There's certainly been much written about Customer Experience Management (CXM) of late, but little about the related technology gap.
In a newly released report, Forrester Research talks about how companies need to foster “customer journeys” to “better understand their consumers and develop a better engagement strategy”. Meanwhile, Michael Assaad wrote an article in early March that claimed CXM solutions don’t even exist. And finally, Robert Rose, a senior analyst with Digital Clarity Group proposed that the process of CXM is a need that will exist, that the solutions are coming, but that marketers may not be quite ready to deploy it yet.
We would agree with portions of what all have said here, and we've seen organizations struggling with deploying customer experience strategies for digital content. But, interestingly, one of the main challenges that we see is that even when marketing strategy, internal process and desires are aligned -- there remains a technology gap which can kill the whole initiative before it even has the chance to launch.
The CXM Technology Challenge
To truly realize the CXM vision, any enterprise must create an environment where content is truly liquid and dynamic. It’s simply not CXM when the system merely displays a banner ad that is targeted to a persona on a mobile website. And, it’s not CXM when the website simply shows a list of “related content” in the right column. No.
If, as marketers, we're to truly deliver a dynamic, relevant and personalized customer experience with digital content, everything has to be dynamic. That not only means the content populating every piece of screen real estate is dynamic, but that the data informing the content’s relevance and the design that is adapting to the user’s contextual environment is as well. In real time.
From a Web CMS perspective, the challenge is that many solutions deployed by today’s enterprise have been (sometimes without the rest of the business even knowing) cobbled, hacked and held together with duct tape and bailing wire, just to facilitate how the production of static content has changed over the last three to five years. From global, mobile, social and even micro-sites, many enterprise technology teams have been working feverishly to quietly ensure that the existing Web CMS can stand up to new performance, content formatting, and even new integration requirements.
But now with CXM the game has truly changed. Enterprises that are embarking on the CXM “mandate” are now discovering (quite painfully sometimes) that the existing technology solution that they've spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on is just not going to be up to the task of truly delivering on the dynamic, liquid content requirements of a CXM solution. Many enterprises, are still in the “what next” mode and are simply trying to deliver the best experience they can with the tools they have at their disposal.
So is it any wonder that we so rarely (if ever) see true CXM “in the wild”? And we shouldn't be surprised that some people believe that CXM solutions don’t exist (because they've never seen it), or that marketers aren't ready for it (because they can’t deploy it).
But True CXM Technology Is Beginning To Emerge
In a recent Forrester report called "CXM Solutions Visible On The Not-So-Distant Horizon," author Brian Walker says:
Customer experience management (CXM) solutions are emerging on the eBusiness technology solution horizon. These solutions promise to enable businesses to manage and optimize the customer experience across customer touchpoints through a combination of content management, search, customer targeting, analytics, personalization, and optimization capabilities. As digital experiences have grown more complex and the need to target and personalize the customer experience across the Web, mobile, contact center, and stores or branches becomes more and more critical, siloed systems that limit the eBusiness & Channel Strategy capability are failing to keep up.”
This is absolutely true. As I said earlier, true CXM is much more than just dynamically delivering some content to multiple channels. It must leverage dynamic content that is informed by a multitude of data sources. The are three main areas of support for the technology component of CXM.
Relevant Experience Across Any Digital Customer Channel
As the number of channels that customers use to consume an organization’s content continue to expand, so too does the need for a CXM technology to be able to deliver dynamic experiences in real-time. Beyond using the data available to “understand” which interface and content will be best delivered to a particular channel.
The CXM technology must be able to optimize and “deliver” the dynamic experiential design to that device or channel. This is more than just being able to deliver Responsive Design to a mobile site, but rather having the capacity to truly optimize UX to accommodate personalized content in adaptive ways.
Technology Performance & Standards Matter
One of the main reasons that it becomes unattractive to replace a Web CMS (or any) system is because, over time, the technology group is often forced to customize and/or work around things in order to make it scale for performance. Whether it’s caching content, or handling content volume or simply being able to integrate into more and more third party systems -- delivering true digital CXM means that everything is dynamic and liquid. Therefore, scalability has become crucial for delivering a true CXM technology solution.
Multiple Data Integrations Points Must Be Leveraged In Real Time
External data sources such as Geography, Social Graphs, Advertising Sources and even Weather can be extraordinarily helpful in driving more relevant content to even anonymous visitors. Additionally, internal data sources such as CRM Systems, Web Analytics, Marketing Automation Databases, etc. are critical in delivering relevant experiences. So, the Web CMS content delivery system has to be open enough and robust enough to scale, and integrate seamlessly with myriad data sources in order to meet delivery of real-time, dynamic content experiences across every touchpoint.
Additionally, delivering true CXM means that there is not only more content -- but there are inherently more versions of originally created content. So, the velocity and quantity of content being created by the enterprise grows as well. A true CXM technology will be able to process the input of content from a multitude of sources -- from other Web CMS systems, to (again) other systems like CRM, ERP, e-Commerce, Social Systems, etc.
CMO/CIO Alignment IS The Key
Yes, CXM is ultimately a marketing and customer engagement process. But, for any enterprise that is going to really deliver it, there will need to be tight alignment with those that manage the technology systems that deliver the content and the intelligence about that content.
Data management, security, privacy and myriad other technical issues will need to be addressed when looking at the input of data from multiple sources, and how it is used to (hopefully) optimize content and deliver rich, impactful and meaningful content experiences to customer across any digital touchpoint.
It’s certainly early days for both the process AND the technology of CXM. But, as marketers go forth and begin to put together their strategy for CXM, they will do well to ensure they are making decisions in tight alignment with their technology teams. They will be invaluable in ensuring real-time integration with multiple data sources, the ability to manage multiple channels and that the solution will truly scale and perform over time. And regardless of whether this technology is packaged as a “suite” of tools -- or as an integration of “best of breed” solutions -- at the center of the technology strategy is a very strong solution to manage and display content experiences in a completely dynamic and liquid way.
Editor's Note: To read more of Tjeerd's thoughts on the customer experience, see his Ignoring the X in CXM is Ignoring the Future