What CMOs Need to Know About Digital Experience Platforms in 2021

The most relevant insights for CMOs about digital experience platforms (DXPs) that bring clarity on the topic while breaking down myths and guiding to proper use cases.

Attila Tóth

Digital Strategist

Do you remember when you learned your first fancy word, and used it in almost every context?

Well, most hyped words follow similar patterns today, so it’s hard to recognize what is what. As business executives are bombed with new terminology on a daily basis, it’s not a surprise they struggle to look behind the meaning and value of each new fancy word they meet. The bad news: this trend won’t get better. The good news: you don’t have to understand everything, it’s enough to focus only on the business critical parts. As more and more people are asking me what digital experience platforms are, I’ve decided to demystify this trendy and complex keyword.

The sceptics say there are no such things as digital experience platforms

There is a group of people, who strongly question the existence of digital experience platforms. Their argument is quite simple: it’s just another sumptuous word for Software as a Service (SaaS) technology and there is nothing new to it. In this sense, they are right. Their negativity comes from a logical background: they don’t want to pay for another software just because it is trendy. Who would?

The futurists say this is the next thing that will change the way businesses engage, market and sell their products

The opposite side is very confident about the technology and is already using it as a core competitive advantage. They see how customer interactions and expectations are changing over time and understand that thinking a few steps ahead can drive sustainable results. For them taking this leap is similar to going to a business conference. They don’t know for sure if their prospects will attend, but they have all the background intel that gives a positive forecast. So they attend, who wouldn’t?

Why are they both right and wrong at the same time?

On one hand, those who are pragmatic and cautious not to jump on every new trend are wise to do so, as there are many fake tools, methods and evangelists without proper background and know how. Yet, they tend to say no to everything and follow old strategies, that might still work, but not for long, thus ensuring a slow but inevitable critical point where it will be too late to catch the ark of digital.

On the other hand, those who are keen to adopt innovative technologies, are building the ground for growth. As all the data businesses currently have on their customers is many times stored and processed in the cloud of third party apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, Google or YouTube, your data stability becomes more vulnerable.

It takes a quick change in these apps data policy and your data is gone.

So implementing solutions that give you data stability relatively fast and preparing your business for better or for worse is a good thing to do. However, the fear of falling behind and rushing into decisions without properly weighing your options is the way for businesses to burn their funds and energy before they could create considerable business growth.

What are digital experience platforms and why should you care about them?

Digital experience platforms are tools that help you create engaging and meaningful customer experiences through digital technology. It sounds good, but it doesn’t really explain what they do, right? Bare with me, I will explain it.

Couple of decades ago, companies who had their customer care department were considered evolved. As the economy shifted from product to service and from service to experience focus, the customer care department turned to a more complex, customer experience team. This started before the boom of .com. Businesses who wanted to stand out were putting considerable effort to create amazing experiences, as they realized people talk about how and what they feel.  From simple value creation (eg. real estate companies filled the fridge with quality food and added fringe benefits) to truly creative methods (eg. tech firms used perfume to create an exquisite experience for their female customers while unboxing the product), the strategy to give more than customers expect to get, drove executives in their thinking.

In the late 90s as the era of online and the internet bubble was emerging, many thought that selling online equals serving the customers faster and this fact alone was considered to have a great value. They were right, for a couple of years that was enough. Nonetheless, everybody can sell fast and have an online presence today. Be it B2B or B2C, technology is available to get your offerings on the web. So, the question is, how can businesses differentiate themselves and create pleasant surprises for their clients? The answer: through uplifting digital experiences. With the rise of smartphones we use digital technology on a daily basis. How people see you, how they can interact with you and how happy you make them during their digital journey is of utmost importance. According to Google’s recent user experience studies presented at their UX Marathon, some businesses can lose even 6 figures in revenue just because of the loading speed of their web content. Having the proper strategy and technology in digital is essential.

Creating meaningful digital experiences might feel overwhelming, but it shouldn’t

Using the right technology will make a difference. Understanding what can it do for your business is the first step. So here are 7 myths that will help you navigate in your decisions when choosing a digital experience platform.

Myth #1: Having a website / mobile app = your business has a digital experience

The first step in digital is to have your own digital presence. This can be a responsive web app and/or a dedicated mobile app. Your customers’ digital preferences should dictate which one you choose. Still, this is only a first step. If you already got one, well done. Here is a list of questions you need to ask that helps you understand how good is what you have:

  • Is the technology up to date in terms of speed and security?
  • Do you have a user friendly interface? Simply thinking you have one, it’s not enough. How do you measure its performance?
  • Does your user experience strategy assist in creating delightful digital user journeys?
  • Do you add value in each and every step of the user journey? If you are just another website or mobile store, you are competing with literally everybody. Make sure you differentiate your business by creating superior value every time users interact with your digital identity.

Myth #2: Having a marketing automation platform (MAP) = your business has a digital experience

Marketing automation tools have a fancy name, however, most of the available software are doing usually trigger based email automation: eg. somebody subscribes for a series of articles, and the MAP sends out a series of emails depending on how the users consumed the content.

Don’t get me wrong, they are useful, but if you are relying only on them and thinking you are creating a full scale digital experience, you are missing out on the true potential of digital.

