Digital experience in today’s 24/7 global world spans all industries — any organization where there is a need to integrate processes, data flows and business protocols to empower employees and customers to be happier and more productive. Digital natives — anyone whose childhood was filled with digital technology — have joined the workforce: they represent an ever-growing segment of purchasing power. Generations X, Y, Z are digital natives who demand digital experience. Their expectations are propelling mission-critical trends defining organizations’ success.
“We’ve been trying to do digital, and realized we need to be digital,” said Doug Milliken, VP-Digital Customer Experience & Brand Strategy at Clorox in an interview with Salesforce. Why is “being digital” a necessity? The key word is “integration”. It’s grossly insufficient to connect databases and software systems as your digital strategy. Every serious pursuit of digital marketing or digital transformation is hamstrung or successful to the extent that underlying processes, protocols and people are integrated in their non-digital aspects.
“The goal of digital experience management is seamless, transparent and frictionless integration and optimization of customer touch-points,” explained Dennis DeGregor, author of The Customer-Transparent Enterprise. In my talk show with Dennis, he laid out six mission-critical trends for digital experience strategy: visionary leadership, customer experience differentiation, brand-customer gap prevention, co-creation of business models, strategic data monetization, and digital empathy.
1) Visionary Leadership
“What’s needed more than technology or business rules for digital experience success is visionary leadership. Some digital experience efforts are vertically-siloed solutions, with inherent value limitations since they are not integrated at the customer level and enterprise level. Following a digital transformation roadmap is a set of rapids fraught with peril, sure to tip your kayak over,” explained Dennis.
“The traditional model of people-process-technology has shifted. We’re moving into a new model. With the customer at the center, transparency of each touch-point is ubiquitous. A host of silos exist — organizational, political, data, analytics, cross-channel business roles, technology — and we need a structured approach to knocking down these silos. 80% of these silos can be knocked down with visionary digital experience transformation leadership: the right guide to navigate the rapids so your kayak doesn’t flip. ”
“CRM and other customer experience technologies based on ‘push’ service/sales/marketing protocols are obsolete. They’ll be replaced by a data-driven real-time model which surrounds the customer with the brand, instead of treating the brand as a linear continuum of touch-points.”
“Visionary leadership transformation precedes technology. The tech we have in place are probably becoming increasingly ineffective, and we need to be visionary for a new set of business requirements. We can no longer rely on the traditional stair-step waterfall model to say ‘this is what we want the customer experience to be’. Digital natives are in control and they craft their own experience as they go.”
“We’re entering a brave new world of real-time interaction. It’s a cultural issue of getting management vision at the top and grass roots fever for the transformation.”
2) Customer Experience Differentiation
Differentiation on customer experience as a brand is an absolute must — product attribute differentiation is ineffective. The customer experience is the brand.
“Think of a continuum of boxes left to right representing machines, with the customer on the outside facing in. Bend the continuum into a circle, with the customer in the center — this was the goal of CRM when it emerged as a viable practice in the 1990s — but now the technologies exist for us to actually put the customer in the center.”
“Journey mapping is 20th century — analyzing statistical likelihood of customers touching a touch-point — and this is typically inside-out, looking at internal processes instead of what the customer wants. Today’s customer journey — because of the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time decisioning via ‘computing at the edge’ — is no longer possible in traditional journey mapping.”
“With the customer in the center of this touch-point model, it’s more like a pinball machine, impossible to predict, with AI guiding customers. It’s a circular touch-point continuum. Digital natives demand mobility and instant gratification: they bounce across touch-points in a way that wasn’t crafted when the journey began.”
3) Brand-Customer Gap Prevention
“Brand-customer gap is the difference between the promise the brand makes in media and other venues and the experience the customer actually receives.”
“With digital experience demands in-play, this gap is widening. In Forrester’s Customer Experience Index study, companies lost ground on key customer experience metrics for the first time in many years. This is due to the complexity and array of customer touch-points and mobile devices putting the consumer in control of the brand. Digital natives demand real-time instantaneous interaction across silos. The 20th century model of push protocols are no longer effective with digital natives.”
4) Co-Creation Business Models
“Digital natives are demanding co-creation of bundles and strategic pricing where their lifetime value is taken into account — or ‘name your own pricing’ models. That is the future. Digital natives say ‘here’s what I want to spend’ and the provider bids on it. This will become pervasive.”
5) Strategic Data Monetization
“Customer data is your most valuable asset as a company. It’s now necessary to master a 720-degree view of customer experience. A 720-degree view begins with the traditional 360-degree view of data systems, overlayed with an Internet-of-Things (IoT) 360-degree view of the customer experience. Personas show what customers are doing on the Internet: a 720-degree view is about leveraging this better. Big data and artificial intelligence are over-hyped, but they are key to unlocking strategic data monetization: using data strategically to drive key operating metrics from revenue to customer service operational efficiency. The new frontier is strategic data monetization.”
6) Digital Empathy
“Digital empathy seems like an oxymoron: how can a machine be empathetic? It’s the combination of humans and artificial intelligence-driven machines representing the greatest opportunity for capitalism. We now have the technology for ‘computing at the edge’. This means customer touch-points are embedded with AI to drive real-time decisioning — not reaching into marketing databases and static or canned business rules. AI algorithms need to be embedded in the customer touch-points and the speech and text need to be analyzed in real-time (not near-real-time or in batch) during interaction and return a real-time action that’s the right interaction for the customer. Gen X, Y, Z demand real-time treatment. Brands must adopt digital empathy in order to compete and not be disrupted.”
Where is the best place to start digital experience? Dennis DeGregor advises: “Transformation vision to the new operating requirements comes first, then technologies come second. Start where customers’ needs are the greatest: your brand-customer gap. The brand must stop being insular and get help to truly bring outside-in. When the circular customer-transparent model is doing its job with consumer first, the other metrics fall in-line. Always start with what’s best for the customer.”
This article is sixth of a six-part series as an exclusive CustomerThink Advisors column: How Customer-Centered Marketing Steps Up Your Performance & Influence.
6. Digital Experience Mission-Critical Trends