Ask anyone from a Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Digital Officer to a MarTech integration guru to define digital experience and you'll get a lot of answers. You'll hear about the importance of technology. You'll hear about digital maturity. You'll hear about emotional connections.

But what's the best way to execute an enterprise digital experience program? How can you connect with customers and prospects in meaningful way?

You can learn answers to questions like that at CMSWire's DX Summit conference on Nov. 3 and 4 in Chicago. To whet your appetite, we asked some industry experts their opinions, including Jill Finger Gibson, principal analyst at Digital Clarity Group. She'll be one of the speakers at the DX Summit, and we share her thoughts today in the first of a two-part series.

The Question

How do we deliver consistent digital experience that's clear, relevant and functional?

The Answers

Jill Finger Gibson, Principal Analyst, Digital Clarity Group

headshot of jill finger gibson of digital clarity group

Finger Gibson is principal analyst for e-commerce at New York City-based Digital Clarity Group. In this role, she covers e-commerce technologies and business practices as they relate to customer experience management. She writes about topics including cross-border e-commerce, content and commerce integration issues, the core competencies organizations need for customer experience management and service provider partner selection. Tweet to Jill Finger Gibson.

My first advice would be to reframe the question by removing the word “digital” entirely. Customers themselves do not have “digital experiences.” They have experiences. Period. Technology is often an enabler of a great customer experience, but not the starting point. The starting point is the customer herself.

She is a customer in the first place because she is looking to solve a problem or enhance her life in some way through engaging in a commercial transaction.

She is a customer when fulfilling a basic need (buying laundry detergent, refilling a prescription, getting a car tire replaced) or when seeking pleasure or entertainment (purchasing a new TV, booking a vacation, making a dinner reservation at a restaurant).

Digital comes into play in the ways it can improve these experiences in some way: by making them more relevant, faster, cheaper, easier, more informative, more customized and so on.

Purchasing goods and services online is one aspect of customer experience that has dramatically improved in the last few years. Mobile commerce, next-day delivery, free returns, wider payment options and personalized recommendations are now must-haves for the online shopping experiences brands provide.

Where consistency, clarity, relevancy and functionality can and must improve is in content and commerce integration from the customer’s perspective.

Right now, not many brands do this effectively. They might provide a beautiful website with stunning photos, articles and product descriptions, but then becomes a static shopping cart page with limited payment options once the transaction process begins.

Or the reverse: their back-end systems and supply chain may be first-class, but their online store is a searchable product catalogue that is indistinguishable from millions of others.

There are some brands, however, that are raising the bar for content and commerce integration. Here are two examples:

  • Lush, a cosmetics retailer. The company's homepage localizes for the user’s world region: in my case, it lead with an article about Halloween featuring seasonal products like Sparkly Pumpkin Bubble Bar
  • Homebase, a DIY retailer. It offers how-to guides like how to choose the right paint for your home. Once you choose your paint type and color, the checkout page includes a paint calculator

Paul Kelley, Lead Designer, iMarc

head shot of paul kelley of imarc

Kelley has more than 11 years experience in user experience design, UI design, brand identity, photography, video and web development. He has extensive experience working with Newburyport, Mass.-based iMarc’s clients to enhance their brands and online presences, including SSH Communications Security, Aston Martin of New England, Starwood Hotels and AGDATA. He studied Graphic Design at UMass Lowell. Tweet to Paul Kelley.

Creating a consistent digital experience isn't easy. It requires careful planning, cross-team collaboration and easy-to-understand visual language. Every team member has a unique role to play.

Strategy. Creating a digital experience that's clear, relevant and functional starts with strategy. Research, plan and listen. The strategy team listens to the client to define objectives, to stakeholders during interviews and to users during usability testing.

User experience design. User experience focuses on translating the findings from strategy into wireframes. At this stage, the site's goals start to take on a visual manifestation; mission statements and customer goals start to become hero content and calls to action. The focus of a UX designer is not typography, imagery. or color. It's about hierarchy, placement and a consistent experience for all devices. Wireframes are intentionally devoid of design. A clear and functional interface must be able to stand on its own without visual design.

User interface design. UI designers are responsible for creating the visual language that supports and enhances the wireframes. The use of brand colors, imagery and typography must all come together for a pleasant and consistent experience. Users must be able to relate to imagery, and content must be easy to read. A site's colors must properly represent the brand and define the site's visual language.

Different disciplines, one job. Each team member is an expert in their field and they must all collaborate to deliver a functional and easy-to-use result. Strategy may want to do some user testing on wireframes created by the UX designer. The UI designer may want to help redirect the wireframe layout. The strategist will want to make sure the original goal is achieved and the visual harmony the UI designer is aiming for is working. It takes a village.

David Mario Smith, Research Director, Aragon Research

headshot of david mario smith of aragon research

Smith is the research director and lead analyst for collaboration at Morgan Hill, Calif.-based Aragon. His coverage focuses on the internal and external people issues around collaboration and includes digital experience management, social business, unified communications, web and video conferencing and video content management. He has more than 20 years of experience in collaboration and also advises lines of business leaders on strategies for creating better digital experiences. Tweet to David Mario Smith.

First I will say that creating a better digital experience that is consistent involves mixing technology with awareness and a people-first business approach to customer engagement.

One major effect of digital business transformation is a renewed focus on the customer experience. This is why we’ve moved from static content on conventional websites to holistic digital experiences across multiple channels.

Web content management systems are morphing into digital experience management (DXM) platforms that can connect, engage and target content to create personalized experiences. This is the technical side of creating the consistency across channels for customers.

For prospects and customers, digital experiences encompass all interactions in the social, mobile enterprise environment. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is the primary manager of the customer experience, and because business strategies are so deeply affected by customer and prospect engagement, the role of the CMO has increased in significance and influence.

CMOs and marketing professionals tell us how crucial providing the right digital experience is. They also tell us how vital a role content plays as a central part of the strategic synergy between sales and marketing professionals and everyone who interacts with the enterprise online — not only with the company website but through every social and mobile channel as well.

To enhance a digital experience, content has to be relevant in the context of who the user is, where they are coming from (in both the literal and metaphorical senses) and what they are doing. This goes beyond ordinary click-track personalization to encompass the user’s status, role (prospect, customer, renewal candidate, upsell candidate, etc.) as well as their history.

For example:

  • Have they had good or bad customer service interactions in the past?
  • Have they increased or decreased their investment in your products?
  • What are their affiliations and how influential are they within their industry?
  • If the user is a named, known individual, have they recently changed jobs or companies?
  • What attitudes have they expressed on social media or in previous interactions with you?

The most important question in any given interaction is, “Why are you here, and how should we respond to you right now?” To provide great digital experiences, businesses have to read a user’s “digital body language” in real time or near-real time. The consistency comes from really knowing the customer profile.

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