Dynamic Content | The Future of the Web is Here

by · April 23, 201311 comments

There is a new trend that is on the horizon. It’s subtle so you may not even notice its happening until it’s too late. It’s mostly referred to as Dynamic Content which doesn’t seem substantial enough to truly describe its power.

Here’s a thought to help clarify.

What if your website could change for every visitor to show them the content that is MOST relevant to them?

Do you think that would impact sales and conversions? As long as the information you know about the visitor is relevant and accurate, I think it could have a tremendous impact. Back in May of 2009, I wrote a post called Dynamic Relevant Content will Lead the Way to Web 3.0 that illustrated the use of dynamic content to drive a website. It’s kind of funny to look back at the post with its rudimentary graphics. But hey it was one of my first blog posts. Here is the future of the web I had envisioned back in 2009. Forgive me for the horrible colors; reflections and so much text it makes me want to punch myself in the face. Fortunately, it still illustrates the point pretty well though.

Dynamic Content will Drive the Future of the Web

Honestly, it isn’t too far off from what I envision today. The biggest change is that I don’t think this is limited to B2B marketers. I think it is absolutely applicable to both B2B and B2C marketers.

The Good News

The good news is that the technology to start making this a reality has arrived. Both Marketo, Hubspot and Pardot have been talking a lot about the power of dynamic content and using their platforms to drive one-to-one customization based upon collected and observed information from website visitors. Right now they are focused on smart forms that only ask for new information, smart calls to action and minimal smart on-page content.

“…relevant emails drive 18X more revenue than broadcast emails Jupiter Research ). Eighteen flippin’ times more revenue! And leads who are nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities Annuitas Group ).” – Meaghan Keaney Anderson, Hubspot, on why dynamic content matters.

The Bad News

Business processes and marketers need to get prepared for using dynamic content. It requires an entirely different type of marketing process. It means we have to stop thinking in one-to-many and start thinking one-to-one. Does that scare you a little? Just imagine the challenges with creating content for a segment, now we have to understand every single customer and make sure we have something for them. It’s not quite that bad, for now you can use one-to-a few marketing tactics to scale dynamic content. But don’t think it gets you off the hook for thinking one-to-one in the long term.

Add Dynamic Sections to Your Website

The first thing to consider is what areas of your website should be dynamic. Should it start with a form and calls to action or are there more powerful areas where dynamic content would make an impact? Here are some areas to consider:

  • Forms
  • Calls to Action
  • Product Recommendations
  • Dynamic content fields in on-page content that customizes based on previously provided information like illustrated here by Pardot

Segmentation Options

The second thing to consider is HOW you will segment your dynamic content. There are a variety of ways you can segment your audiences to create dynamic content. Marketo put together an excellent list of options in this post that was incredibly comprehensive and better than what I would’ve provided, so I’ve included it here.

“You can present dynamic content based on a variety of information, including:

  • Demographics: Characteristics about the individual, including name, company name, job title, phone, and email address.
  • Firmographics: Characteristics about an organization, including location, annual revenues, number of employees, and industry.
  • Past behavior: Responses to emails or actions taken on your website can help inform a person’s interests and/or place in the buying cycle.
  • Products or services already purchased: Using information about past purchases can help you up-sell or cross-sell relevant products or services.
  • Psychographics and preferences: This takes into consideration a prospect’s interests, attitudes, and opinions.
  • Behavior of related contacts: Understanding the actions, interests, and preferences of others in the recipient’s company is critical in a purchase that involves many stakeholders.” – Dayna Rothman, Marketo

The Worse News

This is all truly amazing progress for user experience that I’m personally super excited about. But here’s the bad news. The tools that are powering the information and technology to launch this are marketing automation providers. Sure, your web developer could customize something similar but it’s the DATA that really drives this. We used to make arguments about only collecting the data that we could use right away, now I’d argue we should collect everything we can because we never know when we will be able to turn it into something actionable. Now that you have the technology to make the information more useful you are going to want MORE data. If you haven’t been collecting the data for the last couple of years, you are at a distinct disadvantage. It doesn’t mean you can’t start; you should absolutely start as soon as possible. Recognize that if your competitors have had marketing automation in place for a few years, they will have significant amounts of data that you don’t have yet.

