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How Experience-Centric Data Keeps Great Experiences Flowing

This article is part of our collection about the 2019 state of IT. Click here for more.

A virtuous cycle is defined as a beneficial chain of events, each having a positive effect on the next. It’s a fitting concept for the evolution of content and data in the experience era.

Businesses rely on customer and content-related data to create personalized customer experiences. They measure the performance of that content—along with any new customer behaviors—to deliver even more relevant experiences the next time around. And the cycle goes on.

This new way of looking at data can be referred to as “experience-centric data.” It’s based on the premise that content and data are created equal in the eyes of the customer experience.

“IT should think about content as it thinks about data: Content is an information asset,” said Melissa Webster, program vice president, content and digital media technologies at IDC. “Like data, content must be well-managed, trustworthy, and secure.”

Experience-centric data is a combination of user data—such as customer needs and behaviors—and content data, which includes how customers interact with your content. This combination of data provides the fuel for personalized experiences.

                   

Today’s businesses rely on content and data to provide customers with the real-time, relevant experiences they expect. Here are five ways to add value to content and enable business users to provide the experiences that keep a brand ahead.

1. Let Data Be Your Guide
Content doesn’t have much value unless it reaches the right person in the exact moment and place they need it. Data is key to ensuring that content hits the mark every time.

Businesses can get started by understanding the customer journey and how people have interacted with content in the past. For example, if it’s a visitor’s first time on a site, serving up a 20-page technical document probably isn’t the best choice. Instead, that visitor would be more likely to read a high-level overview about the products that the company offers. Presenting the right experience means understanding how data and content work together to improve the content process.

Because understanding the customer journey means talking to external functions to get the details right, IT teams need to become more “outwardly focused” so they can understand the usage of the content, and how the value they get from their data can affect the success of that content.

2. Mind Your KPIs
To find out whether content is truly delivering value, businesses will need to have an idea of what to measure. Companies must design metrics into the journey from the start.

Because KPIs will likely change as the business learns more and refines what it wants to measure, initial measurements don’t have to be exact. For instance, new businesses that aren’t sure what to measure will need to make assumptions about the types of data to collect to determine content effectiveness.

One way to go about determining which KPIs work best for a business is to start with end-of-funnel business metrics. Then work backward to find out which content-related metrics are most important to achieve larger goals. Here’s an example: Let’s say a company chooses conversions as one of its metrics. Using multi-touch attribution, the company can find out which content touches led to conversions, and then take a deeper dive into less direct measures, like brand awareness and perception of brand, that can also be affected by content.

“It’s a lot of anticipating what’s going to be needed as opposed to having all the answers from the get-go,” said Larry Casey, senior director of enterprise solution services at Adobe. “So you do need to iterate, but you need to engineer in a lot of those hooks from the beginning.”

3. Centralize And Standardize
Data architects are masters at centralizing data into a single repository with a common language and way for users to access that data. Although methods vary, centralizing and standardizing content also makes it more valuable for everyone in the organization who needs it, including IT.

For example, rather than spending hours manually tagging digital assets and having different content silos across the organization, businesses can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to auto-tag digital assets as they’re imported and stored in a central repository. It is even possible to train the model to understand brand-specific taxonomy. With this automation, business users can quickly search for existing assets by keyword and configure as needed, saving the resources required to create new assets from scratch every time. Along with providing a standardized language for content, tags allow business users to better understand which content drives people to take action.

Silicon Labs, for example, was looking for ways to get more value from its content—including product information—with a limited amount of resources. Rather than using a separate product information management system, the company made the decision to manage all of its product content and assets in one content management system (CMS), using tags and customer behavior data to better understand which products and features customers view on the site.

Through an integration with its analytics and targeting platforms, Silicon Labs began using customer segmentation and content interaction data—including tag-based views—to determine which experiences resonated most with site visitors. For example, it discovered that 87% of its top accounts were downloading technical documents before they purchased. However, it realized those documents were in PDF form without a Buy button, hampering the purchase process. With that additional insight, the company made the decision to convert its PDF docs to HTML to drive more purchases from Silicon Labs’ highest-value customers.

