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Insight/ Strategic Planning

Pervasive Customer Experience And How Digitally Focused CMOs Are Leading Our Revolution


by Justin Wilden
Solutions Director
IE Media

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A massive shift is happening, and in 2011 we will witness how the digitally focused CMO (dCMO) will replace the specialist digital executive fraternity. The dCMOs are leading the charge to draft and own a company's strategic initiatives in the digital landscape -- they are a new category of digital strategists. These digerati have lived with "always on" connectivity every day and developed their careers within the digital arena. They know that digital touchpoints are not websites and applications, preferring to echo their customers' viewpoint that "digital tools" are simply products and services delivered via a digital experience.

Pervasive Customer Experience and How Digitally Focused CMOs Are Leading Our Revolution
The dCMO set realizes that the focus of a company's digital strategy is to inject core business processes and a set of optimal customer behavioral attributes into a proprietary digital platform. (N.B. "Proprietary" does not mean building the platform from scratch.)

Building the right digital platform means delivering consistent customer experiences in any channel or on any device to ensure that customers are engaged with brands anywhere and at any time.

This is the pervasive customer experience.

Start Thinking Like a dCMO
The ubiquitous nature of digital means people consume information on their platform of choice. For brands this means start creating a 2015 Digital Roadmap with a vision on how a digital platform will engage with customers in a multiplatform world.

 A dCMO's thinking is powered by a deep understanding that customers live in a connected world, and they expect a consistent product experience to be delivered across mobile, desktop, and other digital touchpoints.

The act of defining the customer behaviors that are critical to the success of delivering a product experience means determining the optimal intersection of customer behavior with the company's customer experience offer.

Fundamentally, to be considered pervasive, the behavioral attributes need to be transferrable between the various channels and devices that customers are using. The optimal attributes are captured in the behavioral rules (engine) of the digital platform.

Rethink the Next Digital Project
Before embarking on the next CRM, CMS, or app project, brands should rethink their digital strategy. Instead of thinking about the next website or online campaign, a business needs to analyze its digital landscape to uncover digital assets that can be transformed into customer-facing, connected products or services.

And as an alternative to simply writing a brief to transform a website into a mobile website, strip the mobile offer down to the core customer behaviors to see how it works from a customer's perspective. Commence by creating customer experience models to aid in defining the pervasive behaviors that will have an impact on the mobile offer.

The goal is to identify customer behaviors that need to be satisfied to deliver a compelling product experience. The next step is to link the best behavioral attributes with specific product features to maximize the customer experience offer. This sets up the foundation for redefining the mobile product as a pervasive solution.

Uniting Client and Vendor Strategy
Consider a cinema chain selling movie tickets: a dCMO would take a few steps back and recognize that the most basic step in getting people into the cinema is the ticket purchase process.

That means the strategy is not to brief a vendor about building a "mobile website that will facilitate ticket sales for customers on the run;" in its place is the need for a digital platform that can manage and deliver the core pervasive customer experience attributes related to a ticket purchase.

On the flip side, the vendor's project is twofold: first, to design a technical layer (API) to deliver the pervasive ticket purchase experience so that it can be consumed on any platform. Second, to build a compelling mobile ticket buying experience that can be seamlessly delivered to any device, not just a "mobi" site, native iPhone app, or other solution left to drift in its own experience vacuum.

Bonus Points for Figuring Out the Next Step
With insight into the cinema group's evolution over the next five years as it strategically navigates towards successfully achieving its 2015 Digital Roadmap, the dCMO will have outlined strategies to exploit the fact that movies are already a digital asset and can be transformed into a digital product.

Using the pervasive customer experience approach, the dCMO isolates specific customer behaviors to architect an innovative movie-viewing experience, uncovers new audience segments, and builds a plan to launch a new digital service to satisfy at least one of the segments.

Archetype the Future Competitive Differentiator
The pervasive customer experience approach is essential where competitors have exactly the same process.

