Ask anybody who sell anything — hotdogs, financial services, clothing — and they will say that the CX or customer experience is important.

Customer experience or CX has replaced customer relationship management as the newest buzz term. Some have written the idea off as a fad, but — not so fast! As you’ll know from your own experience as a customer, your shopping experience changes your perception of a brand. After a good experience, you’ll feel positive about a brand and recommend it to a friend. A negative experience has the opposite effect.

Why CX is so important online

CX is particularly important to anyone offering services or products online. An unhappy customer in your store can be dealt with there and then. They explain the problem, you listen and take steps to rectify it. If the customer feels heard and believes you regret the problem, it is possible to turn what could have been a negative experience into a positive one. 

You don’t always know what the online CX experience is like for your customers. Psychology researcher Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi found that when we perform sequence-based activities we have a more positive experience if everything works seamlessly. Csíkszentmihályi calls this flow. Think of building a flatpack chest of draws. Imagine the instructions are easy to follow, the components are clearly marked and everything fits together. How do you feel? Like a flatpack genius! You’ll probably also think that the furniture company is a well-run outfit with quality products. But if you struggle, you’ll be annoyed with yourself and resent the company. 

The same applies to online shopping. If a website is slow, difficult to navigate, we generally close the page and look for a  “better” site. That’s a site that has been optimized so that everything works seamlessly. They’ll get the business, while the first company will never even know that they lost a customer by not paying attention to CX.

You could perhaps think that the customer was simply difficult, impatient and impossible to please. Sure, we have all met people like that, but there has been a significant amount of research on what happens to customers on a neurological level when they deal with a slow or interrupted sales process. If you fail to take into account that the design of an online sales platform will impact the perception of your brand, then you’ll lose customers. It’s that simple.

Speed results in a positive CX

The average online shopper expects a page to load within 4 seconds; just under half expects a page to load within 2 seconds; and 18 percent of us want webpages to load instantly. I’m one of those 18 percenters myself! If your website is fast and easy to use, customers are more likely to follow “calls to action” such as signing up for a newsletter or registering as a member. If a website does not meet their expectations for speed, they spend less time on it, click on fewer pages or items, and are less satisfied overall. What’s worse — they’ll tell their friends and social media followers.

CX is a serious business. Anyone selling online should optimize their site to meet customer expectations. Granted, many companies have not budgeted for this, but if a significant portion of your sales are online, it is worth investing in. If you don’t, your customers flock elsewhere.