sitecore logoMarketers today are faced with an increasingly complex world. In this series — Marketing with Experience: How experience marketing is shaping the future — we explore the many ways experience marketing has become essential to the success — and how to succeed at it. Brought to you to by Sitecore — see the whole series here.

Some brands are built with a strong focus on the customer right from the beginning.

Zappos, for instance — they don’t just sell shoes; they provide excellent customer experiences. Amazon is another successfully customer-obsessed brand; in fact they’re so focused on the consumer that they patented anticipatory shipping. They can predictively tell what their shoppers will buy and improve logistics and delivery by shipping off the item before it even leaves the shoppers’ carts.

This is what hyper-responsive marketing looks like. This is what yields lifetime customers. And this, unfortunately, is what many brands fail to achieve.

Customers have long outpaced brands

Today, online consumers are at the center of their own worlds, surrounded by different touch points they can engage with on demand, and brands are having a hard time catching up.

In terms of architecture, few brands are built with a single view of their consumer at the center. There’s a huge gap between the consumers — who have adapted their behavior first to the Internet and now to multi-screen experiences — and the brands — who struggle to keep up with digital maturity. Even huge brands have trouble when it comes to the stages of digital maturity: they engage in digital marketing but don’t provide brand experiences.

Last year, when Apple launched the newest iPhone on September 19, millions pre-ordered online, and one of them was Lars Petersen, Global Director of Business Optimization Services for Sitecore. Lars has an excellent eye for great brand experiences, and he wasn’t blown away by his experience pre-ordering the new iPhone.

Lars buys an iPhone

“I pre-ordered the Apple iPhone a week before it was released,” Lars said during an interview with VentureBeat, “and after I left the site and returned 90 minutes later using the same device, the first thing I saw was a message saying ‘buy the new iPhone’.”

Lars went on to say that he later clicked on the email confirmation of his pre-order and — was again shown the same ad. On the launch date, he also received an email, urging him to buy the same iPhone that he had already bought. “They owned Beats [headphones] and they could have shown me an ad for that instead. Missing out on this opportunity, I bought my headset from somewhere else — I didn’t even think of Apple because they were not top of mind,” Lars said. The majority of brands today provide similarly disconnected experiences to their consumers, lagging far behind exceptional brands such as Zappos and Amazon that create lifetime customers

The stages of digital maturity

For a closer look into customer experience models, Lars provided VentureBeat with the following infographic of the stages of digital maturity:

Stages of digital maturity

Above: Image included with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Connect: How to Use Data and Experience Marketing to Create Lifetime Customers by Lars Birkholm Petersen, Ron Person, Christopher Nash.

Lars_Petersen 300dpi

Download the first three chapters of “Connect — How to Use Data and Experience Marketing to Create Lifetime Customers” for free. 

In this customer experience maturity model, most brands online are stuck in the first three stages: the Attract phase. In the book Connect — How to Use Data and Experience Marketing to Create Lifetime Customers, Lars and his co-authors break down stages of digital maturity based on studies with over 1,000 global organizations across different industries. They found 85.4 percent of participants were stuck in the first two stages of digital maturity. In fact, 67 percent were in just the very first Initiate stage, and 18.4 percent were in the Radiate stage.

The Initiate, Radiate, and Align stages of the maturity model encompass the typical approaches to digital marketing today: creating an online presence for the brand via websites, mobile sites, social media, and content, and then distributing reach across those channels. However, many brands don’t align their objectives with their efforts so they stagnate before they even reach the Align stage.

The second phase — Convert — begins with conversion optimization and personalization, and it’s here where brands can advance their digital maturity aggressively. The optimize stage is all about tweaking and optimizing efforts to become more relevant and personal, while the latter Nurture stage fully transitions well-optimized campaigns into relationships via trigger-based dialogs between brands and consumers.

Finally, the Advocate phase focuses on genuine brand engagement to secure lifetime customers through excellent experiences. And when a brand reaches the Engage stage, it begins to piece together a single view of its target consumers, unifying the brand experience that multiple point solutions provide. The final step — the Lifetime Customers stage — is the full realization of a hyper-responsive brand experience. It utilizes real-time data and a single view of the consumer to deliver relevant brand experiences to customers — regardless of touch point.

In the study cited above, only 4.4 percent of participants were at the Lifetime Customers stage of digital maturity. This is where Amazon and Zappos belong.


From zero to lifetime customers

The transition between the digital stages of maturity is a journey that can span years. However, each incremental advancement through the stages is immensely worthwhile, producing an average of 19 percent uplift in sales according to research by Forrester.

Brands can use this as an opportunity to secure executive commitment by showing their top decision-makers that there are tremendous opportunities for improved financial performance due to positive brand experiences.

Certainly, as digital maturity advances, efforts become increasingly sophisticated and interconnected and the return on investment likewise becomes increasingly more pronounced.

Underlying all this is one important hurdle. A large number of brands rely on multiple point solutions per marketing channel. When solutions aren’t integrated — and in many cases, they aren’t — the effort is uncoordinated and disconnected. Re-engineering to find an integrated solution will allow marketers to truly connect the dots for a single customer view.

3 pillars of digital maturity

To achieve digital maturity, brands need three important pillars:

  • Alignment of strategy tactics and objectives — creating metrics that executives can understand based on their business objectives.
  • A single view of customer — collecting and connecting the customer data that matters.
  • Hyper-responsive marketing — using the connected data in real-time to shape the consumer brand experience across multiple channels.

It’s crucial to target key channels and focus on quick wins like optimization efforts to get more executive buy-in for the long-term transition.

Not all brands are built with a customer-obsessed architecture, but in the digital marketing landscape, they all need to be digitally mature enough to be able to deliver great, relevant brand experiences to their consumers.

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