Myth #3: Having a CRM = your business has a digital experience

Customer relationship management software are not so trendy nowadays, yet they have a powerful support role in sales. Marc Benioff’s team offers one of the strongest tools on the market, be it that or something else, a good CRM should be part of your digital strategy. Managing prospects, knowing your clients and having data driven performance indicators in real time will definitely help your business. However, they are just another brick in your digital arsenal and you need to think of it like that.

Myth #4: Having a strong sales team = I don’t need to be in digital

With or without a CRM a business can have impactful sales people. There is no doubt about that. Revenues can have positive growth trends and they can be misleading. I encounter a handful number of executives who achieved amazing results with old fashioned sales teams and question the need of digital. Sadly, many decide in the eleventh-hour. Do you remember Kodak?

Kodak used to be the camera brand, but they failed to keep up with technology and in 2012 filed for bankruptcy. With selling patents and a strategic shift they managed to save the company from being wiped out of history, but the cost was high. Now they are using creative ways to adapt digital in their comeback tactics, such as Kodakit, an innovative digital tool that connects businesses with professionals and streamlines the process of photography.

Leverage digital before it’s too late, you might not have the network and financial power to come back from a deep dive.

Myth #5: Being active on social media = I already create digital experiences

Depending on what business you are in, there is at least one appropriate channel in social that can stimulate your growth. There are some really good practices to follow, but even if you have a professional social media strategy, that in itself is not enough. While it can help you build brand awareness, it can’t assist in the whole process of customer journey.

Myth #6: Having a price sensitive product = it doesn’t matter what digital experience I create, customers decide only by the price

Price matters, but what matters more is the created value behind the price. Businesses who beat the market by always having the lowest price are risking a lot. The major issue with this strategy is that there will inevitably be somebody who will go lower.

The tire industry is one of the most price sensitive markets. It’s also complex as the end customers buy tires through local distributors, making manufacturers job to market their products very difficult. Huge sales networks were built through the years and many brands still rely on these. At first it looks like this industry won’t tap into digital soon. Yet, top brands already offer online store locators. They engage customers and drive those to right place where the actual sales takes place. Goodyear took a step further piloting in the US with direct digital sales with free online delivery. You may ask, what will happen to the reseller? The answer may depend on each brand’s tactics, however most manufacturers will not ditch their valuable network. Instead, they will use it for a different purpose, eg. consultancy, complementary services or warranty assistance.

These small steps to digitizing the customer journey lead to adding hidden benefits that have a direct contribution to revenue growth. Simple things that matter. But there is more. Digital tools can be very useful for margin maximization through data driven price intelligence. It’s a topic worth its own article, so I am not going to talk about this in detail today. The key takeaway here is that digital experiences have an impact even in industries where there is a strong price competition.

Myth #7: Failing with online campaigns = digital doesn’t work for your business

Many businesses try online campaign and expect instant growth and miracles. Who am I to blame them? They were fed by so called online gurus and growth hackers who promised overnight success. Inspired by success stories and looking for alternative ways to expand their businesses a lot of marketing executives fell in the dark whole of online, because they started off with the wrong foot.

Digital activities require proper strategy and consistency. You probably won’t reach your targets in your first attempt, but that’s not a bad thing. The only bad thing is if you don’t do some data analytics and draw relevant conclusions. On the topic of how a business leader should approach digital you can find more details here.

How does a digital experience landscape look like?

Within the digital experience landscape there are 3 main categories:

  1. Audience Raw Data: All the information a business can collect from its followers, prospects, leads and customers.
  2. Activity Automation: All the repetitive marketing tasks that can be automatized.
  3. Audience Intelligence & Digital Identity: The point where digital starts and where it ends. A place to create the digital assets, collect and connect data to form useful business intelligence, measure and optimize through hyper-personalization.

In an ideal World you should be able to have a technology vendor that covers everything in one tool in a perfect way, that would be the perfect Digital Experience Platform (DXP). Many brands aim to be that one stop shop, but it will take a couple of years to get there. Until then, enterprises can go with the best of breed strategy. This means you choose the best Data Management Platform (DMP), the best Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM), the best Marketing Automation Platform (MAP), the best Hyper Personalization Platform (HPP), and so on. This method is already used by innovative companies who are using DXPs. You can find more about it in Digital Clarity Group’s immersive research.

Here is a diagram to put all these in context.

Digital Experience Landscape

5 Key takeaways about Digital Experience Platforms

  1. Before choosing your tools and vendors understand the elements of the digital experience landscape your business has.
  2. Create a digital strategy and see what the critical parts are where you need DXP technology.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail, learn how to pilot and be consistent.
  4. Think in a holistic way and build the digital environment that can open new revenue streams, not only assist the current ones.
  5. Go with the “best-of-breed” method to select your DXP providers.

So here you go, these are the most important things you need to know as a CMO or a business executive about digital experience platforms. This article is the 3rd of a series of 7 (you can check the first one here, and the second on here), where I am guiding you through the black box, myths, tips and tricks and tried out practices of digital transformations that drive growth for enterprise level companies, industry forgers and firms that want to extend and establish their primary activities to digital. If you would like to get updates and insights on this topic, follow me here on Medium, or subscribe to our blog.

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