How should organizations in ASEAN enhance customer experience to stay relevant in an increasingly digital world?

Nick Boyle, Vice President, Asia, Sitecore

Despite the accelerated use of digital technologies for customer interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic, digital experience (DX) maturity is still low in the ASEAN region, according to the new study by Sitecore, Ecosystm and AKQA.

The study used Sitecore’s Digital Experience Maturity Model (DXMM) to assess the DX maturity across four countries – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand – across five industry sectors. 

DigiconAsia had the opportunity to discuss some key findings from the research with Nick Boyle, Vice President, Asia, Sitecore, and discover how ASEAN organizations can leverage DX to enhance customer experience (CX) and stay relevant in an increasingly digital world.

Based on finding from your recent study on DX, what is the overall digital experience maturity of businesses across the ASEAN region?

Boyle: Sitecore’s study, conducted in partnership with AKQA and Ecosystm, assessed 400 ASEAN organizations’ digital experience maturity using Sitecore’s Digital Experience Maturity Model (DXMM). The findings revealed that overall, the region is lagging behind with a score of 2 out of 5. 

But the score also indicates huge untapped potential in this area and promising movement as more businesses are investing in creating simple, effective and memorable digital experiences for their customers.

This is evident in the way country maturity levels vary considerably across the region. For example, the study showed that Singapore is leading the way in delivering a mature digital experience (DX) – having the highest proportion (32%) of businesses scoring 4 (Nurtured) and 5 (Individualized). Following closely is Indonesia with 28% of businesses scoring 4 and 5, and many smaller businesses reporting higher than average maturity levels.

While Thailand’s overall maturity is lower than Singapore and Indonesia, its retailers still show healthy levels of DX maturity. More than half (52%) of its businesses also scored 3 (Optimized) signifying that they are on track to offer an optimized and personalized DX. Malaysia on the other hand, still has room for improvement with lower scores. Only 17% of its businesses scored 4 and none achieved a perfect score of 5.

What are the benefits ASEAN businesses stand to gain from successful implementation of digital experiences?

Boyle: DX refers to all the online interactions a customer has with a brand. It may start with the company website but ultimately expands to include mobile apps, chat bots, social media, and any other channels with virtual touchpoints.  

Research shows that customers are willing to pay more for better customer experience. Beyond price points and products, experiences that have the ability to invoke positive and powerful emotions within customers, will shape buying patterns and brand loyalty.

A memorable digital customer experience has thus become a mission-critical competitive differentiator for every business. Brands that are able to combine the three essential elements of great products, powerful digital experiences, and memorable human connections will have customers who are more engaged, satisfied, and loyal.

Some additional success metrics that can be achieved with DX maturity include:

  • Higher customer retention
  • Reduced customer churn rates
  • Higher lifetime customer value
  • Greater brand equity
  • Reduced costs of service

What are some of key recommendations for ASEAN businesses to leverage DX to boost customer experience?

Boyle: For businesses looking to improve their overall DX maturity and enhance customer experience, there are five main capabilities that businesses in ASEAN should strive to achieve:


  • Executives should drive the vision – Executive level support is crucial to driving a successful DX vision, which requires a deep understanding of both the industry and evolving customer needs. Additionally, a successful vision needs to be integrated into the entire organizational culture and become a part of its DNA, which cannot happen without top-down buy-in.
  • Motivate people and improve processes – While digital experiences tend to mean that humans are taken out of processes, there is still a need for people to design, build and manage these processes. The human touch remains an essential element and organizations need to prioritize identifying the right talent along with building processes that support the continuous improvement of digital experiences.
  • Deploy a modern marketing technology stack – Having the right martech stack is crucial to improving DX, beginning with a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) that is integrated across all marketing and customer experience systems and platforms. From here, businesses can continuously tweak their stack towards the automation and personalization of entire customer processes by including advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
  • Drive better decisions from all available data – While businesses can start by analyzing the data that is readily accessible on their DXP, the next step is unifying data across all touchpoints — both the digital and physical worlds. They will then need to complement internal data with external data sets that add value and actionable insights.
  • Optimize experiences and make them personal – A personalized experience is what makes good DX great. While optimized experiences are efficient, personal experiences are the ones that drive loyalty and trust. As such, businesses will need to develop the ability to personalize experiences for their customers based on their needs and desires.

Businesses that master these capabilities will find themselves positioned to become customer experience (CX) leaders.

How can advanced technologies such as AI, RPA, advanced analytics and other martech tools play a pivotal role in transforming customer experience?

Boyle: DX is nothing without the technology that powers it. To elaborate, memorable DX is driven by cutting-edge software and delivered via engagement channels such as websites or mobile apps.

Therefore, an organization’s ability to create, manage and improve this software-based experience is a strong reflection of its ability to deliver exceptional customer experiences. For example, organizations with mature DX capabilities understand that a DXP is a crucial starting point for managing and improving digital experience. But they also understand that the platform’s capabilities can be enhanced to offer optimized digital experiences by leveraging advanced technologies like AI and machine learning (ML).

AI and ML allow businesses to further refine their personalization features by creating more accurate and usable analytics that cater more specifically to the needs of each customer. The continuous enhancement and integration of these technologies can thus  drive more automated processes and improved personalization for a consistently memorable customer experience, regardless of the engagement channel.

But while AI can be used for enhancing and operationalizing a brand’s CX, these technologies alone will not be effective in driving CX transformation without a foundational data collection solution, like a DXP, that pulls all the data together and serves as a single source of accurate and actionable information. With this in place, AI and ML technologies can aggregate and continuously refine behavioral data, providing insightful recommendations that can be personalized to a point of nearly mimicking human interactions.

What are some of the key challenges businesses face when implementing advanced marketing technology tools? What are some best practices to clear these hurdles?

Boyle: Based on our research, businesses’ efforts to enhance digital experience capabilities tend to be dampened by their lack of robust marketing technology stacks. There is much room for improvement in this regard with only 56% of businesses in the region having integrated their martech stacks, and only 50% having equipped their martech stack with sophisticated optimization.

A major challenge that organizations face in this regard is the foundational lack of customer management data, as well as an integrated platform to process and house the data. It goes without saying that data is absolutely crucial for organizations to identify behavioral trends and provide recommendations as well as actionable insights that are all crucial to delivering excellent CX.

However, as said before, technology alone is not a silver bullet that will magically solve all a business’s problems. Three key elements – technology, people, and processes – are needed as they work hand-in-hand to drive successful implementation of advanced technology.

This means having the right systems, effective and streamlined processes, experienced and innovative teams, as well as a solid data foundation in place to fully optimize an advanced technology.

We spoke earlier about the key role executive support plays in driving a successful DX vision. In addition to this, top management should also encourage a “test & learn” culture throughout the organization that will help individuals continuously learn and improve their tactics. Only through continuous learning can teams consistently deliver a relevant and enhance customer experience for their customers.