Transcend Technology With a Digital Foundation.

In 1993, NetApp — a young, enterprise storage-solution provider — delivered its first data storage system to an administrator at Tandem Computers. The network appliance was simple, yet, incredibly effective. Unlike its competitors, NetApp’s system could reboot in 30 seconds (rather than hours), thereby, decreasing downtime and giving Tandem a competitive edge.

In the more than 20 years since that first delivery, NetApp has gone on to power some of the world’s most notable businesses, universities and scientific achievements — helping organisations worldwide manage and store their data. The angle that keeps this high-tech company on top is its ability to deliver innovation that positions its customers ahead of the curve. At the centre of this customer-focused strategy is a solid foundation of digital technology.

For standout, high-tech businesses today, being strategic and forward-thinking with digital initiatives is mission critical. Eighty-nine per cent of companies expect to compete on customer experience in 2017 and 81 per cent said digital helped them to improve their customer experiences. Yet, pressures from disruptive technologies and competitors who’re looking to out-innovate are fierce, causing tech brands to become reactive instead of proactive — and, thereby, causing them to become followers instead of industry leaders.

According to research conducted by Ovum, smart businesses are evolving. A full 62 per cent of high-tech companies have invested in digital marketing platforms and a full 78 per cent are working to create unified approaches to digital. Further, because 81 per cent of tech companies expect competition conditions to be extreme, they’re planning their digital foundations now, so they’ll be more prepared to scale and remain ahead of fast-moving competitors.

NetApp Prepares for the Future — The Experience Era.

Like many brands that are interested in maturing their digital strategies, NetApp first decided to get a sense of its current digital environment before taking next steps. By working with Adobe Professional Services, NetApp discovered it wasn’t as far along as it thought with regard to having the right assets in place. Rather than start from scratch, NetApp chose to realign its resources to build a better digital foundation with capabilities that could grow and be integrated as digital programmes matured.

With the help of Adobe Marketing Cloud, NetApp gained improved insight into its customer base and audience segments, increased conversions by 13 per cent and added scalability and new digital capabilities. Today, NetApp is more prepared to meet its customers’ needs, innovate quickly and develop more consistent, value-driven relationships with its customers.

It’s ready for the Experience Era.

Here’s how NetApp did it — and, how you can follow suit to build intelligent digital initiatives that will keep your business bulletproof into the future.

Transform Data — Build Intelligent Digital Programmes.

“The more data we can capture about a customer throughout the long deal cycle, the better,” says Zann Aeck, director of digital experience at NetApp. Like many companies today, NetApp realised that, to improve online experiences, it needed to better understand its customers’ behaviours and preferences throughout their journeys with the brand. Sure, NetApp collected fragmented information on customers — how often they visited the site, what pages they were viewing and what devices they were using, for instance. But, to truly understand its customers, NetApp needed more visibility into the entire customer journey as well as new ways to capture, measure and leverage data. Furthermore, it sought to employ advanced testing to boost conversions, engagements, form completions and other key performance indicators (KPIs).

With the help of Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target, NetApp was able to jumpstart customer-journey testing, analytics and reporting. This insight helped the company make interactions more engaging. By providing information to customers in more relevant ways, NetApp encouraged higher form-completion rates and better-supported sales, built intelligent digital programmes and transformed data into actionable insights that could drive optimisation.

Like NetApp, a digital platform into which you can integrate testing, analytics and targeting capabilities lends to a 360-degree view of customers and their needs. As such, brands gain actionable insights that will help to deliver great, cohesive customer experiences to meet customers’ everchanging needs.

Answer the Questions That Drive Optimisation — Make Better Marketing Decisions.

With new digital programmes in place, NetApp’s next step was to search for the answers to questions that would help the company determine what it needed to improve upon. Using the company’s digital foundation — including integrated testing and personalisation capabilities — NetApp marketers discovered that more than 90 per cent of their visitors arrive on the site from desktop computers during business hours, informing the decision to take a desktop-first development strategy.

However, by looking more deeply into customer segments, they also found that up to 30 per cent of customers responding to campaign content were using smartphones — a segment that was experiencing a six per cent overall, annual growth — prompting the company to adopt responsive design elements within its strategy to optimise mobile experiences.

Overall, testing with Adobe Target helped answer the right questions, leading to better decisions. Insight supported the company’s complete site redesign, creating a 170 per cent increase in click-through rates and a 13 per cent lift in engagement — all without developing new content.

With testing that reveals optimisation opportunities, brands can work to continually improve upon their cohesive customer experiences. In turn, they are better able to reach their KPIs and customers are delighted with cutting-edge experiences that meet both their immediate and long-term needs.

Be Strategic With Your Value Proposition — Be the Competitor to Beat.

With customers expecting compelling experiences, rather than just products, pressure to rise above the competition is reaching fever pitch. Sadly, instead of becoming the competitor to beat, many companies are just reacting to competitors. Of respondents, 75 per cent claimed to have lowered their prices and 67 per cent said they rushed into new markets — both due to competitor pressures.

On the other hand, leading tech companies prepare to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along. They do so by understanding their customers and their brands’ value propositions that make them uniquely valuable. Then — via testing — they can gain insights regarding how to relay and deliver their values to individual customers in timely, relevant ways. In turn, as they forge new value propositions in the industry and deliver them on a one-to-one basis in relevant ways, their standings as leaders no longer rely on beating the competition. Think about Uber’s ability to render a taxi’s value proposition obsolete.

Deliver Value Where Your Customers Are — Create a Competitive Experience.

To articulate and then deliver their value, top tech companies ensure their lead-to-revenue management (L2RMs) is aligned throughout, allowing for a consistent message across all touchpoints as well as throughout the entire customer journey. L2RM — sales and marketing methods that focus on generating revenue throughout the entire customer lifecycle — is one area in which tech leaders can use digital foundations to respond to opportunities more quickly. Look how the sales funnel has evolved: today, it’s a complicated web of customer touchpoints across multiple devices and marketing and sales teams must work together for success.

Sales cycle moves to marketing graphic.

NetApp transformed its marketing and sales teams into a collaborative business group by communicating online interactions in off-line conversations with sales teams. As organisational silos were dismantled, cross-functional teams could have timely and contextually relevant interactions with customers

“We don’t just want our digital properties to broadcast information to customers,” says Aeck. “They’re powerful tools for starting valuable conversations and keeping them going. To have better conversations, we need more visibility into the full journey.”

With full visibility of online and off-line customer interactions, brands can ensure customers not only join conversations, but also continue them through to conversions with their sales teams — regardless of whether those conversations flow online or off throughout their journeys.

In Sum — Stop Reacting to Competition and Start Delivering Value to Beat.

By 2018, nearly 75 per cent of all high-tech companies will use digital marketing platforms. Future growth revenue won’t be coming from hardware but from services or platforms. When done right, the investment in digital can help you to communicate more consistently with your customers and better understand how to deliver value across the board and on a one-to-one customer basis. This is more than simply responding to opportunities — this is creating them.

Fluctuating customer expectations and extreme competition are likely to be long-term realities of the high-tech industry. Rather than respond by rushing into new markets, lowering prices or tinkering with new products — as many companies do when faced with uncertainties — innovate the way you understand and interact with your customers to create a customer-experience competitive edge.

Like NetApp, the tech brands that lead — the ones that rise above the competition — are likely to be the ones that understand the value behind building their futures on solid digital foundations, making it possible to create opportunities to deliver what tomorrow’s customers really want.

To learn more about how tech companies can rise above the competition with solid digital foundations, download our white paper.