Perficient Digital Transformation Blog


Mark Polly

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Is Customer Experience the Top Digital Trend for 2015?

If you listen to over 6000 business professionals, the answer would be YES!  Econsultancy, in association with Adobe has produced a Digital Trends report every year for the last several years. This year’s report, Digital Trends 2015, says Customer Experience is the top, single most exciting opportunity in the digital marketing world.  22% of the survey respondents said that Customer Experience is their top opportunity while Content Marketing came in second at 15%.  Here is an infographic from Adobe’s Digital Marketing blog highlighting the trends.

Digital Trends 2015 Infographic

When I looked back over the trends from the last several years, Customer Experience is the only topic voted highest two years in a row.  Back in 2014, Customer Experience was predicted to be the hottest trend.  In 2013, Content Marketing came out on top.  In 2012 Social was the top opportunity and Mobile topped the charts in 2011.

Econsultancy added a nice chart to this year’s report that showed how their predicted trend at the beginning of 2014 turned out.  While Customer Experience was expected to be the highest priority, it turned out that both Customer Experience and Content Marketing tied for first in actual importance at the end of the year, with mobile and social coming in a close second.

The report also showed that 78% people said their company was attempting to differentiate using customer experience.  Only 5% said they were not trying to use customer experience to differentiate.

Another interesting part of the report is the number of respondents who said that strategy was a key component of the customer experience.  82% had strategy as either one, two or three on their list of key building blocks.  This tells me that people are clearly thinking through the issues around building great customer experiences and know that just throwing technology at it isn’t the answer.

Likewise Culture came in second at 63%.  Again this tells me that the people being surveyed are very thoughtful about customer experience.

One trend in the customer experience space caught me by surprise a little bit.  30% said that targeting and personalization were a top priority for them.  We have talked about personalization for a long time, so its great to see the message getting out to the rest of the market.

So when does a trend become table-stakes? Clearly trends of previous years either went on to be become ubiquitous or died off.  I mentioned mobile was a trend back in 2011.  Its clear – to me at least – that mobile has become table stakes.  We hear “mobile first” all the time now when it comes to web design.

For customer experience, the Digital Trends report says that not only do people think this is a hot topic for 2015, but they also expect it to remain a top opportunity for the next 5 years.  My guess is that in the next year or two, Customer Experience will be table stakes and anyone not trying to tackle this topic will be left behind.

What do you think? Has Customer Experience already surpassed the trend status?

Why “visitor to lead management” is so important

Back in the old days (like 2005!), to find information about a product, people contacted a salesperson, visited a retail location,  or waited for the company to advertise or email information out.  Things have changed dramatically since then.  A recent CMS Report story, What is Visitor to Lead Management, cited the statistic that 74% of buying decisions are made in advance of the first sales call. Customers are getting the answers they need way beyond them ever contacting your salespeople.  That is astonishing.

So where do these customers get information from to make their buying decisions?  Naturally, they get a lot of it from your digital presence – your website, social media talking about your products, etc.  It follows, therefore, that your leads ought to be coming from people visiting your website or your Facebook page or Tweeting about you.  As a result, you want to make sure the content you are publishing is consistent, comprehensive and can lead a potential customer to the right buying decision.  In short your Content Management System is at the forefront of your lead management system.

In the CMS Report article, the author describes the following major themes you should consider when looking at your content system:

  • Content Marketing – you need to create relationships with your visitors and customers by “providing relevant and engaging content”.
  • Content Performance – use metrics about your content to drive your marketing strategy and messages.  Measuring what resonates with your visitors is crucial to understanding how to tweak your marketing efforts.
  • Progressive Profile – this is really the heart of “Visitor to Lead Management”.  Anonymous visitors must be profiled as soon as they appear.  Then as the visitor navigates through your site, use more and more profiling techniques to figure out who that visitor is and target them with engaging content.

These ideas lead to the fact that your content management system also needs to intLeads to Dealsegrate well other other lead management systems, like your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, your Marketing Automation systems and even your help desk/customer support centers.

