How You Can Navigate Today’s Chaotic and Innovative Technology Options.
Since mobile apps became a thing, people have asked: “should I build an app or should this be a website?” While we hear this specific question less and less today, there’s still a healthy amount of fear present when discussing any new digital solution.
In this report, we’ll explore what it means to choose the right digital solution and the processes that can ensure you’ve chosen the digital solution that is the best fit for your company.
A Fear of Missing Out
As with most new things in life, building a new digital solution comes with a bit of fear. Fear that your competitor will build something first and gain recognition from your peers in the industry. Or the fear that customers will change their habits and the solution you built is no longer relevant. The question of “Which technology should I use?” has many different flavors — these can range from whether you should build a mobile app or a website, to whether you should focus your marketing efforts on email programs or social media. But the common thread is the fear of missing out. In short, it’s asking “Where should I spend my time and money in order to best maximize my budget and efforts?”
There’s often more than one answer to this question, as there’s often more than one way to go about something. This is certainly true in the realms of digital, customer experience, and marketing technology. For digital, it’s important that we don’t rush to choose just any answer, but that we examine a variety of possible tools and use our understanding of the problem that needs to be solved in order to select the best tool for the job. While many tools may be capable of doing the job, successful businesses focus on the tools that are efficient and provide the best possible experience for the customer.
“Organizations risk wasting $28 million due to the increasing pressure to rush into digital projects without proper planning.” - A 2018 Couchbase Study
The Right Tools Make All the Difference
Imagine walking into a nice restaurant, being seated, and finding a place setting that included a fork, a pair of scissors, and a ladle. Sure, the scissors will cut and the ladle will scoop, but you were expecting a knife and a spoon. The restaurant got one thing right, but their adventures in trying something new haven’t allowed them to find the right tools for the job. As absurd as this may seem, the problem of finding the right tools for the job is a common one, though it can easily be avoided by focusing on a few fundamentals.
In doing so, you won’t end up spending all that money on scissors and ladles only to replace them with the right tools when your customers fail to adopt these new digital creations. So how can we identify the right tools? It’s simple really, we just need to understand our customers, understand the technology, and get the right team together. These are the 3 Pillars of Choosing the Right Digital Solution.
The 3 Pillars of Digital Solutions
These Pillars create a strong foundation that ensures we build the right solution.
1) Understanding Your Customers
This is the easy part, right?
It can be, for the curious companies who routinely work directly with their customers to observe them, gain feedback, and do the due diligence to validate their insights and understanding. Too often businesses assume they understand their customers or their customers’ perception of a brand and its offerings, letting internal objectives cloud their judgment. “Of course they know we do X, because we can’t stop talking about it.” There are many ways to go about gaining a more complete and accurate understanding of your customers, which we won’t detail exhaustively here.
What we do want to cover are the two most important tools for understanding your customers so you can determine what technologies they need: the persona and the journey map. Creating these can be time-consuming and complex…but it can also be relatively straight-forward if we don’t overcomplicate it. When it comes to these tools, sometimes we need the fancy Multicooker with Wifi and a sous vide function, and other times you just need a pot or pan. Start with the pot.
Why We Need Personas
Personas are representations of what we know about the various types of customers that engage with business.
Their preference for technology, their need states, their goals, their psyche, their brand preferences, etc. To help visualize personas, we’ve included an example persona for an up and coming fast casual restaurant. When researching the right technology, personas are helpful for many things, including providing an understanding of where your customers fit on the spectrum of adoption. For example, our customer, Sophia, is a busy working mom, who is always on the go, meaning she needs a mobile solution she can access while out and about. This alone isn’t enough to help us make informed technology decisions.
A persona tells us enough about customers to limit or broaden our consideration set for possible solutions. In this case, while Sophia needs a solution that works on mobile, should that be a responsive website with online ordering, or a mobile application? At the moment, we can take an educated guess about which solution is right for her, but we’ll also need to know what problems our technology will solve and how customers interact with organizations like ours. This is where our journey map comes in.
Why We Need Journey Maps
A journey map simply shows us the typical steps a customer goes through as they engage with our brand.
Historically, journey maps were limited to how customers became aware of a brand, what led to them purchasing, and then making the purchase. This focus on what gets us to a sale is too limiting for the way that customers interact with brands today. Today, “purchase” is an individual step in the customer journey that includes continued interaction. For a restaurant brand, this might mean engagement on social media, while it might mean the check-in process for a hotel chain, or simply the daily use of a software product. In fact, the desired actions that occur at the “purchase” or “use” step in the customer journey are often the deciding factors when brands consider investing in digital solutions such as a new website or mobile application.
