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Strategies, research, industry trends — your pulse on the marketplace
The   Bazaar   Voice
Strategies, research, industry trends — your pulse on the marketplace
Digital Experience Benchmarks

There’s a messy situation unfolding in the digital world.

Rising marketing spend and falling traffic are creating a major challenge for digital leaders. Last year, marketers went all out, throwing over $1 trillion into ads for the first time ever. But even with all that cash flying around, web traffic dropped by 3.6%. That means it’s costing brands more to get fewer people to visit websites — an increased cost per visit of 9.4%, to be exact

Digital teams now face the reality of needing to spend more to attract a smaller audience. Every click counts big time. The pressure’s on for digital teams to make the most of every visit. They’re scrambling to find the best tools, from fancy AI chatbots to live streaming, in a bid to bolster their websites.

But these solutions often mask a fundamental issue: frustration. Despite some progress in improving the digital user experience in 2023, frustration still affects 40% of user sessions. And that frustration translates to poor customer engagement.

Contentsquare’s 2024 Digital Experience Benchmark Report examines the digital customer journey, highlighting key KPIs and identifying frustration for elimination. Referencing the report as our guide, we’ll offer insights to help digital leaders optimize their experiences and maximize the value of each visit in 2024. But before we delve into that…

What is the digital experience?

The digital experience encompasses all digital interactions and touchpoints between a brand and their customers, including websites, apps, and social media.

It goes beyond technology though, focusing on seamless user interaction and creating a seamless shopping experience across all digital platforms. It’s about enhancing satisfaction and guiding customers positively.

Digital experience management is distinct from customer experience as it focuses specifically on digital interactions, while customer experience focuses on all interactions — physical and digital.

A positive digital experience boosts satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue, while a negative one can harm brand image and lead to customer loss. In short, investing in a positive digital experience is crucial for your businesses. And on that note, let’s take a look at the key trends in digital experience as revealed in Contentsquare’s Benchmark report.

Digital experience key trends 2024

What’s happening in the world of digital experience? What trends and takeaways are we seeing? Where do brands need to lean in?

1. Frustration

Frustration negatively impacts the quality of the whole digital experience. It adds up, making people bounce off your site more and engage less, slashing the value of each visit by 15.0%.

So, what exactly do we mean by ‘frustration’? Well, it’s all those annoying moments of friction that happen during someone’s time on your site, which can include:

  • Javascript error rate: When there’s an error in the Javascript code
  • Slow page load: Pages taking longer than 3 seconds to load
  • Rage click: Clicking on something at least 3 times in under 2 seconds out of frustration
  • Multiple button click: Repeatedly clicking on a button at least 3 times
  • Multiple field click: Clicking on a field at least 3 times
  • Multiple use target: Repeatedly clicking on an element at least 3 times
  • Low page activity: When a visitor doesn’t click or tap on the page at all

In 2023, frustration had a bigger impact on digital experiences compared to 2022 — the percentage of sessions affected by frustration rose from 38.1% to 39.6%.

But while some frustration factors stayed the same (or even decreased) in 2023, like slow page loads, the real troublemaker of 2023 was Javascript errors. These errors hinder engagement and can even prevent conversions. The problem is, they’re a pain to deal with.

Last year’s improvements in page speed and user experience demonstrate brands’ awareness of frustration’s impact. Google’s Core Web Vitals highlight the crucial need for a smooth, frustration-free digital experience, vital for SEO and customer satisfaction.

With nearly 40% of sessions affected by friction, addressing these issues is paramount. Google’s emphasis on eliminating frustration should motivate digital leaders to prioritize improvements. Frustration not only diminishes engagement but also devalues visits by 15%.

No matter when it arises during the journey, friction within the digital experience disrupts the intended purpose of a visit, leading to visitor frustration. Consequently, this frustration directly influences the outcome of a session, determining its success or failure.

2. Traffic

Last year, 55% of all websites experienced a decrease in traffic. Sites with the highest traffic growth, ranking in the top 25%, saw a 12.4% increase in visits, while those with the lowest growth, in the bottom 25%, experienced an 18.4% decrease in visits.

Has the diversity in channels — and consequently, the strategies site owners employ to attract traffic — become stagnant? It seems like site owners aren’t switching things up much, which might be why traffic’s taking a hit. Leaders in digital marketing need to shake things up and adapt their game plan.

One way to boost diminishing traffic is by focusing on owned marketing. With the cost of customer acquisition skyrocketing, it’s time to cozy up to the ones we already have. Even though half of all traffic comes from repeat visitors, their share isn’t growing much. Getting more repeat visits sounds easy, but making it happen is a challenge.

