Digital marketers: Focus on VoC after you’ve solved for delivering value…

With 96% of website visits ending in an action other than a desired ‘conversion,’ it seems that digital marketers can either concede they are failing (a bit extreme, really) or re-frame their view of success to include areas of valuable engagement that occur at far higher percentages than 4% of visits! To be sure, sophisticated digital marketers deploy a variety of techniques to analyze and optimize their website(s), and often position voice of customer (VoC) tactics as an enhanced avenue to gauging success and guiding experience enhancements. Comments on website content and features captured through VoC often receive significant attention and prioritization — which is a good sign that marketers are responsive to visitor needs. However, using VoC techniques should not be reactive and unrepresentative (participation bias means the ‘complainer class’ of website visitors often drives the dialog); nor should it be seen as a replacement for doing the harder work of ideating and designing digital experiences that put the visitor in charge of achieving their goals — thus delivering what I call “experience value.”

VoC obsession can squash innovation. Yep, I’m talking about marketers (over)using intrusive chatbots, pop-up surveys and feedback and rating buttons instead of focusing on helping visitors through intuitive navigation, high-quality content, and solid experience design. How can digital marketers prioritize “experience value” and, from there, decide how best to integrate VoC? It’s more than investing in good content and features — that’s table stakes now. The bar has shifted towards an enhanced digital marketing approach, a process, a philosophy with three core elements:

First, transparency. Web properties and content should be architected to show the visitor, ideally at a glance, where the brand is best able to support the visitor’s goals — and then prioritize the experience to those principal areas. Sounds simple and obvious, right?! Well, there are still websites with great content and tools, and others with the appearance of depth across many areas but really only have decent ‘coverage’ in certain areas. If you’re not great at something, don’t try to pretend to be. That’s “bounce bait” if I’ve ever heard it, and a “how are we doing?” popup VoC survey will probably not capture actionable feedback — but probably will capture a few zingers!

Second, relationship management. Websites should be built (and evaluated) with repeat visitation in mind. While the focus is on content and features that build trust and commerce, VoC can play a supporting role. One way is to use VoC to enrich the understanding of initial vs. repeat visitors. Another is to use great VoC services to capturing visitor preferences within the UI to help guide them to what they need. Maybe the invitation to chat or provide survey feedback is only exposed to repeat visitors or those struggling to find what they need. And prioritize VoC tools and techniques to bring the most frequent visitors fully into your experience ideation process. Then you have ultimately moved the relationship from tactical visitor into strategic ally, using VoC tactics as support, rather than a blanket ‘solve’ for capturing feedback.

Third, integration. Organizations should instrument their website success metrics (and socialize them meaningfully with key stakeholders and budget approvers) to reflect visitation value in the context of overall digital marketing efforts rather than through the narrow lens of last-step attribution or full conversion to goal within a single visit view of performance. Here’s where VoC data and insights can be a meaningful part of the overall “story” of digital marketing success measurement, rather than a knee-jerk explanation for a high bounce rate or a low conversion rate. Participation bias can be managed by analyzing feedback by visitor segments — referral source, visitation volume, demographics, etc. — so that a useful view of potential content and feature upgrades can be obtained.

With these principles in mind, VoC can be properly positioned to gauge website success and drive “experience value.” To be fair, I’ve also seen that VoC can also be under-appreciated as a source of insight for business-driving website enhancements. A few years back I was working with an e-commerce client who was obsessed with A/B optimizations — and they drove significant value from these efforts. It was only after much persuading, however, that were we able to test a new feature and some targeted partnership-based content — both suggested in VoC surveys with repeat visitors — both of which drove statistically significant increases in engagement and conversion. So, marketers — only when you’ve solved for how best to track engagement and test content and feature enhancements will you be ready to position VoC appropriately into your marketing measurement mix.

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