Digital Experience Trends 2020: Experience is Everything

Innovation Marketing
by Michael Gerard

The experience economy is not a new concept, however, the ability of companies to fully operationalize their digital experience strategies, to better drive engagement with online buyers along the entire customer journey, has been challenging to say the least. However, creating the best experience for your customers will be the key to differentiation in 2020.

“Creating the best experience for your customers will be the key to differentiation in 2020.”

And don’t let the term “digital experience” narrow your vision -- “experience” must be inclusive of both digital and in-person interactions across the entire customer lifecycle, from buyer to customer to advocate. Here are 7 trends for the coming year that will be key drivers in our evolution to the experience economy:

1. Multiexperience Enters the Foray of Buzzwords

As Tom Fishburne, creator of marketoonist, indicates, “things evolve and adapt rather than disappear entirely”; and therefore, I’ll avoid the apocalyptic marketing prediction that “omnichannel” is dead, and instead indicate that the omnichannel story is evolving to include a new term: Multiexperience.

A multichannel customer experience is a good description of a buyer interacting with a vendor through different channels (e.g., online through a website or in-person at a retail store). However, this term fails to recognize the importance of customers having a connected and cohesive experience across these channels and devices--hence the term omnichannel. A new dimension to this story has emerged: multiexperience. Gartner defines this term as follows:

“Multiexperience refers to the various permutations of modality (touch, voice and gesture), device and app with which users interact on their digital journeys. A multiexperience strategy involves creating fit-for-purpose apps based on touchpoint-specific modalities, while at the same time ensuring a consistent and unified user experience (UX) across web, mobile, wearables, conversational and immersive touchpoints.”

What I like most about this term is that it evolves the customer experience beyond the idea of a channel or device into a “touchpoint”, as well as the customer’s interaction with a touchpoint as a form of sensory perception (or modality) such as through touch, voice, AR, VR, etc. Development platforms are already forming to support multiexperience environments (learn more). This concept moves us closer to the Internet of Things (IoT) world where almost anything we interact with has the potential to be a touchpoint, and customers will have a truly immersive experience that is personalized for them. Which takes us to the next trend.

2. Personalization Goes Mainstream

Personalizing digital experiences has been a long-time goal of marketers, however, it has remained out of reach for many professionals due to the complexity of accessing and analyzing data, privacy and scalability challenges and other obstacles. All that said, creating personalized digital experiences has never been easier.

SaaS-driven personalization solutions enable business users to personalize anything that impacts the digital experience—layout, menu bars, display ads, pop-ups, CTAs, text, etc.—for any channel according to each visitor’s unique persona or on-line behavior. These AI-driven solutions enable leverage of internal, external and behavioral driven data to:

  • Optimize personalization in real time based on clicks, purchases, subscriptions or any conversion goal chosen.
  • Deliver targeted, dynamic content that unifies disparate sources of data in real time from across an organization.
  • Use artificial intelligence to create content-rich, individualized digital experiences.

4th largest automotive supplier in the world boosts IT recruiting with personalized digital experiences.

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Look for personalization SaaS solutions that offer:

  • Advanced segmentation and analytics
  • Dynamic personalized experiences
  • AI-powered product recommendations
  • Automated testing and optimization
  • Dynamic behavioral messaging
  • And personalized account based marketing

3. Citizen Developers Unite for Greater Agility

A continuing trend into 2020 will be the deployment low code/no code software into the realm of non-developers, thereby giving us ordinary people (or citizens) the power to create more innovative digital experiences for our customers at a more rapid pace. This evolution will enable business users to modify the most mundane aspects of customers’ digital experiences as well as drive DX innovation without having to rely 100% on developer resources which are always in short supply. Not to worry though, the need for developers will remain for set-up and advancement of these environments. And if there’s concern about creating too decentralized of an environment as a result of more enabling software, enterprise-class DX solutions will assure that corporate retains control over the bounds of “creativity”, as needed, through permission-based systems.

4. DX Technology: Is Your Software Earning its Keep?

In the quest to keep up with the demands of today’s consumers and the zeal for trying new technologies, we have contracted the disease of The Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS). Jasyn Demers rightfully calls this the “disease of distraction”. Jasyn writes about SOS in Entrepreneur Magazine with respect to entrepreneurs being distracted in their everyday work as a result of SOS. This term certainly applies to marketers and developers as we strive to digitally transform our organizations at a frenzied, and high cost pace.

We’ve all done it: Buying software that has all of the “bells and whistles” that, we’ve been told, are guaranteed to solve our current DX woes and drive business success for years to come. However, once we sign the contract and work begins for installation, either SOS takes hold or other problems arise: higher costs, missed deadlines, inability to leverage all of the great things we were told about the software during the sales process, etc. CMSWire’s The State of Digital Customer Experience-2020 study indicates that 30% of companies point to technology limitations as a key challenge to delivering great customer experiences. Even worse, only 13% of study participants rated the general effectiveness of their current digital CX platforms and tools as “working well”.

