Experience Still Matters

As I wrote about in my last post,  I’ve been working on finding my next career destination that allowed me to follow my passion.  This post answers the question of where that is going to be for me.

Way back in the days before the Internet, if you can even imagine that, before big box retailers put the squeeze on small, local shopkeepers and made price the driving decision factor in many sales, customer experience mattered.

It mattered because those experiences in a local retailer were based on relationships.  The retailer frequently lived in the same town as they buyers and knew them personally, by name.  The retailer knew that repeat business, from loyal customers, was the key to a long term, thriving business.  So they took pride in building and keeping that relationship strong.

Over the past 20-30 years as new technology and market forces have emerged, some would argue that the personalized buying experience of old has disappeared.  I don’t think it’s disappeared entirely, but as more consumers have more buying choices, and the ability to find sellers without regard to geography, size or other factors, finding the lowest price drives a significant number of purchasing decisions.

However, a great experience can still be a major differentiator, and allow a seller to maintain a premium price, or simply win and keep more business.  Many of the great brands today do that.  Starbucks, who can sell a commodity, coffee, at significantly higher prices than many of its competitors is a classic example.  Yes, some of the products cost more to produce, but Starbucks places a premium on delivering a great buying experience, from the music in the store to how you pay.    Premium hotels like the Ritz Carlton help justify their price points because of exceptional customer service, doing everything in their power to make guests happy and keep them coming back.  I’m sure anyone reading this can think of at least one exceptional customer experience in their past that helped them either choose a vendor or stay loyal to one.

A great experience – the Watergate Hotel’s reservation app – circa 2003

About 10 years ago, while working at Macromedia, and had been working on things like content management, personalization, and Rich Internet Applications. The web was still really in it’s infancy at that point, but the company tagline was “Experience Matters.”  We believed that rich, quality, customer-focused web experiences allowed companies to differentiate themselves so they could win and keep more business.  Some of you may remember that – here’s a white paper about what a great online experience was like back then.

However, that was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to online customer experience.    The ability to truly connect all your digital customer touchpoints, measure return, and quickly and easily make changes that have impact just wasn’t there in 2003.  Marketo and Hubspot didn’t even exist, smartphones (and the app revolution) were only used by a sliver of the population.  Tablets were either pills or pads of paper.

Fast forward to the end of 2012, and here we are, in my opinion, at a seminal point in online experiences.   In the past few years, almost everything in marketing has become measurable and you are truly able to connect the front end of a website (where those experiences matter) with your CRM system, your marketing automation system, your social networks, your content management system, and just about anything else you can think.

There has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer.  Because of the interconnected nature of all the systems that empower online marketing, you can now fulfill that vision that Macromedia put forth at the beginning of the century.  Now more than ever, can you not only have a great customer experience online, but you can measure and adjust to optimize your results.   Those results aren’t just about acquiring more customers, but they are about building loyalty and keeping customers.  Tying that all together now has it’s own category – Digital Experience Management.

And the foundation of it all?  Content. Content fuels great experiences on a website or in a mobile app.  Content empowers your email campaign. Content provides the way you will get found by a prospect, and how that prospect will learn about your goods and services.  Content helps your customers make the most of your products and boosts loyalty. Content helps those customers share your brand and your products with their social connections.

Now back in the day, when I worked on content management, personalization and helping companies create great online experiences I was extremely passionate about the technologies I marketed and who my customers were.  Add in all the new amazing things that are now possible that stem from a content management system, and that only will increase my level of excitement and focus.  So that’s where this path is leading me.  I’m going to help Ektron grow and acquire customers for Web Content Management and Digital Experience Management. I’ll be helping companies create great online experiences – experiences that matter.  I can’t wait to get started.

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