Effective Web content provides targeted messaging to attract customers onto a Web site followed by consistent, timely and relevant information to guide them through the online experience. The goal of these actions is to culminate in a desired result such a sale, qualified lead or submitted application.
Findings from a recent Aberdeen Group benchmark report, Online Content Speaks Volumes, show that the firms enjoying Best-in-Class prominence are going beyond static Web content — where information and images rarely change — to continuous updates and dynamic content delivery. Seventy-four percent of Best-in-Class companies currently deliver non-static Web pages through combinations of the following: updating online content continuously, refreshing content on each visit, altering content based on referral site or navigational path and varying content in real time based on user behavior.
Marketing Takes the Reins
The delivery of dynamic content reflects advances in technology as well as a shift in corporate culture, where Web content management is predominately a function of the marketing group, rather than an IT discipline. In fact, marketing owns Web content management for 76 percent of Best-in-Class companies. Many of today’s content management solutions share a common feature: easy-to-use interfaces that place content management and creation in the hands of the marketing department. This provides better control for targeted messaging and frees up resource constraints from IT or other operational departments.
To improve Web content management effectiveness, companies are deepening their understanding of customers and their behavior to provide targeted messaging for specific customer segments. Companies that demonstrate maturity with online content transform the presentation of static content to a dynamic delivery model, where content changes based on user interests, actions, behavior and history.
This delivery model is possible, in part, through segmentation, used by 64 percent of Best-in-Class. Using segmentation, different individuals visiting a site will receive alternative content based on factors such as: where they were referred from, if they are a new or returning visitor, or what pages they’ve visited previously.
No Piece of Cake
Delivering dynamic content in a relevant and timely manner is a difficult task. Even Best-in-Class companies struggle with common problems associated with content management and delivery issues. The dominant frustration for 68 percent of all companies, including 72 percent of Best-in-Class, is that they do not possess enough resources to manage Web content. Other frustrations include the ability to segment relevant content for specific market segments effectively, which is a struggle for 51 percent of Best-in-Class.
Finally, 36 percent of all companies are challenged by the fact that their Web content strategy is not defined and understood throughout their organizations. This problem is most prevalent among Average and Laggard companies, who have not succeeded in building a unified corporate strategy or aligning common goals for Web content management. Companies that begin with those building blocks for delivering content across one site, multiple sites, or a network of partners, will have greater success because of working towards a defined and measurable goal.
Behavioral Targeting and Contextual Content
Online retailers are uniquely suited to delivering dynamic Web content due to the deep relationships they have with their customers. Survey results show that behavior-driven content delivered in a real-time manner is in the nascent stages of adoption, as only 20 percent of Best-in-Class currently use this capability. However, this number will rise to 40 percent within the next 12 months and to 100 percent adoption for Best-in-Class within the next 24 months. It’s important to note that there are different methods for delivering relevant content to users based on what is known about their habits and behaviors:
- Unique User Profiles. Unique user profiles are currently used by 60 percent of Best-in-Class retailers, allow Web sites to track individual customers through a cookie, which stores all of their user information such as purchase history, contact information, browsing behavior, promotions received and click through rates. Unique user profiles provide a wealth of information to deliver relavant cross-sell/up-sell merchandise dynamically and personalize the online experience for each customer based on their preferences and behavior.
- Contextual Content. Contextual content is delivered differently than pages generated from a unique user profile. Contextual content can be delivered to customers as soon as their first Web site visit by interpreting their behavior and serving relevant blocks of content. For example, a Web site visitor who navigates to a page selling widgets is automatically offered products that other site visitors who landed on that page purchased previously. A key advantage to this approach is that no prior history is required to provide content recommendations, yet it works for both new and returning visitors. Further, there is no need for marketers to review reports to decide what’s effective. Instead many contextually driven content systems are delivered in an automated fashion.
As described above, many companies are leveraging the marketing power of collective wisdom and unique user profiles, made possible through Web analytics, to perform complex tasks such as affinity based recommendations, behavior driven content, contextual presentation of content for new visitors and multivariate testing. Although adoption of these tools may be lagging today, deployment of Web content tools will experience growth of 55 to 300 percent within the next 12 to 24 months.
- Develop a strategy for online content management and delivery and ensure that all parties invested throughout your organization understand and are committed to the program. This holds true regardless of whether you have an in-house developed content management system, or work with a vendor partner. Currently, only 43 percent of Laggards have a defined process in place for Web content management and many are struggling as a result.
- Use segmentation to instill a process of dynamic content delivery vs. static content presentation. The strategy of altering content delivery to different market segments is the second most prevalent strategic action for both Average and Best-in-Class companies. Segmentation provides companies the ability to target the needs and wants of different users, to improve the efficiency of the online experience, to aid in product or information discovery and to enhance the overall experience.
- Go beyond dynamic content presentation to personalized delivery. Sixty percent of retailers are building and maintaining profiles for unique users to provide a better online experience. Adoption of unique user profiles will grow to 100 percent within the next two years, showing that understanding customers on an individual level is important to all online retailers. User profiles are built on past purchases, online and offline experiences and preferences. They can be used to target content and information by offering relevant messaging to users both in the form of dynamic content and outbound email campaigns.
John Lovett is an e-commerce research analyst atAberdeen Group. He focuses on e-commerce as it relates to the business environment, including the B2C (business-to-consumer) landscape. Areas of research include e-commerce platforms, search technologies, Web analytics, content and publishing management tools, and transaction engines necessary to conduct business online.