The Future of Digital Customer Experience Management

Ever wish you could ask an industry analyst for digital experience tips? e-Spirit essentially did just that when we posed five key questions to IDC analyst Melissa Webster recently. She serves as IDC’s Program Vice President of Content and Digital Media Strategies, and what she had to say about the future of experience management and the customer journey was quite enlightening.

If you are looking for ways to get or maintain a competitive edge in a future where the only digital experience constant is change, then you’ll want to take her answers to heart and use them as a roadmap for enabling digital customer experiences of the future.

The questions we asked focused on five key areas:

Read the questions we posed below or download the full IDC white paper:

What is the Future of Digital Customer Experiences?

The trend to mobile, social, and location-based experiences will continue. More than 60% of the time that people spend online today involves a mobile device, and that percentage continues to grow. Some 2 billion people use a social network today, and that number, too, continues to grow. Location-based cloud services have transformed the way we work, play, shop, travel, and consume information, and they are generating a wealth of new data that can be used to drive new experiences. The future will build on these themes.

Connected devices — including connected cars, smart TVs, digital signs, and wearables — are one emerging area. Every screen is a customer touch point. And we're not limited to screens: We are already crafting digital experiences for the likes of Alexa. As new devices and channels gain adoption, brands will need to create new digital experiences for their customers — experiences that will be unique because every channel has its own vernacular and role in the customer journey.

More change will come with the growing use of artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, predictive analytics, and machine learning. Facial recognition, image and video recognition, and content analytics can improve the way we source, manage, and tag content, making it easier to put content to use in new ways. Sentiment analysis can be leveraged to dynamically transform content presented in digital experiences for a more targeted experience. The use of AI and big data analytics for targeting and personalization will continue to grow.

We will also see more digital experiences that extend the physical world. Retailers are blending online and in-store shopping experiences using iBeacons, cameras with facial recognition, RFID, mobile apps, and location services. Augmented reality apps let consumers visualize watches or glasses on their body to help with purchase decisions. Visual commerce and shoppable media are turning mobile apps into the new point of sale.

We also expect to see some of today's shortcomings remedied in the future. We've all had the experience of shopping for an item, buying the item, and then being offered that same item again and again or buying a product and then sensing a disconnect when we need service. Ideally, the customer journey is a series of optimized micro-moments that build on and leverage the customer's entire interaction history. Showing customers that they are understood and valued is what builds brand loyalty and trust. So we think the "continuous customer journey" is an area that will see a lot of investment.

How Will Millennials Influence the Norms for Digital Experience?

Millennials — the generation born between 1980 and 2000 — were the first "digital natives," and they are very confident users of technology. They expect to be able to accomplish just about any task using an app on their phone, whether shopping, banking, or sorting out a customer service issue. They are also very active on social networks: An estimated 90% of millennials use at least one social network. The growth of mobile banking and mobile commerce and the rise of Twitter as a customer support channel reflect the influence of millennials.

Millennials came of age as Google became popular, and the simplicity of Google's search interface set their expectations around ease of use. They want purpose-built, well-designed user interfaces that are intuitive. Research shows that they are quick to blame the user interface (and the brand) when they don't get the result they want. This highlights the need to craft digital experiences that are tailored for both the channel and the customer persona, and this is reflected in "design-led" thinking today.

Millennials are strong participants in the "sharing economy" — think Uber, Zipcar, and Airbnb. (Millennials account for an estimated 75% of Uber's U.S. customer base.) They rely on product recommendations and reviews from their peers and eagerly share their likes and dislikes. Brands have responded with investments in social media monitoring and publishing and are exploring ways to infuse user-generated "authentic" content into their campaigns, websites, and apps.

Millennials are the largest cohort in the American workforce today, and they are just entering the prime years for marrying, buying homes, and having children. They significantly outnumber baby boomers. As their economic clout grows, so will their influence on the norms for digital experience.

How Will the Demand for Content Change in a Digital-First World?

The volume and the variety of content that's required in a digital-first world are growing exponentially with the proliferation of devices, channels, and IoT. The demand for content multiplies again as we layer personalization on top. CMOs tell us one of their biggest challenges is content velocity — keeping up with the demand for new content in an omni-channel world. Every brand we speak with asks how it should prioritize channel investments because it can't support them all.

Brands can't grow their budgets for content creation to keep up with demand. Instead, they must be able to reuse, transform, and recombine their content in new ways. They need to do a better job planning their content investments on the front end, and they need to do a better job managing their content so that it can be used flexibly across all the digital experiences they deliver.

Most organizations are struggling with this. Their content is scattered across a wide array of systems, including web content management systems, digital asset management systems, product information management systems, campaign management systems, social marketing systems, desktops, and shared drives. They can't find it all: We still hear about duplication of effort that wastes content creation budget. Organizations lack visibility into how their content performs. Moreover, the content isn't tagged and ready to use: Typically, it's stored in a channel-specific format.

How Can Organizations Increase the Quantity and Quality of the Digital Experiences They Deliver — Without Increasing Complexity?

Organizations need to rationalize their approach to content management and implement a modern content management system (CMS). Today, most organizations run a variety of siloed applications that manage and publish content, including a traditional web content management system, a campaign management system, a social marketing solution, and solutions for mobile app management. None of these provide the content services needed to support digital experiences on emerging devices and channels. Lack of a robust content foundation leaves organizations to struggle with tremendous complexity and increases the time and cost required to create new digital experiences. It also contributes to branding and messaging inconsistencies from one experience to the next in the customer journey. A modern CMS enables organizations to manage their content in a channel-agnostic format, enabling them to dynamically transform and reuse their content in flexible ways for new experiences. It makes content available via microservices, dramatically reducing the development effort. It also provides visibility into content consumption, giving organizations the insights they need to continuously improve digital customer experiences.

What Makes a Content Management System Future Proof, and Why is That Important?

Let's take the second part of the question first. Complexity is increasing. Channels and devices continue to proliferate. Personalization compounds the content management challenges. We're in a time of innovation and we can't predict what the next new thing will be that resets customer expectations. Organizations need to either lead in digital experience or be prepared to respond quickly as "fast followers" because the bar will continue to be raised.

However, delivering great experiences requires a solid foundation of data plus content. On the content side of this equation, content must be managed in a channel- and device-agnostic format so that it can be readily put to use in whatever new experiences we need to craft. A future-proof content management system gives brands control over their content and makes it available to any application that needs to consume or publish content, typically using JSON and/or RESTful APIs. They can quickly deliver new digital experiences at incremental cost using existing tools and skill sets.

A modern CMS is open and microservices based, so it is easily integrated with existing systems and new applications. A future-proof CMS has robust content modeling capabilities, including support for collections and taxonomies. In addition, because content is scattered across a wide array of systems, a future-proof CMS should be able to aggregate content, serving as a platform. We use the term "headless content management" to talk about microservices-based content management systems and content as a service (CaaS) when headless content management capabilities run in the cloud.

Brands still need to deliver websites and mobile web experiences, however, so the best of both worlds is a modern content management system that acts as content platform (or CaaS solution) for omni-channel experience delivery and supports traditional web publishing needs. We believe a modern CMS is a core component of a modern digital experience delivery stack and a strategic solution for any organization that wants to remain agile and innovative as the future of digital experience unfolds.

For more information, download the full IDC white paper.

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