Marketers tend to speak of the customer journey still in terms of a neat series of largely linear events. Customers are supposed to move into a funnel and progress, step by step, towards an inevitable purchase. Yet Marketers also know this not to be the case. The customer bounces back and forth across platforms, channels and devices like a supercharged ping pong ball, often across two or three platforms at once. So, why doesn’t a brand’s content strategy reflect this?
Forrester has highlighted this problem in its recent research report Omnichannel Strategies Demand A New Content Approach, finding that although many businesses are aware of the omnichannel customer journey and the need to reflect and support it through their content and content marketing efforts, their content is just not yet up to the task. It is neither optimized for omnichannel delivery nor does it form part of a viable omnichannel marketing strategy. No matter whether or not an organization has invested in the right tech for the job, both a change in its mindset, processes and systems are usually in order before content can be truly optimized for the omnichannel customer experience and the benefits of omnichannel marketing truly realized.
“You can't just buy technology to prepare content for omnichannel delivery. First, it'll require rethinking how you commission content, how you structure outputs, and how you store it.“
- from Omnichannel Strategies Demand A New Content Approach by Ryan Skinner, Nick Barber, Melissa Parrish, Miriam Oesterreich, Christine Turley
Why is centralization of content so key to successfully creating and delivering omnichannel content? The clue is in the term ‘customer centric’. If the customer sits at the center of an organization’s ethos, it follows that all the content should be stored centrally as well. Then content can then be determined by the end need and is more likely to meet that need as a result, living up to the organization’s customer centric ethos.
In order for this to become a reality, however, a bit of housekeeping needs to be done. Traditional thinking around content marketing has led to the content itself becoming siloed within organizations. But a fundamental step towards enabling an omnichannel content strategy is to dismantle these silos, to move away from the disparate storage of content assets and towards a centralized storage system which is transparent and accessible to all necessary users.
For a marketing team, this ‘whole world’ view of its content assets can mean that successfully speaking to customers in an omnichannel environment can become a reality, but this approach should not be restricted to just the marketing team. Merchandising, digital, sales and even supply chain all ‘own’ (and by the way, no one should ‘own’ any piece of content, this important content which is relevant and useful in delivering an omnichannel customer experience, and as should it should be accessible by all relevant internal users.
The centralization of content and its associated processed brings many advantages. There is often much hand wringing over the creation of content. The words associated with it – ‘creation’, ‘curation’ – imply that content is delicately crafted over time. The reality, however, is a real time world which demands thousands of infinitely personalized and targeted pieces of content from companies 24 hours a day and there is little time for agonizing over content that is ‘just so’.
Thankfully, content and process centralization generates efficiencies. No more duplication of content, unaware that three versions already exist in different departments. Updates made according to need only, not wholesale. No wasted storage or time spent hunting for a resource. If it’s going to be there, it will be in the content hub. If it’s not and it’s necessary, then it needs to be created.
But that doesn’t mean content cannot be carefully compiled, beautifully constructed and still highly personalized and delivered at speed. Content modularization where individual assets are pieced together from within a central system, increasingly helped by artificial intelligence, can deliver a unique content experience from single elements that have been shared among thousands if not tens of thousands of customers.
Companies both large and small look at the need for content centralization and modularization and anticipate the extensive renovation of their existing set up. There is no doubt that the approach is revolutionary for many, but the anticipation that it’s too big a task to contemplate while still functioning as a business – the report likens it to ‘re-engineering a Jumbo Jet mid flight’ – is groundless.
There are any number of ways to begin the journey back to the center. Some companies decide to scale back some of their content programs to help focus on the back end, others take advantage of third party support while they work on internal engineering. Some content will be worth reworking to fit the new system, other assets will become part of natural wastage. But as with all disruption, executive level buy in will be key. This is much more than a changeover of systems, it is a change in how companies operate at a fundamental level and it will have far reaching impacts.
But don't just take my word for it. Download Omnichannel Strategies Demand A New Content Approach - available as a censhare Resource until 30 June 2019 – for more on what companies today need to do in order to feel the full benefits of omnichannel content marketing, as well as how well known brands MarthaStewart.com and Vitra developed content to support all channels and drove efficiencies beyond pure content production.