Today’s digital landscape is complex. As companies use digital interfaces to engage with customers and foster long-term relationships, customer interactions are spanning an increasing array of touchpoints, with customers often crossing multiple channels in the pursuit of a single goal. While this new reality is riddled with challenges, it’s also ripe with opportunities for companies that have a strategic plan for digital customer experience.  

In a recent report, and subsequent Mashable article, I made the case that companies need to develop and execute digital customer experience strategies. As opposed to digital marketing strategies that focus mostly on what a company will provide and where, a digital customer experience strategy determines the “what” and the “where” based on the “who” and the “how.” That is, a digital customer experience strategy balances company goals and strategy with user expectations (the “who”) and describes the intended experience (the “how”). This, in turn, guides specific investments based on what customers need and a well-thought-out way of delivering on those needs that leaves a lasting positive impression.  

That’s all well and good. But how do you get started? That’s the topic of my latest report, “How To Develop Your Digital Customer Experience Strategy.” In the report I outline the steps companies need to take to get a clear understanding of the business and brand objectives — and how they relate to the realities that stakeholders face each day. Once that’s done, firms need to develop a shared understanding of users based on exploratory research and captured with tools like personas and journey maps for easy reference. Then, it’s a matter of assessing the relative importance of each journey and each channel that supports the most important customer journeys to determine where to put the most investment and effort. Then, and only then, can firms execute on their strategy (which is the topic of my upcoming report tentatively titled, “How To Execute Your Digital Customer Experience Strategy.”)

Why is this so important now? Because interaction points are proliferating and firms are struggling to build cohesive, seamless experiences across digital channels. But also, the 2012 budget cycle is fast approaching, if it hasn’t already arrived for some firms. If customer experience professionals want to obtain funding for their most important projects, they need a way to prioritize them. But you can’t execute on a strategy if you haven’t developed it yet.