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Ten digital customer experience trends for 2024

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2023 was another eventful year in the digital customer experience space. Digital experience platforms (DXPs) continued to evolve their offerings and battle for market share. Digital marketing teams and their colleagues in IT continued to roll out projects in a fast-moving, omnichannel world where flexibility and agility are increasingly important. Generative AI emerged via ChatGPT and captured our collective imagination about what will be possible in the future. And at the same time, we were all busy with the day-to-day of maintaining websites and apps, in a business climate where there is always pressure to deliver more with less, and where risks continue to need to be managed.

Of course, 2024 will be more of the same, but it is useful (and fun) to try and think specifically about some of the trends we might see in the upcoming twelve months. The bigger picture doesn’t always impact the specific work of teams, but it is always good to think about wider trends in planning out a programme of work. So, I’ve got the 3Chillies crystal ball out of the cupboard again and wiped off the dust. In this post I’m going to cover ten themes for 2024 that I think will have an impact on the world of digital customer experience and websites.

1. 2024 will be the year of Generative AI

If generative AI (GAI) was the overriding theme in technology, content and marketing for 2023, then it’s going to be even more so for 2024. It drives and impacts some of the other trends listed here and will continue to extend its influence into aspects of work and life, including the field of digital customer experience. Software development, content creation, customer expectations, search, digital marketing, automation, personalisation, cybersecurity, the products we use, analytics; these are all areas that have the potential to be changed to some degree by GAI. If you’re not thinking about how to use generative AI in terms of seizing the opportunities, as well as managing the risks, I expect that you will be doing so at some time during 2024.

2. Teams using generative AI will need governance to manage the risk

Generative AI comes with exciting opportunities, but it also comes with considerable risks, particularly if you are using a public service like ChatGPT. These have been well documented and range from a lack of protection around data privacy and intellectual property to the false information (“hallucinations”) that can be returned to wider ethical concerns. For example, the quality of code generated by generative AI is never guaranteed, while content generated may neither be accurate or engaging. Those teams that succeed with generative AI in helping raise productivity will be those who are able to introduce the appropriate governance, guardrails and guidance to support its use while effectively minimising the associated risks.

3. The biggest gains from generative AI will be as a digital assistant

Generative AI throws a curveball into established processes for writing content or lines of code, or choosing images for the website. Generative AI is very powerful, but it can’t replace the human creativity, knowledge, judgement and experience that goes into creating impactful websites that capture the imagination of customers. If it does, I think we’re in trouble.

The biggest gains from generative AI will be for those who use tools like ChatGPT as a digital assistant that supports and enhances their creative process rather than replacing it, for example tidying up content or checking lines of code with different suggestions. For example, Microsoft have branded some of their generative AI services as “Copilot” which I think captures the spirit with which it should be used. We need to ensure we remain firmly in charge of flying the plane.

4. Content management systems (CMSs) and Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) remain competitive

Over the past two years the CMS and DXP space has been fiercely competitive with vendors continuing to push for market share, principally by investing in their platform or acquiring niche providers whose features then get assimilated. This has not only been the story at established DXP players like Sitecore and Optimizely, but even classic CMS platforms like Umbraco have continued to expand their feature set and introduce practices such as a more stable release schedule to appeal to a wider enterprise audience. At the same time, vendors have also evolved their platform to support headless publishing and composable architecture. Of course, this is all good news for digital teams who have more choice and better capabilities.

In 2024 I think we’ll see continued investment and improvement across products in the sector. For example, some providers are already starting to assimilate generative AI into their platform, and have already hinted that there is more to come.

5. The headless and composable journey continues, but some teams are still to bite

If you’ve read this blog during 2023 you’ll have heard us mention both headless publishing and composable architecture many times, particularly in relation to developments made by the different DXP and CMS vendors. The larger monolithic platforms have been gradually deconstructing their platform into a set of discrete and independent services that are available on a SaaS basis, but all work together where necessary, although still providing services on a PaaS basis.

In 2024 I think there will be more features, marketing messages and attempts by vendors to push customers towards adopting headless and composable solutions,such as Sitecore’s Accelerate programme.

