Opportunities to drive more profitable customer relationships exist within the growing number of touch points organizations use to interact with consumers. But the mountain of data, digital content, products, and offers on which companies sit creates both execution and technology challenges, inhibiting effective customer interaction.
Amid growing channel complexity, a class of software solutions is emerging to enable the management and delivery of dynamic, targeted, consistent content, offers, products, and interactions across digitally enabled consumer touch points. Forrester calls this grouping of technologies Customer Experience Management (CXM) solutions. A diverse group of vendors is building CXM capabilities within solutions from many categories, including the following:
Web Content Management. WCM solutions have evolved from supporting Web publishing to enabling business users to create and manage content-driven multichannel experiences. Forward-thinking WCM vendors realize their products will support only a portion of the customer experience and are adding connectors that allow integration with complementary technologies, like analytics and CRM.
Commerce Platform Solutions. Commerce platforms support such capabilities as management of products, promotions, and orders, as well as capabilities for content management, search, and site management. IBM recently acquired campaign management solution Unica and a recommendations engine with Coremetrics. Meanwhile, ATG, now owned by Oracle, acquired and continues to leverage a personalization engine as it adds improved content and campaign tools (Oracle recently added WCM vendor Fatwire to the mix).
Search Solutions. Rules-based content targeting has proven too complex to implement across a large number of experiences. Now, search engines provide algorithm-based technologies to dynamically provide customers the content and/or products they need.
Recommendation Engines. Point solution providers that began by focusing on personalized recommendations using collaborative filtering now use complex data-driven algorithms. The algorithms can use cross-session and device browse history, in-session navigation, in-bound URL, purchase data, marketing response, and product margins to dynamically tailor the customer experience.
Customer Intelligence. Web analytics and site optimization applications such as Adobe Omniture, Webtrends, and Maxymiser no longer have the luxury of focusing exclusively on Web sites. As customer interactions fan out across numerous inbound and outbound channels, companies increasingly call on analytics tools to provide visibility to a multichannel funnel spanning the entire customer life cycle. These tools feature native data collection and third-party integrations to track interactions and report on all activities.
Marketing Automation. A variety of marketing automation solutions from vendors such as IBM (Unica), Neolane, Responsys, and Oracle (Siebel) are expanding so they can reinforce advanced requirements for managing the processes, resources, and execution of activities that support customer experience.
Customer Service Interaction Management Solutions. Companies find it critical to standardize the problem resolution process and customer service experience across channels like voice, email, chat, and social media. Also, customers expect to use multiple communication channels during a multistep interaction and not to have to repeat interactions. In response, customer service interaction management solution vendors offer an interaction hub of customer data and history, agent and Web self-service, knowledge management capabilities, workflow, and customer feedback management capabilities.
For organizations looking to take advantage of CXM solutions, understanding the vendor’s long-term vision is key. Assess vendor portfolios on long-term strategies, but make choices based on their commitment to meet shorter-term, channel-specific, and more tactical execution needs. Be wary of vendors that promise a big-bang solution; they are more interested in selling you all the components of their suites than they are in helping you leverage what you already own.
Brian Walker is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, where he serves eBusiness and channel strategy professionals. Stephen Powers is a principal analyst at Forrester Research, where he serves content and collaboration professionals.