In a brave new world of consumer-driven digital behaviour, the challenges of creating standout user-focussed content are greater than ever before. At a time when we’re absorbing vast amounts of content on multiple screens, brands must resonate with their audience in a way that feels personal and value-driven, says Andrew Dunbar, general manager EMEA of digital consultancy Appnovation.
User-focussed content means tailoring content and the user experience to a very specific set of data insights around specifically where, when, and how their customers consume content. Content archives need to be managed with a smart and cost-effective system that adapts easily to fast-changing digital tastes.
I discussed how to achieve this balance in a recent webinar with my colleague Scott Wassmer, general manager of the Americas for Appnovation, and Bridget Perry, chief marketing officer at Appnovation’s technology partner, Contentful.
Here are five key takeaways from our conversation to help augment your omnichannel content, using a strategy that’s both savvy and future-proof:
Develop a customer-first approach
To truly delight and inspire customers, brands must serve not more content, but the right content in the right context.
Whether it’s deciding what to read or what to buy, consumers are increasingly discerning and purposeful about their consumption choices: people are looking for shared values both in terms of aspiration but also around issues such as sustainability or social justice.
For example, when buying an organic cotton hoodie from ethical clothing brand Pangaia, consumers are also buying into a sustainable lifestyle that draws from the brand’s innovative approach to recycled fabrics and environmentally friendly processes. The motivation to purchase becomes a wider statement of their aspirations, and the goals they hold in common with the brand.
As a brand, it’s up to you to find out what your audience cares about, and then create authentic, relatable content that chimes with those beliefs.
To capture this kind of content resonance, brands need to get into the habit of listening often and carefully and often to what their customers are saying. Deep-dive into social media comments, polls and website feedback, and have your finger on the pulse of consumer dialogue at all times.
Listen to the data
Part of knowing your audience is understanding how and where they interact digitally. Which platforms are they using? How often do they switch from mobile to tablet to a laptop? In terms of content, who influences them? What trending topics make them tick? What are their frustrations, and where do they see opportunities?
Building data like this will help shape a friction-free journey for your users. Because what draws people to your content is not only a set of shared values but also ease of delivery.
Regularly gather data from your audience via focus groups, interviews, large-scale surveys and content research tools such as Buzzsumo or SEMRush will ensure that you stay in step with the type of content that your customers truly want.
More than ever, great creativity is rooted in compelling data insights. Rather than second-guessing what content may appeal to your audience, you can accumulate a data-based understanding that informs everything from platform preferences to format, content themes, and tone of voice.
Split the atom
Whether it’s mobile YouTube tutorials or an interactive email quiz, consumers are ingesting content in a myriad of different ways on multiple platforms. So it’s important to design content in a way that a) minimises the effort involved in reaching them all and b) enables the brand to create the right tone with as many of them as possible.
Atomising content is the practice of breaking down a larger piece of content into smaller, more strategically consumable pieces. For example, a technical white paper is hard to digest but you could break it up into five blog posts, a couple of small videos and a series of design illustrations to be shared on Instagram.
This smart content approach allows you to be agile and adapt to different digital channels while keeping your overall brand messaging consistent. Rather than churning out more and more siloed content, atomisation makes your existing content work harder for you across multiple channels. You expand the lifecycle of your content, and at the same time give it broader audience reach.
Embrace tech innovations
With the advent of new, interactive content formats such as AR, the demands placed on a good content management system are becoming ever more complex.
So instead of managing content for different channels separately, it makes sense to invest in a content technology that can be reused regardless of what platform the content is going to, and that supports the democratization of content effectively.
Headless content management systems like Contentful make it easier to tailor content to audiences across different channels from one centralised place.
In a fast-news era where content agility is key, the right CMS also allows brands to easily pivot and adjust messaging without resorting to manual updates, or time-consuming deployments. As a brand, you can turn around powerful and reactive cross-channel content in a way that’s seamless.
We recently worked with Danone’s Alpro, a leader in plant-based food, to deliver launch campaigns in 30 markets globally. A headless content management system helped us to manage the localisation and translation demands of each market, to a rapid timeframe.
In developing a content strategy that is nimble and adaptive, it’s also worth looking ahead to machine-learnt tech, e.g. the use of voice recognition in generating auto metadata for online videos.
In the crowded digital sphere we operate in, brands have to work harder to engage their customers – and live, interactive content can be a great way of forging this emotional bond. It also provides a novel and fun route into storytelling that cuts through any content fatigue.
Interactive content can take many forms, from live Facebook Q&As with brand influencers to 360-degree travel videos, educational games, webinar polls or mortgage payment calculators.
One growing area has been the use of interactive infographics which relate personally to a customer, such as this design from the BBC that shows how the planet has changed since the day you were born, or a data visualization by The Wall Street Journal that calculates the gender pay gap of your job.
This is a challenging time for content marketing but an exciting one, too. To be a major player in an omnichannel world, you need to be innovative and smart. Forget about the race to churn out more content for different platforms, and instead make sure you have the architecture in place to broaden your existing content reach with less effort. Couple this with contextually relevant content driven by a deep-rooted understanding of your audience, and you cannot fail to inspire and delight.
Andrew Dunbar, GM EMEA of digital consultancy Appnovation