Watch out for pesky customer expectations

Expectations around online shopping has made lions of us all. We want to know where our packages are, when they’ll be delivered – right down to the hour, and holding a ready phone number to talk to someone if there’s a problem. Our purchases are crucial to us, so why don’t retailers care the same way?

Every corner is talking about the data behind the growth of online shopping in Australia and what people are buying – from industry publications to research agencies.

Some have nodded towards acknowledging customer needs: Australia Post – who has emblazoned on their trucks ‘Powering online shopping’ – wrote:

Shoppers demand a frictionless end-to-end shopping experience,
with easy access across all devices, simple payment options and
convenience across all touch points. They also expect flexibility in
delivery timeframes and collection locations.

As a result, retailers need to have a consistent offering on one
integrated ecosystem across online and in-store in order to
effectively compete and grow.

Inside Australian Online Shopping, Australia Post, 2018

Unfortunately, the report failed to examine what this ‘frictionless end-to-end shopping experience’ meant for consumers or outline the research available – or required – to find out.

Therein lies the rub

No one’s discussing consumer expectations of the entire online shopping journey.

Only this week, a retailers’ industry publication posted an article outlining ‘retail basics for a great customer experience’, but this falls too far short. A great customer experience does not end with the retailer and its’ variety of goods. Australia Post is right in this; customer experience begins from the moment the customer searches for a product to the moment they receive the product.

Whilst Australia Post outlined the dilemma, it didn’t examine consumer’s expectations of the end-to-end fulfilment journey – the act of receiving their purchases. For instance, a surprising practice witnessed in Victoria, is the part packaging of an order. An order of 3 items from Kmart or BigW may or may not arrive on the same day. So the receiver needs to be at the delivery address, an inconveniencing- and frustratingly-extra day to receive the orphaned delivery. Why isn’t it one delivery?

Furthermore, the retailer’s chosen delivery vendor has to pick up the slack. Their tracking system needs to provide ample notice to the receiver (and options for redelivery – for the orphan as well) in a timely and empathetic fashion. In this case, it didn’t.

Sure, it’s not easy

At the tail end of this shopping journey, a delivery vendor needs to breathe the same – if not better – value proposition as the retailer. This is the reason customers choose one retailer over another in the first place – whether it be their unsurpassed product knowledge, helpful staff, vast product range or great price. Retailers and logistics need to be inextricably joined at the hip – or give the appearance of such.

Recent experiences with London delivery vendors showed a wide gap in the customer experience between hemispheres. Communications from the likes of Hermes and DPD went like this:

  • date/time it’s received at their depot
  • email / SMS notification of the actual delivery day – typically a bigger window than 24 hours’ notice
    options available to the receiver to change the day of the delivery beforehand
  • on the day of delivery, a further email / SMS that the package will be delivered and if it will be morning or afternoon. In some cases, a 2 hour window is provided
  • online tracking enables down-to-the-minute driver tracking via map
  • in the case of DPD, drivers call the receiver when they have made the previous drop and are on the way, also with an approximate time of arrival
  • if you happen to miss the driver, a card will be left with an opportunity to make a second attempt at the delivery

Now tell me, who wouldn’t want this? This high level of confidence equals return business over and over.

We can do better

Whilst this might be the creme de la creme of transport logistics, this is already happening, and it provides lessons to be learnt to enhance existing processes.

Perhaps with the opening of Amazon in Australia, the customer experience stakes might be raised. In the northern hemisphere, Amazon has been trialling delivery via drone; its now promising that Amazon Prime Air could officially take flight as early as this year. Who knows what the behemoth has in its sights for us? Exciting, no?

Online shopping is still considered in its infancy here. Customers over time will see for themselves the differences between one vendor and the next, and start expecting the same from everyone. Retailers and supply vendors who have integrated some customer smarts upfront, will come out smiling in the profit stakes down the track.

Please let me know your thoughts.

That Trivago ad … again.

A sojourn in Australia over the Christmas break has exposed me to a lot of television. Too much in fact. And way too many, Trivago ads.

Much has already been written about the ‘merits’ of the Trivago advertising campaign. I’m not regurgitating the lack of creative here.

But its focus on the site’s usability as its strategy perplexes me as a user experience professional. Our role is to make the technology disappear. Enable a user to find what they want intuitively.

So why would an online travel site choose to use their site’s usability as the cornerstone of their advertising strategy? How their site works, is the same as how hundreds and thousands of other websites work. One particular ad talks up a feature that is already prevalent on Expedia.

Surely, the Trivago peeps don’t think their customers haven’t used the internet before? Or searched any website before? I’d be keen to see a breakdown of their user demographics.

There’s a code that is understood between all UX-ers – if you need to explain how to use your website, you’ve done a bad job as a designer.

Brain re-wired

Hotels are great aren’t they for wayfinding? A series of signs that take you on a journey of discovery, confident in your own ability to find your way around. Only to have your path halted mid corridor when all of a sudden you’re met with blanks walls adorned with work by the artist of the moment instead. TripAdvisor is littered with comments from guests of MGM Grand and the Venetian in Las Vegas getting lost in the 6000+ room hotels. Studies of those wayfinding systems would make interesting reading.

On the smaller scale, there are still challenges to overcome. On a recent trip, I stayed in a hotel of probably less than 100 rooms. Stepping out of the lift to my floor, I was met by this:

Now I might have been tired and weary, but it took me a little while to compute this. We in the western world read left to right. Yet this sign required me to read right to left, then back again. Firstly I locate my room number – 517 – then to see which direction I turn.

Having the arrows so close to each other didn’t assist scannability. Some space and distance could’ve helped with that.

