The Changing Content Consumption Experience
In 2013, according to the Pew Research Center, more than 56% of American adults own smartphones. More than one-third of American adults own a tablet. By 2017, it's predicted that tablets will outsell notebooks by six to one. This massive shift in how content consumers access content is having a significant impact on how content managers deliver that content.
"I think the content management vendors that produce software and cloud-based solutions for content management realized a while back that they'd better be able to do more than just WYSIWYG editing or they're not going to have much business and they'll be marginalized and commoditized," says Miller. Content, of course, remains a fundamental component of the experience. "When you talk about user experience, in general, there's a lot that goes into user experience-how does it look, how does it feel, how is it organized, how does it function, how does it perform. All of those things comprise experience," says Miller. Users' expectations are becoming increasingly more refined. For content managers attempting to deliver exceptional content experiences, there is much that can go wrong. Ultimately, all of the pieces need to work effectively, in concert, to generate that desired positive experience.
"You can have this really well-organized site that looks horrible, and it doesn't engage, and you fail," says Miller. "You could have this great-looking site, but you get two clicks in and nothing makes sense anymore and it fails. You get those things right and then the site doesn't actually perform correctly-there are bugs or errors, or it's so slow, that it's unusable, and you fail. You go to use it on a tablet or you want to use it on a phone and the experience doesn't gracefully adapt-you fail." All of these things, he says, comprise the user experience.
Technology considera-tions need to continually evolve to address these issues and respond to users' needs regardless of which devices they are using to access information or whether they're accessing the information for themselves or for others.
Technology Changes, but Content Comes First
Importantly, notes McGowan-Ellis, even businesses with limited content demands must still be focused on the content experience. "I can't think of a business with ‘simple content demands,'" she says. "All businesses have the ability, and customer desirability, for robust content to drive their digital marketing, and ultimately sales."
Organizations are all about trying to gain attention from the customer, says Glenn Conradt, VP of global marketing at CoreMedia in the San Francisco area. CXM, and the tools that help to enable that process, are evolving to help them do that. "It's a very complex ecosystem of content that has to be somehow made sense of in a range of technologies in order to deliver, at the end of the day, an experience that is engaging and that leads to conversion."
As companies shift from a focus on content management to a focus on the overall content experience, says Egner, they need to do the following:
- Think about content first-what is interesting and engaging to their customers and prospects?
- Consider the path that their customers and prospects take as they work toward a goal that is important to them.
- Consider different technologies that are necessary to deliver great experiences in different channels (web, mobile, social, email, etc.).
The consideration of those technologies can become complex. "We exist in a very fragmented market in terms of a solution set," says Miller. "There are still a surprising number of commercial content management solutions that exist-it really just runs the gamut. It's one of those industries that every time it consolidates a little bit it seems to fragment just as much and it never really shrinks."
Content managers who are faced with the proliferation of devices used by their consumers need to work closely with web designers and developers to create mobile-friendly sites with considerations for network performance, form factor, screen resolution, and overall usability, says Dabbah. There are three fundamental approaches that can be used here:
- Create an alternative site for mobile devices.
- Use adaptive design techniques based on specific templates tailored for different digital online channels and device families.
The choices, of course, must be based on how users currently access information as well as how they might choose to access information in the future.
Despite these technology-based decisions that content managers increasingly find themselves faced with, "[N]othing has fundamentally changed," says Truscott. The issue is really that content management systems, traditionally, have been used to publish webpages that cater to PC-based customer experiences. CXM goes beyond the page and requires a different way of thinking about the delivery of content-delivery across multiple channels.
Michael Freeman is senior manager of search and analytics at ShoreTel Sky, a provider of business communication solutions. "CMS [content management systems] were built principally as a mechanism for efficiency," says Freeman. "Make it as easy as possible to assemble the content in an organization for public consumption and publish it-principally via websites."
But, as consumers increasingly demand richer interactive experiences, the demands on traditional content management systems quickly outpace their capabilities. "Nonetheless," he says, "the core of all of that still remains a CMS repository of data that is organized and categorized for quick revision and/or delivery to end users.
"CXM just enhances that further by improving the integration with social platforms, personalization via behavior and CRM [customer relationship management] data and makes it easier for non-developers to deliver a modern web user experience."
Despite the technology enhancements, the basic principles still apply. CM (content management) and CXM, consequently, come together to provide the experience that consumers increasingly seek. That demands a sound strategy to drive selected tactics-not the other way around.
Strategy Drives Tactics
Joe Pulizzi is the founder of the Content Marketing Institute in Cleveland. The biggest challenge facing content managers today, says Pulizzi, is "short-term thinking." Content is being created, more than ever before, but the bulk of it, he says, is reactionary. "Most of the content created in organizations right now has no substantial plans behind it." Some experimentation is fine, he says, and can help to drive innovation. But to deliver user experiences that resonate requires an overall strategy that ensures that all of the content being created-inside and outside of the organization-is integrated.
"I call it filling buckets," he says. "We're mesmerized by all of the disco-ball technology that we have available and we're filling those buckets with content, but we don't know if we should be there, why we're there, what the goal is or how we're going to link to revenue or cost savings or customer retention. There is no silver bullet and I think everybody is looking for that silver bullet."
To do this effectively, says Pulizzi, someone needs to "own" the content experience. "I call the position the chief content manager," he says. "It's like the chief editor that would be on the publishing side-it's the overarching accountability position for content marketing."
That individual, he says, "has to be as close to the customer as anyone. They have to truly understand the information needs and pain points of the customer." The "secret sauce" of content marketing, he says, "is the perfect storm of my business objectives matched with the informational needs of my customers."
Conradt agrees. "The kneejerk reaction is to create more," he says. "But you have to move beyond volume to actually imagine how the content could be used-and reused. This will enable marketers and content professionals to be more efficient. Just creating more is not enough-it's how do you reimagine it and how do you reuse it."
Pulizzi advises content owners to take a step back and ask: "What is our mission statement as it pertains to our content niche? Stop creating all of this content and stop figuring out all of this technology you're going to use and take a step back just like an EContent does, or a Forbes-they all have an editorial mission statement and you need one too. The technology comes after the content plan." Only after that plan is in place, and only after you have a clear understanding of how your consumers want to interact with you, should you consider how technology and the user experience can help you get to the right people and build an audience.
Whether you call it content management, content experience, or some other yet-to-be-determined buzzword, it really all comes back to basic communication principles.