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Why You Should Be Designing Cross-Platform Digital Experiences

As you look for ways to create a better experience for your customers online, it’s important to think about what they need and where they should be when they get it. This goes beyond the matter of mobile vs. desktop. This is about choosing the right platforms and channels and designing a seamless experience around and between them.

There was a time not too long ago when it wasn’t uncommon for people to question whether they should build a website or a mobile app for their business. In some niches, the question was whether or not they even needed a website or if they could just get away with using Facebook.

But in 2020 and beyond, we can’t afford to entertain ideas like that anymore.

Today, we’re going to explore some ways that businesses are using cross-platform strategies. We’re also going to look at why it’s important to create unique experiences for each instead of duplicating the experience from device to device, platform to platform.

Designing Cross-Platform Digital Experiences

On average, Americans spend about 6.5 hours with digital media every day:

eMarketer graph with data comparing average time spent in the U.S. in 2019 with media. Digital is the most commonly used with 6 hours and 35 minutes spent each day.

More often than not, these digital experiences take place across multiple devices. According to Think with Google data, 57% of users freely switch between devices every day:

Data from Think with Google shows that 57% of people use more than one type of device each day. This is more common than one-device-only usage.

About a quarter of users (or less) stick to one device.

But it’s not just multiple devices we have to account for either. We have to consider what kinds of digital experiences are best for each of those devices and why.

Below, we’re going to look at a number of brands that have successfully built out digital experiences across a diverse set of platforms and how each of them contributes to a better whole.

Murdoch University’s Virtual Recruitment Strategy

Educational institutions like universities and colleges really don’t have a choice when it comes to using a cross-platform approach. The majority of their target audience is Generation Z, which means catering to a group that is extra confident and comfortable with technology.

So, let’s look at how Murdoch University has handled this.

Desktop Website

This is the homepage of the website:

The homepage for Murdoch University quickly invites interested Year 12 students to learn more about studying at the school.

It’s engaging and to the point, which ensures that interested students can quickly get to the information about studying there. The rest of the site has been streamlined for that same effect.

Mobile Website

The second element in the cross-platform strategy is the fully responsive website—a must-have when appealing to the 97% of Gen Z who own smartphones.

Originally, the Murdoch University website was built in 2007, so its original build wouldn’t have been able to serve the modern-day smartphone user. In 2016, however, their site was completely overhauled and, with it, came a responsive mobile site.

The mobile homepage for Murdoch University is designed to cater to the Gen Z target audience with an engaging slider element and bottom-aligned navigation within the thumb-zone.

Notice the difference between this design and desktop. For starters, the hero banner isn’t static. It’s a news bulletin-style slider, which works well for research-hungry mobile users.

Also notice how the header and navigation live in the bottom of the site. Considering how many Gen Z users have smartphones, this is a wise choice as navigation and search are within easier reach of the thumb zone.

Virtual Campus Tour

The virtual campus tour is an augmented reality experience that gives students the chance to explore campus before scheduling an in-person tour or spending time filling out an application. It feels a lot like "walking" down the street in Google Maps:

Murdoch University has an augmented reality experience integrated into its website. The virtual campus tour works a lot like Google Maps, enabling students to explore the campus.

A platform like this might not make sense for an organization that targets a wider range of people since not everyone "gets" AR. However, Gen Z will and it’ll go a long way in their decision-making process.

Virgin Active UK’s Full-service Customer Solution

Brick-and-mortar businesses can’t afford to rely solely on customer-facing experiences that take place on-site or over the phone or email. Customers expect you to make it easy for them to:

  • Research your business before signing up or buying anything
  • Sign up online rather than have to fill out a form in person
  • Manage their accounts without having to contact someone to do it for them
  • Reach customer support through the channels they’re already on
  • And so on

Virgin Active UK, for instance, is a company that’s done this well. It’s created a cohesive and consistent experience from platform to platform.

The Website

Virgin Active is a global health club. But like other multi-location organizations, it’s created individual digital properties to represent its various hubs.

As you can see here, the UK website alone provides an end-to-end solution for the customer.

The Virgin Active UK website welcomes prospective club members and existing ones with relatable fitness imagery and "Your Place, Not Ours".

The first thing the responsive Virgin Active website does is serve as a place to attract, educate, and convert leads into club members. And it does that through relatable fitness imagery and encouraging messaging.

The second thing it does is serve as a place for existing customers to log in and manage their accounts. They can do that once they’ve started a membership through the Join portal:

The first page of the Virgin Active UK membership signup and portal that encourages leads to become active club members with "Your Membership. Do It Your Way." and a short intake process.

The intake process is easy to complete—that goes for both desktop and mobile.

The membership intake form for Virgin Active UK, as seen on mobile. It asks for the preferred home club, start date, and birthday.

Considering how important the mobile website will be for smartphone-using club members, it needs to be able to keep up with desktop every step of the way (which it does).

Mobile App

Virgin Active members have their choice of account access—through the Login area on the website or through the mobile app. But they need to first sign up through the site.

Before directing them to the membership login page, the app will help the customer find a home location first.

