Digital Experience Technology: Are you a Leader or Laggard? [New Research]

Innovation CMS Marketing
by Michael Gerard

Much has changed in the digital experience (DX) landscape over the last five years. Just one look at Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape from 2017 shows the availability of nearly 5,500 DX solutions, 39% more than the year before. Compare that to five years ago when there were only 350 solutions available and you’ll see just how quickly digital experience products have multiplied.

While having more choices is usually a good thing, it has made delivering digital experiences more difficult than it needs to be. Unfortunately, today’s DX ecosystems are often comprised of a disconnected set of technologies that increase digital complexity when simplicity is what’s needed. The result is that companies end up with poorly integrated DX tools making it difficult to provide the digital experiences that customers expect.

To better understand the state of DX ecosystems, e-Spirit conducted a survey of more than 200 marketing and IT professionals in global companies across key verticals in the U.S. and EMEA. We wanted to learn how companies are developing and managing their DX ecosystems, and the results are very telling. 20% of respondents (the “DX leaders”) are getting a high ROI on their DX ecosystem investments. The remaining 80% of respondents are struggling. This clearly shows that investments in DX platforms are starting to pay off, giving leaders a clear digital experience edge.

Source: State of the DX Ecosystem

There is much to be learned from these DX leaders. Here are six key insights to help you move the DX dial in the right direction:

1. Be Content-Driven: Orchestrate and Distribute Content Globally

2. Get Personal in Real-Time

3. Go Omnichannel: Mobile, IoT and Beyond

4. Be Agile: Deploy a Future-Enabled Infrastructure

5. Get Integrated: Make it Easy for your Team to Do their Job

6. Use What you Pay for

Let's take a closer look.

1. Be Content-Driven: Orchestrate and Distribute Content Globally

The new differentiator for marketers and their companies is the digital experience, and the ability to deliver content anytime, anywhere and via any channel or device is the cornerstone of creating a great digital experience. Most companies understand this opportunity, and are investing accordingly. The Content Marketing Institute estimates that 83% of B2C and 84% of B2B marketers’ content marketing investment will either stay the same or increase in the coming year; and they’re experiencing solid results: 73% of B2C and B2B marketers rate their approach to content marketing as moderate to very successful.

Given the importance of content to the digital experience, we were interested in finding out how easy it is for companies to orchestrate and distribute content globally. The survey revealed that 61% of digital leaders find it easy while 57% of laggards find it difficult.

Source: State of the DX Ecosystem

There are several reasons why leaders find it easy. 53% of the companies that find it “easy” to orchestrate and distribute content globally indicate it is due to their DX platforms’ capabilities (39% of these companies also have a translation management system fully integrated with their DX ecosystem) while 24% of companies that find it “hard” to orchestrate and distribute content globally point to their DX platforms’ lack of capabilities.

“A DX Platform is a core set of software technologies that orchestrates the creation, delivery and optimization of personalized, content-rich digital experiences anytime, anywhere to delight customers, compel them to action, and enable a company to outperform its competition.”

Marketers and IT professionals should not assume during their DX platform selection process that all vendors are created equal. Even the most well-known DX platforms lack the ability to support content management on a global scale, and/or require significant customization and other hidden costs to achieve this level of capability in an acceptable period of time.

2. Get Personal in Real-Time

The DX Ecosystem study found that 51% of DX leaders deliver personalized experiences in real time, which is a good thing because 52% of consumers indicate that they are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t personalize communications to them, according to the 2017 State of Marketing study by Salesforce. Customers want a personalized digital experience, rich in content that meets their needs and exceeds their expectations. It’s no surprise, then, that 58% of digital laggards do not personalize in real-time.

Source: State of the DX Ecosystem

The survey results found that 23% of companies delivering digital experiences in real time are cutting across silos to get data from multiple sources. This includes external data for appending records (title, company name, location, industry); behavioral data such as website click path, mobile app usage, visit frequency; and internal data from CRMs/SFA, media asset management systems and data management platforms. While this isn’t always easy to do, it often makes the difference between being a leader or a laggard.

3. Go Omnichannel: Mobile, IoT and Beyond

The third key to success for digital experience leadership is the ability to deliver content across channels, including the web, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and other devices. The rapid rise of IoT devices, such as Alexa, is challenging digital marketers that are tasked with delivering seamless omnichannel digital experiences. Research firm Gartner estimates that over 20 billion connected IoT things will be in use across a range of industries by 2020. Similarly, consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimates the economic impact of those IoT things will be between $3.9 and $11.1 billion annually through 2025. That growing diversity of customer touchpoints presents a tremendous business opportunity, and a logistical challenge for marketers and marketing technologists.

