Why modular content is the key to large-scale personalization

PHOTO: adobe stock

We’ve all heard the phrase “large-scale customization”. This means the ability to programmatically show relevant experiences to every user on every channel without your marketing team having to manually write specific posts for each individual. When most people talk about personalization, the focus is almost always on understanding the customer and segmenting audiences so marketers can target them with the right message. This legitimate concern for having a 360-degree view of the customer gave birth to the customer data platform.

Without a doubt, knowing the customer is important. But personalization is not just a function of the customer. It is the intersection of the three Cs: customer, content and context. In this article, I want to talk about the element that is often overlooked: content.

Why content is king

Content has a broad definition as it can be anything you serve to the customer on any channel. It could be an article, image, video, product, or any artifact intended to create an emotional or logical connection between your brand and the customer. This connection can only be established between you and your customer if the content you offer is meaningful at the time of the interaction. Content is what you have control over and spend a tremendous amount of money and time creating. It is the heart and soul of personalization.

Typically, marketers create various versions of relevant content for specific audience segments or customer types with the goal of increasing their personalization efforts. The process of delivering content to target audiences is typically automated through marketing automation platforms on email and SMS channels and programmatically on web and mobile channels. However, the time spent creating multiple versions of content for different characters is often the bottleneck in scaling personalization initiatives.

What if we wanted full scale 1: 1 personalization for a million customers? You would need to create 1 million pieces of content and assign it to each individual customer, because each customer is unique. The challenge becomes exponentially more difficult once you take into account the different brands of your business, the markets in which you operate, geographies, languages, and channels. In this world of increasingly complex customer interactions, 1: 1 personalization would be nearly impossible and is essentially the antithesis of automation or scalability. Unless you change the way you think about content.

Related article: Preparing for Personalization: Is Your Content Ready?

Treat your content like your customer

When we want to target customers based on their interests, attributes, and intentions, we break them down into segments that represent those characteristics. You need to start treating your content the way you treat your customers. You need to break it down into manageable components.

It starts with headless content

If you want to break up your content into smaller chunks and allow it to be reused across multiple channels, the only way is to keep the content independent of the presentation. Having to manage experiences across multiple channels while remaining consistent is what gave birth to the headless CMS. The goal was to create content once and publish it to different channels by separating the content from the presentation. Contentful, Butter CMS, Prismic.io and others have appeared to solve this problem. We have solved the challenge of separating content from presentation, at least on the surface.

Why use a Headless CMS but not a Headless approach?

I’m always surprised at how many organizations have adopted a headless CMS without taking the headless approach. Their digital teams always recreate web-based CMS-style html blobs representing full-page experiences in a headless CMS, making it virtually impossible to reuse content across all channels. It’s important to remember that headless isn’t just a type of CMS, it’s a way of thinking and approaching your architecture.

Creating full-page html blobs in a headless CMS not only defeats the ultimate goal of reusing content across all channels, it just can’t scale. We need to break down the content in such a way that it is not only reusable across all channels, but can also be independently personalized and dynamically assembled into an experience across each channel: web, mobile, social media, e -mail, etc.

Admittedly, taking a bottom-up approach to creating visual experiences is counterintuitive. Marketers like to think about what the content looks like in the context of the page, preferring the WYSIWYG approach to the design of the experience. This is a paradigm shift. If you do this correctly, you should be able to provide a multi-channel preview environment for your marketing teams to see what the result would look like. It just requires up-front planning and design.

Related article: Rethink Your Content Strategy for a Headless CMS

Break it

Say you have an e-commerce website, mobile presence, and you communicate with your customers through email and social media ads and posts. The content you serve on your eCommerce site’s homepage may include promotion, daily deals, featured categories and brands, featured products, aggregate header and footer information. page, blog or article related to the products you sell, etc. Each of these experience blocks contains content that can be repurposed not only for different pages on your website but for other channels as well, although the style and layout are likely to be quite different. This is not a problem if you have adhered to the headless approach.

Customize at scale with modular content

Let’s say you have four channels with a total of 45 interfaces that need to be designed and customized for 10 different characters. In the world of traditional web CMS, you would need to design and create a total of 10 versions for each of the 45 interfaces representing 450 variations. Now imagine that each of these variants must also be localized into five different languages. This brings us to 450 x 5 = 2,250 variations. It doesn’t end there as there are times when you need to consider markets, products, brands, etc. This only explodes the complexity of the content creation process.

Breaking down content into reusable components offers multiple benefits, including reuse, consistency, scalability, and most importantly, customization at scale. The first step is to take stock of all your interfaces and identify the components common to all.

Here’s a visual that shows what this process can look like:

content components

In the image above, we have identified seven unique components common to all interfaces. Now, if you want to customize the content of each component for 10 different characters, we are planning to make 70 variations, which is a little less than 450! The reality is that every component on every page doesn’t need to be personalized. For the few sections of the experience that are, marketers should create an entirely different version of the whole page. So, in the example above, 70 variations is the worst case.

Related article: Search for structure in the Dollar menu

Where tags and metadata come into play

In order to select the content module to inject into the real-time experience, the content must be self-describing. This is done via metadata and tags. Content, like customers, has attributes and intent. We call this metadata. You can dramatically increase your personalization efforts if, instead of manually selecting what content to display to your customers, you programmatically select the right content based on its metadata and performance metrics that match the customer’s attributes and customer experience. intention in real time. Going forward, if you choose to pivot your personalization strategy, you won’t need to recreate all of your content, but instead change the metadata and the personalization rule. In the worst case, individual content modules may need to be updated. You can imagine the pain and frustration of the marketer if he has to update 450 variations of the interfaces to perform a simple text change or swap an image.

Metadata is not a new concept

As I mentioned before, all the products you present to the customer are just another type of content. The difference is that product information and attributes are neatly organized in product information management systems, allowing you to create easily personalized search and navigation experiences. Somewhere along the line, we decided that content should be separated from products without describing what it is and who it is relevant to. What we need here is to categorize and tag content the same way we categorize products. Modular content and metadata go hand in hand. Breaking down content into modules would be a wasteful exercise without the use of tags.

If you use machine learning to determine the right content to show to the customer at the right time, having rich metadata about your content becomes even more critical. There is no way for an AI algorithm to predict what the customer should see unless it can relate customer attributes to content metadata.

Assembly of personalized content segments in real time

Once you’ve packaged your content with the right level of metadata and your customer profiles are enriched with traits calculated based on their demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data, it’s time to make the connection between customer and content in a given context. Instead of having your marketing team create hundreds of variations of HTML blobs representing entire page / screen experiences, the front-end should be designed to dynamically assemble modular and personalized content into a blueprint or based template. on the real-time context of the consumer.

All of this requires that the marketing and digital teams work hand in hand and align with this approach. But once they do, the benefits are endless.

Sana Remekie is CEO and co-founder of Conscia, a zero-code master data platform that enables marketers to create hyper-personalized, multi-channel experiences at scale. She has spent most of her career designing, developing and selling digital solutions to large corporate clients, with an emphasis on data-driven experiences.

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