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Understanding DXM: The A.E.I.O.U.s of Digital Experience

Exceptional digital experiences do not happen by accident. They are built through strategy, and they require a quality toolset. Many organizations are unaware of the facets that make a good digital experience (and digital experience platform) great. We recently found that 69% of surveyed business decision-makers still struggle to address rising digital experience expectations and deliver engaging, seamless experiences. Digital experiences that influence and engage customers can be boiled down to the “A.E.I.O.U.’s”: agility, efficiency, integration, omnichannel, and user interface.

This article will break these components down and discuss:

1) how to ensure your digital experience captures all of the AEIOUs, and

2) why it’s essential to reach and influence customers and employees digitally right now.

Professionals Struggle to Deliver Digital Experience

Recently, we conducted a survey and found that 69% of surveyed business decision-makers still struggle to address rising digital experience expectations and deliver engaging, seamless experiences. This was a group of 551 senior decision makers from around the world, each involved in the planning, selection, and implementation of digital customer experience technologies. These were not disinterested parties, but the very people tasked with accomplishing this mission for their customers and organizations.

Even with a mandate and a real desire to serve the highest quality digital experience to their customers and employees, these professionals fall short. Exceptional digital experiences do not happen by accident.

Success requires planning and execution. Digital experiences that influence and engage users consistently include thoughtful attention to five elements: agility, efficiency, integration, omnichannel presentation, and an intuitive user interface. To make these easier to remember, we’ll present them in this article as the A.E.I.O.U.’s of digital experience.

What Are the A.E.I.O.U.’S of Digital Experience

More important than the particular order of these principles is a recognition that is any successful implementation contains all five elements. Let’s begin.

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A is for “Agility”

Agility has formal and general connotations in this discussion. The methodology is helpful, but the concept is essential.

In the early 2000s the Agile programming methodology began to be employed by development teams worldwide and has continued ever since. At a high level, the methodology is designed to break large software development projects into smaller chunks called sprints. Rather than a long, linear product lifecycle, the sprints are an iterative process of planning, designing, building, testing, reviewing, and launching. The product of each sprint is some actual working code, a segment of the larger project in progress. The proposition being that only after we have begun building will we learn if the plan and design were sound. Getting that real work started sooner allows us to adjust the plan and design before too much time and effort has been wasted.

In recent years the same concept has been applied to various other processes where teams need to work cooperatively – with some very interesting applications. For business processes, such as in marketing campaigns and team management, the objectives have been applied effectively especially for projects that benefit from interdepartmental cooperation.

Of course, agility also has the practical meaning as well – that being to move, think, react, reposition and adjust to changing events and environments. That flexibility is at the heart of Agile methodology, but also the most essential element of the A.E.I.O.U.’s. The point is to put processes into place to discover problems early and to have the courage to adjust your plans when the evidence indicates that is necessary.

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“E” is for Efficiency in Digital Experience Management

Item #10 of the twelve principles in that Manifesto for Agile Software Development describes “simplicity” as the “Art of maximizing the amount of work not done.” Simplicity is the key to increasing efficiency.

I like this principle because it’s so relatable and clear. Examine any unproductive, inefficient process and you will likely identify (after the fact and too late) much of the lost productivity occurred because dedicated people were working diligently on the wrong problems.

In the digital realm inefficiency degrades our ability to publish the right content at the right time. Time spent creating more content could be better used focusing on messaging. Thanks to cheap data storage, content can hang around forever, but the relevancy of content is more fleeting than late-season cherry blossoms in a hurricane. As a result, too much irrelevant content is presented, muddling your message and wearying your prospects.

Sometimes old content remains active too long due to the inflexibility of a DXP or CMS system that forces over-reliance on an IT staff to make content changes. If the content creators don’t have the tools to create and curate content themselves, the message ages past its prime. The necessity of maintaining multiple channels exacerbates this issue.