Customers demand personalized content and experiences across mobile devices, IoT and other channels, and they expect that experience to be consistent and connected across time. The days of formatting content and pushing it to each individual channel are rapidly disappearing. What’s needed is a more agile method of content delivery, one that delivers content in a channel-agnostic manner, wherever it is called—dynamically. (e.g., Content as a Service) A good digital experience platform is needed to enable this level of personalized content delivery to any channel. In fact, the survey found that 60% of DX leaders can deliver content to mobile devices and apps without custom integration and 81% of leaders (for those that it’s important to do so) can deliver content to IoT devices, easily or through custom integration.

Source: State of the DX Ecosystem

4. Be Agile: Deploy a Future-Enabled Infrastructure

DX leaders find it easy to add new digital marketing tools to their infrastructure, with 73% citing an open architecture as the reason. 76% of companies who found it hard reported being limited by past technology decisions, including too many tools that don’t integrate, lack of developer resources, and the fact that IT is locked down. These factors make it hard for marketers to do even the simplest things; for example, adding content to a commerce site can take weeks.

One of the ways to mitigate the difficulty of adding new digital marketing tools to your infrastructure is to avoid lock-in with vendors that take a monolithic, full stack, all-in-one approach. In fact, 80% of companies choose to stay away from all-in-one approaches, enabling them to keep the applications they like and use today, and/or enabling integration with applications they may wish to add in the future:

  • 60% of companies take a hybrid approach: they use DX platforms that play well with others and integrate with other best-in-class solutions.
  • 23% of companies take a build-your-own ecosystem approach.

Additional advantages and disadvantages of these strategies for building a DX ecosystem can be found here.

The world is moving towards open, agile platforms that easily interoperate with each other based on a microservices architecture. Microservices are a way to break up complex systems into smaller, manageable pieces that communicate with each other via REST APIs. This type of architecture not only makes technology more scalable but also more flexible. Part of the drive towards microservices is fueled by the adoption of cloud technologies, which have enabled companies to go to market faster at a fraction of the cost of traditional approaches. Forrester Research says that companies must “make integration core to their DX platform strategy, and collaborate with marketing and business colleagues to build a shared vision for DX technologies — all while keeping pace with the demand for net-new experiences including integration points.” This leads us to our next key takeaway.

5. Get Integrated: Make it Easy for your Team to Do their Job

The study finds that digital leaders have largely integrated their DX ecosystems.

  • 73% of digital leaders have integrated their commerce system into their DX ecosystem (versus 6% of laggards).
  • 62% of digital leaders have integrated their CMS into a DX ecosystem to manage content (versus 9% of laggards).
  • 54% of digital leaders have integrated their analytics into a DX ecosystem (versus 18% of laggards).
  • 39% of digital leaders have integrated their marketing automation system into a DX ecosystem (versus 6% of laggards).

6. Use What You Pay for

Lastly, the study found that leaders use what they pay for. 69% of DX leaders have high usage of their DX ecosystem capabilities whereas only 7% of DX laggards used the majority of what they paid for. It should be noted that there is a correlation between high DX ecosystem usage where there is a future-enabled, interoperable approach versus a lower usage of all-in-one digital experience platforms. Companies that purchase all-in-one platforms simply don't use what they pay for; but DX platforms that are highly interoperable enable companies to satisfy their exact business requirements and can be customized as business needs change. Forrester Research bears this out, stating “while vendors increasingly want to tell an end-to-end story to support unified experiences, organizations will almost never adopt a single-vendor solution set.”

Key Recommendations

When looking for integrated solutions, ensure your vendor has a core set of solutions that enable you to create a platform with a powerful level of flexibility to interoperate within your existing ecosystem and enable changes across this system in the future. To deliver content-driven digital experiences at scale across any device, companies should seek out digital experience platforms that include: enterprise-class content management (CMS), AI-driven personalization and omnichannel marketing capabilities (e.g., CaaS) coupled with deep interoperability to integrate within any digital experience ecosystem. This strategy will give companies a unique, future-enabled platform with rapid time to value.

Content-driven digital experiences at scale across any device is what FirstSpirit was built for. The FirstSpirit Digital Experience Platform consists of three core technology modules:

  • One of the industry’s best content management solutions based upon 18+ years of experience with some of the world’s largest companies.
  • The best of the best AI-powered personalization solution that will enable you to provide individualized experiences to your customers.
  • And the ability to deliver these experiences to any device in a synchronized manner, addressing desktop and mobile needs, in addition to tablet, digital signs, IoT devices and many more.

These core modules are coupled with the technology and integrations to interoperate with any application you currently use today and want to keep, or any solution that arises in the future that you wish to add to your DX and e-Commerce ecosystem.

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About the author

Michael is responsible for e-Spirit's global marketing strategy. He has 15+ years of marketing and sales experience in SaaS companies, and has written about many topics across technology, marketing strategy and other marketing-related areas.

Michael Gerard
Chief Marketing Officer