Top 5 checklist for developing an effective contextualisation strategy for online engagement

In this post I have outlined its top five key requirements for organisations looking to deliver a more relevant, engaging, contextualised online experience to their customers.

The five fundamental criteria for managing online content in context are:

1. The ability to create content effectively
2. Having access to the full range of customer-applicable content
3. Being able to apply intelligent rules that match online experiences with customer needs
4. Giving business and web professionals the ability to experience online outcomes before customers do
5. Having the technology in place to draw all these different elements together

I believe that when it comes to implementing contextualised mobile or location-based online services, organisations often tend to look to technology alone. However, the deployment of the most advanced mobile web apps and services is likely to fall consistently short – and consequently fail – if online mobile initiatives don’t gain the full support of an organisation’s wider business, IT and marketing functions.

Technology is only part of the solution – and often the easiest part. Effective mobile contextualisation needs to go beyond this to ensure true alignment of customer and business issues, and it’s always going to be your employees – not some prescriptive, computer-generated application – that will do this best.

Providing customised experiences for customers is a significant challenge. It means authoring meaningful content, crafting rules to match it on demand with each customer’s specific context, and finally optimising the representation for the specific device used – whether it’s an iPhone, a PC, a BlackBerry, an Android phone, and iPad tablet or digital PC. The complete adaptation of the customer experience to the customer’s needs and situation is what we call contextualisation and can deliver far more ROI for each customer’s interaction.

From laptops to tablets, mobile phones and smart devices to social networks, businesses also have to ensure full support for all devices and customer touchpoints, and provide a consistent experience – even when customers switch access points. To deliver a relevant experience in this cohesive Web environment, WCM software can no longer work in isolation, but instead has to co-operate with relevant technologies like social networks, and internal applications such as ERP, CRM and back-end enterprise systems.

In the same way that a smart salesperson knows how to identify a customer’s needs, and then match it with the relevant product or service to close a deal, good online marketers will know exactly what information is relevant online and timely to the particular context of their mobile audience.

Successfully enabling online context will turn out to be key in 2011, and if organisations are to successfully optimise their online presence they’re going to have to find an effective way to craft highly customised experiences for each and every customer. We hope that our “Essential Contextualisation Checklist” will help provide some guidance.

The ability to create content effectively will underpin the development of more customised experiences for customers. Organisations will also need to break out of traditional Web publishing cycles, not waiting for the next site update but actioning changes immediately.

Here it’s essential that business users, not IT systems, set the pace of production. These business users also need to be supported with access to customer information and content from across the business, not simply limited to data that sits within a traditional Web Content Management system.

When it comes to framing a customer’s contextualised online experience, it’s also key for business users to have the flexibility to develop and manage rules that allow them to respond directly to customer requirements.

Business specialists such as marketers, channel managers and communications staff also need to be able to preview these contextualised experiences before the customer does – regardless of the end-user touch point involved. For example, they have to know exactly what will happen in the CRM system when a customer using an iPhone or an Android phone changes from being a prospect to a customer.

Creating content, providing customers with the whole picture, crafting the correct user experience, and being able to preview the results before going live, requires an intelligent Web Content Management approach that is designed from the start with the business user in mind.

Christian Weichelt is an expert in connecting Web technologies to the achievement of online business objectives. At CoreMedia since 2006, Christian has responsibility for product strategy and positioning. Prior to his current role, he held a number of sales and strategic technical services positions. Weichelt studied International Management at universities in Germany and Spain, and holds a PhD in Business Information Systems from the University of Bamberg. He currently resides with his family in Hamburg, Germany.