Each year in advisory conversations that Real Story Group holds with enterprise MarTech and Customer Experience (CX) leaders, common themes emerge. This year, it seems like the most frequent aspiration is, "We want to create a Netflix-like experience." That certainly sounds good, but what does "Netflix-like" actually mean, and what does it take to get there?
RSG evaluates martech and CX technologies to assist enterprise tech stack owners. To maintain its strict independence, RSG only works with enterprise technology buyers and never advises vendors.
What Are We Requesting When We Say Netflix?
If Netflix is the reference experience for our current era, what does that imply? I think most CX leaders focus on key customer benefits:
- Interesting things get pushed to me
- Recommendations generally make sense
- I can browse related items under a categorization scheme that also makes sense
- I'm always seeing a "next best action"
- I have a consistent experience, throughout
What does this mean for the rest of us who don't sell on-demand entertainment?
UX Not UI
I've occasionally witnessed a temptation to focus on, even mimic, the Netflix user interface. (There's a precedent for this: Other enterprise search vendors copied Google's CSS for their own results pages to improve user satisfaction.) Like Google, Netflix does one thing — delivering entertainment media — very well. Let's just not forget that behind the scenes, Netflix has invested an enormous amount of resources in:
- Getting to know its customers
- Constantly experimenting with how to engage
- Developing a highly specialized mobile app
- Paying really close attention to metadata
- Procuring and developing high-quality product (without which nothing else matters), and binge-worthy products are not cheap
In the long-running debate around mobile web vs. mobile app, the success of Netflix sometimes inspires CX leaders to advocate for the app route. An actual quote from a conversation with an enterprise marketing leader last week:
"If I have an app, I can push things and — unlike email — people will pay attention."
Sure, but just remember that you're not Netflix. Most people don't want to get pushed random messages and notifications from, say, one of their several healthcare providers. But we do want to be recognized as returning customers and when ready, receive relevant information and services.
I'm not the first person to point this out, but it bears repeating: The simplicity of Netflix front-end experiences comes from embracing complexity on the back end.
This means managing large troves of customer data and implementing complicated decisioning about when to recommend what to whom. In other words, don't mimic the Netflix UI if you can't actually execute on the Netflix UX.
Your New Stack
Executing on that UX means paying more attention to enterprise foundation services. These are lower-level platforms that may not actually deliver customer experiences themselves, but could prove essential to delivering great customer experiences. Consider the following reference model, which separates a canonical CX tech stack into logical tiers.
Omnichannel CX Tech Stack Reference Model. Source: Real Story Group
You may focus intently today on the "Content & Engagement Management" and "Interaction & Delivery" service tiers, because these platforms interact with your prospects and customers. Yet what Netflix teaches us is that the real magic happens lower in your stack. Let's review two examples.
Customer Data and Decisioning
If your enterprise is going to deliver relevant experiences that make people want to engage, you need to be able to build a coherent set of data about your prospects and customers, and make that datamart accessible to customer-facing applications. Data alone won't tell you what to present to customers and when — you also need excellent content, services, and decisioning — but it's a critical precondition for relevancy.
The tech industry has noticed. Over the past five years, nearly three dozen Customer Data Platform vendors have emerged to try to enable unified repositories of customer data. RSG evaluates them closely, and we've found they differ quite a bit under the covers, in terms of the use cases they target. So you'll want to test your alternatives carefully against your business plans. One interesting trend in this traditionally B2C-oriented technology is the recent uptick in CDP interest among B2B enterprises, as well.
When you get your customer data house in order, you'll need to figure out how to interact in a more coherent way to remain relevant. This is largely an orchestration challenge, and very difficult to address when your decisioning and personalization logic is trapped within specific engagement channels, like web, email, social, support, and so on.
Here again, the marketplace has responded with "Journey Orchestration Engine" technology, which enables you to perform some cyclical tasks around journey listening, mapping, decisioning, and analysis. RSG evaluates the major JOE players across three categories and, as with CDPs, you have a variety of choices with respect to scope, use-case fit, and complexity.
CDP and JOE both represent emergent marketplaces, even if some of the core concepts around data management and decisioning go back decades. You should temper your enthusiasm about the technology promise with some skepticism about the vendors themselves.
There's more to discuss here around customer analytics, content re-use, enterprise taxonomies and metadata, omnichannel operations, and governance. But hopefully by now you get the idea. If your firm wants to "be like Netflix," you need a plan to transition to the next generation of your omnichannel stack.
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