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What Consumers Expect When it Comes to Your Digital Experience (Survey)

Digital experiences make up the entire range of interactions consumers have with businesses across digital channels, devices, and platforms. These experiences don’t just provide a whole new way to consume marketing, content, products, and services—they allow businesses to collect unique consumer data that can help further dial-in each person’s digital experience.

How well companies can use the tools and information at their disposal to deliver these digital experiences is a measure of how successful they’ll be as omnichannel consumption becomes the norm.

To help your business keep up and stay in the know, we asked over 500 U.S. consumers about what they expected from their digital experiences. The essence of what we found was this:

  • Consumers want brands to use personal data
  • Younger consumers are looking for consistent omnichannel experiences, but all consumers expect a consistent digital presence
  • One bad brand experience can ruin your relationship with a consumer

The following is a detailed breakdown of our most important findings, as well as tips on how to use this data to provide digital experiences your consumers crave.

Consumers Want You to Act on Their Behavioral Data

According to our survey, most people — 87.3 percent, do not expect content on a brand’s channels (think website, mobile application, social media, and more) to be personalized to their specific location, device, search history, and so on.

However, 32.3 percent do expect content and products to be personalized based on their past interactions with the business. Similarly, 17.4 percent also expect a company’s marketing materials, such as ads and emails, to be customized to them.

This aligns with our past findings indicating that, generally, consumers are fine sharing personal data with brands—as long as they’re getting customization in return.

What this tells us is that consumers have a decent enough understanding of how personalization works to expect it when it’s reasonable. And, they’re willing to give you the info you need to get started with personalizing their digital experiences — as long as you make it worth their while.

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Newer Generations Expect Consistent Digital Experiences Across Channels

Just over 38 percent (38.2%) of respondents overall said they expect to be able to start a session on one device and finish it on another when using an application. For example, a person expects that when opening up the Spotify app on their laptop, it plays the same song that they were jamming to on their phone during their run.

When broken down by age, over half of the respondents aged 18-34 expect to be able to start something on one device and continue seamlessly on another. However, fewer than 34 percent of people above the age of 35 have the same expectation.

For businesses, this means it’s essential for a business’ app to be able to save a user’s sessions across multiple devices if their ideal audience is Millennials and Gen Zers. As we’ll learn later, it could mean the difference between retaining or losing that user.

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Everyone Expects a Consistent Digital Presence

The majority of content consumers (59.2 percent) expect a company to have consistent information on every channel (website, app, email, etc.). And, about half of respondents expect a company’s mobile app to have the same features as their desktop website.

When product or service content does need to change, 60 percent of respondents said they expected the company’s websites, emails, text messages, and other communications to all reflect these changes on the very same day.

As the majority opinion shows, it isn’t an option to roll out changes to a single channel, product, or piece of content at a time.

If you have more content and more changes than you can keep up with, we recommend upgrading your content management system (CMS) to a headless platform that enables you to create, optimize, distribute, store, and even reuse content across channels easily.

Do you think your company is missing out on valuable opportunities because of an outdated, rigid CMS? Read about the 5 Signs Your CMS is Causing Astronomical Opportunity Cost.

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One Poor Digital Experience May Cut the Relationship Short

Over 60 percent of our survey respondents said they’re “never” or “not likely” to continue shopping with a company after a single poor experience on their website, mobile app, or other platforms.

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Luckily, we’ve already uncovered the essential digital experiences that we know keep consumers coming back for more — using personal data to provide personalized products and messages, implementing seamless sessions across channels, and producing an all-around consistent digital presence.

But, how do you provide all of this without maxing out your technology or staff budget?

How to Give Consumers the Digital Experiences They Expect

To prepare for delivering digital experiences, answer the following questions.

Do you need to gather and act on personalized consumer data?

How are you providing a seamless digital experience and brand presence across channels and sessions?

Does your digital experience strategy take steps to avoid poor digital experiences that can damage your relationships with consumers?

A crucial first step to providing digital experiences is to set up a digital experience platform with a user-friendly headless CMS that includes all the content management and collaboration tools of a traditional CMS but employs a decoupled architecture. A decoupled, headless CMS enables you to take advantage of best-in-class integrations from CRM to AI to personalization engines and more.

Survey Methodology: This survey was conducted through Google Surveys. 501 responses were collected from men and women in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 64. The margin of error is ~4.4 percent.

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In 2020, Change Your Digital Practice—or Die

Over the past two years, a new breed of digital experience technology slowly found its way from the frontend movement in the IT basement to the boardrooms of global enterprises. The driving force for this shift is not just technology itself, but an urgent need for businesses to stay ahead of the curve, and the inevitable path forward that technology forges for these surviving enterprises. And so, 2020 marks the dawn of a new agile and versatile approach to digital experience to enter mainstream practice. 

