Many have interpreted the customer experience imperative to mean that IT is dead and marketers are the future. We reject this. IT is far from dead. After all, what’s the point of great design and marketing strategy if you can’t deliver the right experience to the right customer based on factors such as location, device of choice, and place in the customer journey? Now more than ever, application development and delivery (AD&D) is vital to actually deliver experiences to customers, and the majority of organizations we interviewed agreed with this.
This means that AD&D pros need to sit at the forefront of business strategies around customer engagement by, among other things, empowering business and marketing professionals with the right applications and mastering analytics for better insights and experiences. Most firms we speak with aren’t organized to support this imperative. In preparation for our forum on Driving Customer Experience With Smart Technology Solutions, my colleague John Rymer and I are updating our digital organization research. So far, some of the things we’ve learned are:
New organizational models abound. Some organizations have their digital group within IT, while others have it under marketing. Others are paving new path, and have a singular group that combines customer experience, marketing, and business folks with technologists.
Although often overlooked, site search plays a vital role in your digital customer experience strategy. It helps improve customer self-service, increase sales conversion rates, and increase page views and site traffic. Accordingly, organizations are revisiting their site search technology decisions. They need site search tools that deliver more personal experiences to customers in ways including contextual results pages, promotions, recommendations, and dynamic browsing and navigation structures.
Our recent site search market overview examined 14 site search solutions, including commercial solutions from Adobe Systems, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Apptus Technologies, Attivio, Coveo Solutions, EasyAsk, Google, HP Autonomy, Mindbreeze, Nextopia, Oracle, SDL, and SLI Systems. We also looked at the open source solution Lucene/Solr. Some of our biggest findings were that:
Search is more than processing queries. As site search technology has matured, vendors have started to branch out beyond core query processing to support overall trends like browsing and navigation, content presentation, customer self-service, product recommendation, merchandising, and local search.
The search vendor market is consolidating. As search technology has matured and moved into adjacent areas, the vendor search landscape has matured and consolidated, with many independent vendors getting acquired like Fredhopper (acquired by SDL), Omniture (Adobe), and Endeca (acquired by Oracle). Other vendors have shifted focus; IBM has focused the Vivisimo product, for example, more on big data concerns. Despite this, some stalwarts and independent vendors remain on the market (e.g. Google, Coveo, Attivio).
In a world with increasing numbers of rich media assets and a diverse set of distribution channels, more and more organizations are taking a closer look at rich media management options. Despite this increased interest, most organizations I talk to have relatively nascent digital asset management (DAM) initiatives. To better help organization create mature and successful DAM strategies, I’m currently updating our 2011 report on DAM best practices. So far, the most successful organizations we spoke with said success was based on three main components:
Selecting the right technology vendor. Too many organizations we speak with treat DAM like a series of widgets. Certainly, customization often cannot overcome a misaligned DAM technology so feature functionality is important. But successful organizations look beyond a list of features. Instead, they look at criteria like vendor momentum, product road maps, enterprise customer references, integration strategies, vendor stability, upgrade path, and vendor strategic vision. You’ll have a long-term relationship with whatever vendor you choose, so make sure it has the features to get you by today, and a vision that will set you up for success in the future.
Many enterprises we’ve spoken with have discovered that great digital customer experiences matter to their customers and ultimately have tangible bottom-line benefits. If you’re involved in delivering and executing great digital customer experiences, you’ll want to access Forrester’s new TechRadar report that digs into the diverse, rapidly evolving technology ecosystem that supports this strategic business imperative. My colleague David Aponovich recently wrote about the importance of these technologies. When sourcing these technologies, keep some of these key findings in mind:
Delivering contextual experiences is the holy grail for most organizations. This deeper level of personalization something organizations continue to strive for in order to deliver more relevant, adaptive, and predictive experiences to the customer. Technologies supporting contextualization dominate this TechRadar’s Growth phase.
Organizations need technologies that create business value out of a glut of data. The reality is that good content strategies rely on data to provide customer insights. Companies that effectively harness customer data, product data, social media data, and other information to create and deliver contextual cross-channel experiences will experience brand differentiation, customer loyalty, improved online metrics, and cross-channel revenue growth.