Jill Grozalsky of Sitecore: Successful transformation happens when teams are brought together, internal silos are broken down and a structure of communication, transparency and collaboration is established."

Jill Grozalsky’s college major in general communications gave her a solid foundation from which to explore a variety of career options. In her work for a government contractor, she did a fair amount of writing and editorial work for organizations such as the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Justice. It was during that period that she got her introduction into the digital space, focusing on video content and establishing digital programs and strategies.

"From there, I went to the PR world where I focused on crisis communications, as well as social media and digital strategies to help increase engagement and conversations for various brands," Grozalsky said. When it came time to move back to her hometown of Boston, she began working for a Sitecore implementation partner and discovered her passion.

"[That] is when I started to enter the world of digital customer experience — working for a Sitecore implementation partner and find[ing] my passion for personalization strategies and how to help brands deliver exceptional customer experiences," she said. After several years working with various Sitecore implementation partners, as well as an advertising/digital agency, and progressing from strategist to VP of strategy, she moved in-house at Sitecore.

"Now, as the product marketing director for the Sitecore Experience Platform, I help to bring our product to life and to the public — highlighting the benefits that the platform provides and the critical role it can play in delivering exceptional experiences across industries,” she said.

Sitecore is a sponsor of CMSWire's DX Summit, taking place online on Oct. 21. Grozalsky's colleague, chief marketing officer Paige O’Neill, will deliver a session on "Human Connections in a Digital World" during the event. Grozalsky spoke with CMSWire about the importance of digital experiences, the role of content and the importance of design thinking to create engaging digital experiences.

'Digital Experience Is a Shared Responsibility'

CMSWire: Why are digital experiences so important?

Jill Grozalsky: A consumer’s perception of a brand is created from various points of engagement. As the number of channels and options have increased significantly, the importance of having a strong, impactful and engaging digital experience plays a critical role in gaining attention, converting people from prospect to customer, and driving brand and business loyalty. That being said, in order to create connections and foster loyalty in today’s consumer-driven marketing place, brands need to find ways to differentiate and break through the digital noise.

Digital experiences help brands stay top of mind for consumers and, when coupled with personalization, brands can curate experiences that build trust by delivering contextually relevant information to the consumer. With that, and when done correctly, brands can increase customer lifetime value and build customers for life. 

CMSWire: How can you make sure a digital transformation is a success? How do you make sure everyone involved is on board?

Grozalsky: Digital transformation is more than technology; it requires transforming structures, organizational approaches, and is a team effort that requires a meeting of the minds from multiple departments within an organization. As an increasing number of organizations focus on speed to market, creativity, deep learning and 1:1 personalization, it is critical that organizations understand how best to facilitate cross-departmental collaboration, coordinate organization-wide workflows, and organize internal team structures to ensure they can always focus on business unit priorities. 

A company needs to ensure that they assemble the right cross-departmental team and that that team is trained on best practices, processes and digital experience technologies. In addition to hands-on training opportunities for the core team, your organization should provide high-level training to other roles that will be involved in your digital experience program to ensure they can help support this new way of working. Because at the end of the day, digital experience is a shared responsibility and a business imperative. 

Truly successful transformation happens when teams are brought together, internal silos are broken down and a structure of communication, transparency and collaboration is established. This creates a synergy between teams and ensures that there is alignment on goals, priorities and timelines in order to transform successfully. Bringing these teams together and establishing a well-oiled DX machine will ensure that your organization is set up to evolve experiences as quickly as needed and that you are able keep pulse on what is going on in the digital space and act accordingly. 

The 'Ideal' DX: Agile, Responsive, Always Improving

CMSWire: What does the 'ideal' DX look like and why is that the ideal?

Grozalsky: The ideal digital experience is a moving target for lack of a better term. It is one that is agile — it caters and reacts to the changing needs of customers. It is one that is responsive to a customer’s shift in mindset, focus or priority. It is one that is respectful of the visitor’s time and subtly guides a visitor to useful information that can satisfy the question or need they had that propelled them to seek information or a product in the first place. It is one that creates a seamless end-to-end experience throughout the customer’s journey.

The ideal digital experience is responsive — not only in the sense of devices — but in the sense of shifting customer priorities. It makes first-time visitors feel welcome and can recognize existing customers — ensuring that each receive relevant information for where they are in their journey. Many businesses become so focused on new acquisition that they forget the value of their existing customers and that their needs matter too. The ideal digital experience can serve up location-relevant or device-specific content to ensure maximum engagement. It leverages in-the-moment visitor behavior to present special offers or discounts where appropriate.

And, lastly, the ideal digital experience is one that helps brands and organizations continue to deliver better for their customers. It empowers organizations to collect customer engagement and behavior data to see what is working or what is causing friction. This data collection allows brands to arm themselves with actionable insights that inform how the experience will evolve — allowing brands to show that they understand a customers’ needs, establishing trust, all while not wasting the customers’ time and guiding them to their next best course of action. 

CMSWire: How does that differ from what most companies are actually delivering today, and how can that gap be bridged?

