Thoughtful businessmen creating digital experience strategy
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In recent years, we’ve all seen huge shifts in how organizations engage with their customers, employees and partners. Digital experiences play and will continue to play an increasingly important role in most, if not all, of these interactions, which means that the underlying platform powering digital experiences needs to be highly adaptable and flexible.

Customer behavior changes fast in terms of which channel or channels they may choose to use to engage with your organization. The same is true with the types of content customers may find compelling. Organizations therefore must be able to respond quickly or anticipate such shifts in customers’ digital experience preferences in order to stay competitive and to attract and retain customer loyalty.

At the same time, organizations themselves are changing or will transform the focus of their businesses. A company, which today runs a business-to-business (B2B) commerce operation, may well move into other areas of commerce over time, such as business-to-consumer (B2C). Additionally or alternatively, the company may want to focus on providing more services to its own staff via a business-to-employee (B2E) portal in order to improve staff efficiency.

One primary obstacle to rapid response is the absence of a single, unified digital experience platform (DXP), which is accessible to and usable by all of your organization’s relevant staff, whether technology or business users. A DXP integrates a wide set of functionality including content management, analytics, portals, search and personalization.

Here are four ways in which a single DXP can help organizations improve the usability and broaden the scope of their digital experience creation and management processes.

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1. Open Up the Silos to Share Content Companywide

Content silos are often an unintended consequence of organizations using a mix of different systems to create and manage content for their various digital channels.

“In many cases, there is content in each of these systems that would be useful to audiences other than the one for which it was originally created,” said Dan Makuch, managing director of IBM partner Base22, a consultancy and systems integrator focused on helping its customers achieve what it terms enterprise web evolution. “But technical barriers such as content formatting, access controls, etc. make it difficult, if not impossible, to share that content outside of the silo in which it was created.”

What ends up happening is that employees spend time and effort on recreating content, which already exists and which they need, but which is inaccessible to them since it’s siloed in another system or platform. Of course, since the content they end up duplicating is not the same content, but similar recreated versions of that original content, the result can be that the organization provides inconsistent digital experiences for customers, which may prove off-putting or may even cause them lose confidence in and to stop engaging with an organization.

“Moving to a single DXP that can store content in a format that is independent of the method that will be used to present it to the end user can go a long way toward solving these challenges,” Makuch said. This is the "Headless" CMS model that is becoming increasingly important in creating modern digital experience solutions.

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2. Fully Meet the Needs of Different Users

Once you’ve opened up content to everyone within your organization who needs to access it, the next stage is to make sure that employees can easily use that content to create and manage digital experiences.

This is particularly true for non-technical staff, in that they no longer have to rely on IT to make changes to iterating digital experiences. Instead, business users are fully empowered to execute those tasks themselves including creating, deleting, updating and publishing digital experiences. In that way, your organization can become more efficient and agile in responding to changing customer needs and emerging market opportunities.

“The ideal scenario is a system that enables content professionals to own the full process of creating and delivering the desired messages to their target audiences, while still operating within a framework that provides consistent branding, performance, and security to satisfy the traditional concerns of IT,” said Makuch at Base22. “This allows each function to focus on their particular area of expertise without getting in each other’s way.”

A DXP can also help organizations deliver customized solutions tailored to the needs of different types of business users. “This allows them to do the most amount of work with least amount of clicks and effort, with least amount of IT involvement,” said John Boezeman, chief technology officer for IBM Watson Commerce.

For instance, take the example of an editor or content approver who needs to make sure that the digital experiences that are created are allowed to be published. “You want an experience that they get notified of when they have something to review, can instantly jump to that, and do their task and jump to the next,” said Boezeman. “If you have to dig around to find what you need to edit; you’re just wasting their time.”

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3. Seamlessly Manage Multiple Use Cases

Most organizations today provide digital experiences across more than one channel, but they may often be using a variety of systems, each focused on a single channel, rather than realizing the efficiencies of using a unified DXP to create and manage all digital experiences regardless of channel.

“Every company has a B2E experience for their employees, and either B2B or B2C, and many have both of those,” said IBM’s Boezeman. “So why don't you want to manage your content and assets for each of these in the same system? You can have one delivery mechanism, one authorization system, one copy of content/assets on your content delivery network (CDN).”

While there are plenty of differences like rules and capabilities between B2B, B2C and B2E, the various digital experience use cases also have a lot of commonalities, such as assets. “For example, do you really want to upload and maintain your company logo in multiple systems?” Boezeman asked. “What if you want to change that logo, do you even know all the places to change?”

Organizations also have a lot of information which may be of interest to all of the audiences to whom it provides digital experiences, spanning customers, business partners and employees. For instance, Makuch at Base22 describes a customer that manufactures large agricultural and construction equipment, which is sold and serviced through a global network of dealers. The company’s employees market their organization’s equipment to end customers and they also support the dealers in their end customer interactions.

“All of these audiences are interested in product information,” Makuch said. “Ideally, the basic product descriptions and imagery are common across all of the different channels. This core information can then be supplemented with additional content for each audience such as promotional pricing programs for the dealers or product sales data for the employees.”

By using a common platform in the form of a single DXP, the manufacturer can ensure that the core product information is consistent across all of the channels. In that way, the organization can eliminate any potential issues that might arise from conflicting product descriptions while also freeing up resources to focus on the things that are different for each audience. “A common platform would also simplify any integrations with back-end systems such as inventory management or pricing applications,” Makuch said.

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4. Be Well Prepared for an Uncertain Future

Providing consistency of digital experience becomes more important as organizations look ahead to the future and the likelihood of adding still more channels and use cases. “By sharing one DXP, you can have a modern, consistent experience so that when you update something for B2C, your B2E and B2B consumers also get the benefit,” said IBM’s Boezeman. “When you have separate systems, there is a cost of maintaining two or more copies of content and assets, along with permissions, editing, approvals, etc.” There are significant benefits to using a single platform, for example IDC reported that IBM customers saw 65% faster time to market for internal sites and 70% for external sites through a decrease in development and deployment time by using IBM Digital Experience Software.

One result of not accruing additional cost in sharing information across different channels is that organizations tend to share more content which not only provides a more consistent digital experience, but increases the richness of that experience.

Boezeman gives the example of an IBM customer which took action after seeing a change in interest from site visitors in content on its B2C site. The customer changed targeting and recommendations automatically in its B2B site so that the products and content which were trending on the B2C site also showed up trending in its B2B site immediately. The result was a noticeable shift in sales to those products on the B2B site.

Looking ahead to future use cases, artificial intelligence (AI) is the key emerging technology which will augment digital experiences, and will deliver the best results if organizations have deployed a single DXP rather than multiple systems. As organizations gather usage data across different communities and channels of the same assets and content, they can gain deep insights into how to improve their content, to sharpen personalization and targeting rules and to generally be a lot more effective.

“When you have two or more systems, each with a copy of the content or assets, it is really hard to match ‘image1’ usage from B2C with ‘image2’ usage from B2B,” said Boezeman. “So, with single DXP usage, we can look at trends between different users and identify patterns that you may not expect in, say B2B, that are the same or different compared to B2C.”

Ultimately, using a single DXP can help bring the communities of an organization’s customers, employees and partners closely together around a set of consistent and compelling digital experiences. At the same time, organizations can realize significant cost savings in their technology budget as using a single DXP helps make IT cheaper, faster and more agile.