The process of pulling together a Digital Experience strategy for a brand is arguably unique, because each client is different. However, there are identifiable DX phases that govern a full lifecycle process, which can create a sense of regularity and structure in the thinking behind creating a strategy.
To produce an effective Digital Experience strategy for a client, it is important to consider the Digital Maturity of the client. This is achieved by gaining a comprehensive understanding of the client’s brand and solutions. In trying to understand who the brand is, it is then possible to filter all subsequent information in a way that relates to the company and aids the ‘definition’ process. This stage can involve: conducting research, meeting stakeholders, reading brand and style guidelines, learning about the products and business values. Workshops and performance audits are also needed. Following on from the latter, it is then possible to use these learnings as a lens through which project objectives, the user and the user needs are defined.
Defining project objectives involves reviewing the objectives of the business, the business’ requirements and KPIs, and the customer objectives. In addition, the Success Criteria for the brand should also be considered. In trying to define project objectives, conducting Competitor Analysis is typically very beneficial, as this enables the client to: get a view of other measured approaches for delivering digital experiences, scrutinise the strengths and weaknesses observed, and apply these findings to their own objectives for the project going forward. A review of the client’s existing technology stack, and an assessment of their data landscape feed into this aspect. ‘The data landscape refers to an organisation’s overall data storage options, processing capabilities, analytics, and applications present in its data environment.’ (Lewis 2018). Conducting a Performance Analysis by carrying out an Analytics Audit is instrumental in accounting for the quantitative results the digital platform is currently generating. Finally, decisively outlining Customer Experience metrics also feeds into defining the overall project objectives.
A central attribute of interpreting the user involves moulding the profiles of personas. Reviewing data about the users through digital analytics and gaining insights from the data really helps in this process. An audit of the external audience and user reach feeds into the overall picture of the audience scope. Audience strategy is plannable once the identity of audience is established. From the standpoint of confirmed identity, it is logical to next explore the likes, activities and preferences of the user, to further decode who they are. The greater understanding had of the user, the better position one is in to identify their needs, and record these for further application to the audience strategy. The client’s user needs can be drawn out through Customer research and validation. The engagement values can then be organised in order and prioritised to identify the top user needs for immediate consideration. UX Labs are also effective in piecing together qualitative insights, as activities such as user testing and real audience data-capture adds the critical element of authenticity, as this type of information is personal. These insights will then define user needs, to translate these into user goals, journeys & stories.
Following on from the above, the user experience is a compilation of experience strategy, defining sitemaps, looking at information architecture, developing content strategy and piecing together channel and device strategy. In addition, GDPR privacy assessments are essential to be conducted in relation to the client’s digital platform, as this would directly affect the user experience with consideration of how their data is used and stored.
The three initial tenets of defining: the project objectives, the user and the user needs, are central to compiling the overall user experience and once these aspects are concluded, the Digital Experience Strategy is defined.
The next 3 stages follow on from the previous ‘Define’ stage
The Design stage includes a few aspects that are drawn out of the prior ‘define’ stage. The first step in evolving an experience from 'define’ to ‘design’ is formulating insights into very basic prototypes of the digital experience. These prototypes are malleable for optimisation and testing. New data should be continuously applied within the design stage, and updated in real time.
Experience Platforms are tech tools that connect a client’s digital presence with customers, such as a Content Management System (CMS). CMSs are more broadly known as the platforms that enable websites or app experiences. Experience platforms can also include platforms such as Digital Asset Management systems, to help administer assets.
In designing the digital experience, reflection of the Digital Brand Guidelines is also integral. These guidelines are a type of Style Guide that compile the digital design standards for the client’s brand identifiers; brand identifiers include styles and colours that can be visibly attributed to the client’s brand. The purpose of the Digital Brand Guidelines is to have a ubiquitous style of design for the client’s brand, that guarantees uniformity across all mediums and channels. This Style Guide is a living document that should be updated as necessary.
The main customer experience journeys and overall journey maps are confirmed within the design stage. The purpose of journey mapping is to plan the desired user experience, bringing the DX Strategy to life. User journey mapping enables the identification of consumer, business and data opportunities, and affords the chance to identify and quantify the work required to activate this experience, with particular consideration of the functionality.
The Development stage involves bringing the design iterations to life, with prioritisation and implementation at the epicentre of the activity. Working closely with Developers and Quality Assurance (QA) teams, the design is translated and brought to life. Conventionally, the Agile development methodology is applied, but methodologies for development can vary across projects and accounts. The Agile methodology advances features of the digital experience to deployment rapidly, with a focus on releasing valuable bundles of development work in each deployment. Every deployment should have a clear goal e.g. to release a new platform functionality. Additionally, this way of working assists in making sure there is alignment between the business needs and the development priorities that are set.
As previously touched on, the Experience Platforms utilised for the client can span an assortment of qualities and functions to support the digital experience. To that point, the experience platforms that are employed should bolster the components, features and integrations being developed. Additionally, the team working on delivering these implementations should expectedly be multi-disciplinary, containing the necessary expertise to work across multiple technologies, e.g., authoring within a CMS. In the same thread, Backlog prioritisation work is instrumental for ensuring that the development is delivered in an ordered manner that is not only logical, but matches with business priorities.
The Disrupt stage involves optimising the digital experience via a ‘Test and Learn’ approach. At this phase, the CRO team are typically involved to facilitate testing. Continuous monitoring of the digital experience is paramount, in order to gather data-led insights that feed into further adjustments and enhancements, supporting on-going optimisation. The crux of this stage is to consistently improve the new digital experience to make it as optimised as possible, and ensure its position as a disruptive presence in the client’s competitive space.
The agreed strategy for optimising a digital experience will not always include all 4 DX phases, as the budget, project timeframe and other factors will affect what is plausible to implement. Nevertheless, it is useful to be aware of the full lifecycle process, to enable big-picture thinking when tailoring recommendations for the DX Strategy.
Lewis, B. (2018) Building The Big Data Warehouse, Part 5: The Overall Data Landscape. Available from: https://www.digitalistmag.com/cio-knowledge/2018/04/03/building-big-data-warehouse-part-5-overall-data-landscape-06039910/ [Accessed 3 March 2021].