Quick — think of a modern organization — of any size — without a web presence. Hard to do, no? So when we try to pinpoint where organizations are with digital experience, it’s safe to say they’re all on the path.   

Digital Experience is the range of tools and processes that enable and support all aspects of the customer relationship. In the early days of the Internet, a web presence was simply a business card.  Then websites evolved to provide online marketing collateral, with materials about products and services, customers, and solutions.  

As tools and technologies evolved further, basic e-commerce capabilities allowed for more sophisticated interactions. Departments beyond sales and marketing started developing a web presence, which allowed for greater levels of service across a range of functions. However, the organization’s structure and processes can be constrained by culture and may contain embedded, interconnected, difficult-to-change core systems. 

(Editor's Note: Seth Earley will be leading a workshop on Nov. 2 and presenting a session Nov. 4 at CMSWire's DX Summit 2015 in Chicago)

The Systems and Processes that Support Digital Experience

Describing a world class, seamless, contextualized digital experience is substantially easier than executing one. However, describing the goal and objective is where it begins.  

What vision does the organization have for digital capabilities? Is the vision based on customer needs and expectations, the competitive landscape and the organization’s strategic differentiators in the marketplace?  

Because the organizational implications of the digital experience are broad, it’s important to identify any significant gaps in the process, technology or organizational alignment. For example, a marketing organization might acquire a powerful content management system with integrated marketing resource management and product information management functionality. But if the underlying data hygiene is poor, processes for managing assets are missing, or the customer lifecycle is not well understood, those tools will not be correctly leveraged, and the ROI will not justify ongoing investment. 

So how can an organization establish maturity benchmarks in these areas? 

Digital Experience Maturity - No One Size Fits All

Numerous maturity models have been developed for digital capabilities. Some models are specific to a narrowly defined technical aspect of a process (for example metadata management), while others describe higher level business capabilities (for example, omni-channel commerce). Many models contain components of other maturity frameworks (for example, content management maturity might contain a governance element or dimension). 

What might be the highest level of maturity for one organization, might represent a less mature process for another. For example, a company for which personalization is not critical might achieve its top aspirational stage at a level that would only be halfway there for a company that relied on personalization to sustain its business. Establishing digital experience maturity therefore depends on the business imperatives for each specific organization as well as a defined customer lifecycle with engagement strategies for each stage of the lifecycle. 

Understanding the Customer Lifecycle

Customer lifecycles vary by industry and organization, but share common elements. Customers need to learn about the product, select and purchase it, acquire it, use it and obtain post-sales support and maintenance. Most organizations also consider the community of users and recommendations they make a key part of the customer relationship. Each of these stages requires tools, technologies, processes and organizational accountability.  The digital experience can enhance or diminish the customer relationship at each step of the process. 

Putting Maturity in Context

The digital experience maturity of an organization is therefore assessed across stages of the customer lifecycle, within the context of the engagement strategy supported by digital experience technology. For example, organic search, social media outreach, and email marketing may be the main sources of web leads, along with tradeshows and paid advertising. The systems that enable each of these require corresponding processes and organizational structure to operate optimally to move the customer to the next stage. A poorly managed process can impact downstream processes and lead to missed opportunities. By assessing the dimensions of effectiveness and maturity in each process, the correct gap-closing approaches can be developed.    

Digital experience is the battleground for acquiring and keeping customers. The organization that provides the most effective and engaging experience will take market share from the competition. Having a clear vision of the ideal state is essential, and understanding how far the organization is from that ideal state is necessary for establishing a realistic roadmap for getting there. 

If you'd like to learn more about digital experience maturity, Seth Earley will be speaking at our DX Summit, which will be held Nov. 3 and 4 at the W Hotel City Center in downtown Chicago. He'll be presenting a pre-conference workshop on determining digital experience maturity on Nov. 2 and presenting a case study on Aligning MarTech with the Customer Journey on Nov. 4. Find out more here.

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