Building and Optimizing Multi-Channel Digital Experiences
SocialSocial Media is ubiquitous now, with Facebook reporting over 1.8 billion active users, Snapchat at 100 million users and Twitter users estimated to exceed 315 million. With these numbers – combined with the fact that studies show that while only 14% of consumers trust traditional advertising, 78% trust peer recommendations. Social communication is personal, emotional, timely, relevant and propagated amongst peers – it’s easy to see why social is so important.
PersonalWe all know that over the last twenty five years the Web has made the world a much smaller place by knitting our global communities together through an increasingly ubiquitous network. This trend continues today, but on a whole other level. The internet is increasingly being used to deliver the activity, news, reviews, sales and other relevant data and services that are occurring and are available to us right in our immediate vicinity. All this information is being delivered right to us in real time through our mobile devices. While the world may be getting smaller, our personalized experience is growing larger.
MobileThere are 7.4 billion people in the world, of which, 6 billion of us own an internet-enabled mobile device of some kind. In-short, almost everyone in the world is connected with at least a basic mobile device. Additionally, 1 third of the world’s connected users have at least 1 or more smartphone or tablet capable of delivering extremely rich digital experiences. Competitive organizations Uber, Lyft and many others are leveraging this connectivity to change the way business is done.
Internet of Things (IoT)The Internet is no longer about websites and apps accessed by computers and mobile devices. Our cars, the stores we shop in, the devices in our homes and all kinds of devices throughout industry are constantly connected and communicating with other devices and systems via the internet. We call this new reality the Internet of Things (IoT.) Even at this “early” stage in 2017, there are some 20 billion IoT devices connected. IoT is almost certainly the “next” mega-trend for the internet. Pages and apps are rivaled in volume by APIs. Human users now share the web with “Robots”. The “Next mega-trend” is in fact already upon us. IoT opens a universe of new capabilities and user experiences as well as new challenges.
Digital NativesAnyone who has a “tween” or teenager today knows that we’re already living a new evolution of the population. From birth, our children have grown up with an extreme level of connectivity and computing power. “Computing” is unbelievably fast, highly visual and tactile. Connectivity is ubiquitous. The applications they’ve grown up with are highly interactive, social and personalized. They don’t know anything different. A new kind of user is born. Businesses that don’t adapt quickly as this group comes of age as the next wave of consumers and employees will lose big to the companies that that do.
Meeting the Demands of the Era of EngagementEach of these trends reinforces the others, and fuels further adoption and drives innovation. It is these technologies – and the behaviors and capabilities they foster – that have brought us to a new era, which Forrester calls the “[b]era of engagement[/b]”. This is a new reality where the distinction between on-line and offline is becoming ever more blurred and the experience ever more immersive. Driving these trends are people – our friends, leads, customers, critics, and fans. This is our audience and the other half of the conversation. And it’s no surprise that in today’s reality – that is, in the age of engagement – they want to participate and expect us to engage them on their terms – on their schedule, in the context of their location, in their language, and optimized for their device. Your audience has also become accustomed to a personal experience, and they expect a personalized, coherent and consistent customer experience regardless of whether they are in your brick and mortar store, on your Facebook page, or on your website. To effectively tackle this challenge of serving a mass audience with limited resources, enterprises require strategy and effective tools to help get the job done.
Does Traditional Web Content Management Get Us Where We Need to Go?Traditional Web Content Management (WCM) solutions are focused on building websites, landing pages and blogs. As we’ve seen, today’s challenges go well beyond these demands. Web Experience Management (WEM) provides us with the toolset to take on this otherwise daunting challenge. The capabilities of WEM allow you to create, manage, and deliver dynamic, targeted and consistent content across various online channels including your website, social media, marketing campaign sites, mobile applications, and more. [b]In short, it takes a lot more than a traditional Web CMS or Web Content Management (WCM) can provide to meet these needs.[/b]
Key Principles of Experience ManagementBefore we get too technical let’s take a step back and ask what kind of guiding principles can adopt that will help us meet the challenges of the “Era of Engagement.”
- Great experiences are designed, built and delivered by a multidisciplinary teams.
- New data and channels can spring up at any time.
- Time to market is king and the platform that enables the first mover is the king maker. Agile approaches and shorter delivery cycles are extremely important!
- Great experiences are relevant and relevancy drives value.
