The term “multi-experience” was initially coined to describe the many ways customers now interact with the companies they do business with. As touchpoints continue to multiply, so does the challenge of developing software that delivers on the potential of multi-experience technology.
Multi-Experiences in the real world
Without even giving it much thought, we use multiple digital tools on a daily basis. Consider, for instance, how a person can buy a car now: They can visit a manufacturer’s website to select their preferred make and model, and then use an augmented reality configurator to choose the vehicle’s colors and options. They could then make a down payment digitally with a credit card, using location services to populate the address. As the vehicle is manufactured, they can monitor its status with a video application running natively on their television and receive updates on demand from their voice assistant.
The variety of tools customers can use to interact with our organizations is astounding and may include:
- PC and mobile applications
- Web browsers
- Voice assistants
- Smart televisions
- Wearable devices
- Augmented and virtual reality headsets
- Gaming consoles
- Telephone voice response
- Social media
- Text messages
Research from Forrester estimates that 95 percent of consumers use three or more channels for customer service interactions, and Salesforce reports that nearly three-quarters of customers say they are likely to switch brands if a company is unable to provide a consistent level of service.
Ensuring this degree of consistency across all of your organization’s digital tools can be complex, but investing in digital experience development can be well worth it for companies that succeed. For instance, a cornerstone of Domino’s Pizza’s remarkable turnaround was its initiative to enable customers to order from nearly any device, from smartwatches to Slack. The company’s hugely popular mobile app even lets customers track the progress of their order as it travels from the store to their front door.
So why can’t the multi-experience be applied on a wider scale across all organization applications?
Skills in short supply
We’ve all experienced the frustration of poorly integrated experiences. For instance, we might have to repeat our account information to multiple customer service representatives during a single phone call, or we may struggle to navigate a banking mobile app because it behaves differently from the website. Delivering a true multi-experience that eliminates these hassles can be difficult because software development kits, application program interfaces, and programming languages vary across platforms. For example, the Swift programming language that has long been popular on the Apple Mac devices and iPhones was only recently made available on Android.
The likelihood of finding builders who are proficient in C++, Swift, and the Kotlin language favored by Android developers is slim—and coding skills are only part of the equation. User interfaces have proliferated along with the variety of devices that people use. The taps and swipes that define the mobile experience are all but useless on a PC web browser, and virtual reality interfaces are bringing new meaning to the term “drag and drop.” Additionally, consumer businesses must also work with a profusion of voice assistants, each with its own software development kit and vocabulary.
Digital experience development also requires mastering a variety of approaches to distributing logic. In a full-featured web browser, many calculations can be performed directly on the PC client. On a smartphone or watch, however, limited local processing capacity means many user interface elements have to be handled in the cloud. This can require the deployment of entirely different logic models, depending on where the application resides. Finding developers who are experienced with the services-based architectures that support underdistributed applications is often even more difficult than finding skilled coders.
A costly challenge
In addition to assessing your organization’s need for experienced developers, it’s important to keep in mind that the coders you’ll find will likely be expensive. According to Communications of the ACM, the average software engineer earns about $107,000 per year in the U. S., where there were 1.4 million unfilled computer science jobs at the end of 2020, as reported by DAXX. In addition, the total number of advertisements for new tech jobs posted by European employers in the first quarter of this year, which amounted to nearly 900,000 postings, is up 40 percent from the recorded rate six months earlier. The average time needed to fill a tech job was more than two months in 2019, and the process is undoubtedly taking longer amid the current skills shortage.
Building a multi-experience development staff can therefore easily run into millions of dollars a year. Fortunately, a class of programming tools called multi-experience development platforms (MXDPs) is emerging that can simplify this process and reduce costs significantly. An MXDP consists of a set of front-end tools that can support distributed and scalable development of applications for specific use cases, as well as provide a native user experience at every touchpoint. Gartner estimates that three-quarters of enterprises will use an MXDP to build digital projects by 2026 (up from just 20 percent today) and that the overall market will grow nearly 20 percent per year through 2025.
MXDPs are services-based, reusable components such as templates, building blocks, widgets, and common design elements that can shorten the development process. They include data integration features and are compatible with standard program interfaces and data structures such as REST, SOAP, OData, JSON, XML, SQL, and JDBC. Some feature searchable catalogs of services and packaged connectors to data and other offerings, such as enterprise resource planning, workflow, and team applications. These features can empower development teams to deliver cohesive multi-experience solutions across many different touchpoints and modalities.
Some MXDPs also incorporate low-code and drag-and-drop interfaces that can enable people without extensive programming skills to carry out common tasks that would otherwise require a robust programming background. That means application owners can have more input in the user experience and even participate in the development process in areas like specifying process flows or interface elements. Additionally, with certain common functions delegated to other team members, developers can reclaim time to focus on program logic and services. Code can also be deployed to one or more clouds using cloud-native operating principles with logic automatically located where it makes the most sense for each use case.
No one knows what new user experience innovations are around the corner, but an MXDP platform can make the task of adapting to them a lot simpler.