Every day our clients flood us with inquiries on what to do about mobile and social software and smartphone and tablet adoption—not just as it pertains to their customers but to their employees too. Many firms seem to be scrambling to develop their mobile application strategy, spinning up new teams or working with outside agencies in a rush to introduce their own “killer app” or deploy some mobile capability on their CRM platforms. Smartphones and tablets are just the beginning of an explosion of digital touchpoints we will use to engage with each other, commercial enterprises, and public sector institutions. Gaming platforms, smart TVs, goggles, “magical mirrors”—there’s no end in sight.

While each digital touchpoint represents a new and distinct way to engage with customers, the discipline of customer experience tells us that we cannot treat each as an island. As analysts Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine have written in Forrester’s upcoming book Outside In, customers expect a consistent experience across touchpoints and channels when they engage with your firm. We’ve learned, through our research with firms that are leaders in customer experience and digital experience delivery, that succeeding with digital experience delivery questions a decade of IT decisions focused on consolidation, outsourcing, and centralization. Following are a few key points (identified in John Rymer and Stephen Power's most recent research) leaders of CRM, web, mobile, and digital experience delivery initiatives must keep in mind to deliver unified digital experiences:
1. Set a unified digital experience. Often, in the rush to get onboard with the next big thing, firms invest in technology, skills, and organizational structures that create silos. Firms with solid digital experience delivery success note that they’re constantly reinforcing the unified digital experience vision to coach their executives and internal staff through decisions and avoid creating additional silos. Their efforts also help secure investments in established touchpoints; per our most recent survey of U.S. consumers, among all digital touchpoints, the PC/browser combination still shows the most promise for commerce, preferred five to one over mobile applications.
2. Shift from personalization to contextualization. New digital touchpoints provide more information about your customers than your CRM systems know what to do with. While personalization, to date, has largely focused on delivering the right information to the right person at the right time, contextualization allows you to take advantage of location and motion, social behavior, even sentiment to engage in more relevant manners.
3. Define new engagement architectures and skills. Back-office architectures built on systems of record just won’t cut it in a digital world requiring engagement. Engagement requires more focus on design—including software design—to help deliver consistency across touchpoints and channels. Engagement also requires development skills to develop analytics (using predictive analytics) into delivery tiers, integrate across channels and with back-end systems, and take advantage of context provided natively in devices.
4. Revisit teams. Our research also shows that successful firms question historical, functionally aligned organizational models and increasingly staff separate “digital experience delivery” teams consisting of solution architects, developers, business analysts, designers, project managers, and business leaders. These teams work on one outcome, improving the customer experience, while focused on that unified digital experience vision.
Our fall Forum events for CIOs, enterprise architects, and application development and delivery leaders will explore these keys, and many others, more closely.