The Future of Content Marketing

July 7th, 2017

What the future holds for content marketing, especially in relation to Artificial Intelligence and the future of search, was the theme for a packed CMA Digital Breakfast on July 5th.

First to speak was Stephen Kenwright, Director of Search at Branded3. He began by asking the question – what is the future of content – how will it look in the near future specifically 2020?

Stephen’s initial point was that the way that content is accessed and how it is distributed are already changing and will continue to change. To reassure the delegates though he made the point that in media ‘status quo is not necessarily a good thing.’ To illustrate this, he cited programmatic advertising explaining that as people get more attuned to living with it the less likely they are to click on the ads. Therefore, the cost for each click continues to rise.

The rise of voice search

Stephen predicted that the most marked way that content will change will be as a reaction to the success of voice search. The growth of Cortana by Microsoft, Siri by Apple and Alexa by Amazon means that within three years 50% of all searches will be conducted by voice. At the current time, it is around 20%

Stephen believes that this will mean the death of navigation of websites as it is really no longer applicable.

To illustrate this Stephen discussed Amazon, explaining that it is a company that has constantly innovated. He described the company’s multiple products pages as search answers in themselves and suggested that Amazon has the potential to become Google’s biggest search engine rival.

‘The changing nature of search should make publishers and brands stop for a minute and think about the content that they are producing’ believes Stephen. He argues the key metric in the future will be ‘dwell time, how long can you keep a person on your site before they revert to Google?’

In explaining this Stephen cited the example of one of his clients – Virgin Holidays and its site was built for SEO and aims to answer the questions that people want answering. He added that the site was right at the end of the sales funnel and experienced high levels of conversion.

Stephen then advised brands to start thinking about how they might build a knowledge database. This can be done in number of ways using analytics, customer service, traditional SEO keywords and more. Once this has been achieved brands should then create the content that addresses those issues and answers those questions.

Stephen then turned his attention to voice search for existing brands saying they should at least consider experimenting with Alexa Skills or chatbots. He finished by reiterating his early point that navigation would disappear soon. He thinks there are other ways in which we find content in the future.

The second speaker to present was Nicola Fleming, VP Head of Digital Content Strategy, Barclays

 She took as her theme ‘why brands need to start thinking about Intelligent Content.’ She began her talk by referencing the days when the mantra was ‘content is king.’ Although she still saw content as essential, she conceded that a lot of content was created without the originator thinking a great deal about the life cycle it would have.

Chatbots and AI

Nicola also talked about the impact of the mobile phones and how few brands were properly prepared for the impact they had. She argued that a lot of businesses were still not up to speed on the basics, while others were having to invest heavily in a bid to catch up.

As for her prognosis for the future Nicola argued that ‘things move so quickly it is impossible predict where we will be in 10 years.’

She did however cite the growing popularity of chatbots and voice assistants among both consumers and brands. And she agreed with the previous speaker, Stephen Kenwright, that voice would be very important to company websites by 2020.

As for chatbots Nicola pointed out that any brand could create a chatbot now by using Facebook. However, there was little point in doing this if the company wasn’t prepared and didn’t have the right content to work with the chatbot.

She said it is good for brands to retrieve the right answers for the consumer, but in order for them to be able to do this their content needs to be well structured.

Another key trend that Nicola highlighted was Hyper Personalisation – using data and context to serve content for individuals at every step of their online journey. She also said empathetic tech – for example using phones with microphones and cameras to gauge people’s faces and reactions, could potentially have an important future.

Another technology likely to have a huge impact in the future is Machine Learning, which Nicola believes will constantly evolve content to present to readers what it believes they will find most engaging. Machine Learning will also enable brands to analyse past data and learn from it to improve user outcomes. It will also play an important role in the evolution of chatbots, voice assistants and personalised content. ‘The benefits to the brand are that they can understand what content works and what is most effective,’ she argued.

Nicola mentioned both VR (Virtual reality) and AR (Augmented Reality), particular highlighting the potential of the latter for the way it blends digital and physical worlds. She cited as a good example of how brands might use AR the way that Ikea has an app that enables consumers to place furniture in their living room to see how it looks.

Intelligent Content

Nicola then asked the question ‘what is Intelligent Content?’ and examined its five key elements. She believes they are;

  • Content in small fragments – bite sized chunks
  • Content that is semantically categorised – relating to various elements
  • Content that is automatically discoverable – so that it is easily accessible
  • Content that is reusable – so that content can be placed in a number sources from blog posts through to product descriptions and case studies
  • Content that is adaptable – in other words it can be tweaked to suit different platforms and scenarios,

To explain what she meant and illustrate how important Intelligent Content is Nicola mentioned that quite often various parts of a website are written by different people. Sometimes there is no uniformity. This is a problem that Intelligent Content can solve.

Intelligent Content can be broken down into fragments and stored centrally, then the various writers could access it and deploy it in different content baskets.

Intelligent Content does need to be adaptable though in that there should be different flavours of fragments which are tailored to different audiences via different channels.

The key thing for brands is the classification of the fragments – it may be that they are called one thing internally and then something different when related to the consumer.

Ultimately Nicola believes that brand adoption of Intelligent Content has three key benefits:

  • Saves time and money
  • Better customer experience
  • Future ready

She did however acknowledge that there are problems to be overcome first from siloed teams to prioritisation of design in companies.

She finished by running though her key steps for getting started with Intelligent Content.

She said;

  • Make intelligent content part of your strategy
  • Get buy in from the teams
  • Invest in experts
  • Think about single CMS
  • Make organisational and process changes
  • Progress iteratively

The third speaker at the breakfast was Noz Urbina, Content Strategist and Founder, Urbina Consulting. You can read an exclusive interview with Noz and learn more about his pioneering approach to content marketing next week.

Commissioned by The CMA

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