A tablet user exploring a website
Building a better digital experience for your users PHOTO: Shutterstock

In 2012, just about the time people started putting the word digital and the word experience together, Michael Hinshaw, then CEO of San Francisco-based McorpCX – now its president, described digital experience as the following. “Digital experience, isn’t an IT-driven initiative; it’s a customer-needs driven initiative," he wrote in an opinion piece for Adobe owned CMO. He also added that there is a huge difference between simply using technology and actually using it to improve customer experiences that address the customer needs.

Digital Experience Platforms aim to help organizations that have initiative digital transformation processes to provide their customers with better customer experiences. While they can come as single products, more often than not they come as a suite of products that interact to provide this service.

Digital Experience Platform Value

But what is the value of developing a top digital experience and how does it help your business. Amy Kilvington is  a marketing executive with the UK’s online business Wooden Blinds Direct, she points out that a technology-led workplace offers increased capabilities for every business, but it's the way in which employees interact with it (and benefit from it) that determines the success of the digital workplace. By building a digital work environment and all the technologies staff required, businesses are overcoming the hurdles of a traditional organization.

Virtual meetings, instant messengers and troubleshooting forums are just some of the systems that can be integrated to promote a faster, more efficient and employee-friendly work place. To implement this, businesses will require an effective digital experience platform, which provides a number of functionalities including, but not limited to: e-commerce systems, email services, mobile apps, site search, analytics, web chat and web content management.

“With that being said," she said, “a digital experience platform does offer the same functionalities as a traditional CMS [content management system], but with the added benefits of a portal, in the way that it allows users to interact with the platform and its content in the ways that they desire.” According to her, their experience with developing an enhanced digital experience using digital experience platform has made employee’s work experience easier and can drive productivity and efficiency across a growing number of industries.

Getting Serious With DX

The digital marketing manager at Wezom – Chicago, Ill.-based international provider of web development, web design, and marketing solutions.  Alina Karnaukh points out that organizations that are serious about marketing need to be serious about digital experience.  In broad terms, a digital experience is the way users feel towards a given website upon their first visit, followed by the way they interact (or do not interact) with it.

All business owners want their clients to become ‘positively intoxicated’ with their brand - to have them coming back whenever they experience a need in the products/services the company has to  offer. “Having a good digital experience, i.e. the website that communicates the brand message, directly addresses users’ needs and triggers the right emotions, is a starting point in the digital journey for any brand,” Karnaukh said. As a result, organizations should see digital experience as  a complex and compound thing that is built up by a multitude of elements based on the audience analysis – from the website look and feel, including the color scheme, patterns and content  organization; to properly worded texts that would be written in just the language your users speak.

It also has a lot to do with website navigation, and a sales funnel that clearly takes users through all the stages of the purchase process, providing the answers that anticipate users’ questions. In the case of Wezon, Karnaukh said, it started with the concept of digital experience, and then built up all the aspects of work - web design, development, and promotion. For the workers, creating a digital experience introduces a need to adapt to the laws of the digital world-while also creating a few job openings for those specializing purely in digital, such as web developers.

For Marketing Managers, this means that some of the regular advertising channels that they have been working with for decades (such as print advertising, or TV ads) are slowly exiting the stage, edged out by PPC and YouTube ads.

Its Not Web CMS

If this sounds a bit like web content management it’s not, even if there are a number of elements that are common to both.  Brendan Ciecko is CEO and founder of Boston start-up Cuseum that builds digital presences for museums and other culture-focused businesses. He explained that with a digital experience platform, organizations need to take into consideration various aspects of context. They need to focus on the intent of the user, where they are on the customer experience funnel, and location, as compared to a basic content management system where many these aspects don't traditionally apply.

Alexandra Zamolo, Content Marketing Manager at San Francisco-based Beekeeper, which provides a platform to connect desk and non-desk employees across locations and departments in real time via mobile or desktops, agrees. According to him, the crucial distinction between a digital experience platform and a CMS is that digital experience platforms demand mobile agility.

“As we built our flagship digital workplace platform to address the needs of dispersed non-desk workforces, we knew our UX and UI must be compatible and intuitive to use on as many mobile devices as possible,” he said. While CMS or intranets are a static fixture typically owned by the operations or human resources arm of an organization, robust digital experience platforms are highly collaborative and encourage employees at all levels to actively contribute to company culture.

Getting The Difference Straight

The CTO of Boston-based Janeiro Digital, Justin Bingham, says that even if the two – web CMS and digital experience platforms - are often intertwined, and even if most organizations know they are linked, organizations still need to be clear about the differences “For many users, Web CMS and digital experience are closely related, which is why the two are often part of the same discussion,” he said.

What it really comes down to is that digital experience covers the range of interactions that people have with an organization at every touchpoint, and many of those are enabled by Web content management systems that organize content and deliver it. This means that as organizations look to create digital experiences — and particularly for those businesses which aren’t digitally-focused — implementing new technologies means an essential, disruptive change to the company and its workers.

Bingham points out that understanding this brings huge potential for improving business processes and results. However, there’s also a steep learning curve. At the executive level, workers may struggle with finding the right place for technologies in their business, and with implementing those changes as their business evolves into a software-enabled organization. But beyond just decision-makers, a commitment to digital experience will impact workflows for workers at all levels. It’s vital to think beyond just technology, and factor in people and process impacts with any digital transformation.”

Adding Analytics

There is a final wild card that is now playing in the digital experience platform space and which we looked at in greater detail some weeks ago. That card is analytics. Eric Hansen, CTO and founder of Boston-based SiteSpect, which offers optimization, testing, targeting, and personalization solutions for organizations looking to optimize their digital platforms

He said that in the age where brands are able to engage customers across numerous digital platforms, they are also granted the ability to collect masses of customer data on everything from demographics to purchasing behaviors to preferences for interacting with the business.

Without the right tools in place, however, all of this data can become overwhelming for businesses, and can ultimately go to waste — the challenge here is identifying which technologies will turn this insight into action. Analytics is the key that unlocks the valuable insights buried within a business' pool of data. By tracking each step in a customer's journey, brands can make correlations between the types of digital marketing components presented to an individual customer and a customer's reaction. “Analyzing this behavioral insight in real time will allow businesses to make smarter and faster decisions on how to develop not just optimized digital experiences, but engagements that are just as individual as their customers,” he said.

Ultimately, Hansen says, analytics technologies are key to ensuring businesses build experiences that are more impactful and drive real revenue and growth.