On average, it costs twice as much to get a new customer to a web site than the site recovers during that customer's initial visit. This might be tolerable if one could expect people to return, but about 60 percent of customers don’t return—and it's usually because of problems with the customer experience.
Brand and usability are intertwined, and companies can reap valuable customer loyalty by understanding the connection between usability and brand.
What is Brand?
A brand is the sum of all on- and offline customer experiences relating to a particular company or product. It's all about associations—emotional connections created through interactions with the company, direct and indirect, active and passive.
The Usability/Brand Connection
Active and direct experiences are always more powerful in creating (or damaging) brand than passive or indirect experiences. For instance, actually experiencing the Starbucks ambiance will create a stronger association than hearing about it from a friend.
A web site’s design can either positively or negatively impact your brand—and that impact is powerful because the interaction with the company is direct. Usability and brand have become so closely intertwined online that any investment in usability is automatically an investment in brand; and any investment in brand is incomplete without a corresponding investment in usability.
Much of the usability work on a typical project can be leveraged for the brand side (and vice versa), so you can re-evaluate your brand strategy at the same time you’re making improvements to your site’s usability and get twice the benefit for a smaller incremental cost.
Here's a quick overview of the methodology:
- Pinpoint desired customers.
Determining the demographics and psychographics of your current users and, more importantly, of who you want as customers, is essential to providing a relevant, valuable experience.
- Understand customer attributes.
The goal here is to understand customers' current behaviors, their unarticulated wants, unconscious needs, thought processes, and vocabulary. Depending on the situation you may use focus groups, in-depth one-on-one interviews, surveys, etc.
- Size up the competition.
Competitor brands and sites have made impressions on your customers’ minds, so it’s important to recognize what those impressions are because it helps identify opportunities to make your product distinctive.
- Usability is more important than the feature set.
Companies often focus too heavily on features instead of ensuring (a) that those features really provide value, and (b) that their customers can easily and efficiently access those features.
- Evaluate your existing site.
If you are redesigning your site, it's often a good idea to perform a test to determine strengths and weaknesses relating to usability and its potential to project your brand. Use the results as a basis for measuring project success.
- Iteratively design the new Web site.
Support your brand through usability by reflecting your understanding of customers in every functional and design element. Where appropriate, personalize online interaction. Test designs at some level after each design iteration.
- Support site development.
There are invariably design decisions to be made throughout development, so usability and brand strategists must be available to help ensure that the design remains true to the foundations already established.
- Test the deliverables.
Test the usability of your new site and evaluate the uniqueness and clarity of your brand message. Continuously seek consumer response, and be flexible enough to grow as your customers' needs change.