Once you have mastered Visitor to Lead, then it is time to take on “Lead to Revenue”.  This process describes the sales funnel that many people know. Over at Forrester, Lori Wizdo is considered an expert in Lead to Revenue. You can follow some of her research on her blog.

The Digital Business Landscape circa 2015

When you start to think about what it takes to be a digital business today, you may think that you have to be doing some form of e-commerce. Or, you may come up with the idea that you need to focus on improving your customer’s digital experience.

It turns out that there are lots of elements of a digital business to which you should pay attention. Dion Hinchcliffe and Steven Mann at Adjuvi produced The Elements of Digital Business diagram shown here that provides a good overview of the many areas considered part of being a digital business.


Of course, you don’t have to implement all of these elements as part of your digital transformation. But it is important to understand the various elements to see if there could be something missing from your portfolio.

For example, your company may be best suited to offer APIs (think IFTTT) rather than e-commerce. Or maybe you have a good customer experience platform but lack a great search experience.

As you evaluate your digital transformation progress, keep this picture in mind, and make sure you are addressing the key elements for your business.

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B2B Content Marketing: What type of content has the most clout?

Marketing to other businesses (B2B) is very different from marketing to consumers.  We’ve heard and talked a lot about Content Marketing in past, although it mostly has been focused on consumers – B2C. I just came across an interesting bit of research from Eccolo Media that looks specifically at content marketing in the B2B space.


Infographic by Eccolo Media

For the past few years, Eccolo Media has been surveying B2B marketers and buyers to get a pulse on the market. In their 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey Report they created an infographic describing which content has the most clout for B2B.

The first thing to note from the report is all the different types of marketing content that are available and used by B2B marketers.  Most of these are tried and true marketing vehicles: white papers, email messages, case studies, product brochures.  But Eccolo Media has also asked about webinars, blog posts, ebooks and even podcasts.

B2B customers consumed all of these content types. In fact, no less than 25% of the respondents consumed at least one of these types of content. That tells us that various types of content are important to reach the right audience.

However, the most revealing data is shown in the chart I’ve included here: What content types are the most influential for a B2B customer.  You can see that our old friend “product brochures and data sheets” still come out as the top influencer. White papers and case studies  came in second and third.

For all those marketers trying to influence B2B customers through email campaigns, the survey results here show that email influences only 15% of the buyers. That is only slightly higher than social media and print magazines. Also interesting is that tweets on Twitter were the least influential of all the content types.

Again, this data is for B2B marketing only. When you are looking to create or update your content strategy, you should take into account this kind of research data.

Lessons from 2014: Healthcare and Patient Portals

There was a lot of talk about Healthcare and Patient Portals in 2014.  Health insurance exchange portals started to mature a little bit with finally coming on line.  The Affordable Care Act requires providers to provide access to medical records for patients and many have looked to implement patient portals.

Looking back, here are some important lessons that we learned.

Healthcare Informatics said that despite many challenges facing patient portals, patient portal usage continues to grow.  In an October 2014 story, Survey: Patient Portal Usage Growing Despite Reservations, Gabriel Perna talks about a survey conducted by HIMSS that “More healthcare provider organizations are adopting patient portals, much of it facilitated by the electronic medical record (EMR) vendor.”  Still, cultural issues were identified as the biggest challenge to patient engagement initiatives.

