“Experience optimization” is one of those terms that seems to cover almost everything. Since everyone agrees that customer experience is the key to a brand’s success these days, wouldn’t optimizing that involve every marketing tool in your toolkit?
But, as Forrester explains in its first Wave report on this category, [“The Forrester Wave: Experience Optimization Platforms, Q2 2018,” fee required] experience optimization is “the continued consolidation of online testing, behavioral targeting, and recommendations practices,” with the intent to learn what works and then improve how customers interact with brands.
In fact, this report is the newest incarnation of Forrester’s previous Wave reports on online testing platforms, since advanced online testing is increasingly merging with recommendations and behavioral targeting and being placed on top of digital intelligence layers. The whole idea, then, is that every customer interaction becomes a learning event to better tune the experiences of every customer. From the report:
Online testing creates variations, so marketers and their tools can see what works best. Behavioral targeting, the report notes, delivers “personalized experiences (like relevant discounts, promotions, or special functionality) to particular customer segments using rules or predictive algorithms” that are based on events or customer actions. And recommendations make suggestions that can affect the experience by offering different content or merchandise.
Eight vendors were assessed in the report, each of which was expected to have a complete experience optimization platform, a substantial user base and market visibility.
Only Adobe was rated in the top category of Leader, while Optimizely, Evergage, Monetate and SAS landed in the second tier of Strong Performers. Oracle, Dynamic Yield and SiteSpect placed as Contenders, and no one ended up in the bottom level of Challengers.
The report describes top-rated Adobe Target as “a matryoshka doll that sits inside the Adobe Marketing Cloud — which in turn sits within the Adobe Experience Cloud,” adding that Target employs AI to optimize experiences through all optimization techniques.
Some vendors have clearly contrasting strengths. Optimizely X, for instance, is highlighted for its testing and targeting, but is dinged for the “relatively low scores” of its recommendation engine. On the other hand, Evergage scores high for recommendations and behavioral targeting but lags in testing.
It’s likely this category will continue its definitional expansion, as facial tracking, voice analysis and other techniques become more commonly used as ways to evaluate real-time responses and drive experience modifications.
Meanwhile, in this post-General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) world, contextual targeting may someday join behavioral targeting as a way of personalizing information and suggestions. One thing is clear: Both customer experience and optimization methods are evolving as fast as they can.