Expert Interview: Jim Bowes

How important is Digital to your organisation? Does it have board level buy-in, is it central to your business strategy or is it seen more as a tactical marketing element?

We're a digital organisation and we work in an interactive way all the way to our board meeting. We spend quite a lot of our time working with other organisations that want to transform digitally. What's key to us is that you have to recognise that this is about a cultural change as much as it is a technology change.

How do you define ‘digital experience’? What makes a great digital experience?

To us digital experience is the ability as a user to achieve what they're trying to achieve. To make this great it should be simple, seamless and where possible, use context so they feel known and every step creates a deeper engagement with relevant content or options.

What are the main barriers to creating better online experiences for your audiences?

We work extensively in the charity and not for profit sector, and we often see really complex stakeholder environments making it hard to get a single voice for requirements. We also run in to multiple integrations with platforms that make it difficult to create a compelling digital experience. It's getting better and we've found ways to overcome many of these challenges but they still exist.

What does the future of digital experience look like to you?

The future of digital experience is the dropping of digital and it becoming about the cross channel customer experience. As organisations become more digitally native the shape of digital teams will change as will customer expectations.

How are you adapting what you do to deliver more compelling digital experiences?

We've expanded our strategy and research team over the last 12 months and have seen a big increase in demand for taking a user centred approach to creating digital channels.

How do you measure the effectiveness of the experiences you deliver online?

As an agency with a strong background in Agile we love to test, learn and iterate. Ideally when we work on a project the new website or product is just the beginning of the relationship - our aim is to work alongside our clients testing, learning and improving as we go. When we kick of projects we agree KPIs and then look for mechanisms that we can implement to measure these. This often includes a range of activities including use of analytics, surveys and multivariate testing tools.

How important is it to deliver a great emotional experience as well as a slick transactional one?

We believe that the heart of customer engagement is having a shared passion - and that these create positive actions from your audience. You should talk about the things that you are really passionate about and find the common around with your audience where you can have a dialogue that's good for both of you.

What’s the role of content in delivering better online experiences?

Content is the life blood of people engaging with you - but that doesn't just mean written content. Visual content is incredibly important and with multiple platforms backing 360 degree video, it's also one of the fastest developing areas of digital.

How should a person’s context affect the personalised experience they receive?

Giving more contextual experiences definitely improves a users experience. However, marketeers need to remember that with great power comes great responsibility and you have to remember to keep a constant linked thread between what you're trying to achieve as an organisation and a user need at a given moment in time. Users are becoming ever more savvy and organisations of overuse contextual information purely for sales could seen an overall brand impact over time. It's about making sure that you use this capability alongside understanding your audience and making sure their satisfaction levels remain high.

How should a customer’s online experience integrate with their offline one? Are there any areas where they should differ?

A customers experience should be joined up - but there certainly could be elements of an online and offline experience that you might want to differ - perhaps you have a specific type of product that you know sells much more effectively face to face you might use your online experience to drive to an offline one but in other situations you might be aiming to fulfil all of a customers needs online.

What’s the best digital experience you’ve had online and why?

I think certain industries have really pushed digital experiences forward in the last few years - particularly those for travel and food. I'm say the hotel booking site that I use has saved me time, money and given me rewards for using it regularly - and as a customer this has made my life better.

What are your top 3 pieces of advice for anyone trying to deliver better digital experiences to their audiences?

If you want to improve your digital experiences you should firstly, take time to speak to real users, getting qualitative and quantitive data. Secondly, you should have a relentless focus on the priority of your digital channels and then map the journeys for these, and work to make them simpler. Thirdly if you want to improve your online experience make sure you create a clear, compelling vision for your project that maps users, needs, features and value for your organisation. Remove the fat and focus on making users happy completing key goals that also mean success for you.