person with an Apple watch
Now is the time to embrace digital transformation. PHOTO: Crew

Nearly every business rates digital customer experience as a priority. But only about three out of four businesses have launched digital transformation efforts.

Those are two of the key takeaways from CMSWire's second annual Digital Customer Experience Survey, which benchmarks challenges and goals in the digital customer experience landscape. 

The survey was sponsored by Geneva, Switzerland-based Jahia, an open source digital experience platform. Jahia's Chris Field, director of customer solutions for the Americas, will discuss the findings at 2 p.m. ET today during a webinar on the state of digital experience in 2016

It will also be a topic of discussion at CMSWire's DX Summit next week at the Radisson Blu Aqua in Chicago.

Digital Awareness Climbs

According to the online survey of 254 business leaders, 99 percent view digital customer experience as a business imperative, up from 94 percent last year. But only 76 percent said they have started their digital transformation. That's far fewer than the 94 percent that said they had started their digital transformation last year — an anomaly the survey attributes to fuller awareness and understanding of what it means to digitally transform.

Most respondents rated web content management (WCM) and analytics as top components of a digital customer experience infrastructure, followed by customer relationship management, testing and optimization, and marketing automation. 

But Complexity Is Still an Issue

But it's still a complex world despite advancements in digital platforms. And often, a lack of executive leadership support and operational processes are roadblocks, the survey found.

"Today’s organizations are finding it difficult to get a handle on just how complex digital transformation can be," CMSWire researchers wrote in the report. "The results of this year’s survey reveal that, although most companies understand the importance of digital transformation, many are just beginning to grasp the scope, perhaps prompting them to re-evaluate where they fit on the transformation curve."

According to the survey, 54 percent are at an early phase in their digital transformation, while only 22 percent are in the mature stage. 

CMSWire Digital Customer Experience Survey
CMSWire Digital Customer Experience Survey

So why do 99 percent feel digital customer experience is a priority? The customer is at the top of the list for most organizations, but it goes beyond just delivering great experiences for customers and prospects.

Last year, customer satisfaction and the need to boost sales topped the list of reasons why companies invest in digital customer experience. The need to stay ahead in the industry held steady at the number three position.

A little more than half (51 percent) believe digital customer experiences can help preserve brand integrity, a new choice in this year’s survey. Fewer organizations consider staying ahead of competitors a priority this year (51 percent versus 35 percent).

Digital Customer Experience Challenges

When asked about challenges to digital customer experience, respondents cited lack of marketing, technical expertise, technology limitations, lack of executive support and limited operational processes.

About 23 percent of organizations rated "lack of strategic direction" as the No. 1 concern and about 18 percent rated it the second highest barrier.

A "lack of executive support" ranked as the top challenge for about 18 percent of respondents and another 18 percent rated it the second-highest barrier.

Limited operational processes was also a major concern for respondents.

"Companies this year struggle more with strategy, process and people issues related to digital customer experience than they do with technology," CMSWire researchers wrote. 

CMSWire Digital Customer Experience Survey
CMSWire Digital Customer Experience Survey

Which KPIs Matter?

Other key findings:

Site Traffic, Conversion Rates

Most companies use the following key performance indicators (KPIs): site traffic (53 percent), conversion rate (50 percent) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) (49 percent). New to this year’s survey, participants also consider KPIs like retention rate (42 percent), customer acquisition rate (40 percent), and to a lesser extent, net promoter score (NPS) (29 percent), which CMSWire authors feel is "reflective of a move toward a customer-centric culture."

C-Suite Rules

Almost a third (31 percent) of respondents note that digital customer experience responsibility falls to executive level leadership, 44 say marketing or a hybrid MarTech department and 13 percent say IT. 

Web CMS Critical

When asked if a Web CMS is a requirement in their digital experience ecosystem, 82 percent of participants answered yes. When asked about the most important components of a digital customer experience infrastructure, the largest number of respondents (79 percent) named Web CMS very important, followed by analytics (77 percent), CRM (61 percent) testing and optimization (60 percent) and marketing automation (58 percent). 

"The path to digital transformation has proven to be a complex one," report authors wrote. "Not only do organizations need to understand how best to use digital to enhance the customer experience, they also must determine how to evolve their operational processes to create a more agile, customer-centric organization. Add to that the explosion of platforms and software available to support this transformation and it’s no wonder businesses are struggling to make sense of it all."