Experience as Primary Differentiator

A decade ago, customer experience was a lofty concept. As we enter 2020, we have clear evidence that enterprises leading with customer experience can book significantly higher revenue figures than their lagging peers. You only have to compare the stock prices of the businesses with customer experience indexes like the Forrester CXi.

Says Forrester, “there’s a solid economic case for customer experience. The ROI on even small increases in CX Index score continues to be significant. For a big-box retailer, a 1-point improvement can lead to an extra $244 million in incremental revenue, while a decrease in CX Index score can slash revenue and profit just as dramatically.”

But that doesn’t mean we’ve arrived…anywhere. The truth is, the “perfect” digital customer experience is a moving goal post. It always will be. Each industry has its drivers for what an amazing customer experience is. Convenience, enjoyability, quality, likeability—they matter to different degrees and across a diverse network of channels and touchpoints.

Consumer expectations change, and the competition keeps on innovating. If anything, the pace of change will only accelerate in the future.

Mind the Gap: Connected Experiences

One thing remains certain for every business: to stand out, customer touchpoints need to come together into one connected experience, spanning channels and journeys. That sounds obvious, yet it’s the biggest stumbling block preventing innovation and transformation for any company’s digital experience.

Because for decades, we have looked to tools and technology to solve the customer experience riddle. As new channels entered the equation, as customers evolved from mobile devices to a mobile lifestyle, we bought new tools—both business and IT. We set up special teams to master these tools and adapted our processes to cater to the technology that we hoped would solve our problems. The result is a siloed technology base per channel.

So today, many organizations face a reality in which everything is disconnected. The silos we created go deeper than technology integration. Conflicting goals cause divides amongst business teams. Marketing and IT have engaged in a renewed blame game. We’ve done worse than slow down. In many cases, innovation has come to a grinding halt in front of the chasms created by teams and technology.

Shift People and Process to an Outside-In View

Most businesses set up their teams, goals, and underlying processes based on their internal structures. Personas and customer journeys are simply posters on the walls, instead of tools for shaping strategic planning all the way to tactical decision making.

The organizations that adapt and modernize let go of dusty hierarchies. It’s the dawn of “tribes” and “squads”—cross-functional, diverse, and non-hierarchical teams, spurred on by remote working opportunities fueled by digital workplace tooling. Diversity within these groups allows for the experience of the senior members and the fresh ideas of the next generation to blend into a unique perspective. Crucially, these new teams need to be incentivized towards common goals to avoid ongoing conflict at the detriment of the customer experience. Their collective goals must be channel-neutral and customer-focused.

These new work nuclei will strive best paired with modern—dare I say “agile”—methodologies and processes. They work off minimum viable product (MVP) approaches to gain data and insights about assumptions quickly. They continuously test their assumptions to learn fast, fail fast, experiment, and iterate over their latest ideas. These processes are the base for informed decisions on when to pivot and when to persevere. In such an environment, innovation is not a coincidence but a logical consequence.

Embrace a MACH Technology Stack for Digital Dexterity

The innovation potential coming from modern digital teams requires a technology shift to go alongside the business transformation. Stale legacy technology cannot cater to the pace and dexterity modern digital teams demand and expect.

So it is unsurprising that the digital experience technology space is transforming. Much like the unseating of stodgy legacy businesses ushered in by Uber, digital-only banks, and Airbnb, the monolithic leaders of yesteryear have been under serious pressure from new DXP players. There is pressure on the providers of old technology that takes a year or longer to implement, and then a year later, another year to upgrade; that through its interface and lack of integration capabilities locks businesses into “innovating” within the rules of the platform, not within the limits of human creativity.

The pressure is coming from a new breed of players following what has become known as the “MACH” philosophy. MACH stands for Microservices based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless. This—admittedly somewhat technical—concept describes the underlying engine powering technology that is fast to implement, adopt, adapt, and replace. It’s technology that empowers teams to move fast, fail fast, test, learn and improve—and by design works well with others, instead of locking up the talent and time of teams within its own walls.

Fundamentally, MACH technology is what the businesses of the future will be built on because it’s the only kind of technology designed for change.

The Shift is Inevitable. Change Today.

Digital Experiences lead the quest for differentiation in an always-online society. Starting with the rise of smartphones and wearables, the digitalization of the physical world around us is becoming a reality. Sentient spaces, voice assistants in our homes, smart homes, and connected products are part of the new digital marketing mix.