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Wise content providers will periodically audit content and rid themselves of all that is no longer relevant. Although sometimes painful, this process pays dividends. A good time to do this is when you are upgrading or replacing your CMS. In addition to reducing the possibility of outdated or irrelevant content finding its way your customer, you’ll likely improve your SEO scores and save on storage. 

Modern content management for digital experience requires tools for business users and marketers to create and curate content autonomously. Intuitive options like drag-and-drop capabilities for page creation, intuitive text editing, built-in responsive layouts, and preview for mobile devices should be table stakes.

“I” is for Integration

As stated previously, any worthy content management platform provides tools for business users, but modern content management for the delivery of digital experience requires a second layer of flexibility – tools for developers to extend, integrate, and connect.

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Headless capability is a necessity for any content system designed to provide digital experience in a digitally connected world, but sometimes the greatest challenge is connecting to your own legacy systems. Any solution you consider should be built with integration in mind, providing APIs to connect to 3rd party data sources and facilitating access to frontend and backend operations.

Ease of Use Is Important

When discussing tools for technical users, it is common to forget that ease of use is still an important consideration. Low-code options are increasingly available with modern platforms, simplifying administrative and testing tasks that previously required advanced programming skills. With them, productive time can be channeled into more challenging and interesting tasks, empowering even experienced developers to build faster, innovate more, and create freely.

“O” is for Omnichannel

Online or offline, mobile or desktop, home or office, the customer journey requires the availability of your brand everywhere your customer may be, delivered through any device they may be using. 

Write once, publish everywhere has become a mantra. Any modern platform must provide the ability to separate content from presentation, allowing flexibility to present your message through an ever-expanding array of devices. Here, the extensibility of the system is particularly important because you cannot predict what the next channel will require.

The application of structured content is also key to a successful omnichannel strategy. The ability to reuse content allows for a single source of truth, reducing opportunities for human error, limiting editing chores, and over all presenting a concise message across all channels and devices. Consistency is key in your omnichannel presentation. If your content is outdated or inaccurate in one of your supported channels, it degrades your message in all of them.

“U” Is for User Interface

Often overlooked is the notion that a product should be easy, even pleasant, to use.

Years ago, I read a book by Alan Cooper, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. It was, and is, an intriguing book describing some of the ways technology products have become frustratingly complicated merely because the creators of the technology are thinking from the coder’s point of view and not that of the end user.

It’s an old book now; written in 2004. Cooper’s examples are fascinating and often funny as he explains why so much of the technology of the last century was difficult to use. Sometime the results were not just frustrating, but also dangerous to the user. He repeatedly enforces the notion that computers should be able to function without “making people feel stupid.” The design of the user interface should be the first thought, never an afterthought.

Digital marketers of today should know better, but many don’t. Many websites are designed more for search algorithms than for people. Chatbots, when well-designed, are helpful and efficient, but they can be aggravating if the logic doesn’t quickly drill down to the solution or misdiagnoses the problem.

To be effective, your digital experience platform must adapt to the person and the device the person is using. There is little excuse for anyone presenting a static experience. Personalization is an expectation and machine learning insights are more actionable every day.

Compliance with ADA, WCAG, Section 508, and all other accessibility regulations are legal standards for many but have an added benefit of creating a user experience that intuitive and frictionless for everyone. Your digital experience platform should allow you to create a seamless experience that can accommodate any customer journey. Make it part of your strategy from the very beginning.

These Principles Go Hand in Hand

All these principles go together and are somewhat interdependent.

For instance, it isn’t easy to be agile without efficiency, and omnichannel experiences require some level of integration. Perhaps none of these matters if the user interface is not intuitive and helpful to your audience. Overall, exceptional digital experiences do not happen by accident. They are built through strategy, and they require a quality toolset. These A.E.I.O.U’s provide a framework for a plan that hopefully also provides  guidance towards the requirements of a digital experience platform to execute that successful digital experience for your customers and employees. 

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