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Content: The cornerstone of digital experience

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Bakhtiar Zein)

As customers and prospects interact with brands across more touchpoints than ever, relevant and meaningful content plays a crucial role in your digital experience. Indeed, 92 per cent of marketers reported that their company views content as a business asset .

It’s not enough just to produce and feed content out to your audiences. The emphasis is on relevant content, served to the right audiences at the right time. And for that you’ll need both a strategy and a technological platform to do this. So where do you start? Peter Barker, CTO at Rufus Leonard explores how you can build meaningful experiences through your content.

Why content matters

So why are content-led experiences so important?

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a continual trend in businesses taking a journalistic, storytelling approach to conveying their value. In the professional services sector, customers are looking to buy knowledge, understanding and deep specialism. Being able to demonstrate this to a prospective client in a very contextually relevant way is key to achieving conversion. And this is true across all industries, though the product may differ, the benefits of a well-executed content strategy remain the same. That’s why ultimately, content is the cornerstone of the digital experience.

Your audience, their individual challenges, their place in the customer journey, when and how they are served the content all play a huge part in the success of your business. With so many moving parts, how can you build an effective content offering?

It’s time to get personal

Personalisation is based on behavioural targeting – where you use big CTAs and content to ensure macro conversion, i.e. encourage people to take action, like getting in touch or downloading a paper. And then micro conversion, where we actually flow CTAs and content through users’ journeys so they complete macro conversion.

We know that people now expect to be known by brands and it’s been proven to increase customer engagement – in fact, 74 per cent of customers feel frustrated when website content isn’t personalised . But to plan and design a successful personalised content strategy you’ll need to understand a few things first:

Understand your user’s journey: When, where and how might a user interact with your brand? Including moments that are harder to track, such as offline. You’ll also need to understand the technologies and software behind these interactions. The overall aim is to personalise the entire journey by achieving the holy grail of the whole eco-system: a single view of the customer.

What you know: There will be things you can’t know. So start with what you do and build from there. You’ll have access to explicit data points like geographical location and so on. From this, you can start to uncover more implicit data based on user interactions and behaviours. This is the foundation for segmentation, which will ultimately decide the kinds of content you serve.

Bake it into your content creation: These personalisation segments need to inform how you brief and create content. Churning out highly relevant content is time-consuming. In fact, 83 per cent of marketers say creating personalised content is one of their biggest challenges . One way to improve efficiency is content chunking – where specific elements of a webpage are viewed as modules which can be syndicated and even personalised to other channels.

This knowledge will help you create a clear taxonomy and tagging strategy, which is key for fulfilling the technological requirements of content personalisation.

Building a robust personalisation platform

The heart of any personalisation platform is a clear taxonomy. To create this, you need build profiles from all your customer behaviour – explicit user activity and data, CRM and other sources. That allows for unified profiling – combining data sets to pattern match your content taxonomy. This can all be done through a platform, such as Sitecore or Episerver. You can then create a taxonomy based on your profiles and tag content to be served to the right users. Then you can test and optimise in real time to see what’s working, what’s not and feed new interactions and content quickly.

The next step is to automate. Fortunately, the last couple of years has seen artificial intelligence led automation being introduced to reduce the workload in both understanding your customer segments and their likes and dislikes. In addition, we can now also use intelligent auto classification of content, where the system understands where content fits in your taxonomy and what profiles or segments will respond to it best. So get a system that you can feed initially and which will learn some rules and be able to curate your digital estate with less work.

It’s an approach Rufus Leonard recently deployed for Pinsent Masons, the world's most innovative law firm. Architected on a high-performing Azure PaaS solution design, we consolidated and re-platformed Pinsent Masons’ two global sites into a central Sitecore platform; geared towards accelerating new customer acquisition and building loyalty. Content was king for the new site, with over 30,000 articles to navigate in multiple languages. So the new site features complex dynamic UI delivered to double accessibility requirements and content management across the huge multilingual content estate, extensive taxonomy and Azure search integration.

The future of content

A personalised content strategy and platform requires investment, effort, data aggregation and an organisational mindset shift to really be effective in driving engagement, but the benefits to your business and your customers can be tenfold. What’s more, people now expect personalisation so much, they may only notice it by its absence. Start small, build on what you know, test and optimise continually. And the results of treating your content as the cornerstone of digital experience will be increased return on investment, sales and revenue, as well as customer acquisition, loyalty and retention. And in these current unprecedented times, the investment will bring you both immediate and long-term business success.

Peter Barker, CTO, Rufus Leonard