The Future Of The Online Customer Experience…Is Your Agency A Capable Partner?

May 4, 2010


To prepare for the future, customer experience professionals should develop multichannel personas, include social media behaviors in ethnographic research, prepare atomized content, establish an environment for testing new experiences, and seek out highly skilled interaction designers” Source: Forrester Research.

 Back in January of this year I read an article from Forrester authored by Moira Dorsey titled “The Future Of Online Customer Experience“ and it has remained top of my mind ever since. As I look at the plethora of agencies out there who all claim to be highly proficient at developing websites (and the associated customer experience), and contrast that with my actual experiences across a broad range of sites, I start to see a huge disconnect – especially when judged by the parameters described in the article!

 In her executive summary, the author gives out the following advice to marketers:

 “To prepare for the future, customer experience professionals should develop multichannel personas, include social media behaviors in ethnographic research, prepare atomized content, establish an environment for testing new experiences, and seek out highly skilled interaction designers.”

 I am not certain about your particular agency, however, I do not know of many who could deliver on the tenants listed above. What’s even more alarming is that many seem to be unaware that they need them in order to create highly engaging online customer experiences.

 After all, it’s not that hard to design a website and the optimum online experience, is it? The reality is that it’s no longer as simple as you might think:

 Information providers ranging from large companies to prolific individuals continue to flood the Internet with a tsunami of online information targeted at increasingly wired consumers. Proliferating Web sites vie for attention and in the last three years, the number of active sites has almost doubled. Literally tens of millions of additional sites divide consumer attention, making it less likely that any one site can both attract and retain mind share. So, what can we do to break through all this clutter?

 According to Forrester, there are four attributes that will define the next phase of online experiences

  • Customized by the end user. Consumers will not only control what they get online, they’ll control the form that they receive it in to a much greater degree than they do today.
  • Aggregated at the point of use. Content, function, and data will be pulled from different sources and combined at a common destination to create a unique experience.
  • Relevant to the moment. This customized, aggregated content will appear on the device that’s best suited to the customer’s context at a given point in time.
  • Social as a rule, not an exception. Social content will be integrated into most online experiences, not segregated into today’s blogs, micro blogs, and wikis.

 The article goes on to conclude that:

 Firms with poor online experiences today will fall further behind their competitors. People prefer rich online experiences — and their interest in new technologies indicates that they will love CARS experiences even more. That means the days of online experiences dominated by the page-and-PC-based paradigm are rapidly nearing their end. But even as online interaction capabilities grow, so too will the complexity of designing those experiences and the number of opportunities for mistakes that will frustrate customers. As a result, the gap between great and poor online experiences will become even more dramatic, and online customer experience leaders will gain even more of an edge over the competition. 

 Multi-touch-point evaluation and analytics will become must-haves. Measuring customer experience across multiple channels is still a major challenge for most firms. But consumers will increasingly use multiple apps, devices, and sites to complete a single goal — online and in conjunction with other channels. In response, customer experience professionals will create centralized groups to coordinate metrics and a common framework for measurement. And to make data integration manageable, they will focus on one channel pair at a time.

 I believe that for most agencies (even those digital icons within our industry) that this is a wakeup call and at very least food for thought. With the right approach, this could be an incredible opportunity for the agency world to regain that long lost position on top of the client value pyramid.

How Should Your Ad Agency Live Online?

August 5, 2009


Just what is the optimum way for your ad agency to live online? Should it be through a website, a blog or alternatively leverage the video rich world of YouTube?

I can certainly provide you with one definitive answer right off the bat. There is no benefit to website that is:

  • Closer in design to a brochure than an interactive experience.
  • That is cluttered with client work and streaming video that plays automatically on arrival.
  • Hard to navigate, full of flash and limited customization that does nothing to create a unique visitor experience whatsoever.
  • A site devoid of any user forums, consumer insights or dialog of any sort.
  • Not designed with SEO in mind and supported by a SEM campaign.

Unfortunately most current ad agency sites are probably guilty of most, if not all of the above. A pretty frightening fact even if you just consider the fact that, 100% of client decision makers go online and look at the websites of all the agencies they are considering.  

A number of leading agencies have enjoyed significant success utilizing an innovative website approach. The keyword being innovative.  Crispin Porter, Ignite and Modernista have all created a tremendous amount of buzz through their websites. Each of them strategically leverage social media best practices integrating twitter feeds, blog postings, RSS feeds and links to Facebook,Flickr, Google and You Tube. Alex Bogusky refers to their web presence as “a giant digital fishing net” and the agency claims that it gets over 1000 visits per day.

Another innovative approach comes from a little known agency, until recently, called BooneOakley. I am certain that most of you reading this post recently received an email from a colleague referring you to their site. View Site. They opted to have their URL redirect the visitor to a You Tube channel, where the agency has posted a comic video introducing the agency. The video is embedded with links to other videos that feature agency work and bios etc.

It really does not matter what format or approach you decide to use. What does matter is that you create a presence that quickly gives your prospect a clear idea of who you are and what you offer. One that engages them and customizes the user experience and content delivery. Above all, it should be one that is designed with the user needs in mind versus what the creative department thinks would be a “cool” website.