TechBytes with Keith LaFerriere, Chief Creative Officer, Verndale

Keith LaFerriere

Keith LaFerriere
Chief Creative Officer, Verndale

From a modern marketer’s perspective, the differences between User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) have widened significantly. To understand how marketing technologies influence the delivery of relevant UX and CX, we spoke to Verndale’s Chief Creative Officer (CCO), Keith LaFerriere.

Tell us about your role at Verndale and the team and technology you handle.

As Chief Creative Officer of Verndale, I lead the UX and Creative Design practice groups, business development, creative direction, and overall team management across all accounts. For these programs, we work closely with a number of enterprise-level Experience Management Platforms including Sitecore, EPiServer, and The Adobe Marketing Cloud.

Help us define UX and CX from a marketer’s perspective? What are the differences between UX and CX? 

Many brands misunderstand the difference between user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX). CX is an emotionally-driven journey from start to finish whereas UX is a brand’s ability to craft, create and execute specific touchpoints along the customer’s path. When done right, CX can truly differentiate a brand from competitors.

The foundation for CX lies in brands understanding enough about themselves and what they stand for so that they have a full grasp on what they can authentically deliver to the customer. Many brands struggle with this component, so the first step in designing a brand’s customer journey should start with an audit of the company’s values, mission, and promise to customers. Once those are fully-formed, marketers can then map out how these values will translate throughout the online and offline touchpoints within the customer journey.

How do brands leverage Verndale for building personalized digital experiences?

Our clients rely on Verndale to develop their entire digital blueprint. We have a team of experts across three disciplines – experience management strategy, design, and technology – who work to develop a customized roadmap for each client, driven by both data and qualitative analysis.

Our Experience Management (XM) consulting practice stands out to Verndale clients as they are tasked with building the foundational strategy for brand analytics, personalization, A/B & MV testing and Marketing Automation through strategic planning workshops, implementation, and training. They also develop strategies for digital marketing campaigns (DMCs), search engine optimization (SEO), email analytics and social media. By strategically planning for both the short- and long-term, Verndale clients have digital marketing plans that not only evolve but help them stay ahead of their competition.

The Experience Design (XD) team blends visual communication and creative problem solving to deliver full-service, thoughtful digital execution to our clients, and guide them through a device-agnostic, user-centered design approach – from the creation of pattern and concept boards, prototypes and archetypes, to the aesthetic delivery.

Meanwhile, our technology team taps into decades of experience in front-end development, system integration, quality assurance and development standards to build off the work from both the strategy and experience design groups to turn larger visions and designs into real life enterprise digital experiences. The team supports clients and helps them execute every project, whether that be unifying disparate platforms, upgrading content management capabilities, hosting web apps and more.

What technologies and resources should a company/digital agency use to produce the most cutting-edge CX?

Personalization, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are going to continue shifting the martech landscape and give marketers and CX leaders unbelievable new opportunities to engage and learn. But these are still only tools and should not be the end goal – they are the means to the end. Business outcomes will only be as good as the experience strategy that informs what technology is deployed, and how it is optimized to make the customer journey as smooth as possible.

We’ve seen brands struggle to maximize their martech investment because they tend to make selections based primarily on their own business needs, and then build the best experience they can with those technologies. The customer journey is then dictated by the confines of what their shiny new platform can do – not by the interests of their customers. Implementing a strategy like that is bound to backfire

In fact, Gartner’s 2017-2018 CMO Spend Survey found martech spending has fallen by 15% this year, as CMOs pull back on previous years’ high spending commitment amid concerns over marketing’s capability to acquire and manage technology effectively. Not only must marketing and CX leaders justify past budget commitments and demonstrate the returns, they must now work under a more constrained budget. It’s a natural ebb and flow to the budget cycle and now marketers are in the “prove it” phase where they have to justify their martech investments’ worth to the corporate bottom line.

You can’t make martech decisions until you first make customer experience decisions. Journey mapping is not just a list of consecutive touch points. When done well, it’s an emotional story arc that informs those touch points, and the technology that enables them.

What analytics and tech integrations would have the biggest impact on the way brands deliver CX? How do you see the growth of AI in the way CX is managed and delivered?

Technologies like AR and VR are still in hype mode for the most part, but there is some legitimacy to the excitement – they have the potential to completely change CX and commerce. By 2020, these technologies could be baseline in how consumers interact with brands and make purchasing decisions.

With regard to AI, though we still haven’t fully delivered on its promise, it remains on the rise in marketing, especially when you factor in the numerous, data-collecting connected devices that most consumers use – from their phone to their Fitbit. The problem is that these devices deliver too much data for any one person or brand to process. Therefore, AI plays a critical role in helping marketers make the best use of that data to create better customer experiences. Brands are still trying to figure out best practices around aggregation and analysis and that’s where an external partner can help.

What are your predictions for demand-gen platforms and campaign performance tools in 2018?

With so many options for both of these categories in very niche areas, I’d expect to see even more consolidation and weeding out of existing offerings as we move through the next 12 to 18 months. Large-scale platforms will need to keep raising their game to compete, and that’s where the niche players come in. I recently saw the updated version of the Martech landscape, and it’s not only saturated, its way too overwhelming even for the most veteran CMO. And, while I love a good competitive landscape, we’re getting to the point where you need a consultant to find the right consultant in the martech space.

Thanks for chatting with us, Keith.

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