Want more evidence that companies are realizing that digital customer experience is essential to survive and thrive in the Age of the Customer?
Look no further than last week’s IBM Connect conference in Orlando. Bridget van Kralingen, the senior VP in charge of the IBM’s $20 billion Global Business Services group, used her main stage keynote to unveil new services to help enterprises create “irresistible user experiences.”
IBM’s new global IBM Interactive Experience consulting practice “anticipates the emerging client demand for irresistible user experiences as the point of entry to high-value relationships with their customers, employees, prospects and partners,” according to the company.
The new offerings will integrate design and user experience capabilities from IBM Interactive, its digital agency, plus innovations and data expertise from researchers in its IBM’s Customer Experience Lab.
You could call it the next step in the digital customer experience gold rush. Software vendors have spent years building and selling clients software to run digital infrastructure, such as web content management, eCommerce, digital asset management and analytics.
When Limelight Networks bought SaaS web content management (WCM) vendor Clickability in 2011, it united WCM with video streaming and a large, global content delivery network (CDN) to create an offering unlike that of other vendors: Limelight Orchestrate, a multifaceted “digital presence management platform”.
Limelight liked to say marketers and other digital pros could, with a one solution, manage multichannel content and digital experiences including video and shave relevant milliseconds off page-load times and site delivery.
Flash forward to last week. On December 23, Limelight announced the sale of the Clickability WCM business to Upland Software, an Austin, TX, company that, in two years, has added six cloud-based software solutions to its enterprise work management portfolio.
Limelight says it will focus on “delivery optimization capabilities” – in a word, speed. It’s a change I can follow. Limelight invested in WCM enhancements and pushed “digital presence management” to marketers and technology pros, but WCM revenue never skyrocketed for the publicly traded company. Limelight estimates WCM revenue in 2013 at $13.7 million, according to an SEC filing, a small slice of its $170 million or so annual turnover. For Limelight, the CDN business still rules.
At a recent software summit for industry analysts in Stamford, CT, IBM made a big point of showing off some of its newest employees. They’re not computer scientists from top engineering schools like MIT or Carnegie Mellon, but visual designers, interaction pros and user experience experts from design schools like Rhode Island School of Design and Pratt -- urban hipsters in a sea of button-down IBM’ers.
This is part of IBM’s growing effort to embed “design thinking” into software development across its portfolio. Central to the effort is the new IBM Design Studio in Austin, TX, led by design general manager Phil Gilbert. The group is recruiting design-minded professionals by the hundreds to help inject human-centered design principles into next-generation business software. They work closely with software teams to rethink interaction models and influence what’s coming out next.
The facility has also hosted dozens of high ranking execs from across IBM in “design camp” events aimed at teaching the relevance and importance of design-centered thinking across the company.
“We are attacking this transformation from the bottom, top, and (everywhere) in between,” said Gilbert.
This isn’t just an effort to make software look good. Software vendors are realizing that to be competitive, software products must have powerful capabilities, function smoothly, streamline complexity and be usable across a spectrum of people, regardless of their technical skill.
Two or three years ago, software buyers in the market for new and improved tools for managing website content and cross-channel digital customer experiences had a typical request: “Help me replace my legacy web content management system with a new web content management system.” It was out with the old, legacy, hard to use system, and in with a new solution that perhaps had a few new capabilities, but which still looked and felt like… a web content management system.
As we approach 2014, that WCM buyer is asking for a whole lot more. Enter the digital experience platform – an emerging software category poised for takeoff as enterprises seek to differentiate through better digital customer experiences.
Forrester has defined the digital customer experience platform and 14 specific tools and capabilities in our TechRadar report for application development and delivery pros.
We took the research further in another recent report, a Market Overview report covering digital customer experience delivery platforms. This reports describes 17 representative software vendors and their offerings as they try to tackle this robust market with a diversity of capabilities; each has a different approach. Our research has identified players with heritage in four vendor categories: web content management (e.g. Acquia and Adobe), eCommerce (e.g. Demandware, Digital River), marketing solutions (e.g. Hubspot, Razorfish), and enterprise business software providers (IBM and Oracle).
Smell that? That’s the smell of digital customer experience delivery technologies converging. Just kidding . . . but closer to the truth, you might be going deaf from the sheer volume of M&A and branding announcements over the past few years. Along with normal versioning announcements, 2013 held two key branding changes. Q1 witnessed Adobe’s shedding of the CQ moniker to adopt “Adobe Experience Manager” and cement its place among the expanding Adobe Marketing Cloud, and Q4 just witnessed salesforce.com’s debut of its “Salesforce1” customer platform.
