For a long time, businesses saw online commerce as an attempt to translate the physical browsing and buying experience to the screen. The result was a static, transaction-focused site that required customers to scroll through endless pages of product listings. This kind of imitation strategy no longer cuts it. Digital channels for many are the preferred or only way audiences experience brands. Businesses need to recognize this change and create a differentiated, immersive digital experience that provides more depth and intrigue.
For more than 20 years, Coherence Digital has worked to build digital solutions and custom web design systems that help organizations control and shape the message they want their customers to hear. Coherence Digital recently won the Acquia Product MVP award in the 2020 Acquia Partner Awards for their impressive ability to bring new digital experience platform (DXP) solutions to market. We recently sat down with Julian Tedstone, Managing Director at Coherence Digital, to discuss how open technology and low-code solutions can break down the obstacles to innovation and create stronger communication between brands and their customers.
Digital Commerce Must Tell Its Own Story
With the monumental rise of online-only marketplaces and direct-to-consumer businesses, established brands are facing intense pressure to attract new customers and hold onto a loyal audience. “Digital commerce allows brands to deliver an experience that resonates beyond just prices and sizes. Customers need to see the benefits you offer that validate their choice to buy,” said Julian.
A high quality commerce experience merges that seamless delivery on the back end with the full picture of who that brand is and why you should choose them among so many different options. “The way brands differentiate is by embracing a massive content play and embracing commerce solutions that do more than sell; they tell a story,” explained Julian. “Legacy e-commerce systems weren’t made to foster communication with an audience; they were made to facilitate that final purchase.”
Overwhelmed with choice, today’s discerning consumers spend more time researching, comparing and educating themselves on different options before buying, and brands who don’t serve up educational, purpose-driven content alongside their products are missing out on the opportunity to own their brand story. “When customers are faced with hundreds of types of tea or clothing to buy, brands standout by offering education, describing the benefits of ingredients, explaining their sustainability mission and ethical manufacturing process or going into their company mission. All this information should be readily available and accessible on their website and digital commerce platform. Brands should present themselves as the experts in their own story,” said Julian.
Digital Transformation is a Steady Evolution, Not a Flip of a Switch
Mastering this type of agile communication requires an open and flexible approach to commerce that grants businesses the freedom to add new capabilities to suit a variety of different customer needs and moments. Unfortunately, many organizations using legacy e-commerce systems are not able to support other functions beyond just facilitating the selling process. “Commerce can’t exist as a separate arm; it needs to integrate with the other pieces in your technical ecosystem and include things like a CMS for content and machine learning tools that drive predictive recommendations and personalization,” said Julian.
Coherence and Acquia work to create these modern, extensible reference solutions that help drive better customer outcomes. With Acquia’s Open DXP technology at the foundation, the Coherence team develops solutions and proofs-of-concept that help clients evolve their current approach to technology and strategy. Using open APIs and a composable methodology, enterprises can evolve their digital stack in phases and iterate over time without the burden of dismantling their entire technical infrastructure.
The advantage of composability for large, global enterprises is that it removes the barriers to progress and communication and allows the real creative visionaries and marketers to speak directly to their customers. “We partner with Acquia for cloud hosting and believe in the vision of Drupal and open source for our clients because it supports all of the necessary performance and scaling needs, while allowing brands the freedom to focus on making cool experiences customers want,” said Julian.
Coherence and Acquia are also committed to helping organizations reduce the pain that comes with upgrading or replatforming to a new CMS as Drupal 8 approaches end of life in November 2021. Even though Acquia customers have until 2025 to receive support on Drupal 7, Coherence is proactively working to help businesses create a Drupal migration strategy that works for them and ensure a smooth transition. “Migrating to a new CMS is another area where we believe in a steady evolution rather than flipping a switch overnight. And working with Drupal experts to manage each step ensures that brands can continue to keep focus on creating new customer outcomes,” said Julian.
Low-Code Shifts the Focus From Maintenance to Innovation
This same philosophy of setting overarching standards while allowing teams freedom and flexibility in how they deliver their message also encapsulates the mission of the low-code/no-code movement., To remain agile, businesses need to remove any unnecessary effort and bottlenecks that prevent them from innovating quickly. As one of the longest users and advocates for Acquia Site Studio, Coherence believes that low-code solutions are the future of digital transformation, and their team leverages Site Studio in almost every project they take on. The Coherence team helps translate clients' brand standards and content requirements to component-based design systems, which can be executed on a single platform and reused across multiple channels and interfaces. “The platform and the design systems do the hard work of enforcing important things like accessibility standards and user experience standards for different industries so teams won’t have to redo the same pages over and over again or worry about how a certain asset or image will appear on a three-year-old Android device. It’s already taken care of,” said Julian.
When brands are managing hundreds of brands across dozens of markets and regions, there needs to be some way to centralize and control all of these different pieces without slowing down progress across long development cycles. An open digital experience platform manages the maintenance and mitigates risks at a scale, so the brands themselves can focus on bringing their messages to life. Centralizing brand standards and security with multisite management tools and design systems puts more power in the hands of marketers and communicators. These digital solutions clear the way for clients to talk directly to their customers faster and create more value.
“Marketers are the people who know their audience the best, and low-code tools empower them to speak directly to those people without needing to go through IT approvals and release schedules first,” Julian said. The advantages low-code solutions offer in terms of saving resources and prioritizing high-value activities is critical especially for public sector and government agencies who have a responsibility to communicate with the public quickly, accurately and transparently despite common technical skills shortages and limited funding. To solve these challenges, Coherence and Acquia recently launched a joint solution, the UK Government Accelerator, to streamline and speed production of UK government websites with low-code tools and pre-built components, helper templates and styles that comply 100% with the UK Government Design System. As Julian concluded, “These solutions eliminate the need for armies of developers to manage all of the complexities on the back end and prioritize the end experience and the quality of the interactions customers have, which should always be the greatest measure of success.”
For our UK readers in London or EMEA be sure to meet Coherence at the next Experience Acquia event in London.