Month: November 2017

DXP Series, Part II: DXP and the Customer Experience

Posted by on November 28, 2017

Multi-ethnic young people using smartphone and tablet computers

Introduction

In Part I of our DXP Series, Is a Digital Experience Platform Right for My business, we highlighted how a digital experience platform (DXP) is a set of tools to manage the customer’s online experience.  According to Liferay, the obsession with customer experience is at the confluence of the following factors:

  • Customers interact with companies on a wide variety of digital channels (web, mobile, social media)
  • Customers demand and expect the same experiences they get from digital leaders like Google, Apple, and Facebook.
  • Social media has become the cheer- (and jeer-) leader as an unstructured way to talk as customers provide feedback and influence public sentiment.
  • Mobile devices are on the scene and immediate. They give companies additional ways to stay in touch with customers.
  • The ability to get deep customer insights provides targeting information for a single person and give that person an highly personalized experience. Those insights come through everything from analytics to scooping up big data on social media.
  • Digital technology evens the playing field. Startups can disrupt traditional industries. Think: Uber and Airbnd. Those upstarts can deliver a better customer experience. Those startups have easy access to a tool kit that becomes a platform, not just dispersed ad hoc applications.

9 pieces in the DXP toolkit

The DXP toolkit can be a platform based on a software bundle, suite, or a single piece of software.  We listed the most common platforms as follows:

  1. Content management—allowing non-technical users to fill and maintain your DXP
  2. Social media—going into the wilds and deeper into the user realm
  3. Mobile website integration—fitting your DXP to the small screens viewed by millions
  4. Portal or gateway—passage and security without the latter inhibiting the former
  5. Search functionality—finding what users are looking for so they will stick around
  6. Rich Internet Application tools (RIA)—enriching the user experience through motion and interactivity
  7. Collaboration and meetings—working together face-to-face where many heads are better than one
  8. Analytics—getting feedback and breaching the gateway to AI
  9. Backend management—maintaining the DXP behind the scenes

In this post we describe those platforms and explore ways in which DXP integrates its technologies, components, processes, data, and people. That integration explains why DXP is keeping up with the push for customer and employee engagement.

1. Content is king, but users must rule

A content management system (CMS) is an application or set of related applications used to create and manage digital content. Think of CMS as a kind of digital word processor or publisher that dumps content into your website. It is more than that, of course.

CMS makes it simpler for content creators—the people who really know the business–to manage a website without developer assistance. In larger enterprises with multiple users adding content on a regular basis, a CMS is the easiest way to keep the site content up-to-date and responsive to search engines. Your platform is only as good as its content and you need a user-friendly way to keep content current.

2. Social Media is a vast channel for exploitation

Plug in social media to a DXP and open your web portal to the data- (and customer-) rich world of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Social media plays a vital part in any migration to DXP. Users want the option to configure their own social media sharing. In addition to the out-of-the-box social media capabilities that often come with modern DXP platforms, there are also a variety of plug-ins available that can further extend and customize these capabilities.

3. Mobile channels reach millions

Your DXP product may look good on the desktop computer screen, but without a mobile platform you are missing out on millions of mobile users. Mobile phones have migrated from voice communication devices to ubiquitous pocket computers. According to Statista, by 2020 there will be nearly 258 million smartphones in the U.S.

Add a mobile version of your DXP platform to fit the small screen and expand your marketing base exponentially. Again, customers expect their mobile applications to be as excellent and friendly as the hardware they use.

4. Portal or gateway access gives users a passport and the warm feeling of security

Web portal software can create the following interface points for DXP:

  • Customer portals to create transactions and access documents and information online
  • Partner/agent portals to help field agents, partners, and franchises become more effective by accessing proprietary and personalized information
  • Business process portals to access and track complex business processes

A cloud-based DXP needs a web portal that both locks out hackers and performs the handshaking crypto-rituals to open the locks.

