Two questions that date back to the early days of the Web remain at the center of the effort to deliver personalized online experiences to website visitors: Is there a right way to manage how customers experience a site, and what's the role of Web content management as an underlying technology?
Although today's Web content management (WCM) tools and technologies are much better than they were 15 years ago, the debate about the best approach for managing the customer experience goes on.
In fact, there are different conceptions of exactly what it means to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time. Sometimes we are trying to push content out to our target audience, and at other times we want to provide a compelling environment where we pull customers in. This is the push and pull of customer experience management (CEM).
Online retailers and other digital marketers want to build brand loyalty, generate demand for their products and services and expand online marketing and customer-engagement efforts across Web, social and mobile channels. They are looking for systems that can power their marketing campaigns, generate leads and accelerate their sales processes. As marketers, they seek to push content to their prospects, reinforce existing customer relationships and transform browsers into buyers.
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By comparison, digital publishers want to connect with a target audience, provide site visitors with essential information, offer insights on important topics and ensure that visitors become and remain engaged in online conversations. They are looking for technologies that can help them organize and curate collections of content to make it easy for their customers to find information and get answers to their questions.
Core capabilities offer CEM
Digital marketers and digital publishers have a lot in common. To begin with, they both depend on an underlying WCM system for storing, structuring and managing information. Increasingly, their content includes many types of rich media -- not only photos but also audio and video.
In addition, both marketers and publishers need to monitor what customers do when they access content. Metrics are an essential and often overlooked factor for managing customer experiences. It's important to identify the content, track how site visitors get to it and record how frequently they are successful in finding what they want.
Finally, both marketers and publishers need to capture information about their customers and what they are looking for. It is much easier to engage in CEM when individuals opt in, register on a site and record their interests by creating a customer profile than when their preferences must be inferred from anonymous-user data. The richer the customer profile information that digital marketers have, the more they can use their WCM systems to tune and target content to different customers. Likewise, publishers can create more granular content and make it easier for their target audiences to discover relevant information by learning more about the interests and preferences of their customers.
Paths diverge on delivering content
But when it comes to creating and supporting customer experiences, digital marketers and publishers optimize their content delivery capabilities in different ways.
Digital marketers are concerned about the consistency of their branded messages as well as managing multichannel campaigns. They need to ensure that customers receive the same information about products and services whether they find it on a website, in email messages, through social media or even in printed brochures. Marketers focus on a variety of methods for pushing targeted content to customers, including the following:
- Dynamically assembling content displays for webpages at runtime based on customer profiles and inferred preferences, and reorganizing the presentation of information in the process;
- Delivering alerts to customers by integrating with email campaign management systems; and
- Proactively synchronizing content with social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
On the other hand, digital publishers seek to engage with their customers by making their sites intuitive, useful and sticky. As they produce information, publishers focus on capabilities that pull customers toward particular content, including these approaches:
- Creating the ability to navigate intuitively through a website, organizing content around familiar categories for a target audience and ensuring that visitors can find the information they need with just a few clicks;
- Providing alternative ways to navigate through a site by using various sets of categories tuned to different perspectives; and
- Relying on interactive search and enabling customers to query the content collection on a site so they can find relevant information.
Tips for getting started
In short, a great customer experience begins with great content. There's no getting around the fact that CEM depends on WCM. The more granular the content is on a site, and the better organized it is around customers' interests, the easier it is going to be to produce compelling experiences.
Successful CEM also depends on knowing your customers. Pay attention to how you are going to capture customer profiles. And if you are going to detect data about anonymous site visitors, you need to determine not only what factors you are going to track, but also why they are relevant.
Finally, plan how you are going to deliver content to your target audience and invest accordingly. Are you going to proactively push content to them or do you want to ensure that your content is sticky so it entices customers into an ongoing relationship? And whichever camp you fall into, what specific delivery methods will you use? There are different ways to best deliver content, and it is essential to have the right ones for your organization in mind as you get started on the path to effectively managing the customer experience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Geoffrey Bock is the principal of Bock & Co., a consultancy focusing on digital strategies for content and collaboration. He also is an author specializing in the business impacts of content technologies. Email him at email@example.com.
This was first published in October 2012