Virgin Active’s mobile app helps new customers find their home location using an interactive map of the United Kingdom.

Once they’ve selected a location, they’ll get details on site hours, address, and amenities. When they’re ready to get started, the app seamlessly transitions them to their mobile browser to complete the signup process. They can return to the app and start managing their membership.

The app itself (as well as the membership portal through the site) is a very useful tool. It takes the digital customer experience to a whole new level. With the app, members can:

  • Manage their profile and membership details
  • Find, book, and cancel classes
  • Automatically add classes to their device’s calendar with a built-in reminder
  • Use guest passes
  • Get rewarded for referring others to the club
  • Link to Boditrax to track their progress

Social Media Support

According to Twitter, 85% of its SMB users believe that it’s an important platform for providing support to customers. Do you know why that is?

Take email, for instance. There’s a chance that support requests will get lost in someone’s overloaded inbox or get marked as spam. Calling a company might be an option, but with labyrinth-like routing systems and long wait times, customers might not like that one either.

Social media—and Twitter, in particular—is a great platform for this and it’s one that Virgin Active has taken advantage of to provide support.

Virgin Active UK regularly monitors and responds to feedback, questions, and complaints on its Twitter page.

Businesses are already on social media every day, so someone’s going to catch any customer service requests that come through and in a timely manner, at that. Plus, it’s a public forum, so if someone puts a piece of feedback or question out there, others are going to see it. Businesses can’t ignore those kinds of conversations and customers know it.

Teknion’s Multi-Layered Ecommerce Experience

Retailers have experienced some extraordinary changes over the past couple of decades.

The introduction of the Internet opened retailers up to a new way to get inventory in front of customers. The smartphone changed the way people shop, with their phones often serving as a companion to the online and in-store shopping experiences. And social media has proven to be a useful platform not just for marketing one’s products, but actually selling them, too.

Teknion, a global furniture company, has made use of all these technologies… and more.

The Website

One of the frustrating things about shopping online is finding a product you really love, only to discover it’s not available in your country. Country and language switchers help with this on a website as can dedicated subdomains for each location. Teknion does both of these things.

It also has customized navigations based on where shoppers are. For example, this is a comparison of its menu for shoppers in Canada (left) and shoppers in Africa (right).

The Teknion website displays a different navigation with product categories depending on which country the customer is shopping from. This comparison shows the Canada navigation vs. Africa navigation.

Again, this removes the frustration and friction from the shopping experience since customers only see the items that are the most relevant and available to them.

The 3D Warehouse

At the bottom of the Teknion website, shoppers will find a lengthy string of what appear to be social media icons.

Teknion’s website includes a long list of third-party platforms it connects to. Many of them are social media, but there’s also a link (to the left of the capital "A" that links to its 3D warehouse tool.

The latter half of the list, however, are third-party platforms that provide more insight into its inventory. One of those links (the one to the left of the capital "A") goes to 3D Warehouse.

It’s here that shoppers get access to Teknion’s 3D interactive planning tool.

The Teknion planning tool lets shoppers interact with its inventory — like the Teknion Bene Box 02 — viewing it from different angles and in different formats.

This tool lets shoppers take a closer look at Teknion’s product line, viewing each piece from different angles as well as previewing the furniture layout and dimensions. As VR and AR become more widely accepted by consumers, this kind of tool is the perfect complement to the traditional online shopping experience. And a great way to stand above the competition.

The Store

The Teknion website basically serves as a digital showroom for its physical showroom. However, customers don’t have to go to the store to buy furniture from them. They can shop online at the Teknion Store.

Teknion customers in the U.S. and Canada can shop from the online Teknion store in addition to one of its physical stores..

This is much more of a traditional ecommerce store layout than the Teknion website, so shoppers can easily breeze through this site and pick up what they want when they’re ready.

Instagram Shopping

The shopping experience doesn’t stop there. Teknion also recognizes the power of Instagram as an ecommerce tool.

The Teknion Store lets shoppers know that they can get a better look at their inventory — and shop from it — using Instagram.

This link and promotional page let website shoppers know Instagram provides more than just the same ol’ photos they’d find on the site. They can see their furniture in real life scenarios.

By including this on the site, it’s also subtle way to say, "Hey, follow us on Instagram so you can see more of what we have."

According to a Facebook IQ study, Instagram shopping is a valuable feature for shoppers with many of them using it to:

  • Discover new products
  • Research their options
  • Decide what to buy

Facebook IQ published the results of a study on Instagram marketing and how users use the platform for shopping, with 83% discovering new products, 81% researching products, and 80% deciding whether or not to buy something.

So, it’s smart of Teknion to add this to its set of ecommerce platforms.

Wrap-Up

As you can see, it isn’t enough to build a single digital platform to reach your users. Instead, you need to focus on designing experiences on a much grander scale, with various platforms catering to specific purposes while seamlessly integrating with one another.

This means you’ll need a better understanding of which devices your users are on and which channels they’re most likely to engage with you through. Once you have this data, you can start crafting cross-platform experiences they’ll enjoy.

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