- Technical architecture matters and ultimately defines the limits of what is possible.
- Simplicity is paramount. True simplicity comes from the separation of concerns and good architecture rather than specific technologies, vendors and shrinkwrap.
- Today’s experiences exist anywhere and everywhere.
- Experience is a journey rather than an interaction. Customers and users expect each interaction to leverage previous interactions.
- “One size fits all” is a fallacy. Each organization has its own unique needs, existing skill sets, and back ends.
- Openness is key to innovation at scale.
Translating Principles to TechnologyBased on the principles above we start to get a clearer picture of the kind of technical architecture we need:
- [b]A platform that is content first.[/b] Content must be cleanly separated from code and presentation so that it can be reused and consumed across multiple channels.
- [b]Foundational support for dynamic personalized experiences.[/b] From the structure and retrievability of the content to the amount and types of data you can store about your users, to the complexity of the rules you can write; personalization is an architecture concern, not a feature.
- [b]Strong support tool and process for both content creators and developers.[/b]
- [b]An open architecture that favors innovation with scale, security, performance and performance.[/b]
- [b]True independence between content creation / management and delivery. [/b]Content authoring and content delivery, while closely related, they are really two very separate concerns. At scale, publishing needs to be both push and pull. [url=https://dzone.com/articles/web-cms-architectures-coupled-decoupled-or-headles]Truly decoupled architectures[/url]align best with today’s needs.
Choosing a WEM PlatformMost people choose a CMS based on long check list of features and a demo of the authoring tools. While checklists and demos are very important they don’t get at something much more fundamental, and in the case of the challenges we face, important and that’s architecture. [b]Architecture matters. [/b]While many CMSs pass the checklist-demo gauntlet, [b]nearly every CMS solution, regardless of what they claim, is an evolution on WCM and is ill-equipped for the Era of Engagement and beyond. The proof is in the architecture.[/b] Since so many CMS solutions out there claim to handle WEM but fail to deliver architecturally let’s dig in to some of the issues:
- [b]Most CMS platforms “couple” authoring and delivery.[/b] While this is ok for some use cases it has a number of limitations:
- Authoring and delivery often require unique security integrations.
- If authoring and delivery are coupled in the same database, work-in-progress content is at risk to a security breach.
- Coupled systems demand that authoring and delivery components share the same Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and scale out. This significantly complicates the architecture and increases the total cost of ownership.
- Most coupled architectures have no native PUSH support for content deployment which means they only support PULL style publishing (content rendered as HTML and JSON) and do not easily publish to disconnected / external systems via APIs.
- [b]Almost every CMS out there uses RDBMS database and JCR backed content.[/b] This approach leads to a significant number of problems and constraints:
- Scaling relies on clustering and replication and is difficult and clunky.
- While clustering and replication schemes within a data center are approachable, globally distributing the topology via clustering and replication is whole other level of hurt.
- Because code and content is stored in a database (in some cases just code) it’s extremely hard to innovate quickly because it’s very difficult to move code and/or content between environments and through the development process.
- [b]Many CMS’s are built on poor technology choices that ultimately slow the rate of development, deployment and kill innovation:[/b]
- PHP a great example of technology that’s widely used in the CMS space. The issue with PHP is that when it comes to heavy lifting or integration it breaks down. Most PHP platforms like Drupal or WordPress require Java backed capabilities like Solr as soon as the going gets tough. Making the right technology choices avoids work-arounds and leads to more simple, more cost effective and more maintainable infrastructures.
- Older technologies like JSPs, Sling along with proprietary development and theme frameworks have huge learning curves or require hard-to-hire skills due to their niche application.
- Approaches like war files and even OSGI are heavy deployment technologies slow time to market dramatically. Scripting offers a much better approach for most functionality.
- [b]Most CMS’s have the wrong approach to user data.[/b] Storing user data in a traditional database doesn’t work at scale with today’s international regulations.
- Many countries have on soil data requirements.
- Many applications need to be able to access user data — but only see what they need to see.
- Real personalization often requires a tremendous amount of data which in some cases must be analyzed in real time. Traditional RDBMS doesn’t fit the bill.
- [b]Most CMS’s treat personalization, contextualization and localization as a feature rather. They are not features.[/b] They must be part of the very fabric of the platform in order to succeed at scale. Only the most basic use cases can supported unless these are treated like architecture rather than bolted on features.