Does your brand’s digital customer experience stand out and inspire visitors to make changes in their course of action? Many customers don’t think so, according to research from Gartner.

Nearly half of customers can’t tell the difference between brands’ digital experiences. Further, nearly 60% of customers don’t believe brands’ digital experiences have an impact on buying decisions. And, only 14% actually did something different than their original intention after a digital experience.

What’s it all mean? Some brands have work to do distinguishing their digital customer experiences and inspiring visitors to take a different course of action. The latter part is scary, according to Kristina LaRocca-Cerrone, director, advisory in the Gartner for Marketers practice.

“It tells us that most of the time digital experiences are allowing customers to enact on decisions that they've already made,” LaRocca-Cerrone told CMSWire. “You would never want to prevent somebody from doing something that they have decided to do, but I think it raises the question of what do you do about your upsell goals or your cross-sell goals? What if you’re trying to grow an account? What if you're trying to get a group of B2B stakeholders or a buying group to make a more ambitious purchase?”

Seamless DX vs. Course-Changing DX

At the core of the discussion is how marketers and customer experience professionals build digital experiences: do they emphasize frictionless digital experiences or those that inspire a course change? Do you want visitors to get what they need to get done quickly and easily? Yes. Do you want them only to do that? Probably not.

“I think there is sort of the traditional narrative around the digital experience which is all about seamlessness, and there's such a commonly accepted view that any friction in the digital experience diverts revenue away from your brand to the competition,” LaRocca-Cerrone said. Brands certainly should strive for customer journeys that are seamless, she added, stressing it matters for things like brand preference and brand advocacy.

However, LaRocca-Cerrone added, brands should also strive for course-changing experiences that lead into moments of self-reflection for consumers. This, she said, introduces “productive friction” in the customer journey. These experiences involve a mix of positive and negative emotions that create space for and reward reflection, she added. “And there are places for seamlessness and there are places for course change,” she said. A positive course change can impact brand preference by 37% and behavioral advocacy by 54%, Gartner researchers found.

Related Article: The Four Cornerstones of Digital Customer Experience

Targeting Reflective Tasks

How do you begin to inspire visitors to make these course changes?

Customers change course when they feel empowered and confident to do something different, not because of a slick or intuitive user interface, Gartner researchers found. That means brands must invest in “building a new class of digital experiences that slows customers down at key junctures and rewards their self-reflection,” LaRocca-Cerrone said. 

Brands should deploy these course-changing experiences by emphasizing moments of self-reflective learning through specific, rational and emotional triggers, and they should make digital visitors confident they're making the right course change, according to researchers. These digital experiences slow them down and reward self-reflection.

Some examples of course-changing actions include:

Learning Opportunities

  • Interactive diagnostics and benchmarks
  • VR/AR simulators
  • Real-time advisors

Do journey mapping in a different way by asking new questions to help figure out where productive friction works, LaRocca-Cerrone said. Determine the emotional, subjective points along the experience that requires reflection and build in those course-changing experiences there, according to LaRocca-Cerrone. Start small, with one aspect of your website or another area of your digital experience.

Should Course-Changing Matter in DX?

Should brands want to sway customers in different directions, or should they stay focused on making things seamless and easy? Mike Davidson, executive creative director at Capgemini’s Digital Customer Experience North America Practice, said brands should want customers to find the products and solutions that best meet their needs and added brands can always do a better job of identifying and addressing the distinct goals of customers.

“Customers enter sites with unique mindsets,” Davidson said. “They enter sites at different stages of the buying process — awareness, inspiration, purchase consideration, etc. Brands need to provide a range of customer paths that answer their specific questions at the right time. To do this, brands can leverage analytics, SEO and VoC research to understand the range of customer intent that they need to address. Second, they need to craft UX journeys as a means to better satisfy those customer goals.”

Successful brands are delivering differentiated digital experiences that are more approachable and entertaining in their content, often using more conversational, interview or news style formats, according to Steve Daheb, chief marketing officer of ON24.

“Digital has completely transformed how businesses engage and convert prospects into buyers,” Daheb added. “More B2B buyers than ever are starting their journey online and doing their own research, and these well-informed prospects are increasingly interacting with sales in digital channels. The true power behind digital is the rich, real-time data it provides into a prospect’s business interests and buying intent.”

Related Article: Why Gartner Thinks Most Marketers Will Abandon Personalization by 2025

Content, Emotional Connections Drive Digital Experiences

A significant part of brand differentiation is about content, according to Davidson. Your content strategy is the conversational cornerstone that continuously states who you are and the expertise you bring to your customers, he added. “Content strategy and delivery continue to be a challenge for many brands,” Davidson said. “On the strategy front, brands need to understand what content drives the buying decision. Who are you creating content for? Explain the problem it's going to solve for that audience. What makes your brand or product unique? If brands can deliver in this regard, they will stand out.”

For brands to differentiate they need to connect with customers on an emotional level. It’s a combination of customer intents, great content and personalization. They need to ask: How well do they really know their customers? What data are they collecting? Do they offer different avenues for customers to express what they like and need?

“There are numerous research and interaction methods they can use to get to know their customers,” Davidson said. ‘Really, it’s a matter of making it a priority and building a roadmap.”