For 2020, the best DX technology managers will audit their tech stack, and make it a point to determine if their existing digital experience software is “earning its keep”. As a result, many companies will be making the change to new solutions that are easier to use, require less investment to interoperate with other applications and/or offer greater short term and long term value. Which DX technology areas will get the most attention?

Hybrid CMS: Turn your Customers into Lifelong Fans

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5. CMS Increases in Strategic Importance for Turning Customers into Lifelong Fans

Web content management (WCM) is no longer about managing content--it’s about orchestrating experiences across the entire customer lifecycle journey. AND it’s certainly about much more than the “web”--experiences must be managed in a connected manner across every potential customer touchpoint or mode (refer to the multiexperience discussion). The most successful companies get this, and are modifying their customer experience tech stack to include a hybrid (headless+) content management system (CMS) with AI-driven personalization as part of their digital experience ecosystem.

A hybrid CMS is the next generation of today’s headless CMS. More specifically, the headless CMS has enabled developers to more easily get content into any customer touchpoint; however, the headless CMS was designed for developers and not business users, and it also lacks more enterprise-level features such as workflow, collaboration, permissions and other capabilities required by multi-national, multi-business unit and/or multi-brand companies (see Headless CMS: Everything You Wanted to Know). As Mark Grannan, Senior Analysis of Forrester, cautions: “There is heavy interest from the end-user clients — many of whom are marketing leaders — who tell me they want headless because they don’t want to have to work through IT to publish updates to their content. Unfortunately, they don’t understand that ‘write once, publish everywhere’ is a promise of headless, but that potential future reality will require more developer input rather than less, especially at the start of the replatforming. So we have (somewhat jokingly) crafted a headless rating for software vendors and customers to better understand the risks for digitally immature organizations.” (source)

The areas where a pure-play headless CMS come up short are more than addressed in today’s hybrid CMS. The hybrid CMS offers the complete solution, enabling companies to have the best of both worlds - a headless CMS and a “head on” (coupled or decoupled) CMS - to operate in any type of DX ecosystem and architecture, and without sacrificing the power of easy to use, enterprise-class capabilities that are expected from a traditional CMS. Learn more: Hybrid CMS: How to Turn Your Customers into Lifelong Fans.

6. B2B E-Commerce Growth & Maturity Blaze Forward

Statista values the global B2B e-commerce market at $12.2 trillion in 2019 which is over 6 times that of the B2C market (source). However, the B2B market has been lightyears behind the B2C market in online customer experience maturity. Massive advancement will occur in the coming years across the following B2B DX areas:

  • Expansion of B2B online sales into reseller channels, and direct to consumers through company-owned e-commerce sites and B2B marketplaces such as Amazon, Alibaba, Walmart and many others.
  • Leverage of relatively new B2B e-commerce technologies that ease the transition into online sales for B2B companies (e.g., Salesforce Commerce Cloud, SAP Commerce Cloud, Spryker, Commercetools).
  • Leveraging content-driven commerce experiences to drive buyer engagement (e.g., integrating hybrid (headless+) content management systems with leading commerce platforms).
  • Increasing the speed of online order fulfillment through traditional and more innovative channels. As SCM guru and analyst Adrian Gonzalez of Adelante indicates, "B2B sellers are rapidly going the way of their B2C counterparts, offering fast delivery as a competitive weapon for their customers." (Talking Logistics)
  • Tapping into the power of customer data using AI to personalize experiences across the entire customer lifecycle (e.g., personalized content delivery, product recommendations).

7. Dynamic Online Experiences Enter the Innovator/Early Adopter Phase

The power of a hybrid CMS with AI-driven personalization and multiexperience capabilities will enable marketers to finally deliver unique online experiences for customer microsegments on any touchpoint. A new mindset will evolve where business users and developers shift their view of online experiences from predefined pages or sections on web pages and mobile devices, to fragments or even multi-dimensional fragments that assemble on any touchpoint based upon user data.

For example, content fragments such as a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) can be reused by a company across many touchpoints--website, progressive web applications (PWAs), voice interaction, digital signs, etc. A next generation hybrid CMS will offer the capability to create and manage these fragments, instantly view AND edit fragments on any touchpoint, and even track and measure their use and impact through a content dashboard. The multi-dimensional aspect refers to the potential for these fragments to be offered in different languages, segment variations, localized content, etc.

McDonald’s acquisition of Dynamic Yield and their AI-driven personalization software in the first half of 2019 substantiates this trend. “McDonald’s will utilize this decision technology to provide an even more personalized customer experience by varying outdoor digital Drive Thru menu displays to show food based on time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic and trending menu items. The decision technology can also instantly suggest and display additional items to a customer’s order based on their current selections.” (source)

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About the author

Michael Gerard
Chief Marketing Officer