Owned marketing channels like email, SMS, and direct traffic can offer a solution. They often get the short end of the budget stick compared to paid media. Just as performance marketers continuously seek out new customer spending opportunities, owned marketing leaders must undertake a similar endeavor to comprehend the return on investment through their channels to keep those customers coming back.

Now, onto mobile. We all know that most traffic comes from mobile devices — well over two thirds. It’s a challenge for digital teams because while our site pages might look good on small screens, the overall mobile experience often falls short.

Get ahead with predictive mobile journeys. Thanks to fancy AI tools and loads of data at hand, you can guide mobile visitors through an experience that truly reflects your brand, not just a condensed version.

3. Engagement

Engagement serves as the crucial bond that knits the customer journey together, bridging the gap between initial interest and final conversion. Which means it’s pretty disconcerting to observe a consistent downturn in consumption (a key engagement metric) recently.

PSA: Consumption measures the quantity of content consumed by a visitor within a session, encompassing metrics such as page views and time spent on the site. Notably, consumption experienced a decline on 58% of websites in 2023.

With traffic numbers dwindling last year, all attention is now focused on whether engagement levels have rebounded to compensate for the drop in site visits. 

And now for some good news. Encouragingly, bounce rates remained steady last year, showing only a slight increase of less than 1%, following a 4% rise in the previous year-over-year period. And after last year’s ‘consumption crisis’ report, digital leaders can breathe a slight sigh of relief as consumption contracted only slightly in 2023. Though it’s important to consider this in the context of the thriving social media landscape.

Social platforms grew thanks to creators and smart algorithms, setting a standard for engagement. If you want to compete, digital teams should leverage AI for content curation and encourage user-generated content creation.

And for better engagement measurement, delve deeper beyond broad metrics. Questions like how consumption differs for new vs. returning visitors need exploring because better measurement leads to better management.

The takeaway here is to acknowledge visitor intentions and, ideally, tailor (and test) the site journey to align with their level of consideration.

5 quick ways to improve the digital experience

  1. Optimize for mobile. Traffic share from phones reached nearly 70% of all visits, according to the Digital Experience Benchmark Report. So designing with mobile in mind from the start, using tools like Google Chrome’s Dev Tools, ensures better user experiences. Simplifying design elements and navigation for smaller screens is key, even if it means sacrificing some decorative features. If redesigning, prioritize mobile optimization for future improvements
  2. Monitor your site. Sounds obvious, but regular site audits are crucial for a positive digital experience. Investing in tools for real user monitoring gives insight into how your site performs for diverse visitors. Synthetic monitoring tools simulate human behavior to test performance, ideal for controlled optimization tests and catching major issues before customers encounter them
  3. Personalization. Personalization entails providing tailored experiences that cater to each site visitor’s specific needs and preferences. Through personalized experiences, like customizing website content, targeted email campaigns, or personalized product suggestions, you can foster greater engagement and drive revenue growth.
  4. A/B testing. To truly grasp how consumers perceive your e-commerce site, A/B testing is key. This method allows direct comparison of different elements like product headlines, colors, and page layouts to see what resonates best with your audience, increasing engagement and reducing bounce rates
  5. Incorporate user-generated content. Showcase your brand and products across your site with authentic user-generated content (UGC) from your customers. With 88% of shoppers using ratings and reviews to evaluate products, including UGC is essential for increasing website conversions. It’s about letting customers speak for your products, driving sales through authentic experiences and insights. Pro tip: don’t just showcase UGC on your website, feature it on social, in email, in-store, and everywhere else your shoppers are

Digital experience report key takeaways

The era of easy traffic is over. It’s time for a new approach. Quality matters more than ever and only a few brands will lead the way. Visits are pricey but valuable — here’s the key advice for maximizing every visit:

  • Optimize the entire mobile journey, not just individual pages. While the initial wave of mobile optimization may have hit, there’s still work to be done as mobile experiences continue to lag behind desktop engagement. Future mobile optimizations should focus on improving conversions. The limitations of smaller screens and shorter sessions should inspire innovative site designs that efficiently deliver the right content to users
  • Combat friction throughout the digital journey. Allowing friction to persist in user experiences is a significant error. User frustration negatively impacts engagement, with slow-loading pages increasing bounce rates by 3.9% and poor response to interactions decreasing engagement by 11.7%. Addressing friction head-on offers a clear path to increasing visits and enhancing overall experience
  • Diversify traffic sources and enhance conversion rates. With dwindling visit counts, relying on the same channels and landing pages is a recipe for failure. Digital leaders should experiment with different traffic sources and optimize entry pages to kickstart journeys in the most effective way possible

Read Contentsquare’s full 2024 Digital Experience Benchmark Report here for the full breakdown. Then learn more ways to optimize your digital experience with these 15 ways to optimize e-commerce website performance

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