Mary Laplante, with Bill Trippe, and Leonor Ciarlone, Gilbane Group Senior Analysts, July 2008
Sponsored By: FatWire
You can also download a PDF version of this white paper (18 pages).
Table of Contents
Organizations today have to compete for customers’ attention like never before. Every day, customers are deluged with a wealth of information and options for buying products and services. This new reality, driven by the ubiquity of information online, is creating new requirements for businesses attempting to build lasting and loyal customer relationships. Today’s web audiences require value in every interaction, or they will simply go elsewhere. In short, they need to be engaged online. Responding to these rigorous audience demands has become a new business imperative.
Don Tapscott, a recognized authority on the role of technology in business and society, captures the concepts related to engagement. (1)
“Rather than simply listening to customers, companies must and can truly engage them. Customers become value creators themselves, through new forms of collaboration. Companies can use the Web to build rich experiences that endure. The brand, rather than being just an image, promise, or ‘word in the mind,’ as it’s called, can become, in part, an actual relationship between a company and its customers.”
Note that Tapscott says that companies must engage customers, not just listen to them. He says that customers become part of the value chain, acting as our company’s advocates out there in the market. He characterizes relationships as enduring, or lasting, and he points out that those relationships can become our brand, if properly managed. As businesses, how do we interact with audiences who clamor for engagement?
The answer to this question lies in the emerging practice of web experience management (WEM), and in establishing a WEM practice that enables engagement with the audiences that comprise our business ecosystems.
As a business practice, WEM can be challenging because it crosses departments and functions within an organization. This is because the web plays a part in nearly every phase of interaction with our business audiences, who are not just customers. HR departments engage employees, for example. Public service organizations engage the citizens that they serve. Manufacturers engage distribution partners. Educational institutions engage students, faculty, and parents who pay the bills. And yes, businesses engage customers before, during, and after selling them products and services. As a result, the dialog about engagement strategies and WEM practices includes not just marketing, but also business, operations, and IT. This is one of the fundamental characteristics of WEM: it encompasses a well-rounded view of how we engage our audiences.
This paper is meant to serve as a guide for framing the dialog about engagement and WEM within your company. Whether your role is line-of-business, marketing, or IT, you will find definitions, examples, and advice that will help you bring engagement strategies to your organizations, or advance those strategies if you are already responding to your customer’s desire for engagement. The paper offers:
- A definition of WEM and the market factors behind its emergence. Terminology will give you a common language for facilitating the conversation among stakeholders. A brief history of the application of web technologies to customer interaction will show that WEM is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, enabling stakeholders to see WEM as a natural extension of traditional online marketing.
- An overview of engagement components and underlying technologies for WEM. This section looks at how personalization, user-generated content, community and collaboration contribute to engagement strategies. It explains how these engagement components work in conjunction with core content management capabilities. The discussion will help you think about the mix of capabilities you need for your own engagement strategies.
- Examples of engagement scenarios. We offer several examples of WEM in action at different types of organizations. As a business practice, there are as many instances of WEM as there are businesses that adopt it. You will find examples of how several companies deployed engagement strategies: which audiences are targeted, the components that address the challenge or create the opportunity, and the technologies that enable the solutions.
WEM is a new business imperative, driven by demand for engagement that will only grow, not diminish. Companies that step up to the challenge of building WEM practices will be rewarded with business relationships of lasting value, quantifiable as revenue growth, customer satisfaction, loyalty, and positive brand perception. Companies that do not step up or take a wait-and-see attitude are at risk, since expectations of end-consumers of web experience are evolving rapidly and competitors are initiating their own engagement strategies. We hope that this paper serves as a useful tool for advancing your company’s engagement strategy and driving towards the successful practice of WEM.
If engagement is the outcome, then web experience management (WEM) is the practice, defined below.
Web experience management is a business practice that formalizes an organization’s approach to relating to its audiences through web-based channels. WEM is based on the premise that engagement that delivers high value to all participants does not happen by accident, but rather, by design. Only when experience is deliberately managed does it become repeatable, predictable, measurable, and capable of being improved and optimized. That deliberate management is the essence of the practice of WEM. As a business practice, WEM is enabled by a range of technologies, including web content management, personalization, dynamic content delivery, analytics and optimization, and emerging tools for social computing. As such, WEM calls for integrated business, marketing and IT processes.
