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Business leaders, analysts and consultants are in consensus that customer experience is the core differentiator for just about every company, regardless of market or vertical. Customer experience drives sales, retention, profitability and even shareholder value.

There’s also very little dissent on the point that we’ve entered a time when everything is digital -- the barriers between channels have blurred to the point that the distinction is no longer relevant. Going forward, digital experience refers to the ways digital technology shapes experiences, regardless of being online or offline.

The core issue facing digital experience isn't the vision -- it's making it work.

What’s at stake in how businesses deliver customer experiences is the success of the business. The answer to "how" is direct. The key to provide engaging, meaningful and impactful customer experiences is to become customer centric, in word and deed. No easy task.

Digital Experience: More Business Process, A Lot Less Technology

Customer centricity dictates understanding who your audiences are, what they care about and how, where and when to engage. Customer centricity requires large doses of change management, customer insights, content strategy and user-centered design. It demands a commitment to deliver those experiences along the entire length of the customer journey -- regardless of channel, device or platform -- from awareness and consideration, through purchase to loyalty and advocacy, and across the ever-growing breadth of the multichannel experience.

The greatest success is when digital transformation is wired into the overall systems and strategy of the organization. This means that everyone is on board to deliver personalized, relevant and authentic experiences -- no matter where they sit in the organization. This data-driven approach, one that is transformational for the organization, changes the way you think about CX and positions your brand to be future-proof.

'Mobile First' and 'Omnichannel' Deserve the Hype

We've been hearing a lot about “mobile first” in the last few years. While it's true that more and more people are using smartphones, tablets and wearables to engage, the important point isn't which device they pick up first, but which devices and channels they jump between. From their point of view, it's all a single experience.

This feeds into one of the other big buzzwords, “omnichannel.” Despite the hype -- and the fact that most companies are incapable of delivering a consistent and engaging experience across channels -- omnichannel is one of most important elements of the future of digital experience. And it’s not the future for your customers, they’re already there.

Dynamic and Contextual Personalization is Possible at Scale

Once upon a time, the acronyms WCM (web content management) and CMS (content management systems) were used almost exclusively by IT organizations to discuss the technologies that make websites work. Personalization was a term near and dear to marketers who chased the holy grail of direct marketing, the ability to speak with every individual according to his or her likes, dislikes and preferences. And while pundits, analysts and consultants connected the two, the reality was usually a painful dis-connect between CMO and CIO.

What it came down to was the technology wasn’t up to the challenge. There wasn’t enough data to divine real insight and people never behaved the way brands thought they would or should. That was then.

A radical transformation has taken place in the capabilities of modern content management systems and great advances have been made in personalization technology (in the form of recommendation or decision engines). Add to this the advancements in data, CRM and marketing automation software, as well as email, search, social and mobile marketing tools, and we've redefined what is possible in personalization and the delivery of highly relevant content.

The Technology Slice of the Pie will Shrink - Strategy, Services and the Cloud Create Value

Most CMS systems are still being used as tools to run websites. This is a problem. When viewed through that lens, the discussion around which CMS is better tends to follow on-premises or Cloud hosted, enterprise or mid-market, open source or proprietary. All valid and important points when selecting which vendor is the best fit. But this is the wrong way of looking at content management systems, because it doesn't factor in customer centricity.

Instead of talking about content management, it’s time to think in terms of content publishing. Just as the argument can be made that all brands are in the publishing business, think of the CMS as the means by which content can be published out to its intended audiences regardless of channel, device or platform. And it’s critical to think about being able to dynamically publish the right content to the right person based on the context of the experience. Managing the content is important, but if no one consumes it, where is the value?

Talk is Cheap

Stop talking and start doing -- this is what it comes down to. All the investment in content management and marketing technology will not deliver value to either the customer or business if the fundamental relationship between the two does not shake its outdated paradigms.

From a practical standpoint, this means businesses embarking on a full-blown customer experience initiative have to first invest in organizational readiness, insights, content strategy, then experience design. And only when they’re ready, make the investment in technology, which supports this strategy. Companies that follow this process right will succeed. Those that don’t will have a never ending uphill battle. The future is a choice.

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