Investing in the development of unique brand and user experiences is impossible when the digital foundations are formed from a standard set of business rules built on top of the same industry-compliant, technical flavor of the month. The results are entire industries with feature-bloated, copycat websites that achieve zilch for customer engagement.

The dCMO needs to run an agenda to determine which customer behaviors are pervasive and then embed these attributes in the digital platform.

Unique brand experiences will be easier to produce because the digital products are intrinsically based on customer behaviors and inherently speak directly to the audience.

Furthermore, competitors will not be in a position to creatively swipe the integrated interface and experience offers because their underlying digital platform will not be built on the same pervasive attributes.

Next: Real-world examples.
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Real World 1: Mirror Existing Behavior
The digital music distribution business model was not solved by a particular file format, definitely not by digital rights management technology, or by the shininess of a portable mp3 player. It was pervasive customer experience, and in particular, understanding and defining the behavioral attributes that are coded in music consumption that redefined this industry in the digital era.

While CDs, cassettes, and vinyl are cumbersome and inferior in many ways, they offer one very pervasive experience: you can walk over to your shelf, pick up a CD from your library, and take it with you on a road trip.

Apple realized that the killer pervasive customer experience attribute was the convenience in "picking it up and taking it somewhere." When people could sync the iPod with their computer and easily transfer music between the two, Apple had nailed the pervasive customer experience by closely mirroring closely the customer's existing behavior.

The icing on the cake was ensuring that the same product experience that started on the Mac was made available on the Windows PC. Apple uncovered a pervasive experience attribute that provided a blueprint for designing a brand and user experience that was transferable and could be delivered on any platform and device.

The core reason for the success of Apple's music strategy is the ecosystem that borrows all the best parts of what people were already doing in the real world. Every project must give credit to what customers actually do, and then embed the aligned behavior-experience attributes in the digital platform

Real World 2: Platforms and Devices
Apple's modus operandi is not a result of its supersized cash reserves. A far smaller start-up in San Francisco is also pushing the pervasive model in the word-processing space.

Evernote is an online note service, where a user can store and retrieve notes via both Mac and Windows desktop software and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. This is the essence of a great pervasive customer experience -- knowing that "people want their notes now" -- and Evernote designed its product to solve this problem.

Evernote didn't build better software; it developed a digital platform for customers to save notes to a cloud-based server, supported by a user interface that is consistent on every device.

As a brand launched in the digital era, Evernote gets the pervasive opportunity by interacting in a multiplatform world and connecting with its customers at the exact point in time when they need to access their notes, and access them now!

Persuasive Points to Think Pervasive
Discovering the fundamental behavioral patterns of an audience segment is at the heart of defining optimal pervasive customer experiences. To help guide the formation of digital strategies relevant to the pervasive customer experience, use the following points as kick starters:

1. Create a 2015 Digital Roadmap with a vision to create a digital platform that aligns customer behavior and customer experience.

2. Review the company's current digital landscape to uncover digital assets that can be transformed into "digitized" products and services.

3. Build digital products and services around pervasive customer experience attributes. Customer experience is the only factor that is inimitable.

4. Determine which customer behaviors and processes are pervasive and embed the attributes in the digital platform.

5. Create a technical layer (API) that will help to deliver consistency and familiarity across every digital touchpoint.

6. Reduce the ongoing focus on trying to achieve personalization and customization of user experiences.

7. Shift the focus to creating unique brand experiences and compelling product experiences that allow customers to connect with brands.

New Audiences and New Opportunities
Customers demand that brands interact with them on a myriad of platforms and devices, and they look for digital tools that aspire to be a proactive part of their everyday life.

Whether a massive consumer brand or a start-up offering one product, digitally focused dCMOs need to drive the development of digital platforms. Launching pervasive products and services that are accessible anywhere, at any time, and on any channel, will uncover new audiences and create new opportunities.

Back to the 2011 Digital Marketing Outlook home page.

About Justin Wilden

Justin Wilden (@justinwilden) has dedicated 15 years to the digital industry as an online product entrepreneur and user experience design (UXD) specialist. His passion is creating innovative and compelling user-centered solutions.