happy person with arms raised surrounded by confetti
Without having a clear goal in mind for any DX initiatives, how can organizations expect to optimize the experiences they deliver? PHOTO: Ambreen Hasan

Enterprises are investing heavily in the digital customer experiences they serve to consumers. 

Yet there’s still plenty of confusion around what constitutes a good digital experience. The fact that 75 percent of brands do not know what engagement means — yet are still measuring it — underlines this confusion.

By taking action without the right knowledge in hand, brands fall into pitfalls such as focusing on enhancing only very narrow areas of their digital presence, leaving their broader digital presence needlessly fragmented and complicated.

To help discover the ways in which to define and measure the success of a digital experience project, we asked some experts. The question:

How Do You Define DX Project Success?

Tony White, Founder, Ars Logica

Tony White founded Boston-based analyst firm Ars Logica 11 years ago. Before that, he served as an analyst at Gilbane Group and Yankee Group. Tweet to @WCM_Tony_White

I posed this question [how do you define DX project success?] to a few of our consulting clients. One of them gave an answer that was both straightforward and deceptively simple. The client said, 'for us, I would say it was finding a solution that had the features we needed without requiring a huge team lift to see some early benefits.' 

So the two components that define success in this case are, firstly, choosing the right platform on a feature-functional basis, and secondly, choosing the right platform on an implementation-complexity basis.

This particular client, a media company, initially selected and purchased a suite-based DX platform that was a good fit feature-functionally but which proved too complex to implement. They tried off and on for more than two years to overcome the implementation-complexity issue, and eventually called it quits.  They then opted for a less robust platform feature-function wise, but which allowed them 'to see some early benefits.' In this client’s case, I would say that success depended most specifically on a match between the technology-driven culture of the company and a best-of-breed platform that allowed for incremental DX solution development without the huge barriers to getting started that some suite-based platforms present.  

With other customers, I’ve seen dramatic success with the big digital marketing suites — but again, there had to be a match between the company’s culture and the technology platform. Very roughly speaking, technology-driven companies tend to reap more success from best-of-breed DX products, as do marketing-driven organizations from DX suites.  The former allow for more technical freedom, while the latter provide the latest and greatest marketing capabilities.

Annette Franz, Founder and CEO, CX Journey Inc.
Annette Franz is the Founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. an Orange County, Calif.-based consulting firm. Franz also sits on the board of the Customer Experience Professionals Association. Tweet to @AnnetteFranz

Before you can define what success looks like, you will need to outline not only the objectives of the project but also the desired outcomes. How can you possibly know if your efforts are successful if you don’t define what success looks like? Or what you are expecting to get out of the project? Why are you doing it?

So, you need to define the outcomes, and those outcomes must be measurable. With that, you can then propose some metrics to help you measure and to, ultimately, confirm that the project was a success. What kind of metrics? Well, they vary by project, but I’ll propose a few: customer satisfaction, customer effort, likelihood to recommend, expectations met, revenue, retention, cost savings, ROI and more.

Rahul Shah, Senior VP, Applause

Rahul Shah, Senior VP, Global Delivery & Customer Success at Framingham, Mass.-based Applause. Prior to his role at Applause, Shah held positions at companies such as PayPal, Allianz and GE. Tweet to @Applause

Successful implementation of a digital experience looks different for every brand — whether that’s creating a more intuitive user interface, driving customer loyalty or personalizing an experience to specific demographics or locations. New technologies and evolved user expectations have put the pressure on brands to evolve in a seamless way.

Consumers tend to have their go-to brands for resources and information. Take Dow Jones for example, publisher of the world's most trusted business news and financial information to market leaders, arguably best known for The Wall Street Journal. The company was eager to improve their sign-in process for first-time users; noticing that poor digital experiences of any kind would cause the company to lose that user altogether. Their internal processes for testing had become slow and cumbersome, due to the vast amount of testing that needed to be done across their large company presence. Enter crowdtesting.

Through a new way of testing, Dow Jones was able to gauge user interactions in the real-world, and better understand customer needs. As a result, the company was able to increase their ROI and app ratings, and decrease negative user feedback. Testing in real-world situations gave them the flexibility and immediacy they needed, on a much larger scale than they were originally able to handle internally.

Seamless digital navigation and a clear customer journey will help brands optimize their growth and provide a better digital experience overall. And while success for brands won’t always look the same, all of today’s best digital experiences start with an excellent user experience and end with user satisfaction.

Rob Harles, Managing Director, Accenture
Rob Harles is the managing director and global lead of social media and emerging channels Dublin-based Accenture. Before that, Harles was the global head of social media for Bloomberg, and the head of social media and community at Sears Holdings Company. Tweet to @RobHarles

When approaching DX it is imperative to understand the audience first and think about the holistic customer journey — what is important to them — plus what is the intended audiences overall multi-channel experience. When you have the audience and experience understood then you need to determine what you are aiming to achieve, like improved customer satisfaction or customer conversion, before you decide what technology or stack to implement.

When thinking about your DX project success you shouldn’t think about a specific function independently but instead map carefully to how each function works together to create a seamless experience – from marketing, sales, operations, support — all these touchpoints should be coordinated. Automation is not a panacea for efficiency. 

The best customer experiences function by knowing where to automate and how — plus when to hand off to a human because the interactions should be blended together and the customer should not be able to detect a difference between the two. Measurement and analytics also need to be fully integrated whether for optimizing offers in real time or using multivariate capabilities to optimize the actual DX features and functions themselves to understand which path worked best and why — then determine how best to iterate on that data.

Cinny Little, Senior Analyst, Forrester

Cinny Little is a Senior Analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester. Since 1996, Little has held roles varying from VP of Marketing to Director of eProduct Management at companies such as Boston Scientific. Tweet to @CinnyLittle

A successful DX project must deliver on two objectives. And all team participants must do the hard work and align on these up front. Doing this is what enables participants to look back and say, yes, this project was successful, or no, we fell short — and, most importantly, to be able to attack what needs fixing to get to success. 

This alignment can be tough, since at many firms, it must occur across teams organizationally distant from each other, such as customer, digital or user experience; research; technical; data and analytics; and, depending on the project, operations teams such as service or supply chain. But align you must on these two objectives, no matter the size of the project. Include testing as part of your project scope.

The first objective to align on is that the project must meet customers’ expectations about the digital engagement they have with you — both within your industry and beyond it. This objective includes understanding customers’ self-reported perceptions and measuring the context of this project: channel (e.g., web, mobile), other relevant context (e.g., location) and technical metrics (e.g., page load time). 

The second objective is that customers must take actions at the level needed to meet your firm’s set business objectives, such as financial success and customer satisfaction. Examples, depending on your business, include completing conversions such as purchases, exploration of offerings, finding answers to questions, recommending your firm to others, and not abandoning you for a competitor.

Editor's note: Hear more from Cinny, Rob, Annette and Tony at CMSWire's DX Summit, taking place Nov. 13 to 15 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.