In an age of continuously evolving consumer expectations and new technology developments, businesses need to let the customers lead the way. Still, once you’ve given the customers the keys, you need to make sure your digital strategy is fast and agile enough to keep up with them down every road and unexpected turn.
To uncover insights on how brands can embrace change and engage their current and future customers, we sat down with Ben Allgood, Director of Experience Design at FFW, a global digital experience agency and a multi-award-winning Acquia partner. Our discussion explored the merging of people, technology and customer experience. Plus, Ben explained what businesses can do today to design a digital experience strategy that answers the questions they didn’t even know they should be asking.
Cross-Functional Teamwork Supports Customer Experience
Ben credits a large part of FFW’s value to their cross-functional team structure that brings together experts across all sides of the digital experience, from design to development to marketing to data and analytics. “We have our data scientists in the room from day one to guide clients on understanding how to reach their goals for digital experience. We want to be having the right conversations in the context of what investments are going to be the most effective and bring the most value to the customer,” said Ben.
For FFW, reaching enterprise digital transformation means thinking beyond reactive, individual projects and making sure all members of your organization have access to the information they need to build a cohesive, contextual customer journey. Major parts of FFW and Acquia’s partnership are a continuous commitment to education, strategy, and data in addition to the powerful capabilities provided by our digital experience platform (DXP). FFW has 170 Acquia Certified Developers on staff and a thriving Acquia Digital Experience Practice. The goal of their mature digital experience practice is to help brands serve their customers first, not deal with the added burden of leveraging solutions and maintaining their digital infrastructure.
“We believe that for Drupal hosting, or any other part of the digital experience, you want an expert you can trust. Rather than waste time on DIY Drupal hosting, we want our customers to focus on their core mission and service as a company,” Ben explained. “People need to understand that Drupal hosting and site building is a product in itself. Working with a hosting company and expert services means businesses can leverage the most value out of the features and capabilities they need and they can be sure they’ll have the right support for their hosting that will scale as technology changes over time. DIY hosting doesn’t make sense as an option because it takes time away from internal teams focusing on the experience they’re actually selling. That approach doesn’t lend itself well to future growth,” Ben said.
Solutions and Sales Cycles Change, But the Problem Stays the Same
As businesses mature in their digital experience journey, it can be easy to see technology and tactics as the top priority and lose the central view of the customer. No matter how many new tools a business purchases or metrics they add to measure their goals, they need to stay connected to the customer and make sure they are doing everything in service of a truly great end user experience. “With our clients, we always want to look at things from the customer perspective and have their customer be the motivation for every new strategy,” said Ben. “You can have a thousand meetings and ideas to try new things. However, the questions you ask — like, ‘How do I deliver the experience customers want?’ — that doesn't change.”
In 2020, we’ve all become digital-first customers, no matter our industry or audience. “The idea of a B2B vs. a B2C experience has become less important than before,” explained Ben. “In our personal lives, we’ve all become accustomed to that simple, Amazon-like experience, and we now expect every business to provide that same personalized journey.”
A few years ago, industries like manufacturing or enterprise technology providers expected very long sales cycles. However, the prominence of cell phones, apps and smart devices has made convenience and speed more important than ever. “Right now, we’re seeing that people are much more comfortable ordering 10,000 units for their offices from their iPhones or making big purchases via voice-powered conversational experiences. As new generations grow up around technology, we’re going to see a lot less physical interaction with salespeople and more brands focusing on building instant, digital conversations [with customers],” Ben predicted.
Brands that relied on major trade shows and in-person connections must now be more agile in their approach. Companies can’t rely on a single channel. They need to pivot and reach people in a thoughtful, efficient and effective way. For FFW, digital experience platforms represent one development that can help businesses offer omnichannel experiences and deal with the complexity and uncertainty of the next big digital trends. “It's not enough anymore to run a few successful email campaigns or drive a lot of traffic to your brand website, you need all the pieces to work together to achieve that desired, true omnichannel experience,” Ben said.
Open to Opportunities and Future Growth
FFW has already worked with many customers who have had to rapidly pivot their current digital strategy to stay connected with customers who previously would engage with them at live events or physical storefronts. For example, they recently were involved with a digital transformation project for a higher education client who relied heavily on the revenue from multiple non-digital channels from selling merchandise at campus stores and ticket sales to prospect orientations and alumni fundraisers. “We’re seeing organizations that need to deliver multi-faceted experiences for different audiences across multiple touchpoints simultaneously,” said Ben. “In these cases, you’re focusing on connecting moments together to build lifelong relationships.”
Crafting a continuous customer experience that serves people on their own terms and extends to multiple touchpoints and channels is a complex challenge that requires looking at how content can be designed to be flexible and accessible from any device, whether that’s a personal tablet, a kiosk, a smartwatch, etc. Being able to integrate each of these possibilities seamlessly means being open to integrating. “Open means not feeling limited and reframing your challenges as opportunities,” he said.
Whether a client wants to leverage a third-party vendor, expand their internal team or add onto their existing technology stack, taking an open approach to digital experience allows them to choose the option that works best for their circumstances. “With an open platform, you’re not locked into a final option from day one,” said Ben. “There’s the flexibility to grow as a company and evolve a strategy. I think that’s the critical value of an open digital experience platform and working with people who understand the big picture. When you start with an open approach, you know the technology can grow with you, and that’s a really big deal.”