Customers and employees today increasingly prefer to engage with organizations through their digital channels, making Digital XM an essential part of any Experience Management (XM) effort. Through our work helping dozens of organizations to design and implement their Digital XM programs, we’ve identified five core Digital XM application areas that organizations should focus on to design and improve – not just their digital interactions – but the overall experience they deliver to customers and employees:

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1) User Experience (UX) Improvement

Even if people are ultimately able to accomplish their goals through the digital channel, if the interaction is difficult or unpleasant, people are not going to have a positive perception of the experience. Digital XM programs therefore need to be capable of providing an intuitive, enjoyable digital interface that is easy to navigate, fast, and responsive.

Here are three ways you can begin improving this digital application area: 

  • Deploy always-on listening to uncover UX issues. Because always-on listening is a feedback channel that is present on every page, it provides visitors with a consistent option for proactively sharing their experiences… usually after something has gone wrong. Its persistent presence makes always-on listening a great mechanism for uncovering specific pain points and bugs and then directing visitors to the appropriate support channels.
  • Administer an active, product-specific pulse. To understand how easy visitors find your digital products to use and how these products compare to other solutions in the market, create an active, product experience-specific pulse. This pulse should ask about the usability of specific features and provide a quick snapshot of how the product compares to other industry solutions. This feedback should route to product development teams so they can quickly take action based on the insights. 
  • Use personas to tailor UX design to appeal to target users. Not every visitor to your site or app is equally as important to your business, and different people will have different ideas of what constitutes an “intuitive” or “enjoyable” digital experience. So rather than trying to create a user experience that appeals to everyone, use personas to help you design and improve the experiences of people specifically within your target audience segments.

Company example: Recognizing their UX must be top-notch to compete in the marketplace, a Japanese gaming company deployed an overall app experience touchpoint that asked a subset of its most loyal users what they thought about the app. It quickly became clear that while the authentication process technically worked, the layout and design made it unnecessarily cumbersome to go through. This feedback was automatically routed through Slack to a dedicated team who is responsible for closing the loop with customers and sharing their feedback out to key developers and the internal stakeholders who can act on the information. Based on the feedback from its most loyal users, the gaming company made a number of UX improvements to the app, leading to a more streamlined interface that new users found more welcoming and intuitive and which ultimately resulted in a significant uptick in its new user base.


2) Journey Optimization

People don’t just engage with organizations purely for the sake of interacting with them; they are inevitably trying to accomplish some higher-level goal. For digital experiences, these goals often include learning more about a particular topic or product, purchasing an item or service, getting support or help with an issue, or connecting with co-workers or a broader community. So rather than focusing design and improvement efforts on isolated interactions, Digital XM programs should instead take a more holistic view of people’s experiences and create digital experiences that help visitors achieve their goals as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Here are three ways you can begin improving this digital application area: 

  • Use site analytics and survey questions to uncover common paths. To help you prioritize which digital journeys to focus on, identify which paths are most common for your visitors. You can do this by using site analytics – like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics – as well as by including questions on your surveys that specifically ask users about their “visitor intent” or “primary purpose” on the site.
  • Look at X- and O-data to identify key moments of truth. If you treat every interaction in a journey as equally important, you will end up underinvesting in critical moments and overinvesting in irrelevant ones. Use experience data (X-Data), like visitor feedback, and operational data (O-Data), like cart or site abandonment rates, to identify which touchpoints are most broken and which moments have the most significant potential outcomes for the business, such as increasing online sales or reducing employees’ likelihood to leave. 
  • Conduct an experience review. To help you diagnose and eliminate issues along a given digital journey, conduct a SLICE-B experience review. In this type of review, you adopt the perspective of a target visitor and then walk through a particular journey – like purchasing a specific product or finding an answer to a certain question – to uncover flaws and opportunities for improvement.