This definition bears a closer look:
- Web experience management is abusiness practice. It is not technology, although the practice is enabled by technology.(2)
- Engagement that delivers sustainable business benefits happens by design, not by accident. WEM is characterized as a practice for this very reason: it is deliberate management, organized and institutionalized within the company.
- Deliberate management of web experience makes it possible to repeat processes and activities, predict their outcome, measure their impact, and improve them—none of which happens if web experience is random and ad hoc, without stated goals and objectives that are commonly understood.
- Enabling technologies combine web content management plus engagement capabilities. These technologies are used by different groups within a single organization, such as those responsible for managing web content, marketers, customer service representatives, PR and corporate communications and more. Through WEM technologies, these users can personalize content for specific audiences, secure applications on networks, and analyze business results, among other functions. As such, WEM has a strong integration component.
Two additional concepts are important to communicate to stakeholders in engagement strategies:
- We specifically chose the phrase “relating to audiences through web-based channels” rather than “relating to customers.” The web has become integral to our interactions with all constituents in our business ecosystems, including the general public, prospects, employees, partners, suppliers, current (and past) customers, even community members, in the case of governments. Audiences of all types are served by the web, and so engagement strategies and WEM practices are applicable beyond the individuals and companies who buy our products and services. There are tremendous productivity gains to be made, for example, in improving an employee’s experience with booking business travel or collaborating on new policies to be communicated to customers.
- Engagement implies a relationship, rather than a discrete interaction. Stakeholders therefore include every department that interacts with the audience in question throughout the entire life of the relationship. WEM, then, moves the interest in web presence beyond the marketing function in any organization. If the audience is existing customers who turn to the web for product support, then technical writers, trainers, and customer service managers have a stake in the engagement strategy. If the audience is prospects in a new geographic territory, then stakeholders include enterprise product marketing, sales managers in the target regions, and the language professionals responsible for the content on the local website.
We have laid out a definition of WEM and a scope that includes audience (not just customers) and all stakeholders (not just marketing). Although WEM might seem a bit daunting, it is actually a natural next step in interacting with customers, rather than radical change.
Managing web experience is a natural next step in reaching customers and business constituents through the web. In the mid- to late-1990s, web technologies proved most valuable as ways to improve back-office operations. Websites were brochures, primarily static publishing platforms. Customers could fill out forms and order what they knew they wanted to buy, and web-based technologies handled what buyers didn’t see—checking inventory, confirming purchases, providing order status. In this phase, web technologies facilitated customer relationships.
In the early 2000s, businesses began to apply web technologies to customer-facing activities. In this second phase, we used the web to drive relationships, not just facilitate them. The unique opportunity was to initiate all kinds of activities that can only be done through a digital channel, such as leveraging audience segmentation to deliver content that is tailored to their interests and their goals. Best practices combined dynamic user interaction with the replication of positive elements of our offline relationships with customers. The center of focus within companies was in the marketing function.
The next phase of our application of web technologies to business relationships has begun to emerge. We are moving from web presence that is customer facing to web presence that is audience engaging. A host of factors are at play here, including the emergence of social computing and its tremendously high level of acceptance; the increasingly global nature of our businesses; and a generation of workers who have grown up on the web. Again, we use the word audience quite deliberately because, as explained above, the scope of engagement goes far beyond the people to whom we sell products and services.
With this perspective, WEM is a natural progression towards more engagement with our audience. But the terms of engagement are different, which is where it becomes evident that WEM is both evolution and innovation. As Don Tapscott says, we must truly engage our audience, not just listen to them. This is why traditional online marketing approaches are not sufficient for the successful execution of engagement strategies, although such approaches do give us a legacy of understanding on which to build. For example, buzz-generating tactics such as viral marketing (customers telling customers) and guerilla (unconventional) marketing have been established techniques for decades. The difference is the availability of web-based technology to facilitate buzz, and the immediacy of the buzz dispersion.
This table compares the key characteristics of the practice of traditional online marketing to the emerging practice of web experience management.
How does an organization move from the left column to the right? The remainder of this paper looks at the elements of successful engagement strategies.
