As companies across industries face unique challenges from the pandemic, there’s a common theme in their response: embrace digital. In this rapidly changing environment, just about every organization and industry has needed to ramp up its digital capabilities. For instance, we found a surge in:

  • Virtual events. Adobe pivoted to a 100% Digital Summit, in their words “the digital experience conference has gone digital”, Google Cloud Next ‘20 transitioned to Digital Connect, turning a once paid-for, three-day conference into a “free, global, digital-first, multi-day event that would leverage content prepared for Next ‘20.
  • Delivered groceries. The pandemic has pushed many US consumers to buy groceries online to minimize their contact with others. Established players and newcomers alike are rushing to expand their delivery and curbside pick-up offerings in an attempt to grab market share. Engagement through digital channels is where the digital grocery shopping experience begins and in many situations, unfolds.
  • Remote healthcare. Public health officials and healthcare providers are seeing a huge shift in adoption and demand for telehealth services from both patients and providers.

This intense shift to digital is not just a temporary phenomenon. It represents an acceleration of ongoing efforts by most companies to enable potentially transformational opportunities across their operations, from suppliers, to employees, to customers. And one thing is certain, digital experience will matter more in our post-COVID lives than it ever has before.


Five Key Ingredients to Digital XM Success

As organizations accelerate their digital transformations, they’ll need to expand their experience management (XM) efforts. Why XM? Because the success of any digital deployment depends on how well it meets the evolving needs of the people who are touching it.  That’s what XM is all about; it’s a discipline that enables organizations to continuously learn (how people are thinking and feeling), propagate insights (to the right people in the right form at the right time), and rapidly adapt (to an increasing flow of actionable insights).

We’ve worked with hundreds of organizations that are at different stages in their digital journeys. As we examined their XM efforts, we found a set of emerging practices that are helping to accelerate their digital transformation:

  1. Always On Listening. A digital open door is essential for any brand looking to engage in conversation and keep a meaningful pulse on their customers, employees, and partners. It’s important to allow people to share what they’re thinking at the moments they want to, and in a form that they feel is appropriate. By providing easy access to on-demand listening posts, across websites, apps, chatbots, intranets, and partner extranets, companies can discover insights they didn’t even know to ask about.
    • Example: A large American broadcasting company enabled a “have feedback?” button on the side of every webpage. Based on the feedback coming through this always-on channel, the company identified a temporary change to its subscription cancellation policy in response to their customers’ needs and concerns.
  2. Behavioral Targeting. Companies typically serve up the same notices and feedback requests to everyone. This made sense in the past when companies had little information to work with, but the digital world provides immense and meaningful contextual data. By tapping into the context of a customer’s, employee’s, or partner’s digital journey, organizations can derive more actionable insights. Companies should identify what they want to learn from different segments of people at meaningful moments along their digital journeys. These behavior-based requests for feedback will likely be far more relevant to website or app visitors, making those people much more likely to engage.
    • Example: A global apparel company deployed an immediate, behavior-based request for feedback upon seeing unexpected and severe drop off at a certain moment in the purchase funnel. As it turns out, there was a bug in the CAPTCHA code being prompted at check out that did not allow customers to complete their online purchase. A very short and succinct intercept was deployed based on the customer’s behavior feedback at this key moment quickly revealed the technical issue that was remedied in a matter of minutes after the source of the issue was understood, saving the company millions of dollars in lost revenue.
  3. Automated Intelligence. In today’s current climate, there is a short shelf life on insights. Companies must enable a system that can pivot based on data so as to respond to the actual dynamics in the marketplace. Given the volume of data produced in the digital environment, analytics need to be automated and predictive while providing focus areas for prioritizing resources and action-taking.  Brands need to use customer insights from digital channels to fuel product innovation, experience optimization, and move at lightning speed by ensuring their teams have access to these insights in near real-time.
    • Example: A US telecom was challenged by high cart-abandonment rates – reaching as high as 58% for both current and new customers, this was estimated to be as much as $33M in lost sales. The company deployed a digital CX program that helped them identify the top 10 operational and experience variables that predicted potential cart-abandonment with almost 100% accuracy. These insights helped the brand identify, in real-time, customers with a high-propensity risk and provide support to encourage conversion. Through targeted real-time intervention and optimizations, the telco was able to reduce cart-abandonment from 58% to 36%, resulting in an estimated $7M in incremental customer revenue.
  4. Embedded Actions. Data without insights is meaningless, and insight without action is pointless. That’s why organizations need to create a system of action where teams have access to the right insights that empower them to take immediate and meaningful action. Most brands use their digital CX efforts to track measurements, but leading firms connect their digital insights into specific workflows for taking action based on the insights.
    • Example: A large US retailer quickly knew that customers faced a common pain point  locating specific items within their very large store. They gave customers the opportunity to provide feedback in real-time through their existing in-store app while navigating the store aisles. If the customer gave certain negative feedback or entered specific keywords into the open-end verbatim an alert would be smart-routed via Slack to a store employee so that this individual could quickly provide assistance in near-real-time.
  5. Journey-Centric Analysis We live in an omnichannel world that requires a single view of the customer, one that transcends individual touchpoints. In order to thrive, brands must have a single system of record that can combine and maintain operational and experience data across touchpoints, working to build rich profiles that provide insights across a customers’ journey. These insights allow brands to uncover the moments that are most disruptive to the customer and prioritize improvements based on the impact to key metrics like repurchase and churn.
    • Example: A UK based retailer uncovered issues around cart abandonment, checkout completion, challenges within their app, and customer service or account queries. Like most retail brands, the company’s customers were regularly switching between devices during journeys. With digital intercepts set up for both desktop and mobile experiences, the team was able to pinpoint issues across either channel to help create more seamless online journeys. And while the digital team was focused on optimizing UX, the feedback captured raised other potential improvements in terms of products or services. The retailer was able to combine operational and experience data in Qualtrics’ XM Directory which enabled it to build rich customer profiles, track customer journeys, and conduct more sophisticated research.


Some Closing Thoughts

There is an old saying… “necessity is the mother of invention.” In this COVID-influenced environment, necessity is the mother of forced transformation.

We’ve been talking about digital transformation for years and now the value of being a digital-first company is immediately obvious – the demand for digital got here a lot faster than many expected and it has all happened in a highly condensed period of time. Unfortunately, too many brands have traditionally viewed digital transformation as simply modernizing their IT stack or building a mobile app. While those steps are necessary, digital transformation has always been about how brands create value for their customers and create additional revenue growth.

Especially in uncertain times, brands need to be able to meet customers where they are and where they want to be. In a highly competitive and oftentimes tumultuous market, experience will continue to be the one remaining, sustainable differentiator. Apply these five experience management practices to enable and accelerate digital transformation within your organization.

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