However, the question remains whether teams with more straightforward website needs and happy with their existing solution will want to move over to either a headless or composable set-up. At the moment many of the advantages of composable architecture such as greater agility and avoiding vendor lock in are simply not issues that majorly concern some of our clients, and I can’t see them moving, unless they are forced to by the vendors themselves. Let’s see how 2024 plays out.

6. Cybersecurity require even more vigilance

Cybersecurity is an ongoing issue every year, but I think there’s going to be a need for extra vigilance during 2024. Part of the reason for this is that generative AI has the potential to be used by cyber criminals to create even more sophisticated scams, for example spoofing realistic communications at scale or quickly spinning up fake websites to drive phishing. As some of us adopt more AI solutions across the digital customer experience space – some of which have been developed quickly – there is also the potential for new vulnerabilities.

On the other hand, it is also possible that AI can also be used to better spot cybersecurity threats. I suspect in 2024 this will be an active space in terms of what the cyber criminals are trying to pull off, and perhaps new products that help teams and individuals to monitor for and spot scams.

7. Marketing teams continue to get more autonomy from frontend and backend developers

Low code no code has been a strong direction of travel for software design in the last few years, and that’s true for DXP and CMS products. Vendors have been releasing interfaces that enable business users to achieve more and more without having to rely on their colleagues in IT, for example with the ability to configure designs and templates that previously would have required a front-end developer.

Low code no code will be a foundational principle of some of the product updates we see in 2024. I expect think we’ll see more power for marketers to create designs and stylings, but also potentially more interfaces and accompany connectors that allow business users to integrate multiple applications, connecting SaaS products together both within the same platform and with third-party products too.

8. New features will lower the barriers to personalisation and marketing automation

A perennial theme we’ve seen with our clients is a greater wish to introduce personalisation, marketing automation and advanced analytics, often using features in solutions they already have access to and have paid for, but remain unused. The principal barrier to this is time. Digital marketing teams usually operate somewhere between very busy and maxxed out and don’t have the spare hours or headspace to introduce even simple personalisation.

In 2024 I’m hoping that a combination of AI and smart features within a CMS platform will allow more teams to dip their toes into introducing a little personalisation or automation by lowering the barriers to getting started. If AI can help teams to introduce a little personalisation by doing the initial heavy lifting, then it can perhaps lead to further changes in a way that fits with their already busy schedule. Getting started is often the significant hurdle.

9. Website sustainability will increase in importance

Sustainability is one of the great issues of our age, and as the climate crisis grows more serious everything we do will need to be done with the environment in mind. Increasingly the carbon footprint and sustainability of technology is under scrutiny, particularly with Net Zero commitments and increased reporting. Clients are coming to us with a view to ensuring any digital project carried out is as sustainable as possible, and a significant improvement on the legacy platform it replaces.

During 2024 I think the sustainability of websites will come into even greater focus, with an emphasis on using cloud technologies to eliminate physical infrastructure, and carrying out tactics such as using hosts with green credentials, leveraging technologies such as Content Delivery Networks to reduce data loads, and encouraging caching. Environmental reporting on the carbon footprint of a website or a project will also be in focus, so features such as Umbraco’s sustainability dashboard will also be welcome.

10. Some budgets remain under scrutiny

This year high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis has meant that some CFOs are keeping a tight reign on their spending – a trend which could continue into 2024. In some organisations it may be harder to successfully argue the business case for a larger digital customer experience project which requires significant spending.

Where spending is constrained, I expect some digital teams will focus on getting the best out of their existing tools and technologies; in the more feature-rich platforms it is quite normal for teams to not be using all the capabilities they have access to. Other teams may also look to more cost-effective platforms like Umbraco which often can punch above their weight in the type of experiences they can deliver.

Happy new year!

That’s it for my predictions – do you think I’ve got them right? Is there something that I’ve missed? Whatever happens, 2024 will be another busy year for teams managing websites. It just remains for me to wish everybody a very happy new year from all of us at 3Chillies.

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