Website upgrades lay groundwork for customer experience strategy

For companies trying to step into the modern era with Web presence, WCM software investments are only the first step.

Companies trying to modernize their Web presence need things to just work without a lot of human effort. They don't want to have to build elaborate websites loaded down with custom code or be forced to build apps that cater to a growing mobile audience, but they may need to work on their information architecture to reap a return on that investment.

Three years ago, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, a global law firm in the U.K., migrated to Ektron's  Web content management (WCM) software to modernize its site. Head of digital Barney O'Kelly said the firm needed to create a better user experience so prospects could quickly navigate to information -- whether it's to research areas of practice in articles and video or to hire an attorney. Additionally, O'Kelly said the firm couldn't afford to do lots of custom application development to cross the chasm.

"We've been trying to make up a lot of lost ground digitally," O'Kelly said. "But I don't want to be in the business of developing mobile apps."

The firm also needed to be able to publish content that could appear in multiple languages and make site updates without making changes manually. It needed software that could publish content once and populate it to numerous locations without manual rework. With this "create-once, use-many-times content model, you're reducing the administrative load," he said.

Companies trying to modernize their Web presence need things to just work without a lot of human effort.

Still, if companies want modern websites packed with video and tailored to users' browsing behavior, some are behind the curve. Designed to automate these tasks, WCM software helps companies create, edit and publish content for digital formats. WCM tools can also increasingly help companies personalize user content. But for WCM software to create more user-friendly experiences on the front end, companies also need to employ techniques behind the scenes such as taxonomy categorization and metadata tagging to better organize content. These invisible-hand tactics make content easily navigable and searchable for users.

"It's time to go back to basics," said Geoff Bock, a Web content management expert and SearchContentManagement contributor. "The mobile revolution calls out for a well-understood [website] architecture," he said.

Creating personal digital experiences

Freshfields moved to Ektron's WCM software (now EPiServer) three years ago in part to enable mobile capabilities -- without reinventing the wheel for mobile. O'Kelly said Ektron's ability to enable responsive design, in which websites can be built once to accommodate PCs, smartphones and tablets without requiring separate sites and constant manual updates, was a key motivation to modernize.

"We know we need to build things smarter," O'Kelly said, "and [be able] to self-populate content changes through well-developed content models rather than manually uploading content in 46 different places."

But getting to the next stage of site sophistication will require some back-end work. Freshfields wants to personalize content based on users'  browsing behavior and preferences. To do that, it needs to further develop its site taxonomy and build out content metadata to make personalization a reality.

"When somebody is looking at something, you can also say, 'Here are other things like [the item you've been browsing],'" O'Kelly said. "How Amazon does it. Taxonomical consistency … is an objective because then you can start to draw those relationships" between website content and prospects, O'Kelly said.

Converting traffic into nurtured leads

Based in Austin, Texas, PetRelocation Inc. is devoted to helping consumers move their pets safely and according to various regulations and standards around the globe.

Using Oracle's content platform and Marketing Cloud, the company has made its site a hub of thought leadership for consumers seeking pet advice. The strategy is based on principles of search engine optimization, coupling expert tips with researched keywords to steer potential customers to the site.

"We want to find the person who was moving a golden retriever from San Francisco to Shanghai who wanted to know, 'How do I find the safest flight for my dog?'" said PetRelocation chief of staff Rachel Truair.

Search engine traffic is the largest source of website traffic, bringing in 47% of the company's new prospects, Truair said. By providing a wealth of information to potential clients, PetRelocation is betting that informed users will become paying customers.

"But we also know the people who are searching for those types of keywords are a little bit more qualified, they're a little bit more informed."

In the future, Truair said the company wants to help salespeople close the deal by having the salesperson send relevant content to prospects. "Rather than it being a marketing-driven campaign or workflow, it's actually the salesperson being able to determine what content is going to work best when they're following up with [a prospect]."

Targeted outreach has worked thus far. Truair said that while the company converts 10% of sales leads into customers, it's more like 25% for leads that are nurtured with targeted email content.

Software's only part of the answer

Ultimately, companies looking to modernize know that the software can help automate processes and reach audiences in more personalized ways and at scale, but they need to get their information architecture houses in order first.

"To create meaningful customer experience and seamless navigation on the front end, organizations must carry out important website information architecture planning on the back end," Bock said. "You're no longer just publishing content; you're creating digital experiences. You want to think about new ways to add value for your customers."

So just as traditional customer service has been upended by a consumer-driven world, digital publishing is hardly immune from the age of the customer.

"In the old days it was like, 'We have content, we're going to publish it and you're going to consume it,'" Byrne said. "If you're going to be customer-centric, you have to be aggressive about making sure everything you do is oriented toward the customer."

Nathan Lamb provided additional reporting for this story.

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