Ok, so I turned right. I locked this away for future reference. Next time, I’d let my nose do the walking.

The next time I got out of the lift, I turned right. As I walked I perused the door numbers but they were not as I expected. They descended away from, not ascended to, ‘517’. What the…?

I returned to the lobby to discover 4 lifts – 2 x 2 lifts facing each other across a small lobby. And 2 room signs – one on either wall a mirror of the other. From one side of the lobby turn right. From the other side, turn left.

I got there in the end but I didn’t want to be dealing with this on holiday.

Agency Designworkplan outline 3 core principles that drive their work in helping people navigate in built environments. These include landmarks, orientation and navigation. A three dimensional rule that tells you where you are in relation to another place, how far you are from your destination and what direction you need to get there. Simple. City maps accomplish this easily with a helpful marker of ‘you are here’.

Based on this, here’s a suggested approach:

The amenities are fictional, to help illustrate the point that surrounding landmarks can help with orientation. A little more helpful than a batch of numbers tacked on to a wall.

Who’s your audience – free info tool from YouGov

Recently, a great new data tool for marketers was released from YouGov – the YouGov Profiler. Type in any search term – anything from sport, media brands, celebrities or food to find a comprehensive profile of the market it attracts.

Much hilarity ensues for search terms from Eastenders to Victoria Beckham. But looking a little closer, entrepreneurs and new business startups can find a great wealth of answers to their early questions of how to target customers with their hot new product or service.

YouGov states on their website: ‘It joins 120,000 integrated data points from over 200,000 of YouGov’s most active UK panellists to show how every single member interacts and engages with traditional (TV, radio, press, print) and new media (online, social, mobile) channels. This connected data is unique to the research industry and it means YouGov clients can mine its huge seam of information in real-time and understand more about their audiences than ever before.’

Of course, I wouldn’t suggest replacing targeted market research and customer insight with this tool. However I’ve seen personas created with a lot less ! 😦 But for those pre startup entrepreneurs who want information on their intended audiences, it’s not a bad place to start to learn about their habits.

YouGov Profiler data tool

Take a look for yourself.

App glut

How many times must I dismiss the download Yahoo Mail app interstitial when I log in via the web? I must have closed it a hundred times already that I would have thought Yahoo’s smart tracking to pick the behaviour up by now. But no, they haven’t.

I’m not old-fashioned; I just don’t see the need. I have the Gmail app and many other apps. So many in fact that I just can’t download another app to the device. So, I’m stuck with the annoying interstitial it seems.

So many apps, that I wonder we must be in an app glut. A sentiment shared by Kevin Tofel who raises a question of what must be next.

I’m further reminded of a recent experience of a friend of mine using a banking app. He was wanting to reset his password but had to not only switch between the app and the web version but between devices ! – first step on tablet / desktop, second step on phone. After several failed attempts where clearly devices and app / servers were not talking to one another, my friend resorted to phoning to speak to a human. Unfortunately there was no one on tech support to help as the time difference between the US and the UK was not in my friend’s favour. So much for mobile banking on the go…

I believe we must be fast approaching (or are already there) a crucial time for app strategy – a similar time when web design scaled back to introduce more flat and leaner code to avoid the bandwidth block of swfs and gifs. So what’s next after apps?

Perhaps the emphasis on apps will diminish along with the reliance on devices. Everyone talks about ubiqitious computing – so irrespective of device, shouldn’t we be able to we accomplish our goals on any connected technology already existing or not yet conceived? Whether it be a vending machine, ATM, kiosk or any other accessible terminals in airports, streets, in the air even. It shouldn’t have to be yet another piece of technology that we the user has to carry, wear or buy.

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Arts organisations caught in the olde world?

Everyone has examples of pointless links embedded in confirmation emails and yesterday I had a new one.

I needed a copy of the confirmation for a BFI film screening, expecting the email to contain the link to take me to my account.

It contained a link alright:


… unfortunately it was useless. The home page offered me no ability to log in to my account:


I searched all the drop down menus where I was encouraged to sign up to this and that. But absolutely NO signpost to an existing customer’s account area.

I found this arrogant. This high-profile organisation’s marketing strategy is lost in the old days where getting the sale is the most important thing. Everything else is secondary.

It was back in 2004, that Jakob Nielsen wrote,

The biggest challenge in e-commerce is to get the first order. Don’t blow it thereafter. Treating customers well after they place their initial order will vastly increase the probability that they’ll place more orders in the future.

After another minute of random clicking around the site, the lovely animating banner captured my attention. There in beautiful colour was the slide for the season for which I’d bought my ticket – Studio Ghibli. Clicking the banner took me to the subsite:


…. and there was the login link. In the time it had taken me to work that out, I’d been made feel like a second thought.

In light of this, I check how another arts organisation,, does it. In the confirmation email I’d received for a previous purchase is an embedded link. Yet however, the same thing happens! The link in the email takes me to their home page, where again, I am unable to log in:


The onus is on me, the customer, to find where to find my account. First I click ‘More’ which doesn’t produce the desired result, then I click ‘Theatre club’. And there it is…as obscure as it is:


It’s a matter of principle. Neither of these organisations leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling that I would want to spent my money with them again. Do they think that because they have the great and exclusive discounts and offers they do, that is enough to make customers return?

On the plus side, I know that if I do, I now know where my account pages are hidden.

And the final word from Mr Nielsen,

It’s an old lesson: It’s much easier to close additional sales with existing customers than to acquire new customers. People who’ve proven willing to give you money will often give you more. This is true for all sales channels, but it’s particularly crucial for e-commerce because the first order proves your credibility if you effectively handle follow-up and delivery.