With a recession on the horizon, it’s important now more than ever for small businesses to ensure they’re targeting their customers and making sure their online presence is sharp. When designing a product-focused website for small businesses, many things must be considered: general design, flow, and of course cost of assembly. But before any of those can be addressed a company must have one thing in mind above all else: the customer.
Most small businesses find themselves strapped for time and having to wear multiple hats. Between a lack of time, resources, and attempting to balance both quality and growth, it is easy for things to fall between the cracks. The ultimate “secret sauce” of a small business has and will always be pleasing and providing an authentic connection that big box stores don’t have time for. Every decision, especially one that impacts their customers, needs to make a strong impact. When the customer and their needs are put at the forefront of everything done, a business can ensure its products provide the very best user experience. This idea, used by both businesses large and small, is what is known as a design-driven approach to business and it’s how we build empathy with customers.
Understanding the customer
Design-driven businesses start and end with the customer. The first thing a customer-focused business should consider is what problems or pain points it wants to solve with its design. Should the website layout be updated? Are there critical issues with the functionality of the design? Once these pain points have been determined, consider what the customer wants and needs, and what problems they are running into. Are there broken links that could lead to customer frustration? Is the website too confusing to navigate? By envisioning these problems from the point of the customer, businesses can resolve problems before they become issues.
After assessing the more obvious problems, customer insights can help you solve the rest. Insights are made of both quantitative and qualitative data, which work best when they are able to support and complement each other. Collecting this data is essential for business success. But while this data is fundamental, finding the story behind the data is where a business can make impactful changes. For every bit of feedback a business garners from this data, questions should be asked about how the customer came to that issue and what can be done to solve it.
When you start making changes to your site, always go back to the customer insights, which are ideally being continuously collected. The solutions that benefitted the customers at the beginning may not be the ones that work now. If a continuous feedback loop is created for customer insights, small businesses won’t have to start from scratch every time an improvement to their product or service is needed, saving time, money, and energy.
How to implement customer insights
The easiest way to become a design-driven business is to gain and implement customer insights through the use of customer surveys, interviews, and product experience (PX) tools like heatmaps, which can show which areas of a website a visitor is engaging with. Small businesses will see where customers might be frustrated, leading to “rage-clicking”, leaving the site, or finding the exact point where customers are adding items to their cart. This knowledge is fundamental for small businesses looking to get the maximum return on investment for their website.
The effort put in here is not lost on the customer either. According to PWC, 73 percent of consumers rank customer experience (CX) as an important factor in their purchasing decisions – only “price” and “product quality” were ranked more highly. This investment will not only help your business become more profitable and effective but can also help with brand building and increasing customer loyalty and trust.
While these concepts can be exciting, don’t get caught up in making the perfect site or product before releasing it. Sometimes the simplest version of a website is the best, allowing businesses to get customer insights and feedback sooner so that they can implement them into the rest of the design. Don’t waste time guessing at customer problems and building out the wrong solution – test and iterate from the natural problems that occur so you can understand exactly what your customers need.
Customer empathy for small businesses
Understanding what customers want and need can better inform business decisions and save money in the long run. Knowing firsthand what the customer wants reduces costly trial-and-error activities and ensures businesses are hitting the right target the first time. While the idea of growing your small business rapidly can be enticing, it is best to maximize the traffic you already have and use your customer insights to turn site visitors into loyal product purchasers. Being able to mold a business to customer needs can also enhance customer and brand loyalty, something small businesses thrive on. When customers feel seen and valued, they will continue to choose that brand over others, even bigger retailers who aren’t putting customer needs first.
For small businesses to survive and thrive in today’s fast-paced landscape, the best thing they can do is learn as much about their customers as possible through the use of insights and PX tools and implement those learnings wherever possible. Design-driven, empathetic companies are the ones who will keep and gain lifelong customers even during a downturned market.
Sahil Gambhir is the VP of Product at Hotjar.