Deliver Powerful Customer Experiences with Rich Media

White Paper

Today, digital marketers are realising the need to be more relevant than ever in order to stand out in a crowded online world. Concurrently, in order to get noticed and engage with their audience, they must increasingly leverage compelling rich media, including video. This paper explains the trends behind the growing demands for delivering contextually relevant customer experiences that excite and engage via rich media. It outlines how using the right solution to manage rich media assets can enable success in an omni-channel, multi-device, multi-lingual, multi-preference world.

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What it takes to succeed with rich media: Contextualizing the customer experience

As a marketer, you understand that the customer experience is key to success. But like many of your peers, you may not be clear on what drives that experience. In a world where buyers use multiple devices during their omni-channel journey to purchase, you need to deliver the right information at the right time in the right format and language. Or in other words, to ensure a relevant, engaging experience, you need to understand the prospects’ and customers’ context and act accordingly.

For the purposes of this paper, context is a combination of all the different factors that can shape a customer’s digital experience with a brand. This includes elements such as time of day, day of week, the consumer’s location, the local weather, the device being used, the consumer’s situation, and the task that person is trying to accomplish (e.g., business vs. leisure). In addition, digital marketers must take into account language preference, the consumer’s purchase history, past interactions with a help desk, and any other defining characteristics. It’s also important to understand where people are in their buying cycle, which can range from information gathering through to purchase and then support.

In essence, context includes everything that can influence how the next interaction with a consumer should be shaped in order to deliver a relevant customer experience. If we apply this principle to rich media, it’s appropriate to display high-resolution graphics or a 360-degree rotating view of a sports car to someone on a tablet or PC who is in the information-gathering phase. But it’s impractical to offer this type of rich-media interaction to someone on a smartphone who has already bought a car and is just searching for a dealership nearby.

Why contextual customer experiences matter

The reason for needing to deliver contextually relevant experiences lies in the direct relationship between better customer experience and better business results. Better experiences drive happy customers, social sharing, and brand loyalty, all of which contribute positively to the bottom line.

In fact, research into the impact of delivering a stellar customer experience shows that leaders in this regard are rewarded financially. Specifically, for the five-year period examined, the customer experience leaders studied outperformed the broader stock market, generating cumulative total returns that were 27% better than the S&P 500 Index. Moreover, they saw 128% higher returns than the customer experience laggards.

According to Forrester Research, “In the age of the customer, a focus on customers matters more than any other strategic imperative…” That said, Forrester goes on to say, “…while every executive knows that customers matter, most companies simply don’t approach their interactions with customers in a disciplined way

Putting today’s buyers in context

As Forrester Research explains, “To succeed in today’s digital environment, firms must deliver smarter, more customer-centric interactions that feel like they were tailored for each user and his or her specific set of circumstances. That’s why firms need to evolve their thinking to focus on contextualization…” According to Forrester, “Contextualization combines and extends existing segmentation and personalization techniques with in-the-moment details…” to deliver “a tailored, adaptive, and sometimes predictive digital customer experience.” 3 This is not to suggest the inside-out approach behind most over-engineered personalization efforts, but rather an outside-in approach where great experiences take center stage.

At the same time, it’s important to understand that video and rich media are becoming an essential part of compelling, online experiences. This is especially true when Millennials – everyone born between 1980 and 2005 – are part of a company’s target audience.

Millennials prefer viewing to reading in general and as such are known to consume rich media in great quantities. This includes video, animations, rich graphics, and interactive maps to name a few. In essence, they are very open and partial to visual stimuli. In fact, according to research by YuMe, Millennials consume more video than any previous generation. The significance of this trend is that the customer experience will fall flat if you simply present media to this group, or any other, without proper context. For example, what good is a video delivered in a language that the audience does not understand or speak.

Rich media production challenges are growing

All that said, many digital marketers already find it challenging to manage the production and distribution of video and other rich media assets. The need to contextualize rich media adds a layer of complexity that can make the task seem overwhelming.

Context, language and the resulting asset explosion

Take the example of delivering localized rich media on multiple websites and devices. Let’s assume you want to add a promotional video to your site and your Facebook page. Because you serve a global audience, you need to produce this video in 10 languages. You would likely outsource this project to an agency that creates the video and all variants to address different languages, devices and channels. The entire process is often complicated and frustrating, as files are sent back and forth for review and edits, and different people are involved at various stages depending on their expertise. Problems with version control often occur.

