September 28, 2021

Walking a mile in customers’ shoes through experience mapping

John Yang, Vice President APAC of Progress elucidates understanding the customer’s perspective as an imperative first step towards enhancing customer experience in the ever-evolving digital age

Tatiyana Emylia | 20 August 2021

Stuck within the four walls of their own homes, many consumers shifted their attention to the internet—whether it was for remote working, entertainment, or making purchases—to while away the hours during the peak of the pandemic. COVID-19 and its ensuing lockdowns led to a surge of digitally-savvy customers who demand easy and effortless online transactions long after the pandemic subsides.

Where consumers of all ages have found that the internet has streamlined most of their daily routines, now more than ever, businesses need to possess a robust digital platform to meet such expectations. John Yang, Vice President APAC at Progress, spoke with DigitalCFO Asia on how firms can enhance their customers’ experience with the aid of technology and crunching some numbers.

Through the eyes of the customer

John shared the two tools that should be at any company’s disposal when it comes to understanding their consumers: customer journey and experience mapping. Though often used interchangeably, the two provide different outcomes for a firm. A customer journey is a visual representation of an individual’s path towards becoming a consumer of a brand, including every single possible touchpoint. This essentially provides a framework for the second tool, experience mapping, which maps unique interactions at different points of the journey.

The key difference between experience maps and customer journeys is that the former is customisable. The innate value experience mapping then brings is its business outcome, which is its potential to drive conversion and harness the power of the intelligence (picture a cloud-based engine analysing the full customer journey 24/7, providing data-backed real-time knowledge and insight into content, engagement, and conversions).

Though both yield valuable insights into customers’ experiences with the brand, businesses should pick a tool based on their end goal. Customer journey maps are best used when the business would like to gain a macro-perspective and understand what customers experience when interacting with their brand. Consequently, experience mapping is the ideal tool for honing into a specific type of customer or persona and understanding one particular element of the business.

The benefits of mapping are tremendous. John noted that businesses can leverage customer experience maps to create the most seamless experience for the customer, especially with the ever-increasing need for customers to be able to effortlessly navigate from one channel to another. Additionally, it is through these maps that firms can understand at what points potential customers may get stuck in their purchase journey, providing invaluable insight for the marketing team to improve brand messaging for such interactions. It is only through a thorough understanding of the customer’s needs that the brand may improve retention and even sales through encouraging repeat purchases and sharing about the firm via word-of-mouth.

Future-proofing with technology

Customers now demand seamless transactions: there is little patience for businesses hosted on inefficient and slow platforms. John disclosed a growing trend of organisations re-examining their current web CMS (content management systems) in the endeavour to increase efficiency and initiatives to stay ahead. It’s an intuitive move given that CMS platforms are used daily by digital teams at the core of DXP (digital experience platform) execution.

There are a few options when it comes to choosing a CMS platform, John shared. First of them are open-source and freeware products. Though cost-effective, firms would have to evaluate the security risks that come with them. After all, security holes in these open-source solutions are handled by the community—meaning that the speed and efficiency of addressing such issues highly depend on their skills and experience. For many businesses, a cost-efficient web CMS platform from a reputable company may be a better option, since it offers reliability, stability, and security. Instead of an open-sourced product, going commercial means timely fixes for vulnerabilities as they occur in addition to reliable maintenance and support. Companies could also stick to their legacy CMS, though John advised against this. He said that software maintenance fees for legacy enterprise CMS tends to be excessive, and this is before even adding the high cost of keeping the team of developers on board to support the platform. All in all, moving to a more current and suitable CMS means that companies can take advantage of more “out of the box” usability, digital marketing self-serve, and rely less on developers for content publishing.

One potential pitfall organisations might fall into is looking at globally promoted enterprise web CMS solutions, where “globally” tends to really mean “US-centric”. For instance, a 5,000 employee strong company in North America would be considered mid-size, which isn’t the case in Asia. Companies should carefully scrutinise CMS platforms and ensure that they address their needs before committing to one. A more suitable choice for organisations in Asia would be CMS recognised as comprehensive and out of the box, as they deliver enterprise-class technology targeted at more nimble businesses of fewer than, say, 5,000 employees.

Other trends John brought attention to were the rise of PaaS cloud offerings for their CMS platforms, as well as headless CMS platforms. The PaaS model enables businesses to pay as they go, based on the achieved results, which makes operational costs more predictable. Organizations also don’t have to take care of any security, performance and IT problems since these are handled by the platform vendor. Marketing and IT can focus more on what really matters for the business instead of worrying about operational and maintenance issues.

At its essence, these trends all point towards future-proofing businesses’ technology, as the optimal CMS platform will be DXP-compliant for technology, and integratable with other DXP functions as well as offer data connectivity with the enterprise back end. All of these serve to enhance customer experience and address the digitally savvy consumer.

Transforming financial institution

As with any other sector, transformation remains a core strategy for financial institutions (FSIs) to stay ahead of the curve. FSIs today are almost unrecognisable from even a decade ago with their evolution catalysed by digital trends and technological advances. Still, FSIs are often hesitant to commit to change. The paradox they fall into is this: While FSIs, especially in retail, are heavily reliant on digital for their services—possessing the business potential and the ROI to experiment with new DXP options—the nature of their business often mandates them to be the most risk-averse in operations and IT. John stresses that despite this conflict, FSIs must be able to find the sweet spot between providing efficient operating systems and processes while still maintaining their institution’s core of traditional values and systems.

To achieve this, John suggested that FSIs look into a CMS that enables heightened self-service rather than reliance on IT or developers for content publishing. This would enable FSI users to navigate and change their product pages easily, efficiently, and most importantly, independently. A must for FSIs’ next CMS would also be table stake features like personalization and analytical intelligence as well as headless capability. It goes without saying that it must be robust and secure, with prudent vendors that have a strong track record and reliable operations.

Though digital transformation is not without risks, long-term benefits definitely outweighs initial high cost and time spent.

Tips for creating better digital experiences

Businesses need to understand how the individual customer responds when interacting with the brand, whether this is achieved through experience mapping or otherwise. The more data the business collects on their target audience, the easier it is to develop personalised conversations with individuals either digitally or via the human sales team.  When experience mapping, John also warns against a common mistake: where businesses map out what they think the customer experience should be rather than the actual customer experience, warts and all. The biggest tip for businesses would be to stop guessing, and start measuring.