“Search is often your last chance to keep a customer on your website before they go elsewhere to find the same product or content.” I love this quote (courtesy of the president of a digital agency). It shows us exactly why we should think of site search beyond its status as an IT-funded afterthought. Your customers need search in order to find a named item or piece of content. Or they rely on search because they can’t find what they need through the site’s menu structure. When looking to source site search solutions, organizations are faced with many options from mostly niche players and a few large vendors. How do you make sense of this? I recommend you begin narrowing the site search field by asking yourself these four key questions:
Do your existing tools have sufficient bundled search capabilities? Many web content management and eCommerce vendors have embedded open source search capabilities into their core product (e.g., IBM, Intershop, hybris, Ektron, Sitecore) and some have innovated search experiences based on the open source framework. This makes it potentially unnecessary to buy a standalone search solutions. But be careful. For some solutions, embedded search only indexes and processes customer queries. It doesn’t allow for more advanced search features like merchandiser consoles or business user support for different ranking models.
This year’s Customer Experience Forum just wrapped up, and two days and 20 client meetings later I’m back at Forrester’s headquarters. I’ve had a moment to think about the questions clients asked me, and as an application development and delivery (AD&D) analyst, it was great to see that attendees were interested in bridging the customer experience strategy with their technology strategy and decision-making process.
When thinking about those issues, the top three questions I was asked during the forum included:
What vendor can help us support personal experiences? I got this question a lot, and each time I found myself repeating that moving to deeply contextual experiences isn’t solved by just one technology or one vendor. Many technologies (including those you may already have in place) support a contextual strategy, and they each work together to deliver a deeply contextual experience. These include (among others) tools like AB/multivariate testing; web content management; eCommerce platforms; recommendations engines; customer analytics; and site search. And when it comes to mobile apps, it’s not always a sourcing story as you’ll likely need to build applications that take contextual inputs into account (e.g. location).
Your customers have been dazzled by the customer experiences they see from firms like Google or Apple. How are you going to keep up? Do you have the right IT culture and people in place to deliver on this new imperative? Are your IT objectives based on deep customer understanding? Do you have strategic scenarios to achieve your goals that are cross-business and take into account important strategic elements like governance and change management? Do you have the right provisioning policies and technology tools in place?
Most firms we speak with still have application development and delivery (AD&D) pros focused on keeping systems stable and secure. That’s no longer enough. In our recently published Digital Experience Delivery Maturity Assessment, we outline more than 100 essential practices for organizations looking to act on their digital transformation strategies. Keep in mind this is an emerging space so no one has figured everything out, but our assessment outlines four major areas to begin with:
People. IT’s culture, leadership practices, collaboration methods, and skills and staffing are important factors that affect the delivery of digital customer experiences. Organizations strive to have IT groups with an agile, customer-first culture; collaborative organizational structures and metrics that foster collaboration between marketing, lines of business, and IT; and the appropriate skills and staffing that support both back-end development (e.g., mobile application developers, data-literate architects) and solution management (e.g., web content management specialists, digital asset managers).
Forrester recently surveyed 233 digital customer experience professionals with decision-making roles in digital experience (DX) technologies, asking them about priorities, sourcing decisions, and strategic direction. In this survey, we debunked a few widely held exaggerations: that IT is declining, marketing is the new king, and mobile applications have completely replaced the Web. Instead, we found a much more muddled picture, where many different stakeholders are balancing many different priorities. Here’s what we uncovered:
Organizations prioritize the Web. Mobile applications are still very important (44% of respondents said they were prioritizing tablet apps and 42% said they were prioritizing mobile apps for phones and other mobile devices), but this doesn’t mean that Web concerns are disappearing — quite the opposite. When we asked respondents to cite the top three prioritized channels for digital experience delivery, Web initiatives remain a top priority. 80% of respondents said that traditional (e.g., desktop) Web initiatives were a top priority, while 59% said mobile Web for tablet and 56% said mobile Web (excluding tablets) were a priority.