Patient Portal Awareness. Source:


Janice Jacobs, Healthcare Life Sciences (HCLS) Social Media Director, Dell Services wrote an article called Best Practices for Patient Portals. She lists the following components as necessary for best-in-class patient portals:

  • Branding and user experience are key.  You have to focus on functionality as well.  I’ll take this one step further and say you need to really design based on personas.  Most patients will never use your patient portal.  Some chronic-disease patients will use it all the time. And some people will use it while they are in treatment periods and forget it when not.  The experience has be tailored for each of these types of users.
  • Information display – you have to “deliver and display the information in a way which is most intelligible and actionable to patients and caregivers.” She shows an example of test results that show the results, but provide no context or guidance about what the results mean.  A better approach is lay out the results so they are easier to consume, provide context (i.e. this number is too high), and are more graphical for the lay person.
  • Use appropriate language.  This applies to all healthcare portals too.  Providers and insurance companies tend to speak in their language or medical terms too often.  Lay people may not understand that when they want to see an eye doctor that they have to look up Ophthalmology, which is even spelled funny.
  • Anticipate obstacles for patients.  As mentioned before you will have all different types of users, some who may be very familiar with your portal and others who are not.  Find out what are the barriers that people encounter and come up with a plan to fix them.

Finally, I presented “Healthcare Portals: 5 Core Needs for a Great Experience” at two IBM conferences in 2014.  You can see the slides referenced here in a blog post by Michael Porter.

Lessons from 2014: How to get more clicks on Facebook.

Merry Christmas!  As I have some time off at the end of the year, I’m looking back at information I have gathered in my reading list that I find interesting.  I came across the article We tested all the best advice to get more clicks on Facebook. Here’s what worked by Kevan Lee at Buffer’s Social blog.  As I re-read the article I had a funny feeling that I’d commented before on posts by Kevan Lee.  Sure enough, I found two other blogs posts from this year that contained information from Kevan.

What is intriguing to me about this article is that Buffer used a very methodical approach to testing each of their theories.  Too often I see companies just try things without really following a good scientific methodology.

First Buffer started with a baseline of how their Facebook page performed.  This is critical because you can’t measure what works without having a baseline.

Here are the seven techniques Kevan used to see which were the best at getting users to click on a Facebook post:

  1. Post to Facebook at non-peak times
  2. Post more frequently to Facebook – six times per day
  3. Post less frequently to Facebook – once per day
  4. Ask questions in the updates
  5. Change the style of the update
  6. Post only link updates
  7. Post different types of images with the links

That seems like a pretty good list of techniques. I won’t go through the results for each test here – you can read through Kevan’s blog post for the details.  However, here is an example of the results from the first test – posting at non peak times:


Here they found a big increase in clicks at 11:00 pm, even though they were posting less frequently at this time.  Very interesting.

Here are the three techniques that worked the best for Buffer:

  • Share link posts
  • Share in the evenings
  • Create a main image/graphic for your post

Of course this is data only for Facebook for Buffer.  You should follow a similar test regime to see what works best for you on Facebook and other social media sites.

Lessons from 2014: The Problem with Sentiment Analysis

As we wind down 2014, I’m taking a look back at some items in my reading list and bringing forward the ones I found important from a learning standpoint.  The article The Problem with Sentiment Analysis by Sarah Kessler at Fast Company in November 2014 qualifies as one of those “aha” articles.

Analyzing social media has been a hot topic in the past couple of years.  Ms. Keller points out that during the 2012 presidential election season USA Today had a daily story about President Obama’s “sentiment” score versus Mitt Romney’s score.  The score was calculated by analyzing social media posts about each candidate.  In theory, the analysis could show which candidate is getting more positive comments versus negative comments.  And, in theory again, this could tell us about public opinion for each candidate.

However, Ms. Keller interviewed Marc Smith who pointed out that this type of sentiment analysis is inherently flawed.  Marc Smith is a sociologist who specializes in the social organization of online communities.  He went so far as to say about the USA Today stories that “This is remarkably poor data. That this is borderline criminal.”  As Keenan Thompson says in Saturday Night Live, “What up with that?”

Tight Crowd Pattern Graph: NodeXL Graph Gallery

Mr. Smith argues that this type of sentiment analysis only reveals which group of supporters “shouted” the loudest that day. It really tells us nothing about public opinion of either candidate.