5. Search functionality adds power to DXP web pages and applications

Pathways to built-in search functions handling customer queries are tools to win the race between customer engagement and the impatience of today’s users. Adding a search application to a DXP portal allows drill down. The drill down must go through content types, tags, as well as categories the user specifies to refine the search. The search application can be placed on a page or be a link to allow users to do a web page content search.

6. Rich Internet Application Tools supercharge DXP

RIAs are web applications having similar characteristics of desktop application software. They add functionality to DXP with tools like Adobe Flash, Java and Microsoft Silverlight. As the name implies, these tools provide a “richer” experience for DXP. RIAs provide movement, user interactivity, and more natural experiences for everyone accessing the DXP. Add a sense of time, motion, and interaction to a DXP, and the users will stick around and enjoy the experience.

7. Collaboration and meetings make the enterprise go ‘round

Collaboration suites can resonate with other DXP apps to promote excellence in communication. They are message boards for team discussions, blog platforms and meeting software to add to your inventory of rich content.

Use document management to collaborate, brainstorm, and produce quality content.  Plug in meeting software for worldwide, real-time worldwide, face-to-meetings and conferences with real colleagues and customers at a fraction of travel costs.

8. Analytics software provides an eagle-eyed view

The best way to improve user experience is to know who, how many, and the characteristics of those who visit your DXP.  You want to know how your site or service is performing, who is back-linking to you, and to be able to dig into gathered statistics for visitor regions.

Analytics also provides a dashboard view to do the business intelligence magic of process measurement and customer behavior. A DXP partnered with analytics is the foundation for moving to artificial intelligence.

9. Backend management is your behind-the-scenes DXP management tool

Backend technologies help you manage your DXP or web application, site server, and an associated database. Backend developers need to understand programming languages and databases. They also need to understand server architecture.

On the other hand, as they say, “There’s an app for that.” DXP users can access backend manager technology in the cloud through MBaaS offerings. 

Conclusion: DXP is not just an eclectic collection of software

The platforms described above can work together to solve the biggest challenge enterprises face in the digital age: customer obsession. Companies are undergoing digital transformation in every area from business process to customer analytics. DXPs can bring all that together and re-engineer business practices to be totally customer oriented.

Digital transformation is the challenge. DXP is the solution.

Why Every Digital Business Needs a DAM Solution for Effective Data Management

Posted by on November 09, 2017

designers-digital-assets

You don’t have to look far in most organizations to find a tangle of different technologies in use for Digital Asset Management (DAM). Some people may be storing their files on their desktop (gasp!), while others have them hidden in a multi-level folder structure that makes the pyramids of Giza look like some simple Lego blocks. Still other workers are storing their files in the cloud, on thumb drives, on ftp sites with their vendor . . . you get the picture. Digital asset management is a serious and growing problem for management and marketers alike. People love to engage with multimedia content, but if you can’t find your digital assets this can make the job of marketers that much more difficult. Here’s some best practices for effective data management using a DAM platform for your business.

DAM Defined

Digital Asset Management, or DAM systems, provide a cohesive way to store and access all types of data, often from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. This central repository allows you to manage organization, metadata, licensing and distribution of a vast array of information, such as:

  • Images
  • Video
  • PDF, Word and Excel documents
  • Social media posts
  • Audio files
  • Layered graphic layout files
  • XML or HTML files

The beauty of a consolidated DAM is that any authorized individual can add to and access this massive quantity of data, quickly and efficiently without disturbing someone else who may also be using the same information in a different way. A great example is a designer who needs a specific image for a website and a designer in a different department who wants to use an image in a print ad. Instead of both designers purchasing and storing the files, a DAM provides a way to effectively share the digital assets without confusion.

Benefits of a DAM

Aside from allowing colleagues to collaborate, there are many benefits to centralized digital asset management for your organization. With an active DAM and solid standards, you’ll be able to capture detailed metadata — or details about the data — that aid searching and retrieval of your assets. Unlike a hard drive on your computer, digital asset management is infinitely scalable, allowing you to purchase access to a system that is just large enough to meet your immediate needs instead of overspending on storage for the future. As your business needs grow, so can your DAM system requirements. Many asset management systems provide you with tools to migrate from popular cloud-based storage solutions such as Google Drive and Dropbox, which are adequate for smaller businesses but do not include workflow functionality or true DAM capabilities.

