Experience Management 3.0 | The New Frontier of Digital Marketing
Apr 6, 2022
Originally published in
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A new age of Experience Management is upon us, as marketers shift focus from how to create and deploy scalable digital experiences using CMS and Commerce platforms, to how to accelerate identifying and executing "next best action" decisions, using Customer Data Platforms, AI-based Personalization, and Digital Asset Management platforms.
Taking a moment to look back and appreciate the rapid digital evolution of the last decade, we see a constant acceleration of powerful capabilities and innovation, enabling brands to get-to-market faster and pursue the best possible digital experiences for their customers.
The pace of digital never slows - what do today’s brands need to compete in the race for digital transformation?
The Birth of Experience Management
Our story begins with building the wheels of the “modern” internet in the late 1990s, as the first generation of Web Content Management and Commerce Platforms (like Interwoven, Vignette, ATG and IBM WebSphere) emerged onto the market to accelerate the pace of web development.
These platforms began to break the reliance on internal IT departments for site updates, providing business users with core self-service capabilities, like authoring, workflow and catalog management and began to accelerate the speed sites could be built.
Progress is relative however, as even with this newfound acceleration, enterprise web projects might take one or two years to design and deploy and require very large teams (20-50 people) and investments to deliver.
As the internet matured, towards the end of the 2000's - brands began to fully embrace that the web is becoming the dominant marketing channel and front line of Customer Experience. To support this shift and rapidly changing consumer expectations, marketers need new capabilities to manage the digital experience, not just website content.
To support this revelation, Web Content Management Systems evolved into Web Experience Management Systems (WEM), providing marketers rich in-context editing capabilities.
Digital Experience Platform (DXP) companies like Adobe and SDL, and later, Episerver and Sitecore, re-architected their platforms from a coarse-grained focus on “Page Templates ”to an architecture modular marketing components (or blocks) that can be easily combined in a WYSIWYG manner to build an infinite combination of marketing experiences.
Moving beyond content management, Digital Experience Platforms also provided marketers a wide range of capabilities to build, measure, and perform basic levels of personalization.
While vast and powerful, it is important to note that these capabilities were far from “plug-and-play”, but to offer the broadest flexibility, were provided as toolkit of API’s and administrative User Interfaces that accelerated delivering these capabilities.
To leverage these capabilities, brands still needed platform experts to design their library of composable building blocks and API’s to create their bespoke digital experiences.
The time to market was improving, but implementation projects were still months long and thousands of hours of work to launch a new site.
If done properly however, Brands could leverage their investment in building their initial site to not just create a single website but also create brand specific set of composable library of marketing components from which brand experiences could be built and modified rapidly by business users.
Meanwhile, in the world of ecommerce, the first half of the 2000’s was dominated by enterprise commerce platforms like ATG, Hybris and IBM WebSphere as they were seen as the only proven options to deliver ecommerce at scale.
Implementations took years and required massive infrastructure investments, as brands literally welded these commerce platforms into their back-office systems and built bespoke user experiences.
With the emergence of the Cloud, SaaS challengers such as Demandware began to offer "commerce in a box" solutions. Brands unable to invest in traditional enterprise platforms could now rapidly deploy websites through configuration and styling of a pre-defined storefront experience.
While these commerce platforms were great at providing core commerce capabilities like catalog management, shopping cart and checkout, they complicated the challenge of experience management.
Many brands attempted clunky implementation approaches of integrating Experience Management platforms into their ecommerce platforms, frequently sacrificing platform capabilities to simply feed content into the backend of their commerce platforms.
There simply wasn’t a good way for brands to have their cake and eat it too, and this left consumers suffering through disconnected user experiences, as the purchase funnel moved from brand awareness (Experience Management) to purchase (Commerce).
In the later part of the last decade, platforms began to challenge this architectural dilemma. Experience Management platforms such as Episerver and Sitecore, began offering fully integrated Experience Management and commerce capabilities and platforms, or Experience Driven Commerce.
