The term experience economy has been around since 1998, introducing the new competitive frontier of customer experience. But the current disruption of digital has triggered urgency in companies competing around digital experiences to remain relevant in the new world of digital-native customers.

The digital experience economy is not about having a car, it’s about having a vehicle show up where we want and having it disappear when the trip is done. It’s not about getting food, it’s about having customized meals delivered to our door—with status updates on its arrival progress. It’s not about buying things, it’s about getting curated recommendations that appear at our door for our selection and return. All this, triggered by a swipe or a click.

Successful companies have always used customer-centricity as an ethos—revenue comes only when companies deliver something of value that someone is willing to not only use, but pay for. And as customers have made digital a core part of their lives, companies have little choice to meet these rising market expectations of their digital services.

At a fundamental level, companies need to deliver something of economic value to customers (and then capture that value as revenue, at a greater level than it cost to create that economic value). In the industrial economy, this meant a physical good, or a service in the service economy. But in the experience economy, it’s now about customer experiences. And as customers increasingly consume experiences through smartphones, websites, and other digital channels, companies are forced to find ways to deliver this economic value through digital customer experiences. Let’s break this down further.

What does Digital Customer Experience (DCX) even mean?

Every time a customer clicks a link on your webpage, swipes on your mobile app, checks out a purchase on their tablet, or taps a button on an IoT device, it leaves an impression on that customer. The collective mosaic of these impressions forms the experience a customer has with a company. So, the digital customer experience you create is the collective result of all the impressions created by your digitally influenced customer interactions.

As interactions shift to primarily digital channels (how often do you bank online versus talk with a teller?), the quality of these digital impressions is the new strategic battleground for customer attention. Poor impressions, such as from mobile app crashes or slow website performance, are a sure way to sour the experience and lose a customer.

DCX elements diagram

The non-existent division between digital channels and digital business

These impressions extend past that initial digital interface to all the internal business processes connected to them. So it should be no surprise that every role within companies is being affected by this shift: marketing, sales, application owners, product managers, developers, operations, designers, customer care, and executives.

When customers order coffee on the Dunkin Donuts mobile app, for example, they expect their beverage to be ready for them, piping hot when they arrive at the shop to pick it up—no different than if they had ordered it at the store. If a customer buys a new jacket online and wants to pick it up at the retailer’s local store, the right size and color should be hanging behind the counter where the clerk can simply hand it over when the customer shows up, no different from selecting the right size and color off the rack.

From a customer’s perspective, it should make no difference how they’ve engaged with a company; it should all work together seamlessly as part of your brand experience. And it’s important to remember that if anything goes wrong during a digital customer experience—anything at all—it’s your fault. If the coffee is cold, it’s the failure of the app, the shop, the whole experience. Customers don’t see or care about all the complexity going on behind the scenes. They don’t care about some third-party service that might have dragged your mobile app down or the complexity of your fulfillment workflow. They just insist that the entire process work seamlessly from app to website to store to phone call to whatever else may be involved.

Connecting it all together for your customer

Digital is now the primary relationship that companies have with many of their customers, displacing physical channels for established incumbents, or serving as the only relationship channel for digital disruptors. This makes the digital customer experience one of the most strategic and vital differentiators helping businesses remain relevant to demanding, digital-oriented consumers. Any issue with your DCX can have real business impact on conversions, revenue, customer satisfaction, brand reputation, and competitive advantage.

At the end of the day, the digital customer experience is the final outcome of all the technology investments companies put into their digital technologies. When you peel back the motivations behind cloud migrations, DevOps, containerization, microservices, continuous integration/continuous deployment, single-page applications, and more, these trends are all enablers to make it easier, faster, or cheaper to push out better digital experiences to customers. Remember, it’s never been about the technology—it’s always been about the value and experience you’re delivering to the human being on the other side of that digital screen.

To learn more about how monitoring can help you deliver awesome digital customer experiences that turn customers into brand advocates, read our DCX e-books:

And be sure to listen to the New Relic Modern Software Podcast: RedMonk Analyst Stephen O’Grady on Digital Customer Experience.

For additional resources, visit the New Relic Digital Customer Experience Hub.