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For many organizations, there’s a gulf between the digital experiences they are currently providing their customers and the types of more compelling and engaging digital experiences they want to offer consumers. Often, it’s the limitations and incompleteness of their current technology which is holding companies back from pushing ahead with what they urgently need to deliver in terms of digital content creation, management and monitoring.

Your organization wants to make certain that all customers, regardless of which device they are using, can quickly and easily get to know your products and can engage with your employees whenever they need assistance. The type of digital experiences you therefore need to provide are in-depth, immersive and highly personalized, so that customers are eager to interact and continue to engage with your company, your products and your services. At the same time, these digital experiences ensure that customers are also open to your recommendations for special promotions and additional purchases.

Build Long-Term Customer Relationships

Ultimately, the goal for all of your digital experiences is that they help your organization to establish long-term, sustainable relationships with each and every customer. Think about what keeps you coming back as a customer to particular digital experiences. It may be the expectation of exciting content, fresh offers, new or updated products, advice on how to best use one or more products or services and/or notification of relevant in-store or virtual events.

A complete digital experience platform (DXP) can give your organization the ability to provide your customers with these kind of market-defining and differentiated digital experiences. Such DXPs offer a broad range of integrated functionality including content management, analytics, portals, commerce, search, marketing tools and personalization. You can use a DXP to help establish and then deepen customer loyalty.

Complementary e-Book For Your Review: How the Right DX Platform Can Transform Your Business

Approach DXP Change Thoughtfully

“It is important not to implement new or disruptive technology for technology's sake,” said Craig Yerger, CEO of Asponte Technology, an IBM partner. Asponte focuses on designing, implementing and managing digital experiences for a broad customer base using IBM’s software.

The legacy technology stack within an organization may not be as flexible or feature-rich to fill the digital experience requirements both internally for content creators and externally for customers. You will need to evaluate the current development and data collection processes that are the backbone of the digital experience journey.

“Be thoughtful in your selection of foundational and supporting technologies and constantly strive to develop elegant and well thought out digital experiences which follow patterns that make it easy to extend and enhance,” Yerger said. “This will allow your organization to evolve at the speed of technology and always provide your customers or partners with best-in-class digital experiences.”

Achieve Consistency of Experience

A key issue organizations face is how to handle increasing complexity, in particular, how to make sure they’re fully responding to the ongoing proliferation of digital channels. The situation today is a real change from three to five years ago when organizations only had to deal with two primary digital experience touchpoints – websites and mobile applications.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed everything to where I want to push content and experiences out through all these different channels,” Brian Chaput, director of offering management for IBM’s digital experience software, said at IBM’s recent Think conference. These channels can include billboards, kiosks, the dashboards of connected cars, the backs of airplane seats, smartwatches and fitness trackers. Even sewing machines now have screens which can display content to sell you more sewing supplies! Over time, more and more smart devices will use content to start directly marketing to customers.

“There’s this challenge for organizations of [achieving] consistency of experience across all these channels,” Chaput said. “In very large organizations, very often different teams are responsible for those experiences. Therein lies a problem which with digital experience platforms (DXPs), we hope to help solve.”

Evolve at Your Own Pace

As organizations consider their next steps, they’re eager to evolve their existing digital experience solutions at their own pace. They’re all too keenly aware of the pitfalls involved in rushing to rip out and replace existing technologies in favor of new and often unproven alternatives. The focus, after all, is on improving digital experiences so that they become more compelling and dynamic, which not only involves technology but also the behavior of their internal teams and how they are using those tools.

“As organizations seek to update and extend their DXPs to match evolving customer needs, they often make adjustments in their internal practices,” said Lauren Wendel, IBM Digital Experience Offering Manager. These adjustments will include changes to design and development cycles, staging to production processes, and changes to the processes used to manage the site businesses.

Increasingly, companies are adopting agile approaches supporting continuous releases as a means to deliver digital experiences more quickly. “Organizations are using the flexibility of the DXP platform to innovate, learn, adapt, and introduce those innovations to other areas of the business,” she added.