The constantly rising bar of customer expectations means that continuous innovation is not a nice-to-have. It is crucial for business survival. Organizations need to change people, processes, and technology to avoid falling behind the digital experience race.

The immediate victim of digital dysfunction is the end customer. The ultimate victim is your business. CEOs must take charge and direct the wind of change into every corner of the organization.

Maintaining the status quo is the riskiest choice you can make for 2020.

Read more about the architecture and benefits of headless digital experience technology in this new whitepaper: The Ultimate Guide to CMS.

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4 Ways to Keep Gamers Engaged in Today’s Competitive Market

If you’re involved in the gaming industry, chances are you’ve felt the pressure of what seems like nearly constant releases competing for players’ time, attention, and money. Considering there are over 900,000 mobile games on the market right now, you’d be right to feel that way. If you’re struggling to build a loyal and engaged audience, keep reading to learn four powerful tactics for winning over players’ eyes, hearts, and wallets.

The Rise of the Hyper-Competitive Gaming Age

Between 2018 and 2019, the average time spent playing video games grew by over 19%. In 2019, the average gamer spent about 7 hours of gaming each week, 34% of gamers played for more than 7 hours, and almost 20% played for more than 12 hours per week.

The game research organization Newzoo predicts that games will account for 72% of all app revenues in 2020. Broadcast eSports—the name given to competitive gaming—are expected to reach 300 million viewers (rivaling the NFL) by 2022 and may even be included in the 2024 Summer Olympics!

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As gaming popularity proliferates, it’s no longer going to be enough to make great games. Companies are also going to have to find ways to keep players engaged continuously. Because the longer players stay engaged, the more opportunities you’ll have to generate income (After all, of the $2.4 billion Fortnite grossed in 2018, a billion was generated from in-game sales!).

Tactics to Keep Gamers Engaged in Your Video Games

From adopting the right content management system to engaging in online communities to revamping your in-game advertising—these four tactics will keep gamers engaged.

Understand and Tailor Your Messaging to Your Core Audience

Doing the work to find, define, and understand your core audience—then tailoring your messaging to reach them—can fall by the wayside when you’re already doing everything you can to keep up with a rapidly-growing market.

However, it’s essential to stand by this Marketing 101 trick, no matter how popular you think your game can be: You need to understand and tailor your messaging to your core audience. Doing so is crucial because it enables you to predict what kind of games and content they expect from you in the future, so that you always hit the mark. Remember, once you gain traction with a dedicated fanbase, you can always expand to new audiences.

Keep Content Fresh and Relevant with The Right Content Management System

Once you’ve identified and connected with a few key audiences, you have to find a way to keep them engaged with relevant, regular content through every exciting new development and release.

The typical system is to spin up a small new website, commonly referred to as a microsite, for each new game. Any time you want to highlight a new feature, switch out some screenshots, add a new video of gameplay, or change out some marketing copy, a developer has to get involved writing, testing, and launching the updated code. As the games and the audiences add up (good for your bottom line!), so do the menial, manual development tasks (bad for your development team!). This traditional way of doing things can’t scale at the same rate at which you need to grow.

Enter headless content management.

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A headless content management system (CMS) separates the content layer from its presentation layer. This separation allows content managers to create, publish, and make content changes at any time. Simultaneously, designers and developers can be working on the frontend to ensure flawless delivery no matter the platform or device. All are empowered to do their jobs the way they want when they need to do them.

The modular, API-driven structure of a headless CMS also means content can connect through various integrations that help personalize it, optimize it for different audiences, and even localize it so that it feels customized for every market.

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To learn more about how headless CMS empowers the marketing and engineering teams at Telltale Games, the producers of Minecraft: Story Mode and The Walking Dead Series, read Headless CMS Simplifies Marketing for Gaming Company.

Participate In or Build Your Own Gaming Communities

The stereotype of the lonely, basement-bound gamer is about as outdated as the landline telephone—especially since the development of technology that allows people to connect for gaming no matter where they are in the world. Today, more than 60% of gamers play with others, both in-person and online. Of the 23 most-followed YouTube channels, about 40% are gaming-focused.

Becoming active in or even creating your own community where gamers can come together to discuss your product and others they love is a great way to reach a broad and diverse audience. Communities keep them engaged with your brand, and pique their interest the next time you release a new game.

YouTube, Twitch, Mixer, Facebook Gaming, HitBox, Beam, Bigo Live, and Caffeine.tv are all great places to interact with audiences who love to watch video games live. And of course, you can also join or create your own Facebook group or other digital forums to get the conversation started. With an established community at your fingertips, marketing and driving engagement in your current and future products is a whole lot easier.

