Digital Experience Strategies: Once Important, Now Urgent


Delivering digital experiences across all audiences was already a priority for many business leaders and their counterparts in web and application development. In the wake of COVID-19, that priority should be upgraded to “urgent.” Here’s why, and how Mark Troester, vice president of strategy, Progress, thinks businesses can get started.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve seen my organization’s executive team change from one that preferred people to be in the office, to one that is keeping people at home out of a rightful abundance of caution. Fortunately, we’ve successfully run a global enterprise mostly from our home offices and haven’t missed a beat.

Winners and Losers are Emerging – Subject to Change

Our experience obviously isn’t universal. Being in the knowledge business, we transitioned to a remote digital model relatively easily. Elsewhere, social distancing has carved out two rough groups – businesses that are holding their own, and others who are greatly suffering:

Holding Their Own Suffering
Home gym equipment
Home delivery
Hygiene products
Medical products
Online education
Online entertainment and gaming
Online shopping
Remote conferencing
Car manufacturers and dealers
Conference/trade show companies
Dine-in restaurants
Sporting events
Traditional education

I certainly expect members of these two rough categories to shift places in the short and long terms. For instance, regional grocers that are seeing an uptick now may suffer in the long term as more people are conditioned to home delivery from bigger grocers and e-commerce providers.

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The Importance of Multichannel Digital Experiences

Foretelling what “the new normal” will look like for companies on both ends of the spectrum once we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis would be speculation at best. However, one aspect is certain: the ones who can scale digitally are the ones who will succeed long-term.

Clearly, enabling a remote employee base is an important digital priority and is something many in the knowledge industry have already done. The impact is also clear on the service and retail industries – such as using digital to place orders for home delivery or curbside pickup. However, the impact digital experiences (DX) can have on organizations go a step further. Even before the pandemic, the critical role of DX within all industries was evident. ResearchOpens a new window we conducted earlier this year revealed that:

  • 79% of respondents said they’re mandated to use digital to achieve competitive advantage
  • 93% also agreed that digital experience and application development efforts can accelerate digital transformation – delivering outcomes more quickly

COVID-19 is only elevating the priority and urgency of digital across all aspects of a business.

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Where Digital Experiences Can Be a Competitive Advantage during COVID

Right now, organizations should develop an overall understanding of where DX can play into their business strategies: whether it’s engaging employees, coordinating developer efforts, or omnichannel customer engagement efforts. Here are my top three recommendations for where DX can be most beneficial to businesses amid COVID.

1. Extending digital experiences beyond customers:

Most digital experience efforts are driven first by customers or top line business considerations. While it’s easy to understand the link between customer experience and customer satisfaction, as well as revenue and profit, there’s also a link between employee engagement and customer experience. Due to remote work environments, the quality of the digital experience provided to employees and partners can have a direct impact on employee engagement and hitting goals. So, start by treating employees like highly valued customers. As consumers themselves, they have become accustomed to great digital experiences based on their retail and social media channels of choice.

Execution of this includes applying personalization to employee and partner experiences. We know more about employees than our customers, so why not personalize based on their needs? This will also help organizations better manage a multi-generational workforce, catering toward individual preferences that will drive more efficiency and productivity, especially while employees are remote.

2. Coordinating web experience and application development efforts:

We tend to categorize digital efforts relating to customer experience and application development separately. From the customer experience side, we think about CMS/WCM, which is now being up-leveled to digital experience platforms (DXP). From the app dev side, we may think about PaaS or SaaS, which is also being up-leveled to MDXP. But there are many related principles – multichannel UX, the need to integrate with backend data, apps, and authentication mechanisms. Forward-thinking organizations should coordinate their app dev efforts and customer experience efforts by adopting flexible platforms and technology components to meet their specific requirements, using technologies that are more interchangeable and agile. This allows something as simple as content that is being managed by a CMS to be exposed in different digital touchpoints, vs. being thought of as completely web-centric.

To enhance the digital experience, think about making content available as part of an integrated chatbot experience, or training content that is exposed via an augmented reality assistant. Combining efforts will not only make customer experiences and app dev efforts richer, it will facilitate sharing across the organization to create additional business value.

3. Think horizontally and vertically about experience integration:

The notion of both horizontal and vertical experience exemplifies that digital experiences can help organizations acquire and support customers not simply through a marketing-oriented website, but across all digital channels that make sense for their target customer. While some organizations do this via a responsive web design that supports multiple form factors, the idea is to deliver native experiences across a variety of digital touchpoints, not just screen-based web and mobile devices.
The value in allowing a customer to have an integrated experience across mobile and wearables, such as a watch, is not to replicate the entire application experience, but to provide the right application capability on each touchpoint to better engage the customer, or to use capabilities available across devices to complement other digital channels.

This horizontal integration across different devices needs to be supported by employees that interact with customers at each point in the customer journey. Supporting this interaction via automation or digital assistance is referred to as vertical integration. For example, applications that analyze customer behavior and provide guidance to employees can help accelerate the purchase process. Systems that enable excellent customer service can also drive customer satisfaction and repeat purchases. The point is to augment the horizontal, multichannel customer experience with vertically integrated employee experiences that bring everything together.

Digital experiences are a make-or-break factor for any industry right now. By leveraging digital experiences and enhancing current digital strategies, organizations within all industries will not only weather the COVID storm but also emerge stronger and more connected than ever before.