If you somehow tuned out all of the marketing/sensory overload, I’ll prove this to you another way. No peeking yet . . . OK, open your eyes! (see graphic).
Represented visually, it’s clear that M&A activity in the marketing automation space never even paused after Oracle purchased eloqua last holiday season: Salesforce bought ExactTarget in June, Adobe bought Neolane in July, and Oracle came back for seconds with its Compendium Software grab in October. Commerce continues its three-year hot streak: SAP grabbed hybris in June and Sitecore bought Commerce Server in November. Mobile and social haven’t completely lost their mojo either, as SDL picked up bemoko to further it’s mobile/omnichannel street cred and IBM hoovered up Xtify, a mobile messaging platform, in October.
Choosing digital customer experience solutions isn’t easy for application development and delivery (AD&D) pros, or for their counterparts in the business. Tech pros used to respond to digital business needs by acquiring, say, a web content management or eCommerce system. They may have integrated other software tools to deliver extended capabilities. And it was good.
Fast forward to 2013, and the range of tools to support robust multichannel digital experience is wide and deep. Many different vendors are responding. A new Forrester report cites a number of their offerings as examples of emerging digital customer experience delivery platforms.
In our research, we discover some vendors provide more capabilities; some have fewer. Some build or buy most of their capabilities; others focus on integrating best of breed tools. All represent a range of companies attacking this market by answering a multitude of needs by IT and business customers all seeking to better address their customers through digital channels.
For this report, we identified four market segments plus representative vendors, including:
Web content management-centric platform vendors, such as Acquia, Adobe, Bridgeline Digital, Ektron, HP Autonomy, OpenText, SDL, Sitecore.
eCommerce-centric platforms, which expand upon their transactional foundations, such as Demandware, Digital River, and hybris (an SAP company).
Last month, I delivered a webinar about digital CX teams in the post-PC era. I described the importance of having a clear strategy for the digital customer experience and how it should align with the overall customer experience vision in nondigital touchpoints. I shared examples of how companies hire and train essential in-house skills like journey mapping and storytelling to avoid overreliance on partners. And I talked about how companies should take an ecosystem approach to organizing their digital resources. There were some great questions posed during the call, and I wanted to answer them here.
Q. What is the typical team structure of a post-PC CX team?
A. There is no one standard model for digital CX teams — we see a variety of different structures. Some teams, like the one at Target, are quite large and encompass many disciplines and skills. Others, like the team at Express Scripts, are smaller and focus more on the high-level vision and orchestration of projects.
What is consistent across teams is that they build strong connections with key stakeholders throughout the company. Teams actively foster collaboration and skills development both within the team and with key partners inside and outside of their organizations. Many teams provide career paths for individual contributors and mentors for junior team members by promoting strong performers to manage subteams within the larger digital CX team.
Simultaneously: using two devices at the same time to “multitask for efficiency.” Despite overwhelming evidence that humans cannot really split their attention among multiple tasks, 82% of global consumers believe that multiscreening makes them more efficient, and they act on that belief.
In the days when web applications were king, this type of insight was doable with simple web analytics and similar tools. Today, continual experience optimization is much more difficult because of:
Multiple interaction channels. You must collect, correlate, and analyze data in a coherent way across multiple channels of customer interaction. A single customer interaction may cross between channels or even use more than one channel at the same time.
Many back end servers. You must integrate data from multiple back end servers including recommendation engines, commerce, mobile application servers, digital asset management, community, collaboration, messaging, and more.
The need for rapid change. You must quickly change any or all of your digital experiences and back end services based on what you’ve learned.
The need for contextual experiences. You must use each individual customer’s context to dynamically adjust experiences in real-time.
This content also appeared in the June 2013 edition of CRM Magazine.
Web content management (WCM) software has been around nearly as long as the modern Web. This software enables technology pros to develop sites, lets content people create and publish, and helps marketers leverage online channels to engage customers and prospects.
Forrester’s recent research into this vibrant market confirms a fact that buyers of this technology need to be aware of: WCM has become an essential foundation for enabling successful digital experience efforts. And by doing so, it’s supporting one of the last things that corporations and brands can use to differentiate themselves.
Recently, vendors have put resources into expanding features, building, buying, or integrating with various things:
Visitor profile, segment, and targeting tools to deliver personalized content in context
Capabilities to develop and deploy mobile and social channels of engagement
CRM, email marketing, analytics, A/B testing, integrations, and tools