The Gist

  • Using a common taxonomy. Companies should use a common taxonomy when building integrated CX platforms — a feature that enables personalized experiences and easier data analysis.
  • A holistic approach. Taking a holistic approach with CX platforms is crucial to creating a smoother experience and better understanding of customers.
  • Adaptability is key. Businesses must value adaptability so that they can better succeed in an ever-changing CX landscape. 

CMSWire is holding its upcoming conference, CMSWire Connect, May 10 – May 12 this year in Austin, Texas. The conference will host speakers from various domains within customer experience and the digital sphere. CMSWire is running Q&As with featured speakers leading up to the conference.

When it comes to optimizing customer experience stacks, it's good to keep adaptability front and center. Companies are rapidly increasing the amount of digital tools they use to boost customer experience, creating a smoother customer journey and increasing their chances of success even more. Building integrated platforms with a common taxonomy helps with this; not only does a common taxonomy simplify navigation for customers, but it also helps companies with data analysis.

Focusing on adaptability is crucial when building and integrating CX platforms. Successful implementation requires addressing not only technology but also processes, workflows, governance, training and user support. By investing in these areas, businesses can ensure the necessary adaptability to changing customer needs and business environments.

In this interview, Matthew Schaeffer, a senior manager at REI, delves into CX stacks and the need for adaptability. He recommends that companies build their stacks around three core platforms — content, product information and customer data.

CMSWire recently caught up with Schaeffer for a Q&A session on the topic. He'll be leading the presentation “[Main Stage Breakout] Modernizing Your Customer Experience Stack: The Potential of Platforms, Tech & Teams” at the Connect conference in Austin.

Key Components of an Effective CX Stack

CMSWire: Could you provide an overview of the key components of an effective customer experience stack and explain the role of platforms, technology and teams in optimizing CX?

Schaeffer: The customer experience stack we’re building to meet our business needs consists of three platforms — content, product information and customer data. It also includes an ontology tool that allows us to create and manage standard taxonomies across all three platforms. This is a key aspect of creating personalized customer experiences because the common taxonomy allows for the enrichment of content with standardized metadata that can then be used by business rules and algorithms to dynamically deliver content, offers and messaging to our customers across channels and at scale. 

An often underserved — or even overlooked — but crucial key to success when building and integrating these platforms is to take a holistic approach that extends beyond the technology and looks at how processes, workflows, governance, training and user support all need to evolve to support new customer and business needs. Having a systems-thinking mindset is a critical component for long-term success, as these areas are often less defined and less funded than the technology and engineering aspects.

Related Article: Need to Get Scrappy? Use Your DAM Metadata

Successfully Modernizing CX Stacks

CMSWire: What are some common challenges businesses face when trying to modernize their customer experience stack, and how can they overcome these obstacles to successfully implement CX strategies and processes?

Schaeffer: There are a handful of challenges, but I’ll touch on three of the most prevalent:

  • I mentioned the first one in the last question, this being the need to think beyond the technology and take a holistic, systems-thinking approach to building integrated platforms. Success depends on a variety of factors, so having a comprehensive change management strategy to support internal teams and users in adopting these platforms plays a big role in successfully implementing new tools.

  • A second common challenge is rooted in the time it takes to build these platforms. Creating them is often a multiyear effort that requires consistent investment. As external factors and business environments change, it can be hard to maintain momentum for building these platforms, so it’s important to develop a plan that allows you to deliver incremental value as you build toward your longer-term objectives.

  • Finally, the needs of the business are always changing, so building a system that meets anticipated needs but is also nimble and extensible enough to meet new and unanticipated needs is an ongoing challenge. In many cases, these systems consist of a blend of legacy tools with new solutions, so keeping everything aligned and up to date requires doubling down on the systems-thinking approach I keep calling out.

Examples of Implementation — Cases of Success

CMSWire: Can you share any specific case studies or real-world examples that demonstrate the successful implementation of innovative technology and techniques to improve customer experience and engagement?

Learning Opportunities

Schaeffer: A lot of companies are going after increasingly personalized customer experiences. Amazon has led the way by showing how much value you can deliver to the customer by showing them products and offers that are tailored to their individual tastes and needs. The sorts of recommendations that Amazon has made popular have been adopted widely. The Netflix recommendation algorithm is a great example.

But for many companies, the newest challenge is providing more comprehensive experiences that go beyond products and offers to also provide information, insights, expertise and inspiration that is relevant at the time and place a customer is interacting with the company. There are a lot of companies working on this problem, and in the coming years, we should see a whole array of new customer experiences that provide value to customers, enhance brand loyalty and drive business.

Related Article: Incorporate Customer-Centric View Into Ecommerce

REI's Most Impactful Changes to CX

CMSWire: In your experience at REI, what have been the most impactful changes or strategies employed to enhance customer experience across multiple touchpoints and channels?

Schaeffer: One of the things REI is most known for is our in-store experience. We have over 170 stores across the country, and these have become meccas for people who love to get outdoors in a myriad of ways. For many of us working on the ecommerce side, the challenge is to re-create that in-store experience online. REI sells amazing outdoor products and apparel, but we also have a huge library of expertise content. We offer a range of classes that can help you get better at a given activity or find people to enjoy the outdoors with, we host award-winning, multiday adventure trips, and we’re growing our rentals and used businesses. So, the challenge we’re embracing in the digital space is how we can bring together the value we offer across the various lines of business in a way that helps our members and customers in whatever way they need to get them outside. This has become a vision we’ve been working toward over the years and that continues to inspire and drive us every day.

Creating a Seamless Customer Journey

CMSWire: How can businesses ensure that they are effectively utilizing their teams alongside new platforms and technologies to create a seamless, omnichannel experience for their customers?

Schaeffer: Businesses are feeling new pressures and demands every day, and customer expectations are constantly growing. The rapid evolution of technology is allowing us to do things that weren’t possible a few years ago. To keep up with this change, you need to create feedback loops that allow you to consistently identify new customer problems that need to be solved and constantly iterate on the experiences you’re providing. All of this is requiring companies to operate in new and different ways — this is at the heart of the “digital transformation” challenges so many companies are facing. In my experience, the best way to approach these challenges is to develop a vision that is authentic to your company’s values and rooted in solving your customers’ problems, take a holistic approach to evolving your business to address these new demands — be that in the technology you build, the skill sets you hire for or the way you organize your teams — and, as much as possible, be proactive instead of reactive in anticipating, strategizing and planning for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Modernizing CX Stacks and Other Potential Changes

Matthew Schaeffer is one of many speakers at the May 10 – May 12 CMSWire Connect conference. You can take a peek at his speaking engagement: “[Main Stage Breakout] Modernizing Your Customer Experience Stack: The Potential of Platforms, Tech & Teams.”