Company example: To make the increasingly omnichannel journey of shopping for groceries as seamless as possible, one large US grocer started out by analyzing its digital journey episodes (login, browse, checkout, schedule delivery) through the lens of its key customer segments (convenience shoppers, high spend, mobile only). When it walked through this journey in the shoes of its key customers, it realized that the way it currently handled out-of-stock items seriously disrupted the customers’ shopping journey, often leading to cart abandonment from two of the key segments (high spend and mobile only). In response, it reconfigured the notification process to let the shopper know immediately when something was out of stock and proactively offer a suggested replacement or alternative. This change not only led to a drop in cart abandonment rates, but because the grocer routed feedback about out-of-stock items back to the supply team so they could quickly identify and replace them, it ended up improving the overall shopping experience for all customers.


3) Content Effectiveness

By their very nature, digital channels are an excellent medium for sharing information in a low-cost, scalable way. However, to enjoy these benefits, people need to be able to find this information on digital channels when they need it, where they need it, and how they need it. And just being available isn’t enough. The information needs to be communicated in a way that is on-brand for the organization and emotionally engaging for visitors. Digital XM programs, therefore, need to be capable of uncovering how effective existing digital content – such as support, marketing, or product information – is and continuously identifying ways to improve this content to boost brand perception, deflect support calls, and drive conversation.

Here are three ways you can begin improving this digital application area:

  • Add embedded feedback into pieces of content. Embedded feedback incorporates a feedback request directly within a content page, which allows visitors to easily answer questions about its effectiveness without deviating from their given path. Integrating this collection mechanism into content pages allows you to surface page-level trends and create prescriptive insights into the type of content driving brand consideration and usefulness.
  • Route insights from digital listening posts back to content owners. Most content owners use rudimentary metrics (e.g. traffic, search rank, time on page) to guess at their contents’ effectiveness. Digital XM teams can help these owners – including marketing, support, or UX design teams – better understand how well their content is resonating with their intended audience by generating and sharing out insights from embedded feedback, active or always-on listening, and contextual and embedded data.
  • Use contextual and embedded data to personalize content. By their very nature, digital channels generate a great deal of contextual and embedded data, such as page views, search terms, demographic information, and purchase history. Use this data to create a personalized digital experience for each individual by adjusting the content different visitors see. This may entail showing them products, offers, or messages relevant to their browsing history or location, sending them alerts that are relevant to their employee organization, or even changing images to show visitors people who are similar to them.

Company example: When one high-tech B2B company launched an essential new software solution, it wanted to make sure it was delivering the best possible experience to customers during the three stages of their buying journey: Awareness, Conversion, and Purchase. Because this was a new solution, it was critical that the content the company published about it on the site resonated with prospective customers, spoke to their particular needs, and preemptively answered their questions as they explored various subscription options. To determine whether the content it provided was informative and driving purchase decisions, the B2B company added embedded listening onto each of its core pages for the solution. This gave potential buyers a simple, yet effective way to engage and offer in-context feedback about the product selection, its description, the visuals, and so on, helping the company communicate content in a more efficient and meaningful way. As a result of this effort, the company saw increased awareness of the new software solution at the front-end of the buyers’ journey, which ultimately led to more purchases at the back-end of the funnel.  


4) Omnichannel Feedback

Increasingly, digital is the primary door through which customers and employees engage with an organization. Since digital channels offer a smoother, less disruptive venue for capturing people’s feedback, organizations should use these channels to ask visitors about, not just their digital experiences, but their experiences with the organization overall. To generate these broader insights, Digital XM programs should embed X-Data collection mechanisms that ask visitors about their overall relationship with the company, as well as – where appropriate – their perceptions of its products, services, processes, and brand messages. 

Here are three ways you can begin improving this digital application area:

  • Use active listening to ask visitors about core relationship metrics. When a visitor’s behavior triggers an active intercept, include a question in the survey that asks about their overall relationship with your organization. Because these intercepts have high engagement rates, they are a good mechanism for collecting core relationship metrics – such as NPS, satisfaction, or engagement – from a representative sample of customers or employees.
  • Connect digital channels to support channels. Make it easy for visitors to self-serve and resolve simple problems through digital channels by incorporating features like Digital FAQs, a robust account management area, and chatbots. Providing comprehensive self-service options will not only improve people’s digital experiences, it will also reduce the organization’s operating cost by decreasing the amount of inbound traffic to contact centers and help desks.
  • Articulate and follow a set of experience principles. Experience principles are a set of guidelines – like “inspiring,” “clear and simple,” or “knows me” – that should inform the design and improvement of every interaction across the organization. To ensure your digital interactions deliver on-brand experiences that are consistent with other channels, work with other XM-related teams across the organization to articulate a set of experience principles that match your particular brand and XM goals. Then use these principles as a North Star to guide the design of every digital touchpoint.

