Last summer I spent three nights at a downtown Denver hotel. It was delightful, truly. The Wi-Fi had a rocky start, but the front desk fixed the problem and, as an apology, gave me free access during my stay. The gym was clean and a life-size faux cow in the lobby intrigued me enough to post about it on social.
I was, in a word, happy. I had a great customer experience.
Then, about a month after my stay, I got an email — an invitation to join the hotel’s rewards program. I don’t travel much to Denver, so even though I was happy with my customer experience, I unsubscribed.
A few weeks later, I got another email. Then another. Then another. Then another.
Now … I hate that hotel. You see the problem, right? Even though I had an exceptional customer experience, my content experience sucked.
Whether we’re talking about top-funnel, mid-funnel, or post-funnel experiences, the vast majority of all content experiences suck. Just consider three stats:
- 74% of visitors get “frustrated” when content appears on a website that has nothing to do with what brought them there in the first place.
- According to a 2015 study, even after subscribers opt to receive emails, they regularly flag the emails as spam. Why? Because 42% said the content was either “irrelevant” or “impersonal.”
- A mere 4% of “dissatisfied customers” who leave a company because of a bad experience attribute that experience to the company itself.
Fortunately, you don’t have to figure out how to deliver exceptional content experiences on your own. In fact, three methods are already proving themselves.
1. Make your offers personal
Personalization is a hot topic, especially if your content overlaps with commerce. The reason is clear: In a crowded marketplace where customers are flooded with options, standing out means treating each person like a genuine individual.
As Scott P. Abel defines it, “Personalization is the process of targeting content to individuals based on one or more of the following: who they are; where they are; when, why, and how they access content; and what device they use to access it.”
But what exactly does that look like?
Take GlassesUSA.com as an example. Though it focuses on an experience with a product, the same principles apply to any content on your site.
The online glasses retailer reports that 30% of its total revenue comes from email marketing.
Like most marketers, GlassesUSA.com always tracked their open, click-through, and conversion rates. However, when the company sent emails that tracked specific online activity of its customers, GlassesUSA.com made significant progress. That’s what vice president of marketing Boaz Ariely shared when the company was named one of 2016’s Top 10 Best Email Marketers in E-Commerce.
Tracking that “specific online activity” and converting it into targeted offers is what personalization is all about.
For GlassesUSA.com this meant getting incredibly detailed about what subscribers had viewed online and adding those details to their marketing emails; for instance: “If you liked the 25 to 80 lenses and Michael Kors frames, you might want to look at Stuart Weitzman’s new line of progressive lenses.”
Think of it like Amazon’s recommendations … but on detail-oriented steroids.
To test their personalization for myself, I signed up for a free account, added a pair of frames to my cart, and then immediately signed out and closed my browser.
Three things happened next.
First, I opened Facebook and saw this ad for the very frames I’d added to my cart:
This is what’s known as retargeting — a form of online advertising that uses pixel or cookie-based technology to tag visitors and present targeted ads off site based on previous visits.
Second, an hour later I received this email (again, for the same frames and incentivized offer I’d been served via Facebook):
Third, when I went back to their site 24 hours later and clicked on men’s frames, guess what the first product on the top left of my screen was:
Every one of those touchpoints pushes back against the bland, non-relevant content experiences that regularly frustrate visitors.
In addition to tracking and offering products in which your customer already has shown interest, you can create introductory questionnaires on your site to personalize their experiences. Tucker Schreiber’s How You Can Profit from Personalizing Content on Your E-commerce Store article features this simple survey from Craft Coffee:
As Tucker explains:
“While I’m not a huge coffee aficionado, I find this process to be extremely effective for a few reasons.
First, it makes sure that what I’m purchasing is aligned with my current tastes.
Secondly, it’s effective because it makes the purchasing experience much more interactive and involved than simply adding a product to my cart.
Lastly, by completing the checkout I know that I am being rewarded with an extremely targeted product.”
Just bear in mind, making it personal doesn’t mean making it creepy. As Joe Pulizzi points out, “Personalization can backfire when people perceive it as disturbing … To avoid creeping people out, make sure that any personalizing you do is aimed at helping or delighting people.”
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2. Make your social media custom
The fundamental mistake brands make when it comes to marrying social media and content experience is treating their social channels like a one-for-one reproduction of their regular on-site content.
In other words, making your content experience delightful on social means more than just reposting your website’s existing articles, resources, and products onto a Facebook page, Pinterest board, YouTube channel, or Twitter account.
You have to customize your social content based on those channels themselves. Two tactics stand out under this method.Customize your #social content so it’s specific to each social network says @iconicontent Click To Tweet
First, create network-specific content.
Take Birchbox as a test case. At just over 5 years old, Birchbox brings in an estimated $125 million in annual revenue all on the back of a $10 subscription service for beauty samples.
Naturally, Birchbox’s content is aimed at attracting would-be customers and engaging current customers with tutorials, videos, and blog posts surrounding all things “beauty.”
