CMSWire VP of Editorial Noreen Seebacher on stage at the DX Summit

Sharing the ballroom stage this week at the W Chicago City Center Hotel for CMSWire's first DX Summit was an incredible honor for me. We had thought leaders. Digital experience experts. Analysts. Integrators. Consultants. Industry researchers. Practitioners.

They inspired, informed and gave our attendees more than a few action items as they left downtown Chicago and headed home — or stayed if they’re lucky, because the city rocks with a capital “R”.

[Editor's note: A sincere "thank you" to everyone who attended. We appreciate your insights, your collaboration and your expertise. But more than anything, we appreciate your presence at the event. You were magnificent!]

Another Aha Moment

Meeting so many digital experience go-getters in the crowd was just as much of an honor. For me, that's where the conference's aha moment came — from someone who never took the stage.

I like aha moments at tech conferences. They usually don't come until I'm in the air over America flying home to Boston (like I am as I write this) or navigating the city's fine public transportation system (just not during record snowfall).

We had a personalization roundtable during Day 1 of the conference. It featured James Goldman, Jennifer Hickman, Scott Lee, Tony White and Andy Zimmerman.

During the presentation, we kicked the mic over to a marketer from a bank. She wondered: How could she and her team back home actually do this — and do it consistently? How could they craft at a truly, personalized 1-to-1 marketing experience for customers and prospects?

Gotcha.

That comment represented exactly where we are in the digital experience space: early days. No one’s out there claiming they’ve conquered it. Every one wants to.

But it’s simply, well, early. We have a lot of technology, and a good amount of it works. What would we do without CMS? How would we leverage email without our email marketing tool? What would sales do without a CRM?

We can’t live without our enterprise technology tools, much like it seems Chicagoans can’t live without their (overrated) deep-dish pizza (yep, I went there, because it’s really more like a calzone, and who puts the sauce on top of the cheese? #boston'sbetter). [Editor's note: Debatably Dom. And Chicago wins with the popcorn.]

The trick, though, is to get the tools to work together, and it’s not just about tossing in a few APIs. We still haven't completely figured out what to do with our massive data sets and digital assets.

DX Realities

Digital experience is the realization that the digital world exists beyond a website. Our friend in the crowd is probably a great marketer. She knows what she needs, what her customers need. It's just a matter of keeping up, really. What tools can help me keep my brand relevant and support a great conversation my customers want to follow?

“They helped me. They made it easy. I’m coming back.” Isn't that the holy grail?

When Henry Sandy Brooks opened Brooks and Co. in Manhattan in 1818 he wanted to "make and deal only in merchandise of the finest body, to sell it at a fair profit, and to deal with people who seek and appreciate such merchandise." Brooks didn't have to deal, though, with what today's marketers do: this second world called digital and the challenge to create a solid experience within its ecosystem.

That’s why Brice Dunwoodie created the DX Summit. Because as customers leverage new technologies and channel hop, we want to be there to greet them. It’s like a good maitre d', who knows our name. “Hey Dom, hope the family is well. Here are the specials for prime rib tonight.”

But It's So Hard

Digital is hard. Digital is work. Digital is collecting data and figuring out what the heck to do with it. Digital is having to explore a vendor landscape feeling overwhelmed.

And it becomes even scarier when someone like Tony Byrne says there’s no such thing as a digital experience platform or when you consider that Forrester Research after two years of Digital Experience Wave reports has only named one leader.

How are marketers like our friend at the DX Summit supposed to process that information?

But fear not. We’re going to “get it” someday. We always do. Right now, though, we’re still trying to become digital experience masters. It's like Day 1 in cooking class with all the right knives, spatulas and cookware in front of us, but the chef master fell sick and didn't show. Now how exactly do we cook all this stuff?

Say this for our marketing "digital experience cooks," like the woman in the crowd at the DX Summit. They're not leaving the class until they get their meals just right.

Stay with us on the journey. We'll have plenty more about DX on the pages of this publication in the weeks and months to come. And we're already planning the 2016 DX Summit. It'll be back in Chicago again — if you see me in town next November, please take no offense to that earlier pizza comment. After all, pizza's pizza.