Discussion by Samuel Zeller

What strategies, technologies and thought leadership will help you deliver the best digital experiences?

You’ve got demanding, channel-hopping customers and prospects. You and your team are under a lot of pressure to deliver exceptional digital customer experiences — and that you need to deliver them consistently across touch points, business units and disparate projects.

You need the right DX technology that will scale as your company grows.

You can share best practices, lessons learned and new ideas at CMSWire's DX Summit conference on Nov. 3 and 4 in Chicago. And today, in the second installment of a two-part series, we'll offer a sample of the summit conversation with a question on digital experience delivery. You can read Part 1 here.

The Question

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

The Answers

Kim Clifford, VP, Strategy, Critical Mass

kim clifford of critical mass headshot
Clifford is vice president of strategy at the Chicago office of Critical Mass, a Calgary, Alberta-based digital experience design agency. She focuses on simplifying and unifying technology to solve business and consumer issues for a range of clients by defining and executing digital ecosystems, content across app, mobile, web and social channels. She draws her experience from a number of industry categories including banking, energy, healthcare, education, e-commerce and tourism. She'll be one of the speakers at the DX Summit. Tweet to Kim Clifford.

The short answer to this question is: keep a relentless focus on the customer. But that “focus” has a lot to do with your “design process” — and all the assessment, feedback, validation, guidelines and testing that come with it.

So here’s another way to ask the question: what does a relentless focus on the customer look like when you map out your design process?

I think it looks like this:

  1. Research. Know every last iota of your current state. Know what kind of digital experiences, devices and channels your customers currently have access to and care about. And know your customers. Find out what they want, and find out if they want something they don’t know about yet.
  2. Be an idealist. Ask yourself and your teams: what should the future state experience be? Design that state. Whiteboard it. Talk about it. Make it your North Star. And as you build your way toward it, always validate with your customers.
  3. Operationalize. Develop guiding principles that bridge vision and methodology — one part lens, one part checklist. This helps your teams define both processes and projects in a way that ensures consistency. If your team can bank on consistency, then the look, feel, functionality and fabulousness of the experience will be consistent as well.
  4. Plan well. Is your future state defined? Are your guiding principles defined? If so, then it’s time for a gap analysis and prioritization exercise to develop a multi-year, omnichannel roadmap. Think of the short term, think of the long term, and think of how the cumulative customer experience will make life simpler, richer and better for the end customer.
  5. And keep testing. Validate every new initiative with your customer. Keep testing the full experience. And never, never, never stop refining your future state.

Kelsey Uebelhor, Product Marketing Manager, ProofHQ

Kelsey Uebelhor of proofhq headshot
Uebelhor is responsible for product marketing at ProofHQ. In this role, she develops marketing programs to drive demand, researches and delivers market intelligence, and creates sales enablement deliverables that accelerate the selling process. Tweet to Kelsey Uebelhor.

Perhaps the most important factor in delivering consistent digital experiences is knowing your audience. From the sales perspective, you’re creating personas that help you identify the pains customers are looking to solve with a solution, what motivates them to be successful in their lives or their jobs, and their communication preferences.

When a buyer becomes a customer, you transform the persona into a person and build your knowledge around customer behaviors.

As a buyer turns into a consumer, you can create and deliver content that is personalized, relevant and timely. The messaging of that content must also be consistent, telling the story of your brand, product and services in a familiar fashion. This is important when delivering services to your customers as inconsistent messaging can make them feel confused and lose trust in your brand.

The final piece to the digital experience puzzle is visual consistency. Organizations and brands must deliver a consistent brand experience across all forms of content and channels.

That includes the consistent use of the logo, brand colors, font, imagery and messaging. If you regularly switch the look and feel of the visual experience, you lose the value of delivering content on a consistent basis. Visual consistency drives brand recognition.

Of course, the corollary is that consistency is only achieved by regularly testing the response you’re getting from the digital experience you’re delivering. Without steady iterations, the only thing consistent about your digital experience will be a consistent decline into irrelevance.

Ann Breckenkamp, VP, Product Marketing, Giftly

headshot of ann breckenkamp
Breckenkamp is the vice president of product marketing and operations at San Francisco-based Giftly, an online gift card service. Before this, she built data-driven marketing software as a product manager at venture-backed startups CommandIQ and Quantifind, and spent several years as a biodefense consultant to the US Government. She is a member of CMSWire's Reader Advisory Board. Tweet to Ann Breckenkamp.

I can’t emphasize enough that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for delivering a consistent digital experience.

Every marketing organization has unique business goals, data maturity, technology infrastructure, budgets, team composition, processes, culture and other factors that impact how the customer’s digital experience will look and what it will take to orchestrate.

As a marketer, it’s important to trial, measure, automate and iterate data-driven interactions with your customers without having to fight with tools, manipulate data or rely on other people or teams. One of the most important decisions you will make is selecting a technology solution to make all of this possible.

When selecting a vendor, the most important questions for you to ask depend on your requirements, so I recommend outlining scenarios to guide your selection process. Be specific.

One concern is scalability. Many solutions are limited because they’re built on systems that don’t scale linearly as hardware is added, or they have an upper bound that doesn’t meet the needs of large enterprise companies. Sometimes pricing just becomes prohibitive at scale.

  • How will the processing power scale as you grow?
  • How much will it cost to continue delivering the same digital experience as the size of your customer base increases?

Understand from an engineering perspective what is required to integrate data in real-time across a complex ecosystem. This will impact the types of campaigns you can run, how quickly you can A/B test and iterate, as well as the extent of engineering resources that are needed to implement and maintain the solution.

  • Is transformation or processing necessary before the data can be used by marketers, or is raw data fed directly from the source and immediately accessible in the UI?
  • Can marketers access historical data without SQL and use it for segmentation and reporting?
  • Can you run A/B tests without code changes?

Also, ask how it interacts with the rest of your ecosystem.

  • Are integrations limited to a pre-set list of vendors, or can it accept data from any third-party system? What about data from your internally developed solutions?
  • What happens if you want to switch one of your vendors in the future?
  • Can it push campaign data back into your ecosystem?

Choosing the right technology solution will let you keep your focus on delighting your customers through compelling content, without worrying about the day-to-day implementation.

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