What I found really interesting is Mr. Smith’s work on how crowds form around a topic on social media in six different shapes:

  • Polarized crowd in which two groups form and rarely interact with each other.  This is akin to the political sentiment described above.  The Obama crowd did their thing and the Romney crowd did theirs independently.
  • Tight crowd where a small group of people cluster around a conference.  The image in this post shows a tight crowd pattern.
  • Brand cluster in which people talk about a brand, but rarely interact with each other in the crowd
  • Community cluster where multiple small groups form
  • Broadcast network in which many people connect with a media outlet, but not with each other
  • Support network where something like a service center connects with lots of people, but those people don’t really interact with each other.

According to Mr. Smith, looking at the shape of the network lets you see that not all social media posts can be treated the same.  He argues that you should report on the size, volume and content of each major cluster over time.

This makes a lot of sense to me.  If you are measuring sentiment for a particular brand, event or anything else, you should be interested in how the network aligns with your goals.  Say you are hosting a conference – you’d want to see the social network form into a “tight crowd” pattern.  If it doesn’t then something is probably not working right.  Likewise if you are a brand and see the “brand cluster” pattern emerge, you may want to take steps to encourage your followers to interact more with each other, if that is a goal.

If you are involved in sentiment analysis or any social media analysis, I encourage you to follow the links here and take a look at Marc Smith’s research in this area.  Let me know what you think.

G2 Crowd scores Salesforce Chatter top social collaboration tool

I saw the following tweet from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff:

Image of tweet from Marc Benioff

This was interesting enough for me to follow the link to see why Salesforce Chatter was rated the best social collaboration system.  Barry Levine at Venture Beat had a nice article about G2 Crowd’s grid on social collaboration.  Here are the first two paragraphs:

Salesforce’s Chatter is the social collaboration tool with the highest customer satisfaction.

That’s a key takeaway from G2 Crowd’s new Grid for Social Collaboration tools, the first Grid report for this category. It scored 14 business products based on G2 Crowd’s customary metrics of customer satisfaction and business presence, in this case based on over 325 reviews from business professionals.

This was really interesting to me.  G2 Crowd allows people to rate these systems and then translates those ratings into a 2×2 grid similar to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.  Venture Beat also mentions the 325 reviews used to generate the ratings.

While the G2 Crowd rating system looks good and in theory produces crowd-based results, when you dig a little deeper, you find that G2 ratings are really based on much smaller sample sizes. For example, here is the latest grid as of today:

G2-Social Collaboration

In looking at the Leaders Quadrant, you find that Chatter had 97 reviews and Microsoft Lync had only 11 reviews.  You can click on an icon to see the number of reviews:


I don’t dispute that Chatter is an excellent social collaboration tool and Salesforce should be proud to share these kinds of results.

However its hard to rank these tools on customer satisfaction alone from such small numbers of reviews. First, I imagine you could easily get 11 reviewers to enter lower scores for any product. Likewise, I’m sure you can ask 11 people to go rate a product very high.  I’m not suggesting anybody is doing this on the G2 Crowd site to impact the rankings, its just a possibility.

Second, and more importantly, assume that the total population of users for all these tools were 1,000,000 users.  That’s probably very low, but its a nice round number.  To have any confidence in our survey, we’d need a sample size of over 1,000 users responding to the G2 Crowd reviews. And that would be 1,000 random users.  With only 11 reviews or only 97 reviews, statistics tell us that we should not be very confident in the results.

The G2 Crowd information is interesting and it would be great if we could get the right number of reviewers to make the data statistically meaningful.  But, really, don’t rely on this information alone to make your purchasing decisions.  That’s why Gartner, Forrester and Perficient use a variety of factors when rating these systems.



Digital Transformation is All Around Us…Again

The phrase “Digital Transformation” has re-emerged as a new phenomenon. Google tells me there are 49 million (49,000,000) search results for the words Digital Transformation.

First, why do I say it is a phenomenon? It seems that many of our leading think-tanks are talking about digital transformation. Here are some examples:

But is Digital Transformation new?  Not really. The idea of digital transformation goes back many years. My guess is that it first arrived as a concept back in the 1990s when we were going through our first dot-com bubble.  In fact, way back in 2000, Keyur Patel and Mary Pat McCarthy published a book titled Digital Transformation: The Essentials of E-business Leadership.

