Shannon Duffy is executive vice president of product marketing for Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud, and Community Cloud at Salesforce.


When investing thousands, sometimes millions of dollars, in creating digital experiences, there’s often a debate about whether to focus more on form or function. Our most successful customers start with function, and for good reason. Think about the last time you clicked through a slick website. It may have had a gorgeous design and an immersive experience but it may have also left you frustrated with its inability to deliver any relevant action. Despite being engaging at first, it might have left you wondering why the site was even created.

Making data and business processes the foundations of customer interactions allow you to deliver the best digital experiences possible. Companies that prioritize creative over customer value may lose out on meaningful returns. By focusing on process and data, companies can build, measure, and refine digital experiences that drive growth. Starting there first gives creative teams context that helps them make each experience not only pixel-perfect but also valuable.


What is a digital experience?

A digital experience is any interaction powered by digital technology. We touch digital experiences constantly throughout our day: ordering takeout, checking in for flights, and even taking a trail on how to use a new Salesforce feature. Many of us even have digital experiences while sleeping, thanks to sleep tracking apps. And when we get away from the digital grind with a hike, digital devices track our steps and map our path.

For a business, every digital interaction matters. You can treat each digital experience – across every department – as a success driver that can and should deliver a return on experience (RoX). So when you invest in experiences, identify the metrics you want to improve and the data sources that will help inform the experience. For instance, a commerce experience that includes product recommendations can be measured based on upsell and cross-sell. Importantly, the experience can be designed to use data to personalize recommendations for increased cart size or repeat purchases. 


Avoid “creative-first” experiences

Incredible creative inspires, excites, and helps us fall in love with a brand. And the best creative starts with the brief, which should always include business metrics and goals. Not every digital experience is created equal, especially if an experience is built without a well-defined business objective. Without a well-defined business objective, creative excitement can put form ahead of function. There may be a sense of urgency around updating a website that looks dated. Or it could be as simple as wanting to make an experience to look “cooler” than a competitor’s.

It’s not just about missing out on potential growth opportunities, creative-led development can turn a modest project into a monster for IT. Some businesses even find themselves tied to third parties and custom technology for experience updates. The end result is an experience users may like, but drains resources every time you refine it to improve business metrics.

Worst case: it’s possible to spend millions building out a cutting-edge creative concept, and to see almost no return. Chasing unclear business goals can leave you with a pretty, but complex, interface and a not-so-helpful chatbot that annoys users. That example underscores the frustration business leaders can feel when comparing spend to gains on creative-first projects.


Data-first experiences delight users and the business

Your data reveals areas of the business that call for better experiences. It’s not just about benchmarking against competitors. Data can help guide efforts to build industry-leading experiences – efficiently. You focus on real friction points in your process flows. Measuring helps your team continually improve results, and win support from across functional areas of the business.

Beyond measuring results, smart use of data can delight customers, employees, and partners. Data from internal systems can personalize their experiences and save them time. Don’t make working with you “easier than expected” – aim for easy by connecting people to what’s relevant to them.

You can automatically connect people with information about products they recently bought; no agent interaction required. Or you can create workflows for partners to speed them through quotes based on the industry they serve. Or you can use data to develop innovative kiosk experiences. The possibilities are endless – and the results are always measurable.


CRM: Your data goldmine

Building a data-first experience begins by identifying your business goals and the data linked to those goals. For instance, if you’re focused on customer commerce experiences, CRM data can provide a starting point for personalization of product and content recommendations. Upsell and cross-sell data and customer satisfaction numbers will measure the success of your efforts. 


A return on every experience

Our customers choose Salesforce because they want to drive a return on experience by leveraging the world’s #1 CRM. They know good experiences are good for business – the customer returns, the site visitor consumes more content, and your partner gets her question answered without agent interaction. Bad experiences yield poor returns, such as customer churn, abandoned carts, and high customer service costs.

Before you start any kind of digital experience, be clear on what it is you want your outcome to be. Otherwise, you risk spending a lot of time and money with little RoX to show for it. Creativity plays an integral role, but it’s guided by business leaders within the functional areas of the business who expect measurable outcomes.


Make content core to experiences

Create more experiences that your customers love with Experience Cloud.