With these tools in hand, brands now had the power to rapidly create and manage integrated, experience-driven commerce sites, and marketers could compose sites versus build them.
The Next Frontier
As the internet entered a new decade and the COVID pandemic supercharged "digital transformation", a new frontier has emerged in the world of Experience Management and ecommerce.
Delivering elegant content and commerce solutions has largely been commoditized, and brands are looking for their "next best action" to differentiate their customers’ experiences.
The bar of differentiation is high however, as “the Amazon’s effect” has trained and elevated consumer expectations to require all brands to anticipate their needs and deliver proactive, enriched customer experiences.
To compete moving forward, brands need to leverage their capability to rapidly create and deploy digital experiences with an ability to rapidly analyze the needs of their customers at an individual level, as well as an ability to rapidly create content that meets those needs.
Combined, these forces are causing Experience Management platforms to turn their focus to the following capabilities:
Customer Data Platforms – how do we help brands harness all of their customer data and analyze it at speed, to develop rapid insights into the next best action to improve customer experiences?
Digital Asset Management – how do we optimize the content planning and production process to seamlessly publish into our Digital Experience Platforms?
AI-Driven Personalization and Experimentation – how do we combine data-driven customer insights with timely and relevant content at scale?
This shift in focus is coming in the form of massive investment to acquire or build out these capabilities.
In 2021, Optimizely and Sitecore both made Customer Data Platform acquisitions and Adobe built their own.
In the realm of Digital Asset Management, Adobe has invested heavily to integrate it’s market leading Creative Cloud with Adobe Experience Manager. Sitecore purchased StyleLabs in 2018 and rebranded it ContentHub, and most recently, Optimizely purchased marketing orchestration platform Welcome.
Finally, to accelerate AI-driven personalization and experimentation, Episerver purchased three companies since 2019, and subsequently rebranded themselves from Episerver to Optimizely (one of their acquisitions).
What Does This Mean for Today’s Marketers?
The MarTech landscape grew 5233% over the last decade, ushering in a wide range of digital maturity.
There are still many lagging brands that need to invest in composable Experience Management and Experience-Driven commerce, and the good news for them is it's now faster and cheaper to catch up.
Leading brands must now shift to a product mindset and put the tools in place to iterate quickly, as customer experience expectations are constantly evolving.
To proactively respond to these evolving expectations requires implementing tools to harness customer data - and act on it – through experimentation and AI driven personalization.
As the MarTech landscape is expected to continue it’s rapid growth, it is critical that brands partner with experienced digital agencies to advise on the right solutions to achieve unique goals, and how to best pair those options within a brands’ current state architecture.
Finally, with tools to rapidly deploy more personalized experiences now securely in marketers’ hands, a new bottleneck emerges - how to create enough high-quality content at-scale to support these elevated experiences.
Brands must explore adding integrated Digital Asset Management and Workflow tools (like Optimizely’s Welcome) to empower marketers to seamlessly develop experience-rich content assets and measure deployment success.
Whereoware Can Guide Your MarTech Evolution
The MarTech landscape is always changing. The best path to client success is always changing. Customers’ norms and expectations are always changing. Technology, industry, security, and opportunity is always changing. What is right today may be wrong tomorrow; may be obsolete five years from now.
At Whereoware, we’re our clients guide through the ever-changing digital landscape. Reach out to Whereoware for advice on leveraging the right tools and taking the smartest strategic paths to accelerate success in proven and profitable ways.
Author: John Schneider, CTO
As Chief Technology Officer, John Schneider leads and mentors Whereoware’s web development and technical services team, ensuring the highest technical excellence, project management, and quality assurance are built into every website and technology project.
With over 20 years of experience in leadership roles at technology firms like Sapient and RightPoint (previously Agency Oasis), Schneider has directed transformative customer experience development projects for some of the world’s leading brands, such as Coca-Cola, NASCAR, Hilton, UPS, Atrium Healthcare, and the International Monetary Fund.