Company example: As part of its effort to facilitate more cross-functional collaboration, one large aerospace company began looking at ways to improve its internal company portal. Using digital feedback, it identified an issue with the portal’s search functionality, which consistently fell short of employee expectations and caused them to lose time on inefficient tasks. At first, the company focused on in-product efforts to enhance the search function itself; however, a deeper examination revealed that many of the employees’ search inquiries were particularly nuanced and ended up requiring specialized support from internal IT. So rather than just fix the search function, the company decided to go a step further and connect the internal digital experience directly with the internal support function. Now, when an employee exhibits certain targeted behavioral criteria – like rage clicking – the portal automatically launches an IT-support specific chatbot, which uses AI and smart-chat technology to reduce the load on live chat and curb unnecessary support calls. By enabling this omnichannel approach, the company ultimately reduced internal support resources and equipped its workforce to be more self-sufficient. 


5) Product Innovation

Because digital channels operate in a controlled environment, they offer a uniquely effective medium for uncovering, testing, and iterating on new offerings. To become a core driver of organizational innovation, Digital XM programs should produce insights aimed at helping teams across the entire organization – from marketing to engineering to sales – develop and test new features, products, services, and messages. While these new innovations may be an improvement to a digital experience, like identifying a new capability the organization should build out on its website, Digital XM programs can also generate insights that lead to offline offerings, like an improvement to a physical product or an updated brand message.

Here are three ways you can begin improving this digital application area:

  • Merge product-specific feedback with core operational usage metrics. Collect product-specific feedback through the digital channel and combine it with core operational usage metrics to help the organization understand where to invest and how to prioritize product feature selection and optimization.
  • Use digital channels to onboard new product users. Onboarding is an essential aspect of a new product user’s experience, and digital channels provide an effective – and inexpensive – environment for introducing a new product, helping users find key resources, connecting them to broader communities, and sharing support options. In addition to improving new users’ experiences, creating a digital onboarding process offers organizations the opportunity to gather personal information from individuals that can then be routed back to product development to inform future designs and improvements.
  • Conduct A/B testing. In today’s fast-moving environment, organizations must continuously innovate and improve on their products. One valuable tool for helping them do this is A/B Testing, where you can show two different versions of a feature, message, layout, etc. during a digital interaction, and see which one garners more engagement. A/B Tests not only create concrete data connecting products and experiences to real business metrics, like conversion rates, they also make the iterating and testing phase of the design process much faster and more scalable.

Company example: One large car manufacturer uncovered through digital customer feedback and operational data – like car builds, leads, and sales – that a segment of its prospective customers was building out multiple cars per month through the website configurator, but not actually moving forward with the purchase. To understand this group of frequent “car configurators,” the company first targeted the appropriate individuals on its digital platforms to solicit their product-specific feedback. What it found was that while the traditional configuration process led the prospect to a specific vehicle, that’s not what this segment wanted. The auto company realized that these customers were looking to use the online discovery process to explore and compare car options that fit two core goals – building the perfect car within their budget and testing out look and feel. Based on this information, the car manufacturer decided to invest in creating more nuanced options for both categories (price and visual appeal). This small, but meaningful, change had a significant impact as more customers ended up moving further down the path to purchase. 


The bottom line: Apply these five digital application areas to enable and accelerate Digital XM within your organization.

Juliana Smith Holterhaus, Ph.D., is a Senior Product XM Scientist with Qualtrics, specializing in Digital XM

Isabelle Zdatny, XMP, CCXP, is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute