more importantly, growth doesn’t rely on the performance of a single channel.
That’s why improving UX and fixing fragmented customer journeys can help your business grow and scale. According to UX Planet, optimizing and making UX improvements can return up to $100 for every $1 invested (9,900% ROI).
As the founder of The UX School, Raffaela Rein said:
“When we first started using UX design as a business practice, we grew revenues by 895% in the first three months. By making UX a focus in everything we do, we have fostered a highly-engaged user community and internal workforce.”
Conclusion: From Disjointed to Seamless CX
As businesses grow and increase their number of digital channels, they can easily create a disjointed digital experience. Most often, that’s simply a biproduct of solutions being driven by different departments and customer needs. Unfortunately, although it is a natural and understandable outcome, it is not a good one for the company.
If you want to improve user experience and improve your digital brand, remember:
- Consistency builds trust.
- Reliability is key for brand positioning. Online or anywhere.
- Seamless customer experiences in digital channels depend on understanding your users’ behaviors in different channels. Every channel has to be aligned with customer satisfaction and helping users achieve their goals.
- Newer generations consume content by omnichannel. They start a journey in one channel and resume in a different channel. That’s why integrated and well-aligned customer journeys are needed to grow and scale across generations.
Leveraging these considerations can transform a disjointed customer experience into a seamless user journey – no matter what channel they access. And that, in turn, builds a better brand.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to evaluate your digital customer experience or to improve or redesign your website, portal, or mobile application. We would love to hear from you.