Protecting Your Assets

Digital asset management does more than simply store your data, it truly manages the assets that belong to your organization. This means digital rights to manage copyright and licensing terms, and the ability to check assets into and out of the system for access control. As long as you set up permissions properly within your DAM, you can easily invite others to have limited access to files while tracking their usage and assuring that all downloads meet your guidelines. Version control is also available in many DAM systems, so if a file is lost or damaged you’ll have immediate access to a backup solution.

Full Distribution Control

Want to distribute a piece of content, but limit the usage or ensure that it’s fully copyrighted? No problem with a robust DAM solution in place. You’re able to distribute specific assets easily and in a very controlled fashion — even setting an embargo on files until a particular date and time. Automated workflows provide convenience and process control, while speeding content creation and distribution. Some DAM systems even allow file movement from within a mobile app or website, for the ultimate ease of use.

Brand and Creative Control

It’s a marketers nightmare to have an old version of a creative design out in the marketplace, and a powerful DAM helps ensure that only the final and approved versions are available for distribution or use. Brand guidelines are easily stored and consolidated, and leveraged by different departments at the same time. When this type of document is stored centrally, you can assure that designers are always following the right version of brand guidelines and recommendations. Control brand look and maintain uniformity by having one approved version of logos, taglines, templates and letterhead, while archiving older versions for future viewing.

Provide Access to Vendors

Collaboration doesn’t occur only within your building, and many organizations outsource video, design and copywriting to external agencies. This can be challenging if you’re using traditional local storage solutions, especially with large video or audio files. Fortunately, DAM systems allow you to provide partners with limited access to files for read-only access or the ability to drop the latest version into the workflow. You can integrate venders as deeply or as lightly as you desire with a fully-configured DAM system.

Finding the right digital asset management system for your needs can be challenging, especially if you’re not familiar with the technology or how it can be successfully implemented. Partnering with an experienced system integrator can ensure that you find and implement the right solution that’s tailored to your business needs.

To learn more about DAM and how it can benefit your organization, read our e-book, How to Maximize Marketing Productivity and Sales Effectiveness with Digital Asset Management.

DXP Series, Part I: Is a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) Right For My Business?

Posted by on November 03, 2017

thinking

What is a Digital Experience Platform?

You may have heard the term “digital experience platform,” or DXP, thrown around before — either by a vendor, tech consulting company, or just by discussing how to effectively manage the customer’s online experience. There are a lot of convoluted explanations of what a DXP actually is, but we would like offer our own definition up and change that. This article will seek to define and provide examples of DXPs, as well as discuss how to know if investing in a DXP is the right move for your business.

Note: DXP is also sometimes referred to as a UXP, or user experience platform, but they’re the same thing. 

Simply put, a digital experience platform is a set of tools that allows a business to manage not only the customer’s experience, but the experience of partners, vendors, employees, suppliers, and more. It can be a software bundle, such as a suite, or a single piece of software, depending on the DXP itself. That being said, the platforms typically include software for the following:

  • Content management
  • Social media
  • Mobile website integration
  • Portal or gateway
  • Search functionality
  • Rich Internet Application tools (RIA)
  • Collaboration and meetings
  • Analytics
  • Backend management

DXPs aren’t limited to the items listed above, though. Many DXPs will include tools unique to that particular platform. Some include customizable forms, video editing, product management, and more.

It’s important to understand that a DXP is not a prepackaged platform — it’s actually the opposite. It’s a platform that allows the building and customization of meaningful applications for managing and enriching your customer’s online experience. Think of it like a massive customizable collaboration suite: it gives you the tools to customize and build it to fit your company and brand. From there, it allows management of the user experience through the company’s website and the mobile rendition of it, as well as through other channels, like email, social media, and so forth. Building a new rendition of any of those channels for the company’s employees or vendor is tied into the functionality, and each channel is managed in various backend systems as well.

