Content is King! Unless...

Content IS King!

There is no doubt about it. We are bombarded with information every waking minute of the day, thanks to a hyper connected lifestyle that has become the norm. In this barrage from electronic media, advertising, social networks, text messages and email communication we tend to subconsciously gravitate towards certain type of information more than others. Information that is rich in content. Content, more importantly original content stands out amongst the noise and gets our attention.

If your goal is to get your audience’s attention, it is obvious that you must focus on the content you provide.

Personalized Content Rules Supreme!

All content however are not created equal. What is appealing to me may not interest you and what motivates you to take action (buy a product, go to a restaurant or watch a movie) may have no impact on a third person. This adds another important dimension to the challenge of getting the content right – it isgetting the right content to the right person. In other words, Personalized Content.

Retailers are fast taking a lesson from this and implementing content driven commerce solutions to present customers with products and services that are relevant, interesting and timely. Personalized content based on a customer’s profile, buying preferences, location or just about any other attribute that can be directly or indirectly gleaned is being used to drive revenue.

And this is beginning to deliver results in increased total revenue, higher revenue per customer and greater customer retention.

Unless...

There is however a wrinkle here (there is always a wrinkle). As great as personalized content is in delivering a positive result, improperly personalized content or irrelevant content has the opposite effect. If you are presented with the content is personalized for my tastes and buying behavior, chances are you would be less inclined to make a buying decision than if you were presented with generic (non-personalized or mass market) content.

Companies implementing personalized-content based commerce solutions now have the added responsibility of making sure that they get this personalization and the delivery of personalized content right, or pay the price for it.

eCommerce and content based commerce platform vendors are providing support for capturing a variety of customer data and building sophisticated rules based on this data to drive personalization and present original content. But who is making sure that these rules are built correctly and the personalized content is being presented correctly.

Testing such implementations is often done by existing manual testing processes that are grossly inadequate in their ability to simulate the variety of personalization options required to test these rules. What is scarier is the hubris that sometimes accompanies these implementations leading to the belief that they will always be done right and don’t require any additional or different methods of testing. We all know what such hubris can lead to.

Content Can Still Be King

There are some steps that can be taken to make sure that personalized content is built and delivered correctly. It involves developing a comprehensive testing strategy to test these implementations and putting in place a testing solution that can consistently run tests in a scalable manner using a representative test data set. Here are a few steps that you can focus on to get started in building such a strategy:

  • Test the User Journey – Follow the footsteps of your user on your site. This will identify issues relating to irrelevant content or incorrectly delivered content that your users may experience on your site
  • Automation – Implement a test automation solution that can help you easily build tests to verify that specific content is being delivered correctly. Since you will need to run the same tests for different personalization criteria and content, automating your tests will deliver huge payoffs
  • Test Data – Build a representative set of test data that covers the entire range of customer attributes used to drive personalization. Then map out the range of content that should be delivered for this personalization. Make sure that you test data handles both positive and negative tests. The latter is sometimes more important the former as it helps avoid presenting incorrect content.
  • Continuous Testing – Content driven commerce requires frequent content updates and also frequent changes to personalization rules. Make sure that you can tie to execution of your tests to these updates that you make. This continuous testing will help you identify issues and let you rectify them before they become a problem.

Do you use personalized content to drive customer engagement and revenue on your site? If so, how do you make sure that you deliver the right content to the right people? Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.