CMSWire Editor-in-Chief Rich Hein giving his opening keynote remarks at the virtual DX Summit.
CMSWire Editor-in-Chief Rich Hein giving his opening keynote remarks at the virtual DX Summit.

CMSWire kicked off the first of four virtual Digital Experience Summit conferences on Thursday, Feb. 25. The company, now in its seventh year of producing the conference (second virtually), is building its conference on four content themes: Design, Build, Orchestrate and Optimize.

The opener this week featured Design principles — listen, analyze and model 2021 CX. You can access all the presentations on-demand for free.

“We made it. 2020 is finally behind us,” Rich Hein, editor-in-chief at CMSWire and Simpler Media Group, said in his opening DX Summit keynote. “That said, it threw some difficult curveballs: changing customer behaviors, evolving workflows and more Zoom meetings than any of us ever wanted. It forced us all to reevaluate our CX and marketing strategies to ensure we're doing everything we can to build customer loyalty retention and growth in these uncertain times.”

2020 taught the power of empathy, the importance of backup and contingency plans, the need to be agile in the way we work and so much more, according to Hein. “Now,” he added, “with some light at the end of the tunnel, it's time for us all to refocus, re-energize and refine all the change that has happened over the last 12 months.”

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the #DXS21 winter edition. 

The Value of Identity Loyalty

Americus Reed, professor of marketing at The Wharton School, discussed in his keynote the concept of identity loyalty and how that enables brands to build deep, rich affiliations with customers and a “community of fans.”

“Identity loyalty is when the values, and the ideals of your digital brands, are perceived by the customer to be in tune, or aligned, with their own core values,” Reed said.

Successful brands create a fusion with their customers in the digital space because the consumer sees themselves as part of who you are and what you do. “And that's very, very powerful,” Reed said.

He referred to a TED Talk by Simon Sinek, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action," in which Sinek said people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it, according to Reed.

“Now this was important because what Simon Sinek was telling us is that there's something deeper there,” Reed said. “In the digital world, there is an opportunity to create a connection by articulating your ‘why’ to your consumers. In other words, their traditional question of whether or not I can make a better mousetrap, that's not the question we should be focused on. The question should be on how can I get consumers to internalize what I'm doing as part of who they are? How can I move away from just transactions to something different? And identity loyalty is when these consumers internalize what you're doing as part of their self expression as part of their identity.”

Identity loyalty can lead to three distinct outcomes:

  • Customers voluntarily become willing brand ambassadors
  • Customers are willing to and do pay more despite having more affordable options
  • Customers vehemently defend the brand

“One of the things we have to make sure that we do in the digital world is to reimagine our business,” Reed said. “What does that mean? It means you have to make sure you understand in the digital world exactly what it is that you do. Oftentimes we get caught up in thinking about the what and forgetting about the why, the importance about how we're connecting our brand, our product or service digitally to our consumers’ sense of who they are or who they aspire to be.”

Americus Reed, professor of marketing at The Wharton School, presents during the CMSWire DX Summit.
Americus Reed, professor of marketing at The Wharton School, presents during the CMSWire DX Summit.

Related Article: 6 Takeaways From DX Summit 2020

Capturing CX Moments To Create Movements

Telisa Yancy, chief operating officer for American Family Insurance, discussed the importance of creating moments that matter for customers. When the COVID-19 pandemic really hit hard in March of 2020, American Family Insurance began to recognize extraordinary savings because people were driving far fewer miles.

But it went beyond savings on the company's bottom line. It was a case of letting data speak for itself, then executing great customer experiences. The company decided to use those savings and write $50 checks to customers for every car insured. And they didn’t end there with a one-time credit. Still today, the insurance company is extending discounts.

But it went beyond just capitalizing on that moment. It was about creating a movement for customers, a deeper connection with customers and building empathy, according to Yancy.

And a year later, they haven’t stopped the momentum of this movement, according to Yancy. “We are into our third version of this program, not because for any other reason then we are constantly keeping our finger on the pulse of what is happening with our customers, and what is happening in our data,” Yancy said. “And while we started off by returning money to people to get them through those very trying times, we are now extending discounts to them, because as of today, although people are getting back to somewhat normal, we are not getting back in the same way that we would have been pre-pandemic.”

Telisa Yancy, chief operating officer for American Family Insurance, presents during the CMSWire DX Summit.
Telisa Yancy, chief operating officer for American Family Insurance, presents during the CMSWire DX Summit.

Ensuring the Right Digital Infrastructure Is in Place

Matthew Schaeffer, manager of content operations at REI, discussed how his company promotes, “a life outdoors is a life well-lived.” But creating great digital customer experiences with technology begins on the inside using CX tools within what he calls an “elaborate technical infrastructure.” REI has an 80-year heritage of brick-and-mortar but digital experience has become the vanguard of growth, he added.

