What user experience trends do businesses need to embrace in 2016?

In today’s technology-driven world, the task of keeping customers happy is a constantly moving target. Not least because customer expectations of their digital interactions with a business are continually evolving.

Therefore, keeping pace with the changing expectations that customers have of their online user experience (UX), has never been more important.

Yet even digitally savvy organisations may not yet be prepared to make the necessary UX improvements to ensure they are meeting changing customer expectations in 2016. So, what are the five considerations that must be made to enable businesses to keep pace with customer expectations of their online experiences?

1. Businesses will start communicating through social media

The growth of the enterprise social network, Slack, sky-rocketed in 2015, reporting tens of thousands of active new users each week. Meanwhile, Facebook is rumoured to be rolling out a workplace messenger app, while countless companies are already communicating using WhatsApp.

The ease and speed of communication through social media channels will grow apace over the coming months. If businesses aren’t already thinking about how they can use such tools, they need to start.

2. Big data will reveal its true colours

Big data, its use and the security of it will be the hot topic in 2016 for consumers and businesses alike. For those that hadn’t already thought about how their data is being used, Edward Snowdon brought the issue to the fore during the latter part of 2015. The use of customer data has therefore never been a greater concern for consumers – and therefore for organisations who use (and rely on) that data.

In 2016 consumers will want to be empowered to opt out of tracking and go anonymous. For brands, access to customer data can help them to gather essential information and push products or services to help increase sales. But how can they get customers on-board with it too? The challenge for businesses will therefore be to validate the value tracking brings to their customers. Ultimately this can link back to the importance of smarter notifications – by using data to improve the user experience, they can win customer buy-in.

3. Smarter notifications being lead by the growing wearables market

In my opinion, the best thing about the Apple watch has nothing to do with apps – and everything to do with the notifications it provides. The challenge now is that users also don't want to be distracted or notified every time someone “adds two songs to a playlist”. Notifications need to be smart and add value without becoming annoying because users will abandon your product quick-sharp if you meaninglessly talk at them all the time. The key place to start will be to understand each user’s patterns of behaviour and then notifying them in line with their individual wants and needs.

A brilliant example of this would be when my Apple watch uses Google Maps to tell me how long my journey home is going to take – without me asking. I get in my car after a session at the gym, my wrist buzzes and it tells me how far away I am from home and where the traffic is. It’s an invaluable addition to my journey. Businesses need to consider how they can add such value to their customers and improve the user experience.

4. New users will “judge a book by its cover”

Despite the adages telling us to do the opposite, the judgement of aesthetics over content will be at the forefront of user’s minds when they first interact with a digital product.

Too many websites and applications are standardising their aesthetic appearance in order to keep pace with other pressing aspects of user experience. AirBnB is often cited as one of the most copied visual styles but compromising your own identity will mean that you begin to blend in with your competitors.

I’m optimistic that the time is ripe for a resurgence in the value of typography. In recent years typography has to some extent lost its way in the digital world, but technical constraints are gradually loosening their grip, meaning there is room for it to come back and become an integral part of the user experience.

5. Content will drive conversation

Despite the importance of aesthetics in terms of first impressions, content is becoming more and more integral to a great user experience and should be considered earlier in the process than it currently is. A good content strategy will guide a user through their online journey like a conversation. The experience needs to be more than buttons on a webpage; it must be intuitive, engaging and enjoyable.

In today’s digital age websites are replacing the interactions which previously solely took place between customers and sales people. How can something digital compete with that human interaction? Delightful content with a well thought out content strategy is the path to working that out.

By continually seeking the most effective ways to engage and satisfy customers, organisations can in turn win their business and retain their loyalty.

To achieve this however, businesses must capitalise on digital technologies and use them to evolve alongside their customer-base by providing a high level user experience that will make users want to keep coming back more. Those who fail to do so, will be the ones which don’t succeed in 2016.

Rebekah Cooper, head of experience at Radical Company

Image source: Shutterstock/Imagentle