Taking a Mobile First Strategy to Web-development
Trends in Web Development
The biggest trend I see is how web based customer engagement is now only part of a omni-channel customer experience. How our website connects and integrates with our social and mobile interactions, our digital and non-digital marketing, our CRM platform and our traditional advertising channels, and then how we pull data, drive insights and outcomes from this ecosystem is critical to enable a 360 view of our customer. Customers in industries that have traditionally been non-digital, such as in our Engineered Fastener business, are being disrupted as new generations of digitally savvy employees expect an ‘Amazon’ consumer transactional type experience in parts of our business that have historically been very relationship based. Where is this leading to? Integrated digital marketing strategies, common cloud hosted development platforms and big-data analytics.
Transformation in the Web Development
The biggest transformation has been taking a mobile first strategy to web-development and the entire digital marketing ecosystem. 5 years ago the prospect that more web-traffic would come via mobile devices than traditional desktop devices was predicted but in 2017 it’s a reality. So ensuring that content and functionality works equally well on a phone or tablet is table-stakes for any enterprise website. The next web evolution is the ‘App’, which is much more than just refactoring existing web-content, its offering an interactive, engaging and value-added experience to our customers that justifies the reason for our App to take up valuable space on someone’s device. This requires features that keep our customers using our Apps on a frequent basis, such as Stanley Black and Decker DIYZ which not only serves as a digital marketing platform to connect our customers to our products, but has a continual stream of home improvement project ideas as well as the ability to connect our Do-It-Yourself customers with trade experts, in real-time via video to get guidance or questions answered on their home improvement projects. The best websites now are the ones that feel and appear like useful tools to the end user.
The next web evolution is the ‘App’, which is much more than just refactoring existing web-content, its offering an interactive, engaging and value-added experience to our customers
Biggest Obstacle in Web Development
I think the biggest obstacle today, particularly in large enterprises, is the back-end ecosystem complexity that in the past was fairly easy to abstract your customers from, but now due to the demands and expectations for accurate and real-time information from CRM, product catalog, order management, inventory, manufacturing and logistics systems means we have to deal with that complexity head on. The ability for an online user to see inventory levels in real-time and then place a credit card order on the basis the order will be delivered free of charge in 2 days is no longer a differentiator and is expected. For anyone that has worked on a large enterprise ecommerce website you know that you need either to develop a complex set of integrations or rationalize your ERP footprint to reliably enable that experience. The challenge increases exponentially by region and again if the enterprise has grown inorganically through acquisition. The level of investment, time and people required to support such a challenge is immense and it’s sometimes easier to just move data and capability to an Amazon or Alibaba storefront–which is a sub-optimal solution for many organizations.
Skills Required for Web Development
I think technical skills, whether that’s Sitecore or Drupal or Hybris or other development platforms will continue to change and evolve overtime–even though today they are in high-demand. I think the broader skill sets will be those required to manage and grow a company’s omni-channel digital marketing and customer engagement experience strategy, translate that into a set of products and deliver new capabilities to those products in very frequent iterations leveraging insights from the data being captured from the platform as a mechanism to determine the next set of features. I believe UX designers will continue to be sought after to ensure that the customer experience is simple and self-explanatory and doesn’t lead to customer frustration. I believe data analytics and data scientists will be taking the data captured through each and every customer engagement and using that data to drive new products, services or, at the very least continued personalized experience, and I believe that mobile app development will become the new table-stakes for companies looking to build long term relationships with their customers.
Future Technology Innovation
The most exciting innovation from my perspective is how we continue to evolve the customer engagement ecosystem into a single learning, living system that truly makes people’s lives better. With IoT increasingly automating our homes, social media completely engrained in our daily lives, and people getting more comfortable using personal assistants like Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Home, combined with AI and machine learning means we are destined for a world where websites we use every day may really know us better than we know ourselves. That’s a scary prospect to many and as CIO’s we need to ensure we are responsibly using that data.