A positive online experience is growing more valuable as more consumers are using different consumer channels to reach marketers. According to Forrester, 71 percent of North Americans are online today. By 2011 it will be 81 percent.

Forrester research recently found that when completing a transaction, 76 percent of respondents were satisfied with going to a retail location, while more than 50 percent were comfortable using a Web site and 18 percent when using a kiosk.

Fifty-two percent of survey respondents were satisfied with customer service at a retail location, 29 percent when on a Web site and 21 percent on chat or instant messenger with a company representative.

A frustrated customer costs money, Mr. Harteveldt said. At Air Canada, a customer who uses its kiosk to check in costs only 16 cents. That same customer checking in with an agent costs $3.

Yet failure to humanize digital experiences, or make them customer-friendly, can work against marketers. Mr. Harteveldt gave the example of an online video posted by a customer who struggled with an airline kiosk, unable to read the instructions in the glare or even print the boarding pass. The person was hunched and confused.

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