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Integrated digital platforms: Technology to meet the consumer challenge

Learn how best-of-breed digital platforms by their nature are not necessarily the best at establishing customer relevance.

Overview

Can organizations measure up to the integrated infrastructure of a consumer’s mind, where thought processes are dynamic yet interconnected, and decisions can turn on a dime? If so, what will it take?

Today, a host of technologies support a consumer’s journey from anonymous browser to engaged buyer: social media, paid search, content management systems, e-commerce and customer database, to name a few. All are intertwined, integrally connected to support one goal: conversion. There’s just one problem: Today, most companies do not have an integrated technical infrastructure to support that journey without interruptions.

Too many brands select platforms based on only one aspect; consequently, one system focuses on product information, another on loyalty and yet another on purchase. Integrated platforms can support multiple brands, languages and geographies, not to mention a multitude of channels including the Web, e-mail, mobile and more.

Background

Not so long ago, when technology changed at a slower pace, business applications took years to build. Customer relationship management systems could take three years to plan and another three to execute them. In today’s digital climate, time is a luxury organizations can no longer afford. The underlying architecture of business applications needs to be flexible, to meet the rapidly-changing demands of consumers, yet robust, to ensure security of data. And consumers want a seamless and relevant experience across all touchpoints—online, offline and on the go—the “R Factor” consumer challenge.

Analysis

To really give the consumer center stage in the organization of tomorrow, it is imperative that companies embrace a technology strategy today that helps drive consumer-centric digital platforms—critical for achieving consumer relevance at scale. Executives should challenge any current thinking which may limit their world of possibilities and prevent them from taking a leap in a new direction. Instead, they should adopt a “growth mindset” that believes in unlimited possibilities, yearns to learn and conceptualize new approaches to problems. A mindset that is comfortable stretching and adapting to new realities and making connections across all technology and business touchpoints.

Recommendations

Ready to build consumer-centric integrated digital platforms? Not quite. The most critical element of a flexible and constantly evolving digital ecosystem is an end-to-end process supporting seamless consumer experience. Current processes must be understood, documented and optimized. These processes will cross organizational boundaries and seemingly lead to new digital operating models.

At the very least, companies need to have a clear understanding of the following aspects when developing integrated digital platforms:

  • Corporate goals and communication objectives. Both need to be actionable and prioritized for each segment of the audience to ensure optimal design.

  • Needs of consumers, employees, investors and partners. Businesses have a complex matrix of constituents, both external (consumers, prospects, press, investors, potential employees) and internal (sales, marketing, HR, operations). A clear understanding of their unique needs and respective priorities is critical before mapping out a technology solution.

  • Brand goals. These will drive the look and feel of a technology solution as well as the design of an interaction, which significantly influences the consumer experience.

  • Enterprise-level technology platform. Technology departments should consider a short list of technical components that can be leveraged to support vastly different communication needs. An orchestrated review of the technical requirements will help reduce duplication of effort, and speed up the launch of new tools.

  • Centers of excellence. Integrated operating structures demand a complex mix of staff to be involved in content development and publishing, spanning product groups, geographies, and functional areas. Talent and skills to meet these needs may be hard to come by. By creating centers of excellence, companies can leverage valuable skills effectively and efficiently across the organization. This approach also enables the establishment of formal, yet flexible change management processes that can be adapted to the disparate needs of different groups.