There are several engagement components that are critical to successfully managing and delivering an engaging web experience.
Perhaps the most fundamental requirement for engagement is to speak to me. It is much more satisfying to experience communications and interactions that are personal, meant for us as individuals within a particular context, rather than generic. Because this is so important, customizing web experiences for different audiences and personalizing web experiences for individuals are cornerstones for engagement strategies and WEM practice.
Personalization and customization refer to techniques for tailoring web content and experience to an individual or to an audience, respectively. The techniques combine knowledge about the web user, either individually or as a class of user, and content that is tagged as appropriate for specific users or audiences. A dynamic publishing engine is the technology enabler, delivering the right content at the right time. The tailoring process can be based on explicit information (through registration or membership) or implicit data (past behavior, such as clickstream, which is tracked through a cookie).
One of the most common examples of personalization is targeted marketing, which delivers specific content based on a user’s customer segment, with the goal of delivering experience that is relevant. For consumer and business sites that sell products and services, targeting is essential to engagement. 80% of all website visitors abandon a website before they view a page with details about a specific product or service.(3) The challenge is to cut through the clutter and engage them immediately with appealing content.
In the table comparing online marketing and web experience management, we contrast “unidirectional” with “multidirectional” to indicate that engagement is not restricted to a relationship between our company and our audience. It is inclusive of the community to which the audience belongs. User-generated content, or UGC, illustrates how engagement and community come together online. UGC is emerging as a significant element of engagement, as reinforced by datapoints such as these:
- 40% of all consumers polled in a study conducted by Deloitte & Touche indicated that they expect – not want, but expect – to be able to contribute content to the websites that they frequent.(4)
- A survey of over 2,000 IT professionals by ITToolbox and PJA Advertising revealed that two-thirds of these business users indicated that they trusted content created by their peersmore than content delivered to them through traditional marketing channels.(5)
The latter statistic indicates that UGC is a requirement for business users as well as individual consumers. Active open source communities are yet another example, illustrating the power of UGC – in this case, software application code.
Ratings and rankings are another application of UGC. Our knowledge of other people’s experience has become a valuable mechanism for cutting through information clutter when we’re trying to make a decision or find an answer to a question. A “person like me” is now perceived as the most trustworthy of sources, according to research conducted by Edelman, the world’s largest independent public relations firm.
“ . . . according to the seventh annual Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey of nearly 2,000 opinion leaders in 11 countries, . . . trust in “a person like me” increased from 20% in 2003 to 68% today. Opinion leaders also consider rank-and-file employees more credible spokespersons than corporate CEOs (42% vs. 28% in the U.S.). (6)
Edelman’s research indicating the higher credibility of employees over CEOs is surely evidence that our notion of trusted sources is undergoing dramatic change.
Active, engaged users are attracted to sites where they can do their own ranking and rating as well as read content contributed by their peers. To be successful, the site must make it easy to share opinions and ideas—to assign a rating if appropriate, to add comments, to review and respond to others’ comments, and so on. Think of your own experience doing precisely this kind of thing on a major site like Amazon.com—your audiences expect engagement with your organization to be just as easy, just as attractive, and just as immediate.
As an engagement component, “community” is shorthand for community of interested participants who want to use the web as their primary means of joining together, learning, collaborating, and staying in touch. Think of a group of people with a common interest—hiking or rugby—or a professional community of practice—programmers who all use the same language or US Armed Forces personnel with access to a set of community services. Communities often span wide geographical areas—countries or even continents—with the web providing the commonly accessible platform.
Gilbane notes in published research on social media: “A healthy community needs fresh, high-quality content and engaged members.”(7) Relevant content and multidirectional interaction management are hallmarks of community as an engagement strategy. The quality of the conversation—what it’s about, and how it happens—is the key attraction. Threaded discussions, blogs, calendars, group management, and online chat are among the techniques. Active communities develop organically, driven by the needs and desires of the participants. Over time, communities will evolve new ways to engage with each other. For the organization hosting the community, this dictates a need for flexibility in an engagement strategy and in the technology supporting the WEM practice.
Communication, information sharing, and collaboration are typically tightly related within a WEM practice. Collaboration is also closely connected with community, since communities are people who share common interests. One difference between community and collaboration is the degree of interaction. Collaboration implies working together with common purpose to advance organizational work—the outcome is a level above coming together as a community. The key to success is to make the experience more compelling than working alone. Participation is engaging when the interaction is fruitful and adds value over individual activity.
For most readers of this paper, collaboration will have a decidedly internal focus on achieving business goals, such as completion of an enterprise program or project.
Nowhere is collaboration more valuable than when time is money—the time to assimilate information from the enterprise edge and the time to organize and respond.(8)
Consider the time and effort that you and your colleagues put into collaboration. You create and consume content, process it, and then turn it around in documents, presentations, and web pages. Early-generation websites that followed a traditional publishing model typically aggregated and posted internal content (for projects or human resources management, for example). As with nearly all web-based applications, however, internal audiences now expect much higher levels of interaction. They want more than a single point-of-access to corporate information that’s pushed out to them. Internal blogs and wikis can be useful for this type of enterprise collaboration.
The engagement components describe above—personalization, user-generated content, community, and collaboration—are combined in WEM solutions and managed in deliberate ways as a practice. For the organization executing the engagement strategy, the challenge is not just getting the right mix of components. It is also delivering an experience that meets the audience’s increasingly high expectations. The right enabling technologies—core WCM plus engagement capabilities—are essential ingredients.
To help you drive the engagement discussion within your organization, this brief technology overview can make WEM solutions more concrete. The “marketecture” illustration below breaks down the components. It is not a technically accurate view of a WEM technology stack, but rather a tool for understanding the different technology components. Each vendor who develops and markets software for WCM and WEM packages the components differently; you will not find this exact layout in any product and solution datasheets. But it will help you communicate the basic technology underpinnings to engagement stakeholders.
The Foundation: Functional, Flexible WCM
The bottom layers comprise the foundation of the solution, supporting core web content management capabilities and including integration with other content repositories (such as document and digital asset management systems) and other applications (such as databases customer relationship management). Core web content management takes place in this layer:
- Fundamental WCM repository features such as version control and content check in/out
- Site design and content authoring and website layout
- Workflow and optimization of publishing processes
- Content publishing and dynamic delivery
- Support for all classes of users (including content contributors, business users, administrators, and technical professionals), with user interfaces appropriate to the types of tasks they perform
- Multisite management (including distributed multilingual sites)
Engagement Building Blocks
Engagement building blocks add specialized functionality to the WCM core to support the engagement components laid out earlier in this section—personalization, user-generated content, community and collaboration. In this section, we suggest a few talking points for conversations with stakeholders about the building blocks, engagement strategies and WEM practices.
- Personalization. Features, functions and technologies for effective personalization are extensive topics, easily the subject of multiple papers such as this one. The ability to marry information about individuals or audiences with relevant content (tagged with metadata) is the fundamental requirement, as discussed in the section on engagement components. Stakeholders should also understand that identifying and describing different classes of audiences (sometimes referred to as personas) and defining the right experience for them are also engagement basics. Technologies for targeted marketing, as one common example of personalization, provide these capabilities.
- Community. Encouraging engagement means making it fast, easy and intuitive to join the community and contribute content. Participation management tools for creating users and groups should be available to administrators and to individuals with certain roles within the community. If your engagement strategy includes community hosting, consider requirements for setting up groups and subgroups.
- Collaboration. Blogs, wikis, and threaded discussions are necessary features. They need to be well integrated with the WEM platform itself for a seamless user experience. There are in fact excellent enterprise collaboration and wiki products, but many of them are standalone, disparate systems that normally need to be integrated with other platforms.
- User-Generated Content. Content sharing is the essence of user-generated content, and a key enabler of community and collaboration. Core capabilities are provided by the WCM platform; as part of engagement building blocks, the requirement is for flexibility to support various sharing policies. Which classes of participants can post content? What types of content? Are there limits on volume? Will content be reviewed or monitored prior to posting?
Although content analytics itself is not called out as an engagement building block, any WEM practice would be incomplete without it. Tools for content analytics enable marketing professionals to measure the effectiveness of content as it supports specific business goals. If content is not doing its job, managers can change or modify content, and measure again. Analytics are essential not only for fine-tuning as content is deployed, but also for continuous improvement to the web experience.
As a business practice, WEM formalizes an organization’s approach to relating to its audience through web-based channels. Because the practice is specific to the organization, it is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. WEM within your organization will be unique to your enterprise, your goals and objectives, your audience, your management and staff, and your culture. As you bring engagement stakeholders to the table, however, it will be valuable to understand what other organizations have done, where they started, and the results they are achieving to date.
A consumer goods manufacturer/retailer sells its products under multiple brands that target different kinds of users, from novices to accomplished professionals. The company needed to reinforce its corporate brand while presenting product brands under it and converting visitors to online customers. Its extensive product catalog was a significant business asset, but it wasn’t being leveraged because marketing had limited control over the website. Publishing fresh, relevant content across brand lines was difficult because IT functioned as website gatekeepers. With a wide-ranging product catalog that crossed brands, the marketing group was tantalized by the potential of personalization. Targeting different segments with content and product offers that were relevant and appealing to them presented a significant potential opportunity. New web content management technology not only solved workflow problems, but also offered engagement capabilities that enabled the marketing team to interact with different audiences in unique ways. The visitor-to-customer conversion recipe combined personalized content through targeted marketing, web content analytics for identifying content that moved customers through the engagement cycle, and a dynamic publishing engine to serve up customized content. Over time, the practice and refinement of WEM has produced a triplefold increase in conversions. And with the WCM foundation, the company also achieved new levels of brand consistency by centrally managing multiple product brand websites.
A high-tech device manufacturer sells its products throughout North America, Europe/Middle East/Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. Approximately 75% of traffic across the sites comprised visits to the product support pages, with the remaining 25% spread across other portions of the sites. At the same time, volume of calls to international support desks was high. Why were many customers calling for support, yet hitting the support pages of the website at higher rates? Analysis resulted in an engagement strategy centered on community interaction. Applications included live chat with the manufacturer and community forums in which customer experts shared their knowledge. Customization was also part of the strategy. Page navigation was reworked so that customers moved quickly from a generic support landing page to a country page to a support homepage for that region to a product selection page. With each click, customers provided more information that customized the visitor’s experience. The outcome of the WEM solution has exceeded the manufacturer’s expectations. Key metrics are increased levels of customer satisfaction, a dramatic reduction in calls to support centers (approximately 50% fewer calls since the interactive features went live on the site), and savings of millions of dollars annually in support costs.
A state transportation agency needed a public-facing website that engaged citizens, employees, and administrators by delivering more timely and accurate information, with higher degrees of interactivity. The existing site was static, delivering the same content to all audiences with work processes that were manual and labor-intensive. The web operations team assembled stakeholders from the relevant departments, who worked together to develop an engagement roadmap. This initiative called for prioritizing various audiences (personas) and identifying the engagement components that aligned with desired behaviors for each audience. The team built an engagement matrix that they used to map out investments, starting with solid core capabilities of a web content management platform that automated and streamlined internal publishing processes, while at the same time enabling dynamic delivery of content based on audience. As just one example of the new website’s increased utility, drivers can enter a zip code or travel route and get up-to-date information about road closings. Site visits have doubled over the first six months, with a higher percentage of users spending more time on the interactive features than on the static portions still to be revamped.
Online audiences have turned a corner regarding expectations, and they aren’t looking back. The pace of change is only going to accelerate, with digital natives coming into the workforce and technology evolving at an ever-faster pace. Every provider of web experience, whether for internal or external audiences, has an opportunity to leverage that change for success with engagement strategies and WEM practices and technologies.
Striking and significant benefits can result from embracing audience engagement as a formal strategy:
- Increased sales. Carefully measured and optimized web sites, email campaigns, and multimedia campaigns are proven vehicles for increased sales.
- Stickier websites. Community- and collaboration-rich websites are proving to keep people engaged longer—and return more often.
- Customer loyalty. People develop affinity and return to websites that offer personalized, content rich, and useful features.
- Brand awareness. Engaging sites that deliver valuable, relevant experience are almost guaranteed to generate buzz within the target community, resulting in positive brand reinforcement.
In addition to top-line benefits, a WEM solution that supports engagement strategies can deliver the following operational improvements when implemented correctly:
- Improved web operations. Enable an organization to manage a diverse, multisite web presence efficiently and centrally, with business users adding and administering content without the direct support of IT.