Wendel advises that companies take advantage of a DXP’s services to accelerate their ability to manage those transitions. “Examples include a DXP's support for use of open source and lighter frameworks, coupled with end-user focused design, and iterative delivery of digital services that can anticipate and adapt to customer needs and concerns,” she said.

Choose from a Range of Deployment Options

For some organizations, moving completely to the cloud is not an option due to industry-specific data management considerations or more general regulatory and data privacy concerns. Their preference may be for on-premise, hybrid or cloud DXP deployment.

“DXPs breathe new life into legacy systems,” said Stephen Thorne, vice president of sales at Asponte. “They allow legacy systems to work with other repositories cooperatively, be delivered on any device, and be paired with other systems inside and outside the cloud — both on-premise and cloud applications together seamlessly.”

A frequent use case is enabling teams to design and deliver content management in the cloud, according to IBM’s Wendel. “A flexible DXP, like IBM’s, makes it easy to leverage a hybrid model to seamlessly render that cloud CMS content through an organization’s on-premise DXP,” she said. “In that way, organizations can take advantage of cloud economics and cloud platform CDN (content delivery network) services to speed delivery to DXP customers.”

At Asponte, CEO Yerger had noticed a trend among the consultancy’s customers to push the DXP and related software into the cloud as well as some new technologies and a replication of LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol) information. “Longstanding legacy applications, mainframe applications, and other hard-to-move bits and pieces are staying in the customer datacenter,” he said.

Enable Plenty of Integration

A digital experience platform does not and should not exist in isolation, so the ability to integrate with a wide variety of other software is very important. “A great customer engagement experience doesn’t end with the digital experience,” IBM’s Chaput said. “It needs to extend through things like an e-commerce experience or the marketing campaign that drives people to the e-commerce experience.”

He points to the rise of experiential commerce as a way for organizations to differentiate themselves against the might of e-commerce giants like Amazon.com. “You want to be a business where you can appeal to the target audience you’re most interested in serving,” Chaput said.

Organizations will look to more tightly weave their content and commerce together within digital experiences. For instance, customers will be able to buy products mentioned within blog posts directly from that content rather than being directed to or having to locate the company’s online store.

Digital experiences expose business processes to end users. “Right user, right device, right now is how we think of it,” said Asponte’s Thorne. “To this point, any enterprise system can be woven into the digital experience, for example, an insurance tracking system.”

Typical integrations Asponte has seen its customers interested in involve social software, IBM Cloud microservices and HR platforms. Think of integration as a way to help meet customers’ demands for a true omnichannel experience. Integration between a DXP and other software effectively creates a single, central point of entry for information and for sharing that data with customers.

IBM’s Wendel points out that DXPs offering a broad set of open integration points which support evolving requirements can help customers to consolidate multiple systems, including legacy sources, within their DXPs. “The integrations have reduced duplication of effort and have resulted in unified, responsive and engaging DXP solutions that reach wider audiences,” she said.

Gain More Clarity on Cost

A major hurdle to any IT investment is how to demonstrate its business value while also maintaining a good handle on the cost of the project. IBM’s Wendel notes that DXP customers are able to achieve return on investment. “Our customers report their DXPs provide them a scalable platform with common services, and components that streamline design and delivery consistency across business units, with flexible, open source tooling and integration points supporting continuous innovation,” she said.

Companies are fans of pay-as-you-go pricing models, one of which is used, for instance, by cloud-based CMS Watson Content Hub. “Those models can help businesses predictably forecast delivery costs for discrete digital site projects,” Wendel said.

Ensure Your Digital Experience Commands Attention

While the greatest opportunity for DXPs is in delivering optimal customer experience, the software can also be used for two other core communities – employee experience and partner experience – where improvements can help make both core communities better ambassadors to customers for your organization and its products and services.

“Digital experiences reside everywhere,” IBM’s Chaput said. “Everybody has a website and everybody has mobile apps and they’re all competing for attention and engagement.” By using a flexible DXP, you’re putting your organization in the best place to consistently meet customers’ high expectations both today into the future regardless of what channel or channels they’re using to engage with you and your brands.