In this era of ever-evolving technology and innovation, organizations can no longer rely solely on a static dot-com to connect with customers. Increasingly, customer expectations are driving the need for an unprecedented mix of dynamic touch points, such as websites, customer portals, native mobile, wearables, chatbots, and voice interactions. Modern marketers need to manage these experiences intentionally and consistently to provide valuable brand interactions across the full customer experience. Further complicating the trend of multichannel experiences is a need within organizations to continually assess the impact and return on each customer touch point.

These pressures put marketers and technologists in a unique and challenging position regarding the creation, maintenance, and measurement of customer touch points. It can seem an insurmountable task to manage, but there is a solution: an evolution on the traditional design system approach called a digital experience system (DES) that drives the creation, maintenance, and measurement of multichannel touch points.

Traditionally, a design system is intended to govern a portion of these business imperatives, specifically focusing on consistency in brand look and feel, ensuring modern design best practices, and supporting efficient design and development process. By expanding the definition of a design system to include global measurement as well as new and emerging digital touch points, we can effectively address a much broader set of challenges by incorporating standardized tracking, tagging, and reporting guidelines as well as adaptations for experiences beyond typical web properties.

A standard design system is composed of building blocks, where the smallest elements of a site are defined and combined with other elements to create the parts of a page template. Each of these building blocks can be used in combination with the others, providing a flexible system of content and page layouts to meet the needs of different products and users. When we add an experience measurement strategy that defines standardized tracking requirements and tags for elements in the design system, these tags and requirements can be used to ensure consistent, yet flexible, measurement across touch points.

For any organization faced with managing and measuring a multichannel customer experience, considering an expanded definition of a design system can alleviate some of the biggest challenges. Here is where a DES can help.

Brand consistency across multiple channels

Simply managing the sheer volume of global customer touch points can be daunting. In any industry (pharma, financial services, consumer products, business-to-business technology), a customer may have the option to explore multiple product websites, campaign landing pages, e-commerce sites, and custom portals and dashboards. Adding to the list of traditional web experiences, customers may interact with a kiosk, a chatbot, a voice-driven assistant (such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home), or a wearable interface.

circular diagram showing a customer at the center with multiple touch points as nodes

Each of the experiences listed above needs to have a consistent look and feel (where there is a visual interface) as well as a tone in the copy (or voice) that aligns with the brand. This consistency ensures that at every touch point, the customer is experiencing the brand as intended.

Establishing consistency of required disclaimers, warnings, and user terms is also a critical element of a design system. Heavily regulated industries (such as pharma and financial services) have specific requirements for regulatory compliance, but every industry has a responsibility for considerations, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and accommodations for accessibility. These should be standard across all design systems that drive digital touch points.

By considering every delivery channel of the customer experience, we can broaden the definitions and guidelines in the design system to accommodate those touch points. For example, the look and tone of a promotional email should feel consistent with the experience of the site it’s driving to.

Content system that supports multichannel touch points

Each experience needs to support customers in unique circumstances throughout their journey and across multiple channels such as voice, chatbot, and web. While a traditional design system can establish content structures that fit within a website template, a DES establishes a content library along with best practice guidelines for different modes of delivery. Each type of touch point will have standard best practices (for example, a chatbot should use short sentences). In addition, the content tone needs to mirror the intent of the brand (for example, friendly versus professional). The integrity and tone of the messaging needs to be consistent across touch points yet relevant to the type of interaction or device where it’s delivered.

Aligning a fragmented data and measurement landscape

Measuring the effectiveness of customer touch points is another task greatly complicated by the introduction of different types of experiences across multiple channels. Although most organizations have a wealth of data, confidently leveraging it to show impact and drive decisions is not always straightforward. Analytics tools, requirements, and definitions — as well as the very interactions we’re trying to track — often differ across touch points. Add in fragmented ownership and competing stakeholder priorities, and it’s not surprising that most organizations face vast inconsistencies in how data is collected, interpreted, and reported on across their organization.

Take, for example, engagement rate. Without a clear definition of what it represents and a shared methodology for tracking and calculating the metric, how can we accurately interpret it or know what an engaged customer looks like? How can we confidently compare engagement rates across different channels and experiences or against industry norms? Or establish benchmarks that provide meaningful context? And, perhaps the most important question, how can we use this metric to draw conclusions and inform optimization about how touch points are meeting customer needs and supporting business outcomes?

Full dashboard showing analytics that Ogilvy uses to track engagement
An example of an engagement dashboard. Image by Ogilvy.

While centralizing all strategic data and implementation work within a single team solves for consistency, it does not afford the flexibility or agility needed to meet many of the more nuanced needs across an organization. Alternatively, the measurement guidelines incorporated into a DES provide a set of standard tags and deployment methodologies based on the design system that can be easily scaled and tailored across touch points: for example, an apples-to-apples approach for defining an engaged customer across website, mobile app, and wearable experiences. As such, a DES lays the foundation for consistent tracking, collecting, categorizing, and reporting of data while empowering stakeholders to tailor the application of these guidelines based on specific strategies, needs, and channels.

In doing so, a DES allows data to be rolled up at a global level as well as broken out more granularly (for example, by business unit, product, site, or market). It supports the ability to easily turn tracking on or off depending on need or functionality. And, it ultimately builds confidence in what the data indicates, regardless of touch point or team.

Efficiency and cost savings

Decentralized design and maintenance of websites often means that each site is created from scratch, which can result in costly and lengthy site implementations as well as difficulty in maintaining touch points efficiently. With a design system, the largest effort is usually in the creation of the first site or two, with subsequent sites increasing in efficiency. The initial design system is set up with responsive grids, standard components and modules, and measurement frameworks. Sites are created using the existing components in the system that are styled based on brand guidelines for colors, tone, and feel. New elements and components are added as needed to accommodate variations required for each product and user group. Reusing grid definitions, page layouts, and standard elements drastically decreases the time and expense needed to create and modify sites.

When thinking about an expanded design system, a DES can support efficiency in creating not only web properties but other customer touch points as well. By building guidelines and governance around copy, tone of interactions, and digital aesthetic, a design system can be used to quickly drive the creation of touch points that are consistently aligned with the brand promise across all digital customer experiences.

Similarly, decentralized measurement efforts result in significant inefficiencies. With integrated global experience measurement, a DES provides a single, comprehensive set of tracking guidelines based on organization wide and site-specific strategies, goals, and key performance indicators (KPIs). A standard set of analytics tags and a global technical deployment plan can be implemented across touch points, eliminating the need to manually tackle each individual experience and providing a streamlined approach to measuring the impact of your customer touch points. Although managing the effort, costs, consistency, and frequent updates among multichannel digital customer touch points can seem daunting, considering a broadened scope of a traditional design system can significantly ease the burden. In addition to driving more efficient marketing efforts, a DES empowers organizations to be more intentional about meeting customer expectations and driving real business value through strategically crafted, best-in-class brand experiences across touch points.

Special thanks to Kristin Youngling, Group Director, Data Strategy, for her contributions to this article.

This article was produced in partnership with Ogilvy as part of their design system series.