“As digital has evolved and as the needs of our customers have evolved we're trying to evolve with that,” Schaeffer said. “And internally in the last few years we have really started focusing on creating a platform, and an enablement system. And it's a pretty fascinating journey for us.”

Schaeffer as a content practitioner sees two sets of customers: external customers who consume all the content REI produces and those buying its gear; and internal customers who actually have to leverage these tools and the technologies they create to craft experiences for customers.

“And so this platform is really kind of an amalgam of a lot of different kinds of services,” Schaeffer said. “We've got customer data that's flowing in. We've got algorithms that are doing recommendations and started to help us provide more relevant experiences. And then we've got the content side which is where I'm focused. My job is to build that content in a way that it can be disseminated across multiple websites that often sit on different code bases across email, across our social media and to all of the different channels ultimately. And make that as easy as possible and as scalable as possible.”

Related Article: CX Decoded Podcast: Breaking Down the State of Digital Customer Experience

Takes a CX Tool Village

Tyler Lessard, chief video strategist at Vidyard, was asked what his team’s center of gravity for customer data. He said Salesforce, the primary CRM for Vidyard. “But we are in an interesting world where we have an enterprise customer base, and we have a tiering system as many software companies do because we have some customers who pay us six or seven figures a year and others who will pay us $300 or $400 a year. We also have free users and we have a very large growing base of free users of our freemium products. And so we've got this really broad spectrum of different types of users who have different needs and expectations from us.”

The learning lessons? Salesforce may be a great center of gravity, but his teams need other systems that are also interacting with them and managing them, feeding data in or pulling data out, depending on what types of customers.

They also use Gainsight as a customer success platform for post-sale customer experience and managing and understanding the dynamics of the existing enterprise base. Vidyard also plugged its product into it as well so it can get real-time views into usage statistics and activation and adoption. “Our customer success reps are able to understand what's happening, what kind of experience they're seeing and be able to influence and drive higher promoter scores and things like that,” Lessard said.

They also leverage Marketo as the marketing automation platform, which Lessard considers a big part of its customer experience technology stack because it is interfacing with customers before they become paying customers.

“And so all of those different systems — and there's a couple of other tools at play — they do end up feeding back into Salesforce largely as our center of gravity for all of this,” Lessard said. “We can then do a lot of the data exporting, insight analysis and reporting.”

When Government Has To Digitally Transform

For the first time in its history, the U.S. Census Bureau offered its Census survey in 2020 digitally. But that came with an array of challenges: governance, data management and providing a new digital customer support system, according to Michele Bartram, chief experience officer for the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Listening is hard for a government agency, but I think we're doing a good job right now,” Bartram said of the effort to better connect with and listen to customers.

The Bureau had to in 2020 implement technology in order to get a 360-degree view on its customers. “It was also important to know what was changing,” Bartram said. “So, having the tools such as data visualization tools, putting in APIs that pulled in data feeds from our different customer touchpoints. And then putting that on top of a system that allowed us to do data visualizations and get real-time or near real-time information about what was going on with different touchpoints.”

Talk about challenges: the U.S. Census Bureau had to put out communications in 59 different languages. It was a massive effort that boiled down to, on top of integrating and implementing a lot of CX technology, making sure they were listening to the pulse of customers.

“And in the case of the government, we live and die on the trust of our customers,” Bartram said. “… The government likes to move slowly and methodically. But that's not the way the world is today. During the 2020 Census, we had to be there. It was the first time we offered a digital means of answering the Census. … And we needed to stand up a digital customer service, because digital customers want to have a digital customer service method, and we listened [to] customers and put that in place.”

Related Article: Converge Customer Experience and Digital to Thrive in 2021

Getting Back To Conversing With Customers

Mark Nardone, executive vice president of PAN Communications, said 2020 for his team brought back the fundamentals of having real conversations with customers and “making sure that you're in line with what they're feeling and the emotions that they're going through… The thread of conversation that comes through that is really really critical.”

Just as important in terms of 2020 lessons was the ability to integrate sales and marketing effectively, according to Nardone. “Getting a good understanding of what the field needs to overcome out there,” Nardone said. “The agility to adjust sales, based on the pandemic. You can think about budget constraints, you can think about your buyer changing a little bit and how does that flow over to a voice of a customer program so that you're able to then map your current content into a lot of those behaviors.”

First-Party Data Begins to Rule

Omar Miller, director of MarTech Solutions and Implementation at FCB Chicago, said one of the biggest focuses last year was the move to rely on first-party data acquisition. It was about, he said, analyzing the overall interaction of customers with the communications that his teams were already sending out. That approach has some backing in the industry.

“We saw was a bigger focus and understanding how customers were really looking at the content that was organically being sent out,” Miller said, “and then utilizing that as a foundation for re-orchestrating customer journeys around the interaction.”

Next up is the company’s spring DX Summit, which will take place virtually May 27. The summer session is scheduled for July 29, and the closing fall conference will be held Oct. 28.