Internet technology has caused a shift in the way consumers
interact with firms. Today, the face-to-face encounters common
in the traditional retail environment have been widely replaced
by screen-to-face interactions. These interfaces can be accessed
through a desktop PC, subnotebook, handheld device, cellphone,
wireless application protocol device, or other Internet-enabled
appliance. As this shift from people-mediated to technology-mediated
interfaces unfolds, it is Important to examine the interface
design considerations that confront the sen-for management
team, and how the resulting interface can affect the customer
experience. This chapter explores the design principles for
creating successful techonology-mediated customer interfaces,
with a particular focus on Web interfaces because they are
such a critical part of a company's marketing program. As
such the chapter offers both a strategic framework for senior
managers and tactical advice and recommendations for putting
strategy into practice.
Before an interface is designed, a number of questions must
be addressed. What is the look-and-feel, or context, of the
site? Should the site include commerce activities? How important
is community to the business model? To answer these and other
important questions, the 7Cs Framework is introduced. The
7Cs are a rigorous way to identify the major interface design
challenges that senior managers will encounter as they implement
their business models.
Please consider the following questions as you read this
1. What are the seven design elements of the customer interface?
2. What determines the look-and-feel of the site?
3. What are the dimensions of content?
4. Why be concerned with community?
5. What are the levers used to customize a site?
6. What types of communication can a firm maintain with its
7. How does a firm connect with other businesses?
8. What are the main features of commerce that support the
various aspects of trading
The previous chapters have explored and discussed the marketing
program and the need to address customer experience when translating
the marketing program to the customers themselves. This chapter
takes customer experience a step further by introducing the
concept of interface design. As this chapter will show, a
primary means for creating an effective marketing program
and customer experience is through the effective use of several
inter-face levers and design principles.
The chapter explores how strategy decisions significantly
affect the type of customer interface choices that confront
a senior management team. For example, consider the different
approaches of two companies that target teenage girls: Alloy.com
and Delias.com. Both offer catalog shopping, but their online
presence is significantly different. Alloy's homepage stresses
editorial content trivia, gossip, quizzes, celebrity profiles,
message boards, and contests. The site focuses on the experience
of being a teenage girl, and at first glance it is not particularly
obvious that you can shop there. Delias.com on the other hand,
presents shopping options boldly, on the homepage and throughout
the site. There is lifestyle content on Delias.com as well,
but it is given much less priority.
The challenge for managers is to match the strategic goals
of the business with an interface that encourages customers
to engage with the company in a way that achieves those goals.
So for Alloy, whose business model includes several offline
magazines girls can subscribe to, the site reflects its business
strategy by doing more than simply selling clothes it also
drives subscriptions. Hence, the site's focus on editorial
content. The goal of Delias.com, a catalog business with an
online channel, is primarily to encourage buying a fact clearly
reflected in its interface choices. For both sites, of course,
the success or failure of the online offering depends on delivering
a positive customer experience, while aligning the customer
interface with the company business goals.
The purpose of this chapter is to introduce, describe, and
provide a critical framework the 7Cs that act as a bridge
between higher-order strategs considerations and the challenge
of designing and implementing an effective customer interface.
The first section offers a brief definition of each of the
7Cs. The sections that follow discuss the features or dimensions
of each "C," how each C affects customer experience
and the broader marketing program, and the implications of
each "C" for interface design. Throughout the chapter,
screen shots and exhibits illustrate the 7Cs at work. In additions
the chapter also examines two higher-order design principles
to be considered when constructing a customer interface-fit
and reinforcement-along with an exploration of best practices
in Web design. The chapter concludes with a detailed analysis
of how the 7Cs Framework can be applied to eBay.
WHAT ARE THE SEVEN DESIGN ELEMENTS OF CUSTOMER INTERFACE
The 7Cs Framework
The interface is the virtual (and, to date, largely visual)
representation of a firm chosen value proposition. Similar
to a retail storefront, a website provides significant information
to current and prospective target market customers. If designed
effectively, the site quickly answers a number of basic questions
that confront users: Is this site worth visiting? What products
or services does it sell? What messages does the site communicate?
Consistent with a tightly constructed business model, well
designed sites should simultaneously attract target segment
customers and deter nontargeted customers. Compelling sites
communicate the core value proposition of the firm and provide
a rationale for visiting and/or becoming a customer of a site.
Definitions of the 7Cs
Context. The context of the site captures its aesthetics and
functional look-and-feel. Some sites have chosen to focus
heavily on interesting graphics, colors and design features,
while others have emphasized utilitarian goals such as ease
Content. Content is defined as all digital subject matter
on a website. This includes the medium of the digital subject
matter text, video, audio, and graphics as well as the message
of the digital subject matter, including product, service,
and information offerings. While context largely focuses on
the “how” of site design, content centers on what is presented.
Community. Community is defined as a set of interwoven relationships
built upon shared interests. Community is useful from a number
of standpoints. For example, community can create content
or services that attract consumers to a website; it can also
serve as a means to build closer relationships between consumer
and firm, and between consumer and consumer. Standard community
offerings include message boards and live chats.
Customization. Customization is defined as a site's ability
to modify itself to or be modified by each user. When the
customization is initiated and managed by the firm, it is
known as tailoring. When the customization is initiated managed
by the user, it is called personalization.
Communication. Communication refers to the dialogue that unfolds
between the website and its users. This communication can
take three forms: Firm–to-user (e.g., e-mail notification),
or user-to-user (e.g., customer service request), or user-to-user
(e.g., instant messaging).
Connection. Connection is defined as the network of links
between the site and other sites--in other words, clickable
links that either take the visito : off a company's site or
that exist on other sites to bring visitors to the company
Commerce. Commerce is defined as transactional capacity of
a site the sale of goods, products, or services on the site
along with shopping. carts, shipping and payment options,
checkout, and order-confirmation functionality.