There has never been such a high demand for content to meet the expectations of customers, and it must translate across multiple channels and multiple devices. But who is dealing with this demand? Far from there being huge departments with access to the latest tools managing the creation and curation of content, for most ecommerce retailers a ‘lean team’ would be a generous description. In truth the responsibility often lies with just one or two overburdened members of staff dependent on tired workflows and processes.
Given that brands compete fiercely for the eyeballs and wallets, not to mention the loyalty, of consumers through the quality of their online content, this doesn’t seem like an efficient way for them to differentiate themselves.
There’s too much at stake to stay in the rut. Think about the many channels that need to be catered for from marketplaces and IoT to social and apps, not to mention promotions at Christmas or over the Cyber Weekend and using the right languages to meet regional needs.
The first issue to address is the tools that are being used to create and manage content. Presuming that most brands are not still using sticky notes on walls to plan (there will be some), there are far too many relying on online tools designed for project and task management, or worse, Excel, and these are not suitable for ecommerce.
Content management systems (CMS’s) based on legacy platforms are another well-known challenge, restricting teams in how quickly and flexibly they can respond to changes in the market. Too many don’t support the delivery of content to multiple different channels or devices or enable content to be scheduled independently of other elements on the page. If the CMS is template-based, content managers will struggle to update or enhance content, or improve the customer experience either.
The steps to improvement
Fundamentals such as improving internal processes and workflows come with the territory and need to be constantly addressed by brands, but to enable content managers to be more creative, fast to respond and elevate the brand positioning, they need better tools.
Step 1 – Get a CMS that is fit for purpose
Look out for a CMS that is not tied to a legacy platform, is designed for ecommerce and encourages collaboration. Ideally it will include planning and calendar tools that support content from conception and amendments right through to publishing. A calendar view helps to display content that is both live and scheduled across all channels, making it easier to spot unnecessary repetition, or to address errors or where regional changes might be needed. When it comes to scheduling it’s preferable to be able to schedule individual content components so if you want to change them later this can be done quickly and easily without have to republish everything on the page or on that element of the site. It also helps with adding end dates to content that has served its useful purpose, such as a promotion, or to schedule content to go live in different time zones. Previewing tools are another invaluable element of a good CMS. And not just any previewing tool, but one that displays the entire experience including any channel, any item of content at any point in time and in-situ.
Step 2 – Putting image management to work
Today’s digital asset managers (DAMs) not only store all of a brand’s assets, they also deliver extensive functionality. Look out for focal point technology which can specify points of interest, or hotspots that will always be shown whatever device a customer chooses to use to interact with the site. These DAMs deliver the correct file type and size of image to suit the customer’s browser, ensuring full optimisation, and they give content managers the option to use SVG templates to preview and control all variants.
Step 3 – Taking content to new levels
The latest type of CMS to emerge is a digital experience platform (DXP) which is designed not just to help control content, but the whole experience being targeted at customers. Instead of separately managing the platform for the website, plus another one for a native app, or for marketplace content, all tools are brought into one interface. This automatically results in an improved workflow and leverages automated integrations to enable smarter work.
Step 4 – Adopt modular content
This step has more to do with changing processes than adopting new platforms, but by splitting content into more manageable parts, the functionality and fixes of the tools above will be more effective. It is easier to repurpose smaller packages of content, so for example, a banner or a button could be treated as an image rather than an entire content type.
It’s not easy to overhaul entrenched processes, or to get the buy-in of the C-suite who may be blissfully unaware of the struggles that content managers are facing daily. But the ecommerce sector is crowded, and highly competitive, and brands will only differentiate themselves if they deliver a stellar experience to customers. That comes down to content. It has to be striking, compelling and memorable; it must talk to customers where they are, on whatever medium they are using. And it has to be delivered through technology that supports creativity and control, no matter how complex the ecommerce environment.
James Brooke, CEO at Amplience