Defining Digital Experience Once and For All

Digital experience platforms (DXPs) are a hot topic, but what does a digital experience need to be truly valuable? We break it down once and for all.

Recently, Gartner went so far to do away with their long running Web Content Management Magic Quadrant and up-leveled it to their Digital Experience Platform Magic Quadrant. Today, that report is one of the most popular and inquired about reports at Gartner (Acquia was named a Leader, in case you were curious). We’ve come a long way from when Dries Buytaert founded Drupal on the belief that every business needed a website. While it seems obvious now, at that time not everyone agreed (some vehemently disagreed) -- but history has clearly confirmed that prediction. Today, Dries is firm in his belief that every business will need a digital experience platform, and the thought leaders and industry analysts seem to be embracing the digital experience era. 

Yet, while CIO’s, CMO’s and Chief Digital Officers are actively looking to invest in digital experience platforms, most day to day developers, IT specialists, and marketers don’t have “digital experience” or “digital experience platforms top of mind. In my role I give many presentations (now many virtual sessions), attend countless events, and have had thousands of conversations about digital. What I have found is that most users are focused on technology that can solve their problems and challenges of today -- to build a new integration, improve their metrics for a web site or other channel, or create content they are responsible for. Often, they miss the forest for the trees and can’t see how a holistic “digital experience platform” can be a solution to their problem. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked, “Can you define digital experience?” or “What does a digital experience platform do?”

Reality check: no one arrives into work (or turns on their Zoom in their home office) and declares, “Today I shall buy a digital experience platform!” It just doesn’t happen. I’d also bet you’ve never bought a shirt online, texted a friend or watched a cute video of a golden retriever, and then put down your phone to declare “What a tremendous digital experience that was!”  

Real people don’t talk or think like that.

In today’s customer-centric market success depends on making the customer experience as seamless and easily accessible as possible. That includes simplifying the language and marketing jargon you use so that it feels authentic and demonstrates how it solves a problem. If we want everyone to recognize the true value a digital experience platform offers, we first need to decode and define digital experience once and for all. Let’s break down — in human- speak — what a digital experience platform is.

The 4 Elements of Digital Experience

Data and content are the foundation for any digital experience and thus the foundational elements of any digital experience platform. If you can’t create engaging content quickly and collect and analyze customer data, then you can’t deliver a digital experience and thus, don’t offer a DXP. Any vendor who doesn’t have content and data at the core of their definition and capabilities, is not the right vendor for you.

1. Content. How we engage. The content acts as the “what” the actual message, whatever form it may come in, needs to be created and delivered. Content is the key to any experience, and enterprises need to be able to create massive amounts of content, quickly, effectively and at scale. A true digital experience platform provides a single source of truth of content for the entire organization. Everyone in the organization, developers, IT, and marketing need to be able to rapidly create and update content, and do so without having advanced technical skills. That content needs to be discoverable, shareable, and reusable across any touchpoint (web, mobile, email) or modality (screen, voice, gestures) so that it can be created once and published to any channel. 

2. Data. How we understand. The data answers the essential questions: who your customers are, where they’re interacting and how they prefer to engage. All of this makes up customer understanding which tells us exactly the type of content we should use to engage with them. A true digital experience platform provides a single source of truth for data via real-time 360 customer profiles. It must open up data and make it accessible to everyone across the organization. This means pre-built connectors to integrate to both new, legacy, and offline channels. It means automatically stitching together profiles and segments across channels, devices, and systems, and deduping, and cleansing that data for a single view of customer interactions across online and offline channels. The data must also be accessible, so that any teams who need it can view data and reporting without creating bottlenecks.

3. Machine learning. True intent at scale. Now, everyone loves to talk about machine learning, but it’s really just a means to an end. Really, what does machine learning help an organization do? What you need machine learning for as it relates to a DXP -- is to identify and deliver true customer insight, at scale. Models can stitch together customer data and activities and accelerate operations. Machine learning algorithms are used to identify-- what a customer’s preference is, what segment they belong in and most importantly, what they are likely to do next based on their behaviors. It provides true intent - an understanding which customers have a propensity to purchase online, who your highest value customers are, and predictive models to understand which channels and times of day they are most likely to engage. So once you have applied machine learning to the data, you’ve achieved the third component of a digital experience platform: insight at scale. As your business needs continue to expand to new regions, channels and systems, all of which are gathering new data on your customers, machine learning can enhance the data and more effectively determine what content should go to which customer.

4. Orchestration. Connecting the pieces together. The fourth element, in this admittedly simplified breakdown, is orchestration. You might call this customer journeys, journey mapping, automation, or the like, but they all fall under the same umbrella. You have the data on a customer and have created the content. You’ve used machine learning to gain forward-looking customer insights. Finally, digital experience depends on the ability to create a cohesive customer journey. Each touchpoint needs to be optimized to make the most of that particular moment without disruption. A DXP enables teams to personalize experiences and create customer journeys without having to use code. Teams should also be able to easily duplicate successful campaigns and localize to help drive engagement across distributed organizations. Combined with Content, Data, and Machine Learning, Orchestration puts engagement into motion to deliver the right message to service every aspect of the digital experience - sites, applications, channels, modalities, services to drive customers toward their preferred solution. It helps businesses know what to deliver next and instills confidence that they are taking the next best action (NOT best next action, look it up).

The result for a business who invests in the right digital experience platform (and has the organization commitment and process to get there) is the holy grail: a self-guided customer journey.

All of your prospects have a goal in mind. They want to complete a task or execute an action. Today, we don’t have the right tools in place to make it easy for them. In fact, we often make it even harder. A digital experience platform with content and data at the core is the only way to create and deliver seamless digital experiences for a self-guided customer journey; an experience so natural and effortless that a customer doesn’t even realize they are on it....they just find what they are looking for. At the end of the day, you need a digital experience platform that does more than talk the talk - it drives real business results, and that’s something everyone understands.  
At Acquia, we offer an OPEN Digital Experience Platform. You’ll hear more soon on how an open approach enhances each aspect (data, content, insight, orchestration) of the total digital experience.

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