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by David Mennie
An awesome web site is no longer enough. A fantastic mobile app? Just part of the puzzle.
Today, you need to think bigger, much bigger. You have to create a great digital experience.
Sounds daunting, right?
But here’s the good news: the most successful approaches to this lofty ideal can be surprisingly simple, and elegant, if you base them on timeless insights into human nature.
How do you define a great digital experience?
Here at Acquia, we live and breathe “digital experience.” It’s an idea we want to share with our partners, colleagues, and our own customers.
But as I’m beginning this series, I’m faced with a challenge: can I define it succinctly?
Maybe it’s one of those woozy ideas that you can only recognize when you see it. An exact definition remains elusive.
Fortunately, Dries Buytaert, the original creator and project lead for Drupal, and the chief technical officer here at Acquia, has given me a good start.
“Creating a great digital experience means publishing content that is easily accessible on multiple devices,” he said. “It also means ensuring the site can be easily integrated with other tools, such as social media sites, customer relationship software, e-mail, and campaign management systems.”
Dries said he has been thinking about this for awhile: how “web experience management” is no longer enough.
“The fact is ‘web’ doesn’t capture all the possible touch-points,” Dries told me, “whether it’s a website, mobile device, game console, wearable device, or something else.”
When I think of my own definition of a great digital experience, the word that comes to my mind is “engagement.”
That captures, for me, what happens when you give customers the right content at the right time. It happens when you understand the context of the user at a particular moment in time, and provide the most appropriate content for that site visitor.
As I worked on this series, I discovered that I’m not the only one who gravitates towards “engagement” as a goal. The word came up frequently when I talked with Kirby Wadsworth and Jason Thibeault, two online marketing veterans who have just published an excellent book on digital marketing, Recommend This!
“Engagement is a step beyond interaction,” Jason said. “Interactions are easy to measure -- in the real world it’s a look across the room. Engagement is much more difficult. It starts with an interaction, but goes way beyond to include active involvement.”
“Engagement is about being helpful, and adding value when, and where, and how a customer needs it,” Kirby added. “That’s a great digital experience.”
When Forrester analyst Kyle McNabb writes about digital experiences, he often stresses the importance of consistency.
“While each digital touchpoint represents a new and distinct way to engage with customers, the discipline of customer experience tells us that we cannot treat each as an island,” he wrote in a recent blog post. “Customers expect a consistent experience across touchpoints and channels when they engage with your firm.”
When I spoke with Nicholas Daniel-Richards, VP at mega advertising agency DigitasLBi, he warned me that he could get “quite garrulous” on the topic of great digital experiences. He proceeded to do just that, expanding my definition to include “customer-first thinking” and “empathy and sincerity.”
I’ve happily added those last two words to the list of terms -- none of them technical, all of them very real world -- that add up to an expansive, vivid definition of a great digital experience: words like engagement, consistency, accessibility, and helpfulness.
Which is leading me to two conclusions:
1. A working definition of a great digital experience is possible, even if it’s not brief. (Will you accept “all of the above?”)
2. Despite the high-tech sounding name, “digital experience” is not about 0’s and 1’s. It’s about human relationships.