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Omnichannel has dominated both strategic thinking and technology investment for the past decade. And no organisation can afford to ignore the digital revolution – but where to start?

Technical challenges have derailed many attempts at achieving the omnichannel vision, but there is another key constraint: omnichannel is too inward focused. Organisations need to embrace a far more outward led approach, embracing Customer Experience Networks (CXN) that comprise all the stakeholders in the customer journey.  As growing numbers of large enterprises begin to leverage the capabilities of Application Programming Interfaces (API) to foster collaboration and innovation throughout the CXN in order to realise customer experience objectives, Jeanine Banks, Executive Vice President, Global Products and Solutions, Axway, outlines the findings of recent IDC research into the importance of the ecosystem in the customer experience.

Inconsistent experiences

While the concept of seamlessly tying all channels together to deliver a consistent customer experience makes sense in theory, in practice it is incredibly tough to achieve. According to a recent study, The Role of Customer Experience Networks in Delivering Value-Based Digital Transformation, undertaken by IDC on behalf of Axway, just 31 percent of respondents had managed to implement omnichannel systems. Furthermore, four in ten companies report their omnichannel systems fail to provide a unified and real-time view of customer experience.

And shockingly businesses are struggling, despite the prioritised investment and a focus on omnichannel over the past decade, to measure any strategic value. Only 14 percent consider omnichannel to be a key differentiator and source of competitive advantage; conversely, 22 percent say it is just a necessary cost of doing business. So, what has gone wrong?

Omnichannel has proved to be far more challenging from a technical perspective than perhaps many organisations expected, with companies struggling to create a single view of the customer.  The result, is an inconsistent customer experience. And this is the key: customer experience remains imperative and now replaces product and price as a means to create brand value, distinctiveness and strategic differentiation. Businesses must get it right!

Customer Experience Networks

Given the overwhelming technical challenge and the increasingly debatable business benefits, there is growing recognition that omnichannel is not the answer to achieving the optimal customer experience. The research revealed that customer experience, a single customer data view, and customer journeys are all rated as significantly more important as digital initiatives than omnichannel management.

And with a focus on real-time response and customer centric innovation across the customer journey, organisations are looking to leverage the CXN as a digital nerve system that responds to customer experiences and collaborates to achieve continual improvement. Customer centric increasingly means putting the customer at the heart of an extended ecosystem. The focus is no longer on pushing products and services out to a customer base but on actively listening to the customer voice, understanding customer sentiment and determining how the ecosystem can improve the customer experience through truly customer centric solutions.

New Thinking to Realise CXN

A fundamental aspect of this collaboration and CXN co-innovation is the creation of network connections and scalable customer experience networks that facilitate collaboration and data sharing, enabled by new Application Programming Interface (API) capabilities.  Indeed, almost half (49%) of survey respondents believe APIs are really important in delivering innovation and collaboration throughout CXNs.

Furthermore, the perception of APIs purely as an integration technology is changing, with a focus on business context set to become the key driver of API adoption. As such, APIs are no longer the preserve of IT, perceived only as an integration technology that enables data sharing. Instead, there is growing evidence that APIs are being considered a source of business value and a way to provide customer led innovation.

Conclusion

Traditional approaches to delivering improved, relevant and timely customer experience are broken. With digital disruptors proliferating in every industry, organisations need to find a way to compete and gain competitive advantage. And omnichannel is no longer the answer.  CXNs provide a chance to accelerate innovation and leverage a strong ecosystem to create a truly customer centric organisation that can deliver an optimal customer experience. They also provide a way to respond fast to the new breed of digital disruptors by exploring new revenue streams and business channels.

The challenge for organisations is no longer technology but to embrace a collaborative culture at the heart of the CXN.  It is with this vision and strategic model that the IT layer – the API – can rapidly become the enabler for the outward in approach that facilitates collaboration and delivers that optimal customer experience.

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