Surviving and thriving in the digital jungle
The reality for many businesses is that they live and die by the quality of the customer experiences that they deliver and the overall perception of their brands in the marketplace. Customers are no longer passive and stationary, instead they interact across multiple channels. They have come to expect that the ease of use with which they do a Google search or the multimedia experience of their iPad app will extend to other services.
New channels and challenges
This affects all industries, and the emergence of new channels and interaction technology presents many opportunities for failure.
Take for example a distributor of building supplies whose primary customers are building contractors. Google and other search engines have become the starting point for e-commerce transaction journeys, and this presents the first potential pitfall for companies. If the structure and quality of content is not amenable to public search engines, then the customer could be lost before they even reach the building supplier’s website. Once on the website, if customers fail to find sufficient product information in order to make a decision, then they may go elsewhere to transact. Even when all the dots are connected for one market, everything could fall apart when an e-commerce site is localised to another market due to poor translation.
Another example is an airline that relies heavily on its reputation of good customer service. When a dissatisfied customer tweets about her lengthy and frustrating experience of making changes to a flight, failure to respond and attend to the customer’s concerns can work to undermine the company’s brand objectives.
The flip side is that by embracing these new channels and interaction technologies, unprecedented opportunities to gain and defend market share can be realised.
Take for example a credit card company that discovers that one customer segment have young children with holidays coming up. They devise a series of interactions with content that is related to family friendly vacation spots and it offers deals for making bookings with their credit cards.
What does this mean in terms of the grade and quantity of digital products that need to be produced?
From a marketing standpoint, to deliver on increasing expectations for digital experiences, marketers need digital products of a higher standard to deploy across multiple channels. By higher standard, we mean that they must have qualities such as being mobile responsive, context aware, personalisable, etc.
Advances in analytics is uncovering new opportunities to market to previously hidden market segments, however these opportunities are often fleeting and marketers therefore need to get to market quickly with their digital experiences. Since the volume of digital interactions is increasing, businesses need to contain costs while maintaining quality of production.
Operationally, this means that businesses also need to get very good at producing and updating their digital products. Companies need to go from updating their websites every month to updating them several times a day, from quarterly campaigns to weekly campaigns, from generic content and customer journeys to digital experiences that are personalised to a customer and contextualised to the situation and channel, as well as being culturally relevant. The figure below illustrates the typical digital marketing production cycle.
Fig 1: Digital Marketing Production Cycle
There are a number of steps in the lifecycle of a digital product which are critical to keeping production within the required time, quality and cost envelope. In this article we are going to zoom in on the content creation and optimisation activities, which tend to be a common bottleneck and obstacle for many digital products.
The quality, time and cost performance envelopes are critical. Interaction opportunities are fleeting and time to market needs to be close to real time, and there is less room for rework. With the increasing volume of digital interactions, the costs for content production could become astronomical and outpace revenue by orders of magnitude if not contained.
But first things first - what exactly is content? This depends on the industry and business function. To some extent it also depends on how the company plans to compete in the marketplace. In general, for a marketing function content is:
- Any information related in some way to a product or service that can be finessed and communicated to a customer to help them make a buying decision or associate a quality to a brand.
Content related tasks can be a big challenge; the diagram below illustrates the lifecycle that a piece of content could go through
Fig 2: Content Lifecycle
How to transform content operations for surviving and thriving in the digital jungle
The first step is to define a set of common content services that can be consumed across all digital production workflows, along with desired service levels. This should be done bearing in mind the overall strategy of the business and in particular the content and customer interaction strategy1.
Then map the underlying processes needed to deliver on these content services and baseline performance (time, quality, and cost) for key activities.
Following this, understand the assets that you have already at your disposal and their level of utilisation.
- Do an audit of all your digital content
- Do an audit of your content systems
- Understand who is involved in content related activities and their knowledge/ level of skill
- Baseline the utilisation levels of these assets
- Benchmark and set goals for asset utilisation
Once you have this primary data at hand, appoint a senior level head of Content Strategy and assemble a cross functional team to identify and define a set of initiatives aimed at driving value via the below levers.
Fig 3: Content Services Value Levers
A typical set of content services are below:
- Content enrichment.
- Content tagging.
- Content localisation.
- Content translation.
- Content search.
- Content analysis.
- Provision of structured authoring interfaces.
- Content review and approval.
- Content archiving.
Some of the underlying assets needed to deliver these services are:
- Content repository.
- Content Management System.
- Digital Asset Management system.
- Publishing engine (HTML, XML, PDF, EPUB, etc).
- Content marketing and distribution platforms.
- Content analysis platform.
- Review and approval workflow engine.
- Content model.
- The identification of content types, attributes and their inter-relationships required to communicate the structure of content within the business.
Holding all this together are governance, rules, and policies:
- Rules for content expiration, deletion and archiving
- Content measurement metrics
There are a number of levers that can be employed to minimise cost, in general these fall into the following categories.
- Automation – for example, automated translation and automated compliance checking.
- Standardisation – for example, of your data model
- Centralisation and outsourcing where appropriate
- Systems integration using APIs
In order to maximise on the utilisation of content production assets, the following activities are recommended.
- Do a content inventory.
- Quantitative assessment of existing content across the required channels2.
- Consolidate redundant systems.
- Improve content and technology governance.
- Do awareness and user training.
- Improve user experience of content systems – for example the authoring experience of a web content management system.
Prioritise these initiatives, bearing in mind cost and time to realisation benefits in order to achieve a self-sustaining programme of work.
1. Coca-Cola is an example of a company with a well-developed content strategy. See links below:
2. It is estimated that billions of dollars lies within existing content