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.