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).
Many brands and corporations today suffer from “two site” syndrome. The ‘.com’ site (often owned by brand/corporate marketing) serves to offer up a glossy magazine experience — designed to romance the customer with brand and product stories, while the ‘store.’ is owned by the eBusiness team and is designed around structured product content to optimize conversion and revenue goals. The result is often fragmented and poorly integrated digital experiences that confuse the customer, introduce unnecessary complexity, and ultimately fail to deliver on the broader digital strategy of the brand.
In the age of the customer, brands today seek a unified experience between the four stages of the customer life cycle (discover, explore, buy, and engage). For eBusiness professionals, this means tighter collaboration with their corporate marketing and brand counterparts to find ways to embed commerce (the buy phase) into the heart of the .com experience rather than building segregated eCommerce sites. However, this is easier said than done. The problem is that many brand and manufacturing organizations leverage web content management (WCM) platforms to create, manage, and measure targeted, personalized, and interactive brand experiences. However, these WCM platforms lack the robust commerce capabilities that organizations need to manage large, complex product catalogs and develop sophisticated merchandising strategies to sell online.
In-line editing? Check. Personalization? Check. Testing and optimization? Check. As the web content management market matures, functional differentiators have become tougher to find. One of the remaining functional gaps in the market is a digital customer experience platform that supports complex but unified commerce-based and marketing-based experiences. Currently, these experiences tend to be disconnected due to technical (and organizational) silos.
Count Sitecore among the vendors — such as Oracle and IBM — hoping that a hybrid commerce and content platform will make an impact on the marketplace. This week, Sitecore acquired commerceserver.net. This marks the first marriage of significant .NET content and commerce (the other commerce/content combinations available — Oracle and IBM — are built on Java).
Good move? It is significant that another vendor has taken the step towards building a digital customer experience platform that includes both commerce and content offerings. And that’s where the challenge will come in. Both IBM and Oracle have faced the challenge of integrating commerce and content products that weren’t designed and built on the same architecture. Sitecore’s challenge won’t be any different. Time will tell if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
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.
We define 14 technologies (and cite representative vendors) including web content management, eCommerce, email marketing, web analytics and testing — all capabilities we believe are necessary to support “on-site” customer experiences, or the digital channels that businesses and brands control.
This is an important market not just because vendors that serve it are making lots of noise. It’s relevant because enterprises have discovered that great digital customer experiences matter to their customers and to their enterprise success, competitiveness and viability. It’s about technology plus a whole lot more. From the report:
Delivering great multichannel digital experiences isn't as easy as plugging in new software and calling it a day. Digital customer experience success comes from combining many elements: a big-picture vision, short- and long-term strategic planning, shifts in roles and responsibilities, and intelligent technology adoption and delivery.
The shift to digital at organizations is not happening — it cannot happen — at an incremental pace. Too much is riding on it. This is a transformative change, and to date too many organizations that have paid only lip service to supporting the customer across all digital channels have felt the sting of competition beating them to the punch. We don’t call it “digital disruption” for nothing.
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
A question I hear frequently from Forrester clients: “Which WCM is the best for our organization?” My nearly universal response: “Tell me your priorities.”
Rarely is there one “best WCM” that meets all of a firm’s objectives for web content management and digital experience, so let’s dispel that myth right now. Instead, it’s a trade-off where your specific requirements should influence your investigation, direct you to a shortlist, and help you make an informed choice.
The WCM Wave Report (and the accompanying Excel with detailed product capabilities) is a powerful tool to help enterprise buyers compare solutions. It’s helpful only if you have some idea of the problems you’re trying to solve and the strategic opportunities you need to focus on.
Priorities matter. Or, more accurately, your priorities matter. Your priorities are different than those of the company across the street. It’s a big and confusing market, too. Although we cover 10 WCM solutions in the Wave, there are many additional viable solutions.
Not long ago, digital marketers lived by the rule “Content is king!”
Today, what matters is what you do with that content and your digital channels. In 2013, digital experience (DX) is king, so it’s imperative that you deliver interactions that are personal, contextual, and multichannel. We’re talking websites, mobile, social, email, and kiosks — with Google Glass and more coming soon.
Firms need the right technology in place so IT and marketing pros can deliver on this big vision if they intend to differentiate via digital. But let’s be frank: This is a complex challenge, and many companies are a long way from solving it.
Our report provides IT, business, and marketing pros a deep look at 10 providers of web content management (WCM) solutions — Adobe Systems, Acquia, Ektron, HP Autonomy, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText, Oracle, SDL, and Sitecore. We analyzed solutions across 100 criteria, reviewed extensive product demos, and spoke with dozens of WCM vendor customers. We heard the good, the bad, and the ugly of WCM use in the field. And, for the first time, Forrester’s WCM Wave looks at an open source platform (Drupal), through the lens of Acquia, a for-profit company that supports Drupal.
This is a co-authored blog post by Forrester Analysts David Aponovich and Michael Facemire.
Corporations and brands are jumping through hoops (and spending lots of money) to build and support mobile customer experiences. It has us asking: Where are the web content management (WCM) vendors in all of this?
The answer that applies to many: Missing in action.
Here is a group of tech vendors whose R&D and acquisitions have been incredibly focused on enabling digital experiences and helping marketers and brands connect with customers online.
Yet many web content management vendors serving enterprise and midmarket clients still lack a fully baked mobile solution for back-end developers or their marketing counterparts, or even a road map that considers the place for mobile and cross-channel experiences in their content management and future digital experience ecosystems (think: interactive TV, point-of-sale digital, even interactive goggles, or whatever new channels emerge). Clients are jumping in completely, and they’re looking for the best tools, solutions, and services to make a successful leap. They’re looking right at you, vendors.
Here’s what they see: Not every WCM vendor today is adept or positioned to offer deep mobile solutions.
Vendors lacking this power and capacity to support mobile initiatives will face challenges as specific WCM competitors answer this need. And here’s the other rub: non-WCM tools and techniques are gaining momentum and serving as the path of least resistance for companies that need, today, to get mobile with their content, sites, and experiences, preferably without redeveloping from scratch.
In a recent post, I shot down the myth that you can predict the ratio between web content management license cost and implementation services. (You can read the post here, but the summary is: There is no standard ratio. Like snowflakes, every WCM implementation and digital experience project has its own unique … personality, and cost. It’s not only about the technology.)
But for any application development professional who sources and implements these systems and strategies, you (or your friends in marketing) will inevitably get put on the spot by the person holding the wallet. Their question, “What’s this going to cost us, all-in?” is hard to answer. And no exec wants to hear, “I don’t know.”
We can provide a recipe for turning this question in a productive discussion that lets budget holders understand the Great Unknowns that accompany digital projects.
Costs can balloon for many reasons on a WCM or DX project. Below are just a few reasons in the form of questions. Use them early on in the project/process to educate key stakeholders on the true costs of WCM- or digital-related work – the levers that get pushed and pulled, affecting cost, timeline, and outcomes. It may be your best defense when the money people start asking questions.
Who’s leading your WCM- or digital experience-related services? Will you spend internal IT staff time or money on external agency partners getting something built?