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Differentiate with digital: Designing your digital experience ecosystem

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Never before has the digital realm been so fundamental to how a brand drives business growth. In a world of accelerating disruption, organizations are looking for ways to rapidly create sustainable competitive advantage. Unfortunately, while 80 percent of companies believe they deliver ‘superior experiences’, only 8 percent of customers agree (Bain & Co.) Laurence Parkes, CEO of independent digital experience agency, Rufus Leonard, shares how brands can create meaningfully different digital experiences that drive sustained competitive advantage, resilience and growth for organizations.

A lens on the challenges of DX differentiation

The strive towards CX best practice, where competing brands all solve customer problems in the same way, has created a market of digital sameness. But a dependency on CX best practice is not the only challenge to overcome, regardless of whether you’re a large established brand struggling with legacy issues or a nimble scale-up trying to keep pace with its rapid growth. Some of the common challenges of digital experience differentiation include: 

 Platform fragmentation – No matter your industry, the technology landscape is increasingly intricate and interconnected. For years marketers have grappled with the challenges of media channel fragmentation and varied rules of engagement that comes with each. More recently, complex tech stacks with Martech third-parties have brought with them the challenge of platform fragmentation. This mind-boggling combination makes it even harder for brands to orchestrate a meaningful, joined-up experience for customers.

Business logic ownership – At first glance, this may not be considered a challenge, but if you are looking to futureproof your digital experience (which no doubt you are) it becomes imperative. Many organizations still house the business logic that defines and delivers the customer experience through all touchpoints in third-party systems outside of their full control.  Your third-party supplier doesn’t have to go out of business to cause you issues around logic ownership. If you don’t have complete control over the roadmap of features on the third-party platform, and your development roadmaps become misaligned, you will have one hand tied behind your back. If the tension becomes too great, the process of conscious de-coupling can be lengthy, costly and painful.

Organizational silos – Silos are always getting in the way of brands creating the best digital experience. Just one example; many organizations are still creating huge amounts of decentralized content. This results in inefficiencies due to a misunderstanding of core strategy, duplication of work, and a practice of non-experts creating outputs. But arguably the most damaging breakdown in collaboration has been the previous disconnect between the CMO (who defines how the brand should answer customer needs) and the CIO (who selects the tech that should enable it).

There are ways your business can tackle this complexity to create meaningfully different digital experiences. Below are three areas in which you can manage the tension between the need for focus and your organization’s natural complexity.

Accelerate innovation and reduce your supplier dependency

Increasingly, tech platforms are the core components in organizations creating competitive advantage. With technology enabling the efficient creation of value to customers, the tech platform is the business. To release you from supplier dependency, your Experience Services Architecture should allow you to swap underlying systems with minimal impact on your channels and integrations. You will gain true ownership of your own business logic and relinquish a third-party’s control of your brand’s experience roadmap. The right cloud-based Experience Services Architecture will also enable you to overcome challenges such as:

  • the limitations and costs of complex legacy systems
  • strengthening internal systems that can’t handle the security and scale of the web
  • wanting a microservices architecture but worried about integrating all channels
  • future-proofing your tech architecture

The added control over this critical component of your digital infrastructure will also help accelerate your innovation pipeline. Enabled by this technology, our client was able to add a brand-new channel to their experience ecosystem in a matter of weeks, with our Omnichannel Experience.API.

Connect what customers want with what technology can do

To drive your differentiating digital experience, you need to connect customer understanding with technological possibilities. Fundamentally, connecting your brand purpose with your tech stack. By connecting the tools and systems from your CIO to power the experiences your CMO craves, you can deliver differentiation. Bring your CMO and CIO together by aligning around your brand vision to help focus and prioritize. In the face of increasing complexity, a clear sense of purpose (inspired by your brand story) can both simplify and pull together disparity when designing your digital ecosystem. Distil your consumer research, competitive analysis and brand strategy into well-defined experience principles. You can also find strength in a blended team of strategists, designers and technologists, all with an equal ‘voice’. This will help you find the right balance between consumer needs, brand experience, and the technology that enables it.

Support your vision with a clear and convincing business plan

A powerful business case will push action through an organization. Even better, an Experience Playbook will create an inspiring blueprint that outlines the impact of hero moments on the bottom line as well as the technical infrastructure needed to deliver them; becoming a tool that translates business strategy into meaningfully differentiated customer experiences. Establish a backlog of ideas and experience concepts to explore, rationalize and prioritize. Assessing potential impact versus required effort to implement, identify the quick wins and immediate actions, and sequence the rest into a roadmap. Align your technology roadmap and ensure the requirements are a joint responsibility between both your CMO and CIO. This is another important opportunity to align the organization. ROI is key in these times; you can measure the potential commercial impact of your experience concepts at both a conversion and brand equity level. Conversion level example: calculate the lost revenue from unnecessarily abandoned shopping carts. Brand equity level example: estimate the likely increase in brand perception and future purchase intent from a best-in-class experience.

Your key takeaway

To differentiate with digital, you must look holistically at your organization's complete ecosystem, encompassing the four engines of difference: brand, services, people and technology. From this, you’ll deliver meaningfully different experiences because they are consumer-centric, brand-led and technologically inspired.

Laurence Parkes, CEO, Rufus Leonard