It’s oddly strange that for all the talk about what needs to happen, most organizations, regardless of size, still find themselves struggling to better engage and interact with customers and prospects across the customer lifecycle. These challenges are not only focused on customers, but also employees and partners.
A joint study by the CMO Council and IBM Digital Experience outlines the key trends beyond 2015 that will impact the way organizations face their digital experience challenges. These include:
- The emergence of the digital enterprise: those enterprises that look to leverage technology as a competitive advantage (both internally and externally).
- The rise of the Internet of Things (or the Internet of Everything): Intel predicts there will be 200 billion connected objects by 2020 and the enterprise leads the way in usage.
- The advance of the API economy: there are currently almost 14k public APIs available across a range of services that can help organizations create new experiences and interfaces.
These trends are not new, we’ve been talking about them in one form or another for a few years or more. But as digital experience finally seems to be taking hold within the majority of organizations, these trends are playing an important role in how those experiences play out.
The CMO Council study of 268 senior marketing executives found that although they understand the importance of creating enriched digital experiences, they are still challenged to do it well. And why not? It seems like a new channel emerges weekly through which customers expect to be personally engaged, mobile is quickly becoming the go-to channel for customer engagement, but a mobile strategy is still on most “to-do” lists, and many still can’t figure out how much content to create, the type of content or how to get it into the hands of the right audience.
Marketers understand that they need to move from one-off, campaign based marketing to more “holistic connected experiences.” To make this move, both technology and content have strategic roles but in this study, only 5% believe they are leveraging both extremely well. The majority fall into the “slowly evolving” or “moderately good” categories.
So why are so many organizations still lagging behind? Each organization faces its own obstacles to digital experience success, but there are warning signs that things are not going well.
Let’s look at technology. It can’t be argued that technology is a driver of digital transformation, but adopting technology without a clear strategy is a mistake that many make. Shiny new technologies, especially in marketing, are hot today and every marketing department has a wide array of technologies that must play nicely together to create the holistic connected experience customers demand.
An MIT Sloan Management Review & Deloitte’s 2015 global study of Digital Business survey showed that organizations with a clear digital strategy are more mature than those who are just applying one off technologies to solve problems, and that these organizations also have a strong culture of collaboration, innovation and strong leadership. (This is where the digital enterprise trend comes into play). In the CMO Study, 44% said that the digital enterprise will impact them greatly.Then you look at content and content marketing, and the confusion that often lies within. Content marketing strategies can’t be done in silos, and you can’t continue to look at content marketing from the perspective of the marketing campaign. Something you also shouldn’t expect to do - always create personalized contextual experiences for all your customers and prospects out of the gate.
Robert Rose, from the Digital Clarity Group covered the topic of content marketing and creating connected experiences in a recent paper. What he talked about is how to use content marketing to develop rich data driven content experiences across channels in a way that is very relevant, yet not completely personalized. You do this through what Rose calls, audience development.
Audience development is the process of defining audiences (personas) and content that reaches out to those audiences (as opposed to one-to-one personalized content). If you provide them with useful content, they will share it and you will start to learn more about those prospects. Building awareness is key for marketing and should be the first step in your overall marketing strategy. Consumers will share their personal data with you if they believe they are getting something in return. You can then take that data and use it to improve your personalized marketing strategies.
A content marketing strategy focused on audience development is the first step. Getting personal data from these prospects and customers helps to move to the next step - more personalized experiences. This approach seems more natural and evolving than trying to personalize the experience for every person out of the gate.
This approach supports the top ways that digital experience can impact overall customer experience which, according to the CMO Study include:
- Delivering a more compelling customer experience.
- Heightening our credibility, trust and authority.
- Making it easier to consume and share content.
- Bringing more prospects and opportunities to the company.
It ties into the IoT trend as well. You can leverage different sensors/devices to build stronger customer relationships through tactics such as rewards, sharing of information and support for decision making, innovation and more. Some of these approaches require intimate knowledge of the customer and others are based on audiences as opposed to specific customers.
The last trend mentioned - the API economy - ties everything together. As Bala Iyer and Mohan Subramaniam explain in their HBR article, organizations can achieve competitive advantage through the use of APIs, and marketing is an area this can be demonstrated easily.
APIs enable organizations to connect to overwhelming amounts of information on their customers and prospects by connecting data from both internal and external systems. It also enables them to derive intelligence that will both improve and support digital experiences through things like predictive analytics.
An organization can choose to share its own data or just pull in data from partners and third party data aggregators. In either case, the opportunities for marketing to leverage the information to build more personalized, contextual experiences are wide open.
I have read more than my share of reports that tell the story of what digital experience can do for organizations, but how many aren’t fully there to reap the benefits. Working with different clients from a content marketing standpoint it’s not hard to see why this struggle is happening.
Marketing budgets may be increasing, but marketing is still, in many organizations, trying to get out from behind the apron and be seen as an important stakeholder in customer experience. That challenge is not just because the organization doesn’t fully see the value marketing can provide, but because marketing executives can’t demonstrate it (due to either lack of knowledge or capability).
The trends that drive digital transformation require the marketing department to become a key stakeholder, the same as the IT department, and the lines of business. Until that becomes the norm, we’ll likely continue to see the same results.