However, in addition to the traditional education-led content, Birchbox has developed a robust approach to social media that includes live coverage of special events, social-only reviews and customer support, cross-network sweepstakes, and even “hidden pin promos” to reward their followers.
Birchbox excels at customizing each social expression to fit the specific social network. It’s easy to see how this would work on a platform like YouTube. Birchbox’s channel not only contains video summaries of each month’s box but also has playlists focused on uber-popular YouTube topics like hair tutorials, makeup tutorials, and beauty essentials:
However, if you jump over to Birchbox’s Pinterest page, the big-bucket topics disappear. Instead, a collection of boards are far more niche-specific and include categories like inspirational quotes, #BirchboxBride, women who inspire, and even a “yum” board.
Second, leverage user-generated content.
Perhaps the ripest opportunity to create a delightful social media experience is through user-generated content: getting your followers to make content for you.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the social media experience is supposed to be social. Brand-centric updates that focus exclusively on new products updates or sales are the surest way to turn people off.Brand-centric updates that focus on new products or sales will turn people off on social says @iconicontent Click To Tweet
As an antidote, take a look at men’s shorts retailer Chubbies. Both its Facebook page and Pinterest boards are dominated by user-generated content in the form of videos, pictures, and even short (pun intended) stories:
With nearly 1.5 million Facebook fans and over 272,000 Instagram followers, Chubbies’ approach to social and the results are not accidents. As Shopify Plus’ recent case study on the brand highlighted:
“Rather than talking at their customers, Chubbies tell stories with their customers as evidenced by volumes of user generated content illustrating the Chubbies’ lifestyle.
“Instead of interrupting prospects with special offers, sales, or ‘buy now’ calls to action like the majority of retailers, Chubbies opts to let ambassadors and customers tell the brand’s story visually and in ways prospects can internalize.”
Both tactics — network-specific content and user-generated content — cut through the dismal and disengaging content experiences that lead many brands to wall themselves within on social media.
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3. Make your content come to life
As tempted as I was to call this last method “keep it real,” the truth is that making your content experience come to life isn’t so much about authenticity; instead, it’s about letting your audience experience your product or service prior to making a purchase and guiding those who take the leap to further consider your product or service.
Retail-based online businesses have long struggled to deliver the kind of tangible experiences that come so naturally from trying out a product in person.
Enter augmented reality. In addition to major breakthroughs in the medical, gaming, and educational worlds, augmented reality has opened up a whole new frontier for digital commerce and content experience.
IKEA was one of the first. In 2014, it introduced augmented reality into its online catalog:
Not to be outdone, last year augmented-reality start-up Cimagine Media followed suit with its own AR app that “scans your room then places a 3D model of the item you’re interested in into the environment.” Users can even reposition the object and walk around to “get a look at the different angles.”
Augmented reality has also spread to other online retailers, most notably fashion and cosmetic companies. The Magic Mirror developed by Modiface allows online users to upload high-resolution images or videos of themselves and then try out makeup in much the same way IKEA lets customers try out furniture.
Likewise, in January makeup retailer Sephora launched its own bring-it-to-life AR application, Sephora Virtual Artist. The app lets visitors upload a picture and test-drive thousands of lip shades. Naturally, the response has been a delightful mixture of obsession … and good-hearted shame:
In each case, the content experience is directly tied to the real experience of the product.
But what if you don’t sell a physical product? Does this lesson still apply?
Earlier this year, Spotify released data that its free-trial model absolutely demolished the one-time reigning free-trial champ Dropbox, boasting a 27% conversion rate against Dropbox’s 4%.
While freemium is often thought of as a customer experience tactic — most notably during the lead-generation stage — it dovetails perfectly with Content Marketing Institute and Uberflip’s own definition of content experience:
(Content experience is) the place where all the user action takes place. It’s where a visitor converts to a lead, and where you can measure your content’s effectiveness across the entire buyer journey.
With SaaS companies, the “place where all the user action takes place” is within the app itself. That’s exactly why giving users a content experience that brings your app to life is a must.
In fact, that’s precisely what Spotify does so well. Spotify not only gives free users the chance to experience the product itself, it also leverages the free version’s limited functionality by using it as a sales point.
Image source: process.st
Image source: process.st
After reviewing a number of the ways Spotify pushes for conversions, Benjamin Brandall concludes, “As soon as you get serious about music, discover new things to be fanatic about, store music and make the app your own — at that moment, it’s time to convert (or else).”
In fact, the principles that Spotify uses to increase conversions are strikingly similar to how augmented reality increases conversions. Both are built on generating a content experience that brings the product to life while leaving the user wanting more.
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Content experiences that delight
If you’re not paying close attention to your customers and giving them content experiences they want, someone else will. The more competitive your industry, the more imperative it is to deliver delightful content experiences.
And don’t forget, failing to deliver on your content experience can mean disaster, even if your customer experience is exceptional. Just like my great customer experience with that Denver hotel — free Wi-Fi and a faux cow in the lobby — was destroyed by email after email even after I unsubscribed.
That’s why you should:
- Make your offers personal
- Make your social media custom
- Make your content come to life
Oh, and be sure your unsubscribe button works.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute