This isn’t an article about the rise of digital, and why brands need to do more to stand out.

The reality is you already know this. It’s why your business, like many others, has probably been investing in digital experience long before COVID-19 struck.

Rather, this article is about how to deliver a good digital experience – because the issue is that for too many brands these investments aren’t yet paying off quite as they’d hoped. Most struggle to understand how to use the technology they have to deliver better value to customers.

As retailers look to turbocharge their e-commerce customer experience to cater to a boom in online demand and changing behaviours, preferences, and engagements, delivering a good digital experience is more important than ever.

Common challenges and a common outcome

Three common challenges have emerged with one overriding theme in recent months.

Firstly, after 20 years digital analytics is not living up to its promise – the issue is that digital analytics explains what happened but not why or what to do next. As Qualtrics Founder Ryan Smith says, “all measurement does is tell you how many times you need to apologise…a system of measurement, like most current customer experience programs, leads to chasing scores and organisational bureaucracy.”

Secondly, customer insight, marketing and digital teams continue to struggle with data being collected in siloes.

Lastly, digital teams are using traditional voice of the customer (VOC) tools that lack the insights and systems of action to meaningfully address experience gaps.

Customers do not see each part of your business in isolation – they see it as a single entity. Yet in each case, systems and people are still disconnected, good data is going to waste because it’s not being shared, and ultimately customers are left frustrated.

Experience and operational data

To improve the digital experiences delivered we need a new approach to how businesses think about the problem and better tools.

Thinking around digital experience must evolve from ‘how can we use digital to sell more products’ to a single view that continually asks, “how can we use tech to reimagine the way we deliver customer value?”

For example, when the pandemic struck we saw companies from the health and fitness industry offer free online classes and support to keep people engaged and supported. This quick action enabled businesses to continue supporting customers in their efforts to achieve their goals.

Too many companies see digital transformation as modernising their IT stack or building a mobile app. These things are helpful, but they are no silver bullet. Instead, they should focus on end-to-end experience management – tools and systems that combine experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data) to measure and improve the customer experience.

With experience management as a focus, brands can constantly hunt for experience gaps and put in place systems of action to ensure that feedback is surfaced and rapidly acted upon. By ensuring employees have the right tools, brands can surface customers’ unmet needs, drivers of satisfaction and pain points throughout their customer journey. They can then develop a strategy and a plan to digitise and optimise the entire value chain with the customer in mind.

That’s what makes retail leaders like Amazon stand out. They are really adept at using insights from digital channels to fuel product innovation and experience optimisation at lightning speed. Uber is another great example of a company doing this well. They didn’t just develop an app to order a taxi. From how you find the car, to how you pay, to how you leave reviews, it’s all convenient and a great user experience.

A wake-up call

The pandemic has exposed how many brands underinvested in digital experience or overinvested in tools that deliver poor returns.

If this continues, those brands will not only miss out on opportunities to generate more customer loyalty, revenue and profit through better customer experiences – they’ll also miss a chance to become faster, leaner organisations that are more capable of tackling new threats and tapping into emerging opportunities.

But it’s not too late to act.  By moving beyond digitising existing processes to reimagining their entire customer journey, brands can deliver more value with digital experience strategies that can pay for themselves.

The opportunity to re-evaluate investment in digital experience remains huge. According to the NAB Online Retail Sales Index, Australians spent $35.69 billion on online retail in the year to June – more than 23 per cent higher than the comparable period a year ago – and this surge isn’t expected to die down any time soon.

It’s time brands make digital experience management their north star. Only with the right mindset and the tools to back it up can brands differentiate themselves in the most competitive online environment of our lifetimes.

Vicky Katsabaris is head of CX solutions and strategy at Qualtrics