Back in the day, companies like Amazon, Priceline and others were redefining business models, business processes and customer engagement using digital as the mainstay.  Many of these early digital transformation pioneers crashed and burned in the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, but several have become powerhouses.

So why is Digital Transformation re-emerging as a new phenomenon now?  Or why, all of a sudden, are we talking about Digital Transformation again?

In my opinion, we now (finally!) have several important technologies that have matured enough and when combined together have the capability to be truly transformative.  I’ll mention a few of the technologies or concepts below and then talk about how a combination of these technologies can lead to an even higher level of customer engagement and can improve business outcomes.

First, let’s talk about big data. In the early days, our systems could not handle the amount of data or provide timely analysis of what we captured.  We had to wait until the end of the day, week or month to really analyze large volumes of data. Now we have platforms and systems capable of processing massive amounts of data and we have analytics systems that can sort through the data to provide us meaningful insights within seconds. Companies are using these capabilities to understand customer buying behaviors as fast as trends start to appear.

Second, we have “The Cloud”. Before the cloud, companies were tied to limitations of hardware buying practices.  When you wanted to build a new system, you had to wait for the servers to be acquired and installed, physical space has to be developed, network firewalls configured, etc, etc.  If your site started to get overloaded it could take weeks to add the required capacity.  “The Cloud” has enabled companies to create systems quickly and now can react quickly to changes in demand without tying us to those infrastructure buying cycles. Its becoming ever easier to connect systems and “things” together around the world.

Third, mobile.  Mobile, mobile, mobile.  As one person recently said, if you don’t have a mobile optimized web site, you are already behind.  Mobile was not a factor in the early days of digital transformation. Thanks to smart phones, anybody can now participate in the digital world any time of the day.

Fourth, we have new technologies for creating excellent customer experiences. Web Content Management Systems, Portals, and eCommerce platforms have tooling to create great sites, can be mobile ready, and can take advantage of analytics to tailor each user’s experience.

Combining all of these technologies can lead to the digital revolution we are now undergoing. Here is an example:

A customer enters a store carrying a smart phone.  A beacon system in the store monitors the customer’s movements. This data is relayed through a cloud-based system and combined with other store data from around the world.  Two transformative things are happening simultaneously:

  1. The customer stops in front of canoe on display.  Our beacon tells our content management system that the customer has stopped near this particular canoe.  Our CMS sends a notification to the customer’s smartphone with information about the canoe and a link to a video showing how fun it is.  After the customer buys the canoe, we connect their phone with the registration information in our CRM system and use that data to begin offering the customer additional content on our website.
  2. Data from all customer movement in all stores are combined into our big data system.  Analytics on that data reveals that our customers are tending to move toward a certain display area.  Using that information, we reconfigure some stores and move the display toward the front.  After monitoring the new layout, we can continue to make adjustments to optimize the store based on our customers’ behaviors while shopping.

In the early days of digital transformation, this example would not have been possible given the technology available at the time. Now this example is real and has been implemented in the U.S.

This example shows why Digital Transformation is so important. Companies that align their businesses to take advantage of all these capabilities will be more connected to their customers and will have better insights into their customers’ expectations.

Dreamforce: Community Cloud for Healthcare

All this week I’m at Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce conference.  Salesforce has come a long way with their platform and they’ve recently introduced Community Cloud.  Community Cloud is an evolution of their portal product and includes many features that we see in other enterprise-class, horizontal portals.

We are seeing a lot of interest in portals from our healthcare clients.  At Dreamforce, I attended a session on using Salesforce Community Cloud in healthcare.  I blogged about this on our Perficient Salesforce Blog and I encourage you to read Dreamforce: Community Cloud for Healthcare post to see how organizations like Health Leads are being innovative with portals using Community Cloud.