Today’s business landscape is increasingly competitive, demanding that companies maintain an agile mindset when differentiating their products and services from competing brands. For many organizations, this differentiation comes in the form of better user engagement strategies designed to improve the availability and reliability of web services and applications.

But while most businesses understand the basic concept of managing the “digital experience” of their customers, many do not recognize the key ingredients to its long-term success—performance monitoring and optimization.

Getting the most out of your digital technologies requires a transparent view of your IT infrastructure and how well it supports the needs of your customers. Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) solutions help companies manage both of these priorities effectively by bridging the gap between system performance and reliability with positive end user experiences.

However, not all end user experience monitoring solutions are created equal, and it’s important to know what to look for when investing in the right DEM platform. Below we’ll discuss the importance of digital experience strategies and performance monitoring initiatives along with the core components of DEM solutions and the benefits they provide.

How Do You Define Digital Experience?

While the term “digital experience” may mean something different from one company to the next, the core definition remains the same. A digital experience, or end user experience, refers to a collection of digital interactions between a business and its customers and the type of impression that is made during those interactions.

Digital experiences can take on many forms and can be both lengthy or short in their duration and frequency. For example, a digital experience could simply be the act of a customer accessing your website or mobile application, or it could relate to deep system integrations and regular use of subscription services. Either way, each digital touch point with your brand, regardless of its size or perceived importance, impacts various aspects of the customer’s digital experience.

As a business, your job is to recognize the important elements of each of these encounters, ensuring they’re optimized properly to create seamless user experiences throughout your entire business network.

What is Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) and Why Do You Need It?

Digital experience monitoring (DEM) is a process in which organizations put a collection of processes and tools in place to proactively measure the performance and delivery of their applications and services. DEM plays a key role in improving end user experiences by helping organizations detect underlying problems “before” they impact the customer’s digital journey.

Most companies view their websites as a critical component to creating valuable brand experiences with their customers—and they’re not wrong. This has led organizations to invest in responsive, user-centric designs that provide both value and mobile accessibility to their customers. However, design and usability are only two of the elements required to create great digital experiences.

Consider the back-end complexity and requirements of loading a single page of your company’s website:

  • Internet Service Providers and Mobile Network Access
  • Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
  • Domain Name Systems (DNS)
  • Hosting Services and ISPs
  • Website Coding and OS Architecture

With so many areas affecting the overall delivery of your applications and services, it’s critical to monitor as many elements from as many places as possible. If problems arise, you can’t fix what you can’t see or measure. Digital experience monitoring is about creating this transparency, giving businesses the actionable insight they need to address performance issues before they impact the user and inevitably the brand.

Understanding the DEM Architecture

Being able to analyze and optimize the performance of a website or application requires real-time data around multiple parameters that matter to its users. This can include product or service accessibility, reachability, server latency, design accuracy and execution, and reliability. Understanding and measuring these key parameters begins by deploying a key component in user experience management—application performance monitoring (APM)

APM is a software-based monitoring tool used to detect and diagnose website performance and application disruptions. APM collects and analyzes multiple metrics of your infrastructure, measuring hardware resources and allocations, network utilization, code-level issues, server requests and transactions, and performance bottlenecks.

However, while APM is effective at diagnosing issues in your own code and recognizing general areas of inefficiency in your infrastructure, it’s not enough to provide you with the transparency you need to understand all aspects of the end user’s experience. To achieve this, it’s necessary to incorporate a comprehensive digital experience monitoring solution that covers “all” aspects of your digital footprint.

The DEM architecture is built around three core components of performance monitoring and optimization:

  • Data Collection—Also known as “data ingestion,” this process collects data from multiple endpoints and network devices through simulated user interactions.
  • Data Storage—Utilizing nonrelational database management systems (DBMS), all data is stored and correlated for proper modeling and analysis.
  • Data Analysis—AI-driven software components then run a predictive analysis with collected data from simulated user interactions and network pings to identify trends and patterns that leave actionable insights for administrators.

To support each layer of DEM architecture, there are two main technologies used to measure real-time and long-term application performance—synthetic and real user monitoring.

Synthetic Monitoring

Also known as synthetic transaction management (STM), synthetic monitoring proactively measures the user’s journey by using scripted recordings to simulate their actions. Synthetic monitoring also gives you the ability to control all perimeters of your testing, creating customized testing scenarios by user location, frequency of use, and specific application needs.

There are a variety of benefits when using synthetic monitoring to gauge the performance of your websites and applications. If your organization operates on an ecommerce platform, for example, being able to create multiple scenarios for when a user adds an item to their shopping cart, processes an order, or ends their session can give you valuable insight into the effectiveness of your website’s user experience design. Likewise, synthetic monitoring can also help predict if your website or application can handle larger client loads during peak seasons or promotional periods.

Real User Monitoring

Unlike synthetic monitoring, real user monitoring is a passive form of monitoring that measures the actual performance of your website or application from real user activity. Real user monitoring, or RUM, uses JavaScript tags to monitor and track the performance of user interactions measuring important KPIs such as geographic locations, server response times, and the device or devices they used to connect. RUM is a critical aspect to application performance monitoring as it provides real performance data to use for benchmarking your systems against competitors and industry standards.

When used together, synthetic (active) and real user (passive) monitoring help organizations better understand their users while ensuring their systems are calibrated to support all aspects of the digital experience.

Choosing the Right DEM Solution

While the core components for most digital experience monitoring solutions are similar, there are many differences in their features and functionality. Basic monitoring solutions may capture certain aspects of the customer journey—but fall short when it comes to detecting outages and performance trends while notifying administrators in real-time of the issues.

There is also the question of implementation and costs. Depending on the complexity of your website or application infrastructure, your DEM solution needs to be adaptable and customized to your unique business needs. It’s also important to find a solution that offers flexibility and scalability when it comes to the cost of both RUM and synthetic monitoring solutions. Being able to configure your spending based on your required data usage and reporting requirements will ensure you’re not paying for services and features your business doesn’t need.

Regardless of the DEM solution you choose, work with a company deeply experienced in IT Operations and DevOps. Catchpoint specializes in providing organizations with an all-in-one solution for monitoring performance issues across the entire network delivery chain. With the ability to track and report on over 700 monitoring nodes on the largest and most reliable global monitoring network, Catchpoint’s unified DEM solution gives you the tools and confidence you need to ensure your customer’s digital experience is optimal.

Click here to get a free trial of our comprehensive digital experience monitoring solution.

Author Mehdi Daoudi

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