Start With an Outside-In Perspective — A DX Leaders Interview

Peter Fogelsanger’s passion for innovative technology has only grown over the course of his career. Currently the global head of partnerships at content management system vendor Contentstack, Fogelsanger has noticed over the years that many companies aren’t willing to be experimental enough to update their marketing technology strategy.

“If you think about many of the brands you are familiar with, the digital experience and marketing approach they take is for the biggest segment and the most important product. Of course, there are very legitimate reasons they are doing this, especially if their strategy and martech stack is older and expensive monolithic tools. But I’d argue in 2021 this may be doing more harm than good,” Fogelsanger said.

He supports a more personalized approach for the consumer. For example, someone who already owns your most important product may not like getting constantly bombarded with emails and banner ads for what they already own.

“Suppressing the irrelevant and promoting something that might be a smaller value product for the brand has the potential to increase the wallet share of that customer who already has [your main product],” he said.

Contentstack is a sponsor of the Digital Experience Summit, taking place as an online event on July 29. Fogelsanger is co-hosting the session “Agile Omnichannel Personalization: Myth or Reality?” along with Neal Prescott, Vice President of Digital Technology at EPAM Systems, a leading global provider of digital platform engineering and development services, and Lars Birkholm Petersen, the co-founder of SaaS-based personalization platform Uniform. These three digital experience experts spoke with CMSWire about the importance of user-first design, how to utilize AI correctly and personalization trends they’re excited to follow.

Personalization and the Omnichannel Holy Grail

CMSWire: How much personalization do users want in their experience with a software platform? Is there a limit? Do you see different trends with different demographics of people?

Peter Fogelsanger: This varies quite a bit based upon a couple of factors. More conservative companies — often those that cater to older generation customers — tend to want moderate personalization based upon fear of overstepping privacy perceptions. Others want complete 1:1 personalization based upon what consumers are used to with Amazon and Netflix. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle: not so much that it’s creepy, but more than just a targeted CTA or segmentation-based personalization.

Many marketers and user experience gurus are moving in this direction. But most have had failures, aren’t sure where to start, are stalled in an analysis or strategy stage, or have experienced other roadblocks for making progress.

CMSWire: How do you balance a user’s desire for personalization with their preference for some amount of data privacy?

Lars Birkholm Petersen: The first option is to take a fully privacy-first approach, where personalization is delivered but no user data is stored. The architecture for personalization is designed so that personalization can be delivered from an edge and data resides on the user’s device — and never leaves that device. Your site or app is just responding to that data on the edge.

The second approach is where some user data is stored in a database, and obviously the use of the data stored has to be compliant with legislations like GDPR and the Colorado Privacy Act. In order to deliver personalization based on that data, it really comes down to a value exchange. Is the personalized experience valuable for the user in completing their task faster? And for that, are they willing to provide the needed data?

Neal Prescott: Many brands often forget to design with the user-first in mind. Most personalization is inside-out versus outside-in. Using an outside-in approach means looking at what the customer wants and coming up with the best UX to meet their needs.

CMSWire: What advancements or trends in omnichannel are you especially excited about? Why?

Birkholm Petersen: The promise of delivering omnichannel personalized experiences has been the holy grail for marketers. Many digital experience platform (DXP) vendors have been overpromising how their platform enables this, yet most haven’t been able to deliver on the promise. It’s complicated — especially with a suite focused on websites.

Prescott: The rise of MACH-based (Microservices, APIs, Headless, Cloud) Architectures and the move towards a composable DXP (where best-of-breed technologies are your foundation for delivering omnichannel experiences) gives marketers the most flexibility to select the right technology for the task. We see many clients taking that approach. Further, as more brands move toward a stronger and more agile MACH-based architecture, they’ll start to unlock their omnichannel vision and will be a step closer to the UX holy grail.

AI and Humans, Not AI Alone, Will Deliver on User Experience

CMSWire: How do you see AI influencing the user experience?

Fogelsanger: In my opinion, AI around personalization and user experience is one of the most over-hyped categories of martech. The market’s expectation is a sci-fi level of AI where it is monitoring behavior and mining massive databases, and then automatically creating human-like experiences and significant KPI impact.

The reality is that there are a lot of blockers and complexity in making those two sides of the UX come together. AI can be useful for informing a decisioning engine about what topic could be relevant. And AI and machine learning can also be good at analyzing large amounts of data and suggesting areas for improvement around a specific KPI. However, bringing those things together in a meaningful way really requires a human — [someone like] a merchandiser or a customer journey expert.

CMSWire: Some of the constructive criticism regarding the role of AI making decisions for a business is the fact that in many cases, training data is limited and does not appropriately account for underrepresented groups of people. How can businesses use AI ethically and efficiently in their DX strategy? Where are these opportunities and where can they be more thoughtful?

Fogelsanger: It’s not only the lack of data around smaller groups, it’s [also] the narrow dimensions of data available or approaches taken for collecting data. Take the simple example of A/B testing. This is popular and can be effective if what you are trying to test is narrow, such as two versions of the copy or label on a CTA. But the data that results from that test may not be an accurate indicator of the actual result the organization actually wants to affect. It’s entirely possible the red banner gets better click through to a product page, [but you] still have 100% of those CTA conversions never actually converting into a purchase.

My opinion is that the current sweet spot may be in the middle. Use a strategy and technology to analyze an individual’s intent. Then incorporate data, AI and machine learning to gather insight into what works at micro-moments.

CMSWire: Considering the steps of your career and the positions you’ve held leading up to Contentstack, what lessons have you learned about the digital experience from working at these various companies?

Fogelsanger: The best brands I’ve worked with work hard to balance a long term strategy with tactical agility. They know where they have gaps in data, technology or organizationally, and most are working towards addressing those gaps. These brands often have a marketing technologist or similar resource to advise the CMO and marketing team. This helps fill the knowledge gap between “what are we doing now (or have always done)” and “what is possible with our martech.”

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The events staff at Simpler Media Group, publisher of CMSWire and Reworked, work to inform our readers and community on our two conferences, the DX Summit and the Digital Workplace Experience. Find out everything you need to gear up for two of tech’s premiere events.

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