Keep Ads Non-Intrusive

Researchers at the global business analysis firm IHS Technology found that over 63% of mobile display ads will be native by the end of 2020. We can see why, considering that consumers engage with native ads up to 60% more often than with static ads. And surprisingly, intrusive ads have been found to trigger the brain’s “fight or flight” response!

To advertise in a way that engages gamers while gaming, the rule is mercifully simple: If you’re going to show ads, make sure they feel native. Take, for example, the advertisements in FIFA’s video game on the right, below. They make perfect sense in the modern arena setting. The Mountain Dew shirt in the left image, however, seems jarring in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker—a game set in the jungles of Costa Rica in 1974.

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How Will You Keep Gamers Engaged in the Competitive Gaming Age?

Believe it or not, gamers want to stay engaged in your games—it’s just that there are so many good options on the market vying for their attention that it’s hard to stay immersed in any one thing for too long! If you understand and speak directly to your ideal audience, keep content fresh across various channels and platforms, participate in gaming communities, and don’t alienate players with alarming ads—you’ll be able to keep gamers engaged.

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Contentstack and commercetools Host Retail Industry MACH-tail Reception

Contentstack executives had a wonderful time sharing an evening with our commercetools partner, catching up with friends in the retail industry and making new ones. The event, Headless Over Hell’s Kitchen, featured MACH-tails and a wine tasting assembled by Contentstack’s own COO, and certified sommelier, Matthew Baier.

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MACH – Microservices, APIs, Cloud, and Headless – turned out to be a popular topic, and the penthouse suite overlooking New York City, was packed with industry experts, vendors, and brands considering or already embracing the new architecture, in this case for the retail industry. While the acronym, MACH, was new to some, the individual components – Microservices, APIs, Cloud, and Headless – were familiar terms and almost every visitor to the suite came with a point of view and some experience with the concepts.

Many conversations quickly turned into a discussion on how to implement MACH successfully: what use cases are good candidates, what are the best practices, what are some industry examples and comparisons, what is the vendor and partner landscape like, what skill set is needed to embrace MACH, and so on. Since the event was co-sponsored and attended by multiple vendors there was a refreshing mix of expert opinions representing multiple industries and market segments, which created active debates between retail brands and their agencies, technology vendors, and implementation partners.

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All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, and a VIP alternative to other retail industry events happening in parallel, so thank you to everyone who joined us. And many thanks to our friends at commercetools for organizing the event and partnering with us to co-sponsor a wonderful and enlightening evening dedicated to the future of customer experience technology, MACH – Microservices, APIs, Cloud, and Headless.

Here is some recommended reading, if you’re interested in learning more about the impact MACH can have on the retail industry.

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5 Must-Know Digital Commerce Trends for 2020 and Beyond

People are talking to personal shopping robots, storefronts are morphing to mirror passers-by, and consumers are using hand-held computers to digitally try on clothes from the comfort of their own homes. It’s not science fiction—it’s a reality in the year 2020.

In this piece, we’ll explore the futuristic-sounding technology described above, evolutions in traditional operational models, and other digital commerce trends that will present significant opportunities for the digital retailers that take advantage of them in 2020 and beyond.

5 Must-Know Digital Commerce Trends for 2020 and Beyond

With some trends you know, such as omnichannel shopping, and some that may surprise you, for example, advertising is going to change—here are five digital commerce trends you absolutely must prepare for to survive and thrive in 2020 and beyond.

Options for Shopping Channels and Devices Will Continue to Grow

Omnichannel retailers use technology to tie together shopping channels to “…create a unified shopping experience across every single device and channel that a consumer uses to interact with their business.”

This approach to retail provides consumers with a seamless and continuous flow at every touchpoint (from social ads to mobile ecommerce sites to in-store kiosks) with which they interact when they’re researching or making a purchase from a business. And, omnichannel retail product and content delivery is practically a requirement for brands that want to remain modern and competitive.

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The average digital consumer has five profiles across various online channels. And the majority of them expect consistent interactions across every profile they use to shop and interact with retailers.

What’s more, omnichannel shoppers spend an average of 4% more on every in-store shopping trip and 10% more online! Compared to single-channel shoppers, omnichannel shoppers visit their favorite retailers’ 23% more often and have a 30% higher lifetime value. Yet, 55% of shoppers still say their retail experience is “disjointed” when switching between channels, and only 22% of North American retailers consider omnichannel retail a priority.