The portal portion of the DXP is a “self-service” portal that allows users to sign in and manage their own set of tools and software. For example, employees could sign into their portal and find their email, CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool), documents and files, analytics, and more — all in one spot. They can also customize their portal to their heart’s desire, building it out to suit their particular needs and preferences. Each user can also be assigned a role (administrator, manager, sales, etc.), within the portal system, which tightens security and control.

Many DXPs also have the functionality to link multiple pieces of data from within the DXP together to pull analytics, increasing its capability and usefulness tenfold.

Is a DXP the Right Fit For My Business?

Now that you have a good idea of what a DXP is and what it can do, we’ll discuss deciding if investing in one is the right move for your company.

Ask the following questions at your next meeting:

  • Is your company the right size for such an extensive platform?DXPs are typically associated with larger businesses (enterprise level), but can be the right fit for medium-sized businesses under certain circumstances.
  • Does your company need a way to tie the full user experience together, giving users a way to create and customize their own portals?If you have multiple channels within your company, both from the front end and the back end (i.e., vendors, partners, customers, and multiple employee roles), a DXP might be the right fit for your company.
  • Does your company have a need to tighten analytics and span them across platforms?The analytics component of DXPs often span CRMs, social media, the company’s website, and more.

Furthermore, there are three key components to deciding if a DXP is the right move for your company. We discuss them below.

Technology Environment

The right technology fit is all about deciding what platform is the best in terms of the language the platform was programmed in. If your in-house developers are not trained in the specific language or languages the platform was developed in, they will struggle managing it. It’s wise to check and double-check this component when deciding on the right technological fit. Many DXPs are based on Java, PHP or Microsoft stacks. The language will most likely be different on the front-end, or website end, though. Many DXPs are compatible with JavaScript, CSS and HTML on the front-end, which reduces that portion of the developmental impact.

Functionality 

Even though we’ve discussed the different functionalities of DXPs, we haven’t yet touched upon how they’re typically grouped. There are three different types of DXPs, including:

  • CMS-heritage DXPs
  • Portal-heritage DXPs
  • Commerce-heritage DXPs

The best fit for the company will ultimately fall under one of these categories.

CMS-heritage DXPs are based upon just that: customizing all of the company’s online content. These platforms focus on marketing and analytics, social media, and the website across all devices. Generating interest in the company’s offerings, targeting the right audiences, and creating campaigns are the highlights of CMS-heritage DXPs. They are best suited for B2C companies with short transactions. Some offer user portals, some do not; this component can typically be an add-on cost or can be excluded.

Portal-heritage DXPs are based upon creating that unique experience for each and every user (front-end, back-end), and giving them each a log-in portal. These platforms fulfill the need for bringing the customer back after the sale and giving the salespeople what they need to keep making the sale. It allows employees to see what they need to do to maximize customer retention. It can also help with issue resolution and helpdesk scenarios.

Commerce-heritage DXPs are based almost solely upon shopping needs in an online retail environment. It is based primarily on inventory management, payment systems, and the full user shopping experience.

Budget & Cost

It goes without saying that this will be a category that the company will have to analyze forwards and backwards before jumping on board with a DXP. When talking with DXP providers, discuss costs associated with both one-time integration and set-up fees as well as ongoing licensing and operational costs. Also analyze the costs associated with possibly expanding your IT and development team, or outsourcing this component. Keep in mind that some DXPs are more affordable than others, namely open source vs. non-open source. Liferay is an example of an open source DXP, but several DXPs should be analyzed at length before choosing the right financial fit for the company.

Digital Experience Platforms: Consulting and Integration

Need more help deciding which DXP is right for your company? Give us a call. We can not only help you decide which DXP is the right fit for your company, but help you build, integrate and optimize your DXP after you decide. We have experience with industry-leading open source DXP and CMS software such as Liferay and Crafter CMS.