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Creating digital experiences key to driving exceptional CX

The way in which businesses build digital experiences is ever-evolving. It's a race to create easier-to-use customer interfaces to improve customer experience.

Satisfying digital experiences are in the eye of the beholder. Imagine a mobile app that personally greets fans attending a sporting event in a large arena and automatically directs them to their seats. The step-by-step instructions displayed on a mobilized map creates a different digital experience than simply viewing a static layout of the stadium on a mobile device. One is certainly more useful than the other.

The race is on to determine how to best design, develop and deploy digital experiences that engage customers and transform business operations.

Staying abreast of the continuing revolution for creating digital experiences remains a challenge, and organizations must learn how to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape for content technologies.

Shifting from WCM to DXP

Gartner created a stir in January by retiring its Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (WCM), instead choosing to roll it into one for digital experience platforms. The WCM market has reached maturity, and client demand has been shifting to the broader scope of digital experience platforms (DXPs), Gartner said. Acquia, Adobe, Episerver and Sitecore remain Gartner's market leading vendors in both last year's WCM and this year's DXP ratings.

Notably, these platforms secure and store content within a central repository and provide platform-level services for managing access. These vendors are now adding new tools and applications to personalize content delivery, target customer segments and track responses. Content storage is closely coupled to presentation on full-screen web browsers and mobile devices. All activities and experiences revolve around how businesses store content within a central repository.

Staying abreast of the continuing revolution for creating digital experiences remains a challenge, and organizations must learn how to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape for content technologies.

For example, Adobe Experience Cloud includes Adobe Target for personalization, Adobe Audience Manager for customer profiling and Adobe Analytics for tracking and analysis. All of these applications are tightly integrated with Adobe's central content repository and use content managed by Adobe Experience Manager as a single stack.

Publishing content on websites

Moreover, Acquia, Adobe, Episerver and Sitecore have invested substantial resources for organizing and publishing content on websites. WYSIWYG tools make it easy for marketers and other nontechnical staffers to directly modify both the information and the look and feel of individual webpages. And, to accommodate the mobile revolution, responsive web design dynamically repositions and resizes content on various devices.

Nevertheless, there are slender threads between publishing content and generating experiences. Page editing templates control front-end appearances. However, harnessing the content that creates interactive events is another matter.

Digital experiences depend on more than just presenting the same content on digital displays of different sizes. Extensibility and flexibility matter. Content-centric DXPs -- where one vendor supports a single technology stack -- are constrained by how they manage content within their central repositories and by tightly tying content storage to presentation and delivery.

Headless CMS and API ecosystem

Cloud computing and open APIs introduce new possibilities for content integration and delivery -- the building blocks for generating digital experiences. Cloud-powered tools are necessary to mold experiences from a cacophony of sources, integrating content from disparate repositories, capturing signals from various cloud services and digitizing results across multiple customer touchpoints.

Consider, for example, an experience for exploring a new city that weaves together content about points of interest from one repository with restaurant listings from a second and places to stay from a third, all organized around locations that users view through a map. Prospective visitors can view their options from the comfort of their couches or when walking around the city with mobile devices in hand.

There is a new approach for managing content in the cloud using a headless content management system (CMS), which separates content organization and storage from content presentation and delivery. A headless CMS includes open APIs and microservices to distribute content elements on demand. Content owners manage the content elements themselves, leaving developers to focus on the code that drives the experiences.

Application and web developers work with UX designers to assemble the microservices that weave content elements with information from third-party sources to generate digital experiences across targeted touchpoints. Developers and designers rely on an ecosystem of purpose-built services -- designed to deliver business functions, such as "find this location" or "translate this paragraph," within the sequence of steps that generate an experience -- assembled from multiple sources across the internet and integrated using open APIs.

Contentstack and Contentful -- two vendors providing headless CMS technologies -- are gaining traction among application developers to produce experiences with just web browsers or accessing content from a single central repository. Both promise to provide extensible content repository services that exploit the core capabilities of the cloud for scalability, performance, agility and flexibility. Moreover, all programmatic functions and content elements are directly accessible as purpose-built services through open APIs.

Developers can couple content stored within a cloud-native repository to related services running elsewhere across the web to deliver added capabilities. For example, machine translation is coming into its own as a purpose-built service. Imagine maintaining an English-language travel blog and relying on APIs from a translation service to automatically publish the content into multiple additional languages for targeted market segments. Machine translation becomes a simple programming call instead of a lengthy application development project.

Contentstack makes its tools useful to users from any technical level from the start, including developers, marketers and other nontechnical users.The company is introducing application-level guardrails and prepackaged components that enable staffers to fill out forms to link content components with innovative digital experiences. As an example, staffers might first use a low-code/no-code application framework to design their particular digital experiences. Staffers then integrate with Contentstack to provide the content necessary to generate the experiences.

By comparison, Contentful is focusing on application developers. The vendor is introducing App Framework, which includes open APIs, programming libraries and blueprints designed to help developers quickly build digital experiences by integrating existing content services. App Framework lets organizations connect tools in ways that scale services programmatically instead of relying on one-off integrations that are hard to maintain and upgrade. When developers are able to efficiently deliver innovative digital experiences, organizations are able to engage their customers and transform business operations.

There are new ways for organizations to consider generating digital experiences, and they go beyond what organizations can now produce through web browsers, mobile devices and content managed through content-centric DXPs. Single-stack DXPs are going to give way to distributed environments and open APIs, and headless CMSes and API ecosystems are showing promise.

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