Why User Experience is Key to Digital Marketing Success

Today's consumers are smart, savvy, time starved and want their needs delivered in an instant. Whether at a desk, on a bus or in a bank queue, people like to access the internet for a variety of reasons; be that to shop, find answers via search engines, book flights or check in with friends. In the execution on all of these tasks, the quality of an individual's online experience makes a huge difference.

A critical part of that experience is the ease with which they can find, access, review or buy products and services. For businesses wanting to attract and convert that interest into revenue, user experience (UX) is crucial to their success and in many cases survival.

When it comes to developing and executing modern digital marketing strategies, UX can often get forgotten as 96% of mobile customers experienced when they came across websites that weren’t optimized for their device. More worryingly, 79% admit to searching for another site if the one they landed on does not live up to expectations.

The ideal online customer journey is a user-friendly website that combines seamless navigation; a clean cut purchasing journey; dynamic and digestible content; top notch customer support and mobile device compatibility. By combining these elements a business can create an online environment that can make a brand. So why do organizations so often neglect UX when it comes to engaging with customers? 

User experience in a mobile world

The rise in smartphone usage has changed the way people view, buy and interact online. With mobile now accounting for 65% of digital media time, the desktop is becoming the secondary touch point for an increasing number of digital users.

Mobile is so ingrained into the psyche of today’s user that mobile users are five times more likely to abandon their if a website isn’t correctly optimized for their phone - and if you’re running a business, this could mean a major loss in conversions, or even damaging to your brand’s reputation.

That said, what’s alarming is that 52% of users said a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company - and with 80% of local searches converting on mobile devices (if they are designed properly), UX is a fact that simply should not be ignored.

Although mobile is a dominant force in today's world, it doesn't mean that desktop is no longer relevant. The majority of e-commerce transactions still take place on the PC, and as such, a balanced multi-platform strategy is essential to the buyer’s journey. Despite this, many marketers and brands still treat the desktop as their main area of focus, which is out of sync with today's consumer behaviour.

User experience is more than just usability

While many marketers shrug off user experience as an industry buzzword, this is not the case. In fact, the most successful marketers in the industry will tell you that user experience is the key to facilitating conversions and helping you to become that glistening needle in a giant (and oversubscribed) digital haystack.

According to American professor and statistician Edward Tufte, “Confusion and clutter are the failure of design, not the attributes of information.” This rings true to user experience as a whole, and when you’re trying to stand out from the crowd online, one of the best ways to do so is by being clear, concise and accessible to your target audience.

While usability is an essential component of user experience, it is only one piece of the overall pie as it focuses on things at surface level, while UX digs deeper into whether an individual page or piece of content will satisfy the needs of a user. As a whole, user experience determines how a brand speaks to its customers and delivers the message it is trying to convey, effectively.

Content is vital to user experience

One of the best ways to convey a message to your audience is by publishing content that they can truly engage with. According to Quick Sprout, 82% of people enjoy reading relevant content from company blogs while a whopping 71% of online publishers claim well-formed mobile content significantly boosted user engagement.

Well crafted digital copy that is optimized for search engines is a key ingredient to a good user experience. Not only will this help your web page to rank well for relevant search terms on Google, but SEO friendly copy will also give the consumer an informative answer to the question in an instant. This will ultimately result in conversions rather than website abandonment.

While it may seem obvious for online businesses to provide search optimized, engaging and consumer-focused content it is often overlooked by many.

Where UX fits into the five tiers of content marketing

A mind-blowing content strategy that yields incredible results is always best planned from the ground up. Essentially, there are five levels to a successful content marketing model, which are:

1. SEO: This is essential because if your site isn't optimized for search engines, your target customers will never find you in the first place.

2. User experience: This is where UX fits into the mix. By now, you are most likely aware of its importance, but let's put into perspective. According to a recent study by Adobe, given 15 minutes to consume content, two-thirds of people would rather read something beautifully designed than something plain. And that’s just one piece of the overall UX puzzle.

3. Content strategy: The blueprint of your commercial direction as once your site is SEO optimised and your UX is tip top, you can use metrics such as visitor numbers and bounce rate to craft your content to meet the needs of your target audience, and start achieving the results you desire.

4. Content creation: With a strategy in place, it's time to start the fun part - creating content. Refresh existing content, create new blog articles and make sure each piece is formatted for digital consumption.

5. Content distribution: Once you have created the world's most dynamic content, it's time to start getting it noticed. Share it with the right people using your various social channels and any other glistening connections you may have.

As user experience is the second step in a robust content strategy, it has to be done right. Otherwise, the whole strategy will come toppling down before it's even taken off.

Apple's user experience makeover

Taking note of just how crowded the smartphone and mobile device market has become, Apple recently announced their plans to enhance their user experience in the near future. In a drive to create a seamless experience across all of its platforms and grow their business after a growth reduction in recent months, the software juggernaut is tying up threads and pulling the platforms even closer together.

Along with improving its already successful portable desktop - iCloud in which Apple’s service will be available on Macs as well as across iPads and iPods - is also opening up its sensational digital assistant, Siri, to third parties. This means that developers can take advantage of Siri's sophisticated voice command technology outside Apple applications, a move the company hopes will drive use of Siri amongst new users.

It's plain to see from Apple's forward thinking just how crucial user experience is to today's consumer. Without constant improvements to the way companies interact with customers, any brand will fall by the wayside in the current fast changing climate.

The rise of visual searching

A star on the horizon, visual searching is expected to become huge in the not so distant future. For example, augmented reality style app Blippar is taking user experience to a whole new level with its intuitive style of brand interaction, which it plans to get people to use it for visual search, rather than searching through Google - and it seems a likely target too.

Jordan Harper, Chief Technology Officer at Iris Worldwide, explains "Andrew Ng of Baidu said (not that long ago) that in five years time half of all searches would be either voice or image based, and recent innovations by Amazon and Apple demonstrate that voice based search is definitely being prioritized. Visual search is potentially even more powerful, though, but outside the lab, it's only really Google who is advancing the tech in the mainstream. It's good to see another company revving up.”

Food for thought for companies out there. The fact is that humans are intuitive creatures, and it seems that visual searching will cater to our ever growing need for instant gratification in a world that gets busier by the day.

UX is not an optional luxury for competitive businesses. To give user experience the attention it deserves, time, money and resources must be invested, which also means acquiring the skills required to ensure success. As our Co-Founder, Ian Dodson says: "Fresh ideas fuelled by clever interpretation of data and a good user experience deliver great results."

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Clodagh O'Brien
Content Marketing Executive