We Must Handle Data with Care

Clearly, we need some guidelines for how we SHOULD use this data versus how we COULD use the data. First, to be responsible we need to start providing a way for people to opt-out. Right now it feels like we are night crawlers going in and stealing up as much data as we can. We love it because we feel like we are doing things that are beneficial for the user, but let’s be honest for a second. Most users have NO idea how much information we have collected in our databases about them.  Some are collecting information they are giving us, and even appending it with data from purchased sources to have a more holistic view. Part of me wants to hide it so people don’t stop giving it to me. But the responsible part of me says we need to be more transparent about the information we are collecting and how it is being used or it will come back and bite us, either in the form of nasty regulations or a nasty lawsuit caused by dynamic content gone wild.

We also need to be smart about how we actually use the data. There is some information that is helpful in customizing content and other information that is just creepy. Nothing will get more people using incognito browsers faster than sending an email for funeral services right after someone posts a status update that their grandmother passed away. Let’s be responsible folks.

If I were a financial advisor and knew that you are 38 and have two kids named Johnny and Maggie it would make sense to show you investment options on my site that are appropriate for you based on your age and helping you save for college for your kids. If I’m a B2B software company and have the same information it’s straight up creepy to customize based upon information about my age and kids. Remember that the user still views your site as a “corporate brand”. I could totally send an email from a sales rep that mentions a conversation we had about your kids provided it’s relevant and in the right tone, but to put it on my site as a dynamic content area is strange. Think it through folks. What is the right balance of customization that makes the information relevant and doesn’t freak people out.

Finally, we need to allow people to correct misinformation. For example, I research a lot of tools for clients. So I may provide information on THEIR industry to get some specific information one time, but the next time I may be looking at it through the lens of another industry or want information for myself. The example of customization in the article from Pardot is based upon the company’s CRM system. I have clients on all of those systems and may need to change the CRM system to get the information I need at a later date. Make sure you understand the audience enough to know how they research and don’t customize so much that they can’t back out of those customizations if they aren’t correct.

If you ask me, I’d say that dynamic content and the potential it holds is a huge step forward for business, for marketers, and for user experience. It’s one that we will be doing some experimenting with over the next several months, for sure.

What potential do you see with dynamic content? Are you using it now? Leave a comment and let’s talk about where dynamic content can take us. 

 

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

    Great post Nichole. Exciting times are ahead of us marketers for sure. What’s really frightening is that some marketing departments still have a hard time understanding how to segment e-mail lists properly. Based on what I’ve seen, we sure have a long way to go when it comes to the skill sets involved with this type of personalization. It’s the same notion of big data. Companies can’t really harness big data until they learn how to mine normal data. My two cents anyways :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/kittensrock88 Kevin Flaherty

      You touched on an interesting topic Nick. How best to segment our e-mail marketing list is something that we are often reevaluating. For a time we segmented by vertical than by some very basic point based metrics from actions such as site visits, opens, etc. I do think that this level of segmentation has increased the value for our customers and prospects, but we would like to get more granular in the future. How has your company been segmenting your lists? Are there any particular best practices that you think many marketers overlook?

      • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

        Hey Kevin, sorry for the delay in response! I think the big problem is that marketing departments aren’t segmenting based on the life cycle of a prospect. This is where hooking up to a CRM and web analytics combined is the holy grail. The combination of engagement metrics, plus stage in the buying process, plus all the demographic information is what we should be using to create dynamic lists. After determining resources, length of sales cycle and complexity of your business, this can be done with batch tests. You should probably give testing 3-6 months to see accurate data. Let me know if you have any other questions. Happy to help, or hire SM Explorer to provide consulting :)

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  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    Great breakdown!

  • http://twitter.com/meganneely Megan Neely

    Think you definitely hit the nail on the head with need for “Smart Data.” Just because you can collect data on every single thing a consumer does, doesn’t mean you should. “Smart Data” means decreasing the noise and only gathering the data necessary to improve the consumer experience.

    There are a lot of great dynamic content solutions out there that provide tools for targeted anonymous visitors based on intent. Here’s a great 3rd party tool that offers customer reviews and product insight: http://www.conversion-rate-experts.com/split-testing-software/

    In addition to these tools, my company, Get Smart Content, also has integrations with Marketing Automation Platforms to tap into that known visitors data for content personalization.

    Excited about the future of marketing optimization!

  • Anonymous

    At ADP Dealer Services we provide dynamic content for tens of thousands of automobile dealer websites. As depicted in the blog we are trying to provide best shopping experience for the consumers considering the privacy rights for the user.

  • Peter

    Are there actual social media channels OR products that can allow you to use dynamic content via social media? I’m not talking about automating the customized email process, I’m talking about sending out Tweets or posting to Facebook in such a way that our customers only get the information they’re interested in.

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