As the digital experience space begins to mature, marketers are looking for vendors that can help them create and deliver relevant, cross-channel, contextual experiences throughout the customer journey. Though building initial brand awareness was the biggest priority for marketers in the past, the focus now is on delighting customers at every interaction and touch point, making the need for technology that can effectively facilitate a complex customer journey greater than ever. Though many vendors are already stepping up to the challenge, most are still in early stages, according to the Forrester Wave report on digital experience.
"Given current customer needs, most of the vendor focus in this market has been on unifying the digital experience for the customer acquisition phase of the life cycle. In this context, vendors have aggressively acquired best-of-breed products related to digital experience. But vendors in this market still have significant work to do," Forrester analyst Stephen Powers wrote in the report.
One of the main roadblocks for vendors is that even though some of them are getting close to building a single, unified digital experience platform for customer acquisition, most still have serious functionality gaps. Furthermore, they are faced with the fact that most potential customers have already made investments in digital experience technologies and won't want to get rid of existing solutions in favor of new ones.
Vendors' integration of acquired products is also lacking, Powers points out, as are their third-party software integration capabilities. "All vendors in this report are lagging in some respect in terms of integrating their disparate tools. Integration among products within a single vendor's portfolio includes functionality, user interfaces, and data so that companies can leverage it to drive personal, relevant digital experiences," he says. "However, the integration and accessibility of back-end data repositories across solution sets remains nascent at best," he adds.
Equating customer acquisition with the customer journey is holding vendors back as well. Though historically most of the focus has been on acquiring new customers, the report suggests that in the coming years, customer acquisition technologies will evolve. Eventually, marketers will begin focusing "more on unifying the digital customer acquisition technologies with those supporting the latter phases of the customer journey, like onboarding and customer service," Powers says. "Vendors will expand their definition of digital experience, and those who own technologies supporting more of the journey will have an advantage," he adds.
Though there's a long road ahead, some vendors have already emerged as front-runners. For their evaluation, Forrester analysts looked at 13 vendors in the space and judged them based on 29 criteria which fell into three categories: the current offering, including core capabilities, specialized components and integration effectiveness; their strategy, meaning not only overall vision for the platform, but also partner strategies and delivery models; and market presence, an evaluation of each platform's enterprise base, revenue growth, and other factors.
Adobe, hybris, IBM, and Sitecore excelled in all three categories, and Forrester named the four companies strong contenders. "Adobe's content management and targeting products form the backbone of its capabilities," Powers says, while hybris is "an e-commerce vendor with strong digital experience aspirations."