- Streamlined processes. Provide a great deal of added capabilities for managing internal content and collaboration.
- Reduced operational costs. Leveraging the web for global expansion, customer self-service, partner and channel communication, and targeted marketing presents a myriad of opportunities to perform better at a lower cost
The potential benefits and operational improvements offered by WEM are significant. If you are taking a serious look at engagement strategies and WEM platforms to support them, we suggest you begin the process by looking at larger business goals, and then taking stock of where your true pain points are in terms of how you can (or cannot) currently use your web presence to effectively deliver engaging web experiences. We also suggest that you consider your current site management needs and challenges and your plans for new sites or the next generation of your core site. At the end of the day, your objective is determining what your customers need and how you can best use your web presence to support those needs. The right platform will support your customers while simultaneously helping you meet both top-line goals and desired operational efficiencies.
Technology is an important enabler of engagement strategies and WEM practice; however, WEM is far more than technology. As a business practice, WEM is a formal, institutional approach to delivering value in every interaction. The risks of not driving your organization in towards adoption of such practice are profound. As a business imperative, WEM will separate the winners from the also-rans in global business economies.
Gilbane Group appreciates the contribution of the content for this section from FatWire Software.
FatWire Web Experience Management
Deliver a web experience that drives results
Over the past few years, there has been a fundamental revolution in how consumers are using the web. While passively reading static pages was once all that was expected, today’s web users demand an online experience that is much more like an in-person interaction—they want to find content tailored to their specific needs, and interact in an engaged community of people with similar interests.
To compete in this changing world, businesses must offer a new type of web experience—one that is personalized, relevant and collaborative. FatWire Web Experience Management (WEM) solutions help organizations to deliver all that is required to succeed in this new world—at once streamlining web content management processes and delivering real value to the business.
FatWire offers a comprehensive Web Experience Management portfolio including best-in-class Web Content Management and targeted marketing technologies, plus enterprise 2.0 collaboration and content integration capabilities.
The Web Experience Management business process – enabled by FatWire
FatWire’s product lines include:
- FatWire Content Server automates the entire web content management process, including content authoring, site design, content publishing, multi-channel and multi-lingual delivery, targeted marketing, and web content analytics. It enables organizations to offer a world-class web experience—via their public website, intranet, or extranet deployments—and to manage it with ease.
- FatWire TeamUp helps companies offer a collaborative and interactive web experience with industry-leading capabilities for user-generated content, collaboration, and application mashups. FatWire TeamUp’s features include simple-to-create wikis, blogs, tagging, and other web 2.0 tools for encouraging dialog and information sharing. FatWire TeamUp allows businesses to enable internal collaboration as well as live website community and user-generated content.
- The FatWire Content Integration Platform is an advanced web-services-based platform for scalable content sharing. The FatWire Content Integration Platform enables users of FatWire Content Server to access content stored in disparate repositories across the organization for publishing on the web—without leaving the FatWire Content Server interface. The FatWire Content Integration also enables FatWire TeamUp users to access content stored anywhere within the organization for use in their collaborative applications. With a scalable, secure, and workflow-based architecture, the FatWire Content Integration Platform enables organizations to harness the full power of enterprise content assets to deliver an engaging web experience.
FatWire’s Web Experience Management solutions enable organizations to build, deploy, and manage sophisticated websites and online communications. FatWire makes it easy for users across the organization to contribute to and manage content from simple, powerful user interfaces. Organizations can harness the power of FatWire solutions to efficiently and cost-effectively deploy and manage large numbers of websites, and FatWire’s solutions are architected for enterprise-class scalability and performance to enable the dynamic delivery of personalized and multi-lingual content. FatWire solutions also facilitate enterprise collaboration and content integration, and encourage communities around brands. With FatWire, customers can optimize the web experience they offer, using the web to its fullest potential as a tool for driving marketing success, customer loyalty, organizational efficiencies, and business growth.
Founded in 1996, FatWire (http://fatwire.com) serves 500 customers globally in a variety of industries including finance, manufacturing, retail, media and publishing, entertainment, travel, telecommunications, healthcare, and government. FatWire is headquartered in Mineola, New York, and has regional offices around the globe.
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