The Future of Smart Content for Marketing

Posted on by Andrew Thomas

GPS has come a long way since it was first introduced as American military technology in 1973. Today, you’ll find it embedded in a variety of commercial uses, due mainly in part to companies like Garmin and TomTom that pioneered consumer GPS devices for boats and cars. The technology is now small enough to be included as a standard smartphone feature alongside embedded digital cameras.

It’s not just GPS, however. Features like Bluetooth, cameras and mobile connectivity are nearly ubiquitous. Meanwhile, new technologies like Pico projectors and NFC (Near Field Communications) are emerging as possible new standard features for smart devices as well. And once technologies like these get added to the mix, it will only further change and dramatically impact the way we all interact with online content.

Essentially, the combination of these standard features, alongside the constant connectivity and computing power of these devices, will enable us to intelligently filter online information based on the who, what, when, and where of our real-world experiences. This is the basis of augmented reality capabilities like contextual visual overlays, camera image web searching, geofencing, and location-based check-ins.

Smart and Relevant

Knowing such trends will continue, how do companies create content that can be integrated into these powerful new capabilities? The trick is having intelligent content infused with enough semantic metadata to cue off of this real-world information. This intelligent content can then be filtered and personalized upon a user’s location, the language they speak, or any other nearby smart devices that might provide additional relevant information.

To illustrate how this would work, let’s say you just bought a new printer.  There’s no user manual in the box, but instead, a brochure explaining three different customer profiles. Under each profile is a QR code that tells you to scan the one that best matches your user profile. Once you scan your appropriate profile code, you then get routed to a website that lets you register your printer and get a coupon or discount offer that is tailored to the product and profile you selected.

Now let’s say, once you’ve started using your printer, you encounter a problem. Rather than search through a physical user manual, you can scan a QR code appearing on the printer’s LCD interface. Based on the printer model and the error code, you then get automatically routed to a help site that leads you straight to the resolution—no need for manually searching through pages and pages of content. Additionally, the presented results are tailored for your specific customer profile based on the previous scan when you first unboxed the printer. This type of personalization may be common for marketing-controlled websites, but that’s simply not enough anymore. Customers expect that personalization to be pervasive throughout all the content your company provides.

In both of these printer examples, a number of different technologies are relying on each other to share information and help serve you. The content in a print user manual or online user forum needs to get translated into a length and style that can be digested on your phone or tablet device. Without content that is fluid and dynamic that can be repurposed across devices and platforms, none of this seamless technological interaction can happen.

What This Means to Marketing

So as a marketer, what do you need to do to take advantage of the convergence of new technologies and devices? Put quite simply: you need to keep up. The pace of technological innovation is so rapid, your marketing team won’t be able to efficiently scale content delivery every time a new touch point is introduced.

Remember what happened when social media and mobile were the latest new marketing trends? Marketers jumped on the opportunity, creating a one-off strategy for each new innovation, but as a result, they ended up with a separate social media team, a separate mobile team, a separate traditional marketing team…you get the picture. You end up with a complicated and inconsistent process of delivering content across various new technologies and devices, not to mention a complete inability to deliver that pervasive personalization your customers expect.

Therefore, you want to use content that is already structured—meaning in XML—so that the actual content is separate from the format. This allows you to easily publish your website content on a mobile device, or your printed manual content on a troubleshooting forum. Because honestly, who knows what the next popular social trend will be? Instead of creating a one-off solution for every Pinterest, Foursquare or Instagram that catches on, create content that is easily publishable to any of those channels. The only way for marketers to respond to today’s channel explosion, is to move to a more adaptable and flexible type of smart content.

The good news is that many of the more advanced web content management technologies already offer this type of multichannel, multilingual publishing out of the box, so you don’t have to be a technical whiz to get the job done. However, content is only reusable in new channels if it is well thought out and not created with a specific channel in mind. Today’s marketers must assume their content will be published, consumed, and re-published across any number of touchpoints, many outside of their control. Therefore, it’s not enough to create a one-use publication like a map, but rather to publish smart content that can adapt to your customer’s needs, like that GPS in your phone that you rely on every day to get you where you need to go.

Andrew Thomas is the director of product marketing for structured content technologies at SDL. 

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