Grozalsky: There are two significant ways that companies are straying from the ideal. The first being that they are static. The biggest personalization mistake a company can make is not to personalize. If your digital experience isn’t evolving with or responding to market trends and customer behaviors, it is missing the mark.

The second way that companies are straying from the ideal digital experience, and this is for companies that have started to deliver personalization at some level, they tend to focus specifically on new visitors, forgetting returning or anonymous visitors. All visitors are created equal and should be treated that way. Both new and returning visitors are valuable and need to have their time and attention respected. It is easy to tell nowadays when systems are not connected — you have to log in multiple times or provide the same information two, three, four times. This doesn’t just lead to customer frustration and a poor user experience, but it can feel like a company is wasting the customer's time.

Companies can bridge the gap by ensuring they are customer and experience-centric. Make sure you have well thought out and researched personas, as well as a comprehensive customer journey. Use those insights to then layer in what your company can deliver to help these different personas progress through each stage of their journey. This will give you the foundation for your content and personalization strategy as it will help to identify where there are content gaps as well as where there are opportunities to deliver tailored information based on customer behaviors and previous interactions. 

And don’t forget to make sure that you are bringing together the right people for these efforts. Digital experience delivery is a component of digital transformation, and as such, is a team effort that benefits from diverse input from throughout your organization. Folks in sales, training, customer success, customer service, etc. all interact with customers and can provide great insights in terms of how (and what) to deliver an impactful digital experience that connects and engages.

'Content Is a Way to Connect'

CMSWire: What is the role of design thinking in developing and delivering a good digital experience? How can it be used to gather information about customers' needs and preferences, and then how is that applied?

Grozalsky: Design thinking plays a critical role in developing and delivering a great digital experience. Because design thinking is an iterative process that is focused on understanding users, it can help organizations better pinpoint problems/challenges/needs that consumers have and use that to inform how to present an experience and solution to that challenge or pain point.

If you share an understanding with a customer, you can build on it. Design thinking helps you connect with customers on an emotional level to build trust and loyalty because you have taken the time to understand the consumers you are designing an experience for. When you marry design thinking with data-informed, powerful and personalized content you can create a lever of emotional engagement with your customers, which is critical in building human connections and a base of loyal customers.

When gathering customer information, try to look at different personas and what topics they care about. Conduct research with input from customers and internal stakeholders to build a detailed picture of the themes and the stories that are going to grab attention, build loyalty and drive experiences. Prioritize the needs that you uncover, the challenges customers are facing, and what they want to hear about. Then aim to build your content around those topics and convey your messages in the right way. Work out what kind of stories your brand wants to tell and start using them to highlight that your organization cares about the same issues as your audience. Showing you know your customers demonstrates you care about the same things that matter to them — taking time to create empathy, not content, to create human connections in a digital world.

CMSWire: What is the role of content within the DX realm? How can content enhance (or detract from) digital experiences?

Grozalsky: In the age of the connected customer, organizations must focus on the brand experience — nurturing customers throughout their unique journeys, from awareness to advocacy — and delivering personalized experiences and tailored content that connects. Content is what is used to educate consumers: both on what your organization does, but the problems that you solve and how you can be a solution to a problem or challenge that consumers have. Content is a way to create awareness, fueling SEO efforts to get your brand in front of an audience who might not have been aware that you have something to offer them. When you take the time to create content that shows you truly understand your customers’ wants and needs, it has more impact and ultimately means you won’t have to create as much of it. Less can always be more, as long as you make your storytelling relevant and relatable.

Content is a way to connect. But it can only be done by creating the right content for your customer. To do this, organizations need to overcome the content crisis and implement personalization at scale to deliver 1-1 personalized experiences. Content teams will need to move from a relatively static and waterfall-based approach to a truly interactive content strategy, leveraging data to understand what is resonating with customers, what is driving engagement and what might be causing friction for the customers. This data can be used to regularly evaluate content strategies, ensuring you are constantly creating content that your customers want to see or that they find useful. Once organizations have a good grasp on a more agile, data-informed content approach, it is important focus on how to now target that content through personalization tactics and experience-automation flows across the channels in order for the digital experience to be successful and to ensure that you are delivering consistent messaging and experiences across an ever growing number of touch points.

CMSWire: If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would you ask? What kind of experience would you have and what do you think the conversation would be about?

Grozalsky: Oh man, that is a great question. 

  • Beyonce
  • Mark Twain
  • Princess Diana

From an experience perspective, I imagine we would gather in Mark Twain’s old house where the top floor has a room where he did all his writing, entertaining … and drinking … and was known as a place where great times were had.

In terms of conversation, I imagine there would be a lot of reflecting on the world today and the evolution of people and society. All three are well traveled and have been exposed to people from all parts of the world and could offer great stories and perspectives on a number of different fronts. Mark Twain was a great observer of people and I think would help to facilitate a conversation around how people are fundamentally the same yet surroundings and circumstances can contribute to change in the human condition and mindset. I think there would be significant conversation about human motivation, how to inspire others as well as how to best enact change within societies across the world for the better.

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