What's your digital ecosystem vision?

For all brands— especially those with complex, multi-channel relationships with customers— having a master plan for the future of your digital experiences is imperative.

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Gone are the days when channel owners can work in a silo. The app team does one thing. The customer care team does another. Someone’s building a chatbot... The result: short term reactive planning, lack of communication between teams, incompatible goals, and a frustratingly disjointed customer experience.

Brands that master a user-centric approach to brand experience strategy are dominating across industries. Think of Domino’s AnyWare platform, which allows customers to order from an ever-expanding list of channels (including SMS text, Smart TVs, Alexa, Messenger, Slack, online and in-app) or their experimentation with new delivery methods like autonomous vehicles and drones. Despite the expansive set of channels, Domino’s seems to have built every experience around a laser-focused user need: they make getting a pizza effortless.

Reorienting the customer experience around an anywhere, anyway-you-want-it delivery ecosystem has helped Domino’s share price grow from $10 in to $267 in the last 8 years. (For comparison, Apple went from $30 to $222 in the same period).

How can brand experience managers plan and communicate (equally important and difficult) a cohesive ecosystem vision that can rally an entire organization? 

Design for the future of your brand’s digital experiences

There are many questions a CX ecosystem vision can help brands answer, including:

How do specific channels serve the overall brand strategy? And which are most crucial? In three years, what consumer needs should the brand be fulfilling? What types of technology, functionality and content production do you need to invest in now to meet those needs?

Start with the consumer

While the ecosystem strategy will be different for every brand, understanding the consumer needs your ecosystem serves is a great place to start. 

Available channel and customer data can start to reveal consumer needs and where/how they are being fulfilled today, e.g. which needs does the brand already answer? But, additional qualitative research is often necessary for understanding why consumers are behaving the way they do, especially beyond their interaction with your product or service.  What kind of consumers have the most unmet needs, or have the most to gain from a deeper relationship with the brand?

For example, when Rufus Leonard helped Reckitt Benckiser develop a digital ecosystem vision for Nurofen, we uncovered two audience sub-groups which represented the best opportunity for digital engagement. These two groups had the most unanswered questions, wanted to connect with stories of people like themselves, and were looking for tools that would make life easier. 

Explore the possibilities across channels, content and functionality

Consumer co-creation sessions helped us unpack needs and think about how Nurofen could fulfill them through digital tools, content, partnerships and experiences, and the channels they could live within. The consumer groups actively participated in thinking about the experiences they wished were real today, and provided feedback on a number of concepts.  

With a set of core needs and conceptual solutions defined, we considered how meeting those needs aligned to business KPIs. Which would increase engagement? Sales? Loyalty? Or even open up new revenue opportunities?

Prioritise based on impact and feasibility

At this point in the process, we were overflowing with possibilities for the future of Nurofen’s brand experience.

An impact-feasibility exercise is a great way to prioritise what makes the final strategy. For impact consider consumer as well as business impact – which content, tools, and experiences will customers value most? Which are ownable and differentiating? Which will have the greatest impact on business KPIs? And what can be realistically achieved?

This simple exercise can help steer further business case development, by filtering out the low impact/low feasibility ideas, or thinking ahead to those which are worth doing, but require more significant technical and organisational consideration.

Paint a picture of the future and then make it real

Next comes the crucial step of synthesising and communicating the ecosystem strategy, which can be formed of a number of frameworks:

Write a short, evocative vision statement that describes how your brand will use digital channels and tools to achieve the overall brand strategy.

Get your teams excited with a manifestovisual concepts, or vision video that show what the future will feel like from a customer’s point of view.

Create an ecosystem map – a diagram that shows how your key channels, content and functionality will work together to address your customers’ needs throughout their journey.

Establish digital experience principles that act as both goals and guardrails for any digital experience any team creates.

Create a high-level roadmap that can be easily communicated across teams. It should show the key milestones within the ecosystem transformation.

The outcome?

A clearly articulated ecosystem vision that allows brand experience managers to:

1. Communicate to, rally, and unify teams under common a vision 

2. Deploy functionality, content, data and processes efficiently across channels 

3. Uncover opportunities for brand differentiation, and possibly even new revenue streams 

4. Deliver a consistently excellent customer experience

Rufus Leonard

Ever since our founders, Neil and Darrel, started Rufus Leonard 29 years ago, we have been helping businesses create extraordinary experiences for their colleagues and their customers across all touchpoints. We do this with an engineering mindset, which means we’re both visionary thinkers and detailed doers. We believe this holistic approach is critical for success in an increasingly complex world. Our integrated offer enables us to design, build and fine-tune the engines of Extraordinary Brand Experience – Organisational Engagement, Brand Optimisation, Service Design & Build and Technology. Supporting brands like Lloyds Banking Group, British Gas, Reckitt Benckiser, Royal Mail, Stagecoach, BBC and Aggreko.

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