By treating its content as assets, Silicon Labs saw up to 47% increase in traffic, up to 88% improvement in organic search, and 15% higher conversions.

4. Reuse, Don’t Re-Create
Businesses shouldn’t have to move mountains to roll out new experiences, microsites, or cross-channel campaigns. But having to code channel-specific variations, and undergoing compliance reviews every time a new experience is built can really slow down the process. In fact, it takes most organizations an average of 12 days to get one piece of content to market, according to Adobe research.

That’s the challenge one leading financial services company faced when trying to reach its goal of running thousands of campaigns in a year. Because it operates in a highly regulated environment, the team was required to include regulatory text in each piece of creative copy. And, since they had to develop new creative copy every time they ran a campaign, as well as go through multiple compliance and creative approvals, it sometimes took more than three months to get new campaigns to market.

The company changed its approach to content as well as its CMS, building a central repository to hold all pre-approved regulatory content blocks—including channel-specific variations. This reduced the amount of manual steps needed to create new experiences. Now, instead of producing the same regulatory content every time new creative is developed, content authors can simply drag and drop pre-approved content blocks, eliminating manual reviews for each piece of campaign copy, and saving IT valuable time from having to manually code different variations.

5. Meet The Need In Every Channel
IT not only enables business users to store, discover, and create content for new experiences, but to scale those experiences across channels, as well. From mobile apps and third-party marketplaces to social media and single page applications, customers are interacting with brands in more ways than ever before. To meet the needs of these different digital touch points, businesses need to deliver content in a variety of ways. This means not only traditional HTML experiences, but also content-as-a-service via APIs to JavaScript-based front-end applications, or non-owned front-ends like extranets and marketplaces.

The right CMS is imperative. A CMS must empower users to edit and preview content in-context for popular channels like single page applications. And by having a CMS that natively connects with content measurement and personalization tools, businesses no longer have to build and maintain custom integrations between thse components.

“This matters because it impacts the end-user experience,” said Aditya Ghule, senior product marketing manager for AEM Sites. “For example, serving up the same personalized offer across a brand's website, social media, and mobile app provides customers with a consistent experience regardless of channel and could influence brand perception and loyalty.”

From static-driven content sites to personalized shopping experiences, retailer Albertson’s had a variety of content needs for its diverse audience. In addition, it had a list of content requirements to meet, including easy-to-use tools for authoring and previewing across devices, content and code reuse, and data accuracy for personalized interactions.

To help them meet these content demands, the company’s IT team adopted a hybrid content architecture. This allowed teams to publish rich, dynamic, personalized content to custom front ends as easily as they could publish traditional Web pages. They were able to do this with the help of content service APIs that pull content out of their CMS in JSON format to deliver dynamically to any endpoint—owned or unowned. The team also published components backed by API-driven data like carts, products, and coupons using single page application (SPA) components authored in their CMS. 

Reinforcing The Content-Data Loop
As customer preferences and behaviors change, content and data will continuously adapt to deliver experiences that meet their expectations. Essentially, this is digital transformation in action. But to get those wheels turning, you need to acknowledge that content and data are now partners in the customer experience. This means treating content like data so the virtuous cycle of data, content, and personalized experiences lives on.

The next phase of your digital transformation has arrived. Let experience-centric data move you forward.

Resources

Adobe State of Creative and Marketing Survey,” Adobe, 2018.

Building Your Digital Foundation with Adobe Experience Manager Sites,” Adobe Summit, March 2019.

Hybrid Architecture Powers Omnichannel Content,” Adobe Summit, March 2019.

Melissa Webster, “Why IT should care about data and content equally,” IDC, December 2018.

Personal Interview, Aditya Ghule, Adobe, April 25, 2019. 

Personal Interview, Larry Casey, Adobe, April 29, 2019.

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