In a previous article, Steve talked about how to set a solid foundation for improving the digital experience for your customers by getting the most out of your People, Processes and Tools. In this series of articles, we want to take you through each key step that we have identified in preparing your business for significant changes in your customer’s digital experience.
While our focus in this series is preparing for the use of a Customer Data Platform, many of the key points are relevant for any development of your digital experience. In this article, I want to provide considerations and examples when starting to plan your digital experience improvements.
Before we get started, however, I think it’s important to make a clear upfront distinction about the goals for doing this. We’ve spoken with many businesses over the years and recognise that there is an essential decision to make before making a set of smaller subsequent decisions. Does your business really want to provide personalised customer experiences? That is a very real question that should be answered not in a way you think is right but in a way that makes sense for the business today and into the future.
Why wouldn’t we want to provide optimal personalised experiences for our customers? Because it’s a lot of work and requires commitment. It may be the case that your business model is so entrenched within channel distributors (Amazon, supermarkets etc) that it actually makes more sense for you to operate more like a distributor. If customers come directly to you for the product, that is their choice and not something you’re actively pursuing. This is not necessarily the wrong approach. Getting people’s attention is becoming increasingly hard with the vast array of brands out there to choose from. Unless you have something unique or compelling about you why would someone want to come directly over getting the product along with 6 other products from their preferred channel partner?
The point we’re making here is that approaching personalised customer experiences in a half-baked manner will unlikely yield great results. It requires data, technology, people and process for an optimal outcome – it will not be easy. Done right and with the correct motivations however and it’s the kind of thing that can create double-digit (or more) incremental growth figures.
Where do you even start?
What does the business want to achieve? The first key step in any project we work on is to understand the business use cases, existing issues and the values and benefits associated with achieving these goals. This provides a focus as to what the ultimate goals are, how they will be achieved and why they are being implemented. We also detail who are the stakeholders that will benefit from it, the actors that must be a part of it and most importantly the expected return on investment.
The goals should relate to specific scenarios that the business is trying to achieve such as having the ability to::
Personalise experiences across multiple touchpoints with consistent content based on customer attributes
Build audiences for targeting across advertising networks
Better understand key journeys through online and offline channels to enable continuous optimisation of these journey touchpoints
Below is a video representation of a primary use-case we created for Joules in regard to their potential use of Adobe Experience Platform. While we recommend always having detailed documentation with data flows attached to use-cases, getting illustration videos like this often make it a lot easier to articulate the business and customer benefits to get buy-in from other parts of the business:
Considering the first goal of personalising experiences as an example, we could expect the existing issues to be:
Customers see different offerings across marketing touchpoints
Experiences across touchpoints are not personalised based on individual customer attributes
Experiences offsite do not reflect the content and experiences onsite consistently
Teams operate in business silos which is reflected in different messaging, content, strategy
Wasted advertising spend due to a lack of unified approach across marketing touchpoints
Example benefits for achieving this goal are:
An increased likelihood of customers converting as they see consistent messaging through key journey that reflects their individual attributes and in turn reduces frustration and confusion in the buying cycle
Internal operating efficiencies with a more joined up approach between teams to ensure consistency across touchpoints resulting in reduced business costs
Reduced advertising spend
Ability to compete with brands that are marketing effectively across touchpoints
Positive return on investment which should be estimated from potential generation of new revenue and cost savings in order to support prioritising use cases
With the end goals determined, the use case needs to be detailed further to define how the use case can be achieved. As Steve introduced in the previous article, this is where people, processes and tools need to be considered and I think these can be broken down into these 4 main areas:
Skills and Culture
The most crucial consideration is validating that you have accurate, robust and useful data feeding into any digital experience that is being built or updated.
Any digital experience will only be as good as the data that feeds into it. Therefore do you have the data that supports the tracking and the activation of your use cases and to assess this, we need to ask the following questions:
What is currently being collected?
How is it being collected?
If not, what do we need to collect and how should we do this?
The two categories of data that need to be considered with these questions are your online and offline data sources.
Online data sources:
This primarily refers to tracking of interactions onsite or within an app and our recommended approach would always be to implement tracking using a data layer as its foundation.
Therefore it is essential that your data layer contains all of the data points relating to your key conversion journeys. This ensures you can track how the user is interacting with these journeys and the context relating to their interactions i.e. products and services they are interested in or their existing account status.
Offline data sources:
This refers to other data sets that would help to enrich a customer’s profile such as historical transaction data
Other customer data sets to consider are customer service data, loyalty programme data, quiz/competition data and CRM data.
With the above data points available or planned to be implemented, it is then possible to analyse the performance of the developing digital experience. In addition, depending on the volume of customer data that exists and can be used, this will determine the level of personalisation that could be achieved in the experiences you activate.
Next we consider the tools that will consume this data. A few questions that your teams should be asking themselves across Analytics, CRM, Onsite Testing Tools, Customer Data Platforms, Advertising and more are:
What existing tools do you use?
Do these tools have the capabilities to achieve your use cases?
If they can’t achieve your use cases, what are the gaps?
Do existing tools provide features that you will not realistically use (and are paying for)
Are there other tools that would be more suitable?
While buying new technology is exciting and can provide great new capabilities to the business, we often find existing technology is underutilised. Carrying out a review of your existing technology is essential to determine whether your use cases actually require investment in new technology or just different usage of existing technology.
This is a great opportunity to take stock of the current state of your systems, technology and data architecture. The outcome of this review should be a list of technology additions or changes along with the indicative value return forecasts and business process implications.
One of the reasons why technologies are sometimes underutilised is that there is sufficient skill or experience in the business or from external partners to get the best out of them. Therefore in all areas of your planned digital experience use cases, you should identify whether you have the required skills and culture to achieve your use cases internally or externally. Here are example skill areas that we regularly support the data requirements for:
Analytics and Data resources to pull insights from data, identifying opportunities and issues and ability to determine success.
Audience resources to be able to build segments required for targeting in activities.
CRO and Personalisation resources who can design, build and analyse experiences.
CRM resources can maximise the use of CRM tools in the most efficient way such as in relation to how customer data is stored and used and automating processes where possible.
Advertising resources to run highly targeted campaigns that are continually optimised.
Development resource to build potential custom integrations with vendor APIs for Customer Data Platforms or tracking for Analytics requirements.
We’ve already mentioned the importance of the data that drives any digital experience you are developing. However successful outcomes will also be driven by a test and learn culture with data at the heart of it. It can be challenging to develop a truly data-led culture due to business pressures, such as continuous tight deadlines or a lack of understanding from business leaders. This can result in teams persevering with old approaches and processes with a reluctance to develop and invest resources into becoming data-led. However, it is the only way to maximise and scale any developing digital experience.
Teams must work through an iterative process of identifying opportunities, designing activities and processes based on data, rolling out deliverables and analysing successes to continue the cycle. This type of culture will ensure you maximise the chances of success.
Finally, we consider leadership and more specifically whether the existing leadership really understands what is trying to be achieved and can keep teams focused on achieving the ultimate goals for the use cases.
Leadership needs to be considered to effectively manage multiple teams with the use cases in mind and prevent the teams from acting as business silos; working towards individual goals. Strategies need to be developed and implemented considering the data and technology available. Therefore it is key that the leadership has a comprehensive understanding of this architecture and processes that exist and are required to achieve the planned use cases.
Use case planning is an essential first step in properly detailing a plan of how digital experience goals will be achieved and the key factor to be considered throughout this exercise is the data you will have available.
In the next article, we plan to dive into the topic of visitor ID unification methods in an attempt to create the clearest picture of an individual customer.