There is a significant disconnect between today’s shoppers and retailers—which presents a critical opportunity for ecommerce businesses that can provide seamless products, content, and experiences across channels.

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A headless content management system (CMS) like Contentstack is the answer to making omnichannel ecommerce possible by empowering retailers to create content just once and publish it everywhere.

Because a headless CMS has no built-in front-end system that determines how or where content will be displayed, content managers can serve consistent content experiences across websites, apps, chatbots, connected home devices, voice assistants, and more.

And thanks to an API-first architecture, Contentstack and other modern headless systems can easily integrate with API-powered ecommerce platforms, such as commercetools, to create robust, scalable ecommerce sites that are always up-to-date and ready for whatever the future of digital commerce holds.

Shoppers Will Use Augmented Reality to “Interact” With Digital Products

Augmented reality (AR) technology enables shoppers to use cameras on their smart devices to display digital elements in the physical world. And digital commerce brands like IKEA and Converse are setting the standard for how brands can take advantage of AR to enable their shoppers to get a “feel” for products before purchasing them online—saving everyone a lot of time, money, and headache.

IKEA enables shoppers to use their smartphones to virtually “place” furniture in their homes so they can visualize how certain products will fit into their space before making an expensive commitment. Converse’s smartphone app helps shoppers virtually try on shoes and share their cool, AR-enhanced kick pics on social media! AR is big business in the retail space—and there are numerous tools on the market (IKEA uses ARKit, for example) for digital commerce brands that are ready to get in on the new revenue stream.

Facial Recognition and Device Tracking Will Become The Norm

In 2020, retail businesses will hone in on omnichannel marketing and sales by integrating data gathered in-person with online customer profiles. This type of tracking is possible using radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled beacons and WiFi to track devices, sensors to monitor movement, and cameras and facial recognition software to identify specific consumers. Retailers will finally be able to understand how shoppers interact with their physical stores the same way they use analytics tools to tell what’s happening in their digital ones!

Bringing together web, mobile, social, and now in-person data will put retailers in a position to provide 360-degree customer experiences in 2020. Take the eyewear retailer BonLook, for example. Thanks to smart cameras and sensors, they can tell you how many glasses-wearing women in their target age range walked by any one of their shops, at any given time, on any given day. Furthermore, they can break down how many of those people came into the store and how many completed a transaction. Using this information, BonLook was able to grow their conversions overnight just by updating their storefront advertising to better appeal to the group of passers-by whom they wanted to convert. With results like that, what retailer with brick-and-mortar stores wouldn’t want to try out fascinating new tracking technology?!

The Advertising Model Will Morph Into Something New

When you think of digital commerce advertising, chances are you think of Google, Amazon, and the big social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and so on. And you’d be right, considering that Google and Facebook combined take in 61% of all digital advertising spend in the U.S., on average.

Over $270 billion was spent globally on digital ads in 2018 alone. Americans are exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements every single day—and at least 75% of them engage in at least one form of ad-blocking. Consumers are (understandably) overwhelmed, jaded, and less and less likely than ever to click on traditional, “interruption-based” ads.

That’s why, in 2020 and beyond, we’ll see advertising become more non-traditional, experiential, and naturally embedded in everyday experiences. Just look at Procter & Gamble’s Bare Skin Chat YouTube series, which features relevant celebrities in entertaining videos that are both engaging and informational—and has millions of views. In 2020, it’s time to create digital commerce advertising experiences that consumers want!

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Voice-Based Digital Commerce Will Generate Billions

If you weren’t sure whether or not smart speakers were a passing trend, look at the most prominent players in the market—Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant. If the tech giants are investing, you know it’s time you should too.

In 2018, there were 2.5 billion voice-enabled devices. Predictions are that by 2023 there will be 8 billion of them. By some estimates, as many as half of all searches may be done by voice in 2020. And how about the voice-powered shopping market, specifically? Estimates are that the market is going to exceed $40 billion by 2022. If you are not optimizing the products and content on your website or app for voice search, make 2020 your year to upgrade.

Will You Invest in These Digital Commerce Trends for 2020?

Your level of investment in the trends we discussed today will help determine if your digital commerce business can succeed as the new decade breeds increasingly-capable technology and increasingly-savvy consumers.

A flexible and scalable CMS in place empowers you to keep up with growing shopping channels and devices. For example, AR app integration that allows shoppers to interact with your digital products, facial recognition and smart software gathering in-person data, a new and more natural advertising strategy, and optimizing content and products for the billion-dollar voice-shopping industry. By investing in these digital commerce trends, you won’t just be ready to survive in 2020—you’ll be prepared to thrive.

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