As customer interactions move to an array of devices, companies must design and deliver cohesive experiences across multiple touchpoints, but few are in a position to do this, according to a new report from Forrester Research.
"Unified experiences that cross touchpoints demand improved yet common designs, common content assets and application code, and delivery processes tuned for speed and harmonized skills and roles," Forrester vice president and research director Stephen Powers wrote in the report, "Unify the Digital Experience Across Touchpoints."
"The vast majority of companies don't yet have the design disciplines, technologies, and organizations to support contextual, unified digital experiences," he writes.
One of the key reasons for this disconnect is the technology and organizational silos that exist at most companies, according to the research.
"Deciding which channels to incorporate into your strategy is critical to defining your organization's future in digital customer experience," Powers adds.
These channels include brick-and-mortar stores, print media, call centers, mobile apps, and the Internet. The use of the Internet, which is advancing as a purchasing channel, differs among users who access it via a desktop or laptop computer, mobile device, e-reader, tablet computer, TV set-top box, or game console.
"Whatever digital touchpoints best extend your enterprise's business model, assume you'll have more than one and as many as half a dozen in the future," Powers advises. "Separate, disconnected digital experiences for these several touchpoints will be unsustainable in the long run, and in the short term, harmful to your organization's brand."
Customers, he points out, "see your firm as one entity and expect the same experiences…regardless of channel. They expect not only experiences appropriate for the channels they use but also consistency across those experiences."
This consistency can best be achieved with common visual and architectural designs; reusable content, platform logic, services, and application platform elements and common, iterative, and flexible delivery processes. Also key will be common data collection and analysis.
Another critical part of any multichannel long-term strategy should be a move toward contextualization and engaging customers with hyper-targeted experiences, according to Powers. Contextualization takes the personal approach to the next level, offering not just tailored recommendations and personal greetings, but also using a greater range of the customer's personal information, including his current location, social information, past behavior, past purchases, language, and device used, for example.
"Gaining maximum investments in digital customer experiences will require mastering contextualization," Powers writes.
Among his other recommendations, Powers suggests that digital experience design answer four questions:
- Who is the customer, what are her goals, and how does she behave?
- How should the brand be expressed throughout all interactions with this customer?
- What content and functions does the customer need to accomplish her goals?
- Where do we reach this customer?
Digital intelligence, Powers tells CRM magazine, must be a top priority. That intelligence should aggregate data from multiple touchpoints and channels and provide real-time operational insight that can be baked into day-to-day business decisions, he says
But "even leading firms acknowledge that their efforts are primitive, oriented to Web metrics only, and ultimately inadequate," Powers concludes.