Brands must look at the circumstances under which customers move to the “purchase” step, as well as the barriers that would prevent customers from taking the desired action. A journey map aligns and identifies the steps of the customer journey and the actions taken at each step. This means that to create a simple journey map you really only need the phases of the journey and the actions taken during each phase. Journey maps can grow in complexity as different phases and actions are created for each persona, but we want to start with something simple (like a pot or pan), allowing us to cast the widest net for the greatest impact.
2) Understanding the Technology
The right technology choice can be simple, though it’s often more complex than its surface-level appearance would suggest.
If we go back to the familiar web or mobile debate, the choice quickly multiplies. A website is no longer just a website — it can be a progressive web app or a single page application, or just a regular old website. And then the website can be augmented with tools from third-parties such as a CMS, or e-commerce platform, each with their own slew of execution choices.
Mobile apps also have this same deluge of choice, with a primary example being whether to build native versus build with a multi-platform tool like React Native. It’s not quite as simple as building with the technology that fits your journey and your personas. You need to find the right tools within each technology that allow you to meet the goals you created using your personas and journey maps.
Matching Tech to Personas and Journey Maps
Which Problems Should You Solve?
When we last explored the web versus mobile debate, we talked of nearing feature parity, the obstacles of getting users to download an app, and the benefits of the web’s universality. But we left room for mobile apps where it matched the use case. Today, the same holds true, though we can expand the debate. AR, VR, voice, beacons, wearables…it all comes back to matching the tech to the persona and the journey map.
You could create a voice integration (e.g. an Alexa skill) for ordering a pizza or you could create an AR app that lets you see what each pizza looks like at your dinner table. The voice integration is a better fit for this use case, as it actually allows the user to complete their desired action of ordering a pizza. That may be a painfully obvious example, but it gets to the point that businesses need to be asking themselves not “which technology should I use,” but rather “which problems should I solve.”
Once we name and understand the customer’s problem, we enable the right technology choices that we can build together.
3) Getting the Right Team Together
Depending on who you are, either understanding the customer or understanding the technology may feel like the “easy” part.
The challenge is that a digital project requires both. To make the right decisions for your customers, you need both a deep understanding of your customers and the technologies that enable solutions to their challenges. Some organizations have gotten this right — blending IT and Marketing or creating roles specifically for marketing technologists. Others are still prone to territorial protectionism.
Dynamit blends marketing and IT because we’ve seen it have the most positive impact for our client partners: it allows us to pull out the marketing and IT strengths already in place in your organization and bring them to the table so we come to the best solution for your customer. It doesn’t mean marketing needs to become a tech expert, and that your IT team needs to build a deeper understanding of your customer before your project can be successful. It means that we blend their skills and build the solution together. Then over time, those functions learn from each other and each gets smarter.
The Right Cooks, The Right Recipe
Some will contend that making customer technology the responsibility of Marketing and IT would be too many cooks in the kitchen. However, just like our need to find the right tools, we need the right team. We need the right cooks — not too many and not too few.
The businesses that are the most successful in this area have considered not just the customers and the tools, but also the organizational change that needs to happen to drive digital initiatives forward. So what roles must every project fill to be successful? We see 4 primary internal roles, the project owner, project manager, marketing lead, and IT lead, in addition to your external partners. Each role can be filled by one person or more as long as there is a primary decision maker for each role. It is also possible that one person fills more than one role. Below we outline some of the key responsibilities of each role.
The Alternative (See What Sticks)
But maybe you aren’t able to research the 3 pillars. Maybe you don’t have the time or resources. What can you do?
You can certainly choose a solution without an understanding of your customers, the technology options, or the right team in place. But this is much more akin to throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks, resulting in a random outcome and you might end up building something that doesn’t need to or should not exist.
Why would you need this? And how do you even get started?
When you are considering your next project, you should think through the following questions:
- Do I understand my customer’s mindset and technology preferences?
- Do I understand my customer’s journey?
- Are there challenges in the journey or other problems that need solved?
- Is there a technology solution for the problem?
- What is the correct blend of skills that we need to build the solution?
The last question can all too often be overlooked and it’s somewhat easy to understand why. It’s hard to calculate the ROI on the unknown. This is where a model can help — either in the form of expected results based on the history of competitors or in a simple minimum expected result model. In either case, getting to an understanding of the goals you need to achieve to justify your purchase can help you determine if your plan is viable or not. This is an essential step in deciding if you are building something helpful, or just creating a banana slicer — a thing that never needed to exist.
Let’s Build Together
Looking for a partner who can help guide you?
If you have a clear picture of your customer, but are having trouble deciding which technology is best to meet their needs, reach out to our strategists to talk through your options.