The customer experience is a human one

Symbol image man and women talking

Symbol image man and women talking

An in-depth approach to CX The customer experience is a human one

Published on 14.12.2021 by Ines Imdahl, certified psychologist, founder and owner of the research agency rheingold salon

We need a more in-depth approach when we think about online retail and CX. After all, people and companies mesh with systems during the customer experience. This means more requirements than may be apparent at first glance.

CX is a human experience: why we need a more in-depth approach.

What role do we play as humans in online retail? After all, every customer is human, and we experience things first and foremost as humans. Someone’s response to an offer will always be particularly positive if they don’t feel they’re just being treated like a paying customer, and instead feel understood. The frame of use/purchase for e-commerce. We want to feel that effort and thought has been put into something: maybe there’s something surprising about it, or it’s easy to use, yet the way we’re addressed makes us feel like we matter. It should be clear it isn’t just about our money, and that we’re dealing with a brand or company that really takes its customers seriously.

In the same way we often forget about the person “behind” each customer, we often also fail to realize that every touchpoint is an expression of the entire brand or company. Pars pro toto: a part taken for the whole, and indeed on both counts. Far more elements mesh together than may be apparent at first glance: the “human” system and the “company” system. This complexity explains why CX research and indeed CXM are themselves so complex.

Online retail is frequently geared too much towards the process requirements of companies. Attempts to see things from the customer’s perspective are far too rare. There’s no doubt that simplifying processes makes sense from a business point of view, but this isn’t always the case for the customer. Project and order numbers make things easier for companies, but are a source of frustration for individuals. What’s more, they convey the feeling of being just a number rather than an actual customer for the company.

If you want to make people happy online as well, you actually don’t need to do that much more than what you do offline. More technology and digitization, which actually works, is of course the foundation. However, you would be mistaken in thinking digital transformation alone is what counts. It’s a means to an end. Relief in simple processes so there is room for humanity in complex processes, and not to rationalize away the human aspect.

These ideas of complexity/humanity require the following to ensure good CX in online retail:

  1. Online retail must not be viewed as an isolated process People and companies are complex systems that mesh with each other through the customer experience.
  2. Online retail should be viewed more from the customer’s perspective than the company’s. Anything that simplifies processes in a way that only benefits the company is not a simplification, but a risk investment.
  3. Online retail should have a good understanding of the (deeply psychological) themes and needs within its industry so as to be able to respond accordingly. After all, these may vary significantly in areas like finance and cosmetics.
  4. Online retail should be about more than retail: it’s not just about sales, but also about creating added value and meaning for the customer, as well as customer understanding: being more sustainable, more carbon neutral or more surprising than others is a start.


Ines Imdahl

Certified psychologist, founder and owner of the research agency rheingold salon, based in Cologne. For over 25 years now, she has been researching women’s and sustainability issues in the field of motivation for use/purchase, and for five years, she has presented the programme “5 Fallen – 2 Experten” on German TV’s WDR channel.

Portrait Ines Imdahl

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