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In the end, the agency would deliver 40 video files, just for this single promotion:

  • The original video plus nine more to cover the additional languages for a total of 10
  • Plus one channel-specific version for each language video to accommodate consumers on the desktop, tablets, smartphones and Facebook

Costly and cumbersome

Clearly it’s extremely costly to pay an agency to produce all those assets. But the pain doesn’t end there. Remember, this example is based on just one video. Imagine what happens if you run multiple campaigns incorporating various rich media assets.

Someone must subsequently upload the files to the systems that will ultimately deliver the content to site visitors. To ensure the right asset can be delivered to the right visitor, someone must tag the files with metadata such as locale or audience. That person must also categorize the files appropriately to make them usable by other employees such as field marketers running a demand generation campaign. The same tagging is needed to make these files usable by automated content delivery platforms that call upon metadata to deliver digital assets that help create contextually relevant experiences. Furthermore, once the files are online, someone must review and verify that the videos are correct, and you need to manage all the individual web pages associated with each of the videos.

If a colleague or partner needs any modification made to one of these assets, that person needs to identify the asset owner – which is often not so simple – to request the change. In other words, the whole cycle starts again, resulting in even higher costs.

Even then, your concerns don’t end when it comes to the customer experience. Since you’re engaging a global audience, you may find it challenging to ensure an optimal experience no matter from what location the consumer views the video file. After all, network latency can cause delays and buffering issues. And if a large crowd of people tries to access your videos all at once, you may not be able to accommodate them.

So how can your business deliver contextually relevant rich media and satisfy consumer expectations – without incurring throughthe- roof expenses and bringing on more labor? The answer is to take advantage of a rich media solution that enables you to mitigate the silos and gaps in the process and greatly reduce the overall complexity. Importantly, it allows you to do all that while delivering optimized customer experiences via the widest range of rich media assets.

Eliminate the complexities associated with contextual rich media

What if you could dramatically streamline the entire process by letting a software solution handle the complexity of all the rich media variants as well as the delivery? You can do that and more by taking advantage of a cloud-based rich media solution that leverages a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for global distribution.

Starting at the production phase, the external agency could upload rich media assets along with the correct tags such as locale or audience directly into the solution, eliminating the need for any external cloud storage or FTP accounts. Or the solution could connect directly to an in-house Digital Asset Management (DAM) system to support existing production processes. Because the correct tags would already be associated with the assets, you eliminate labor-intensive tagging after the fact as occurs with more traditional ways of managing assets.

Once the source material has been stored and tagged centrally, it’s much simpler to manage all variants. Rather than drive yourself crazy trying to handle an explosion of multimedia assets, such a solution allows you to simply manage a single source video and accompanying translation files (typically subtitle text files or a voiceover). You simply specify your preferences for output file formats and languages, and the system then handles the automatic creation of all assets, the relationships between them plus any corresponding metadata.

In addition, the ideal solution makes it possible to access all your asset variants via a single URL. You would set URL parameters to determine which variant of your video to deliver to each site visitor, whether that means delivering a French version to someone on a tablet or a German version to someone on a smartphone. In other words, from a single web page you can easily and dynamically deliver any number of contextually relevant rich media assets. You can see this in action on the KLM website4 , which delivers localized video using subtitles based on the site visitor’s location.

At the same time, since the ideal rich media solution takes advantage of a CDN, you’ll overcome all latency, bandwidth, capacity and performance issues. In other words, it makes it possible to not only streamline and improve the management, but also the global delivery, of all your rich media.

The right rich media solution improves every customer experience

While the sample scenario described above is generic enough to apply to any business situation, the best solution is capable of supporting even niche business needs.

Satisfying online shoppers

Perhaps you sell thousands of products through an eCommerce shop and you promote each product by displaying multiple images. To drive higher conversions, you may call upon an ecommerce optimization engine that helps you offer the most relevant offers and products to site visitors. In other words, you contextualize the site experience by tailoring it to match the behavior and characteristics of each person visiting your site, for a more satisfying customer experience.

Delivering a highly dynamic site of this sort means that a product can likely appear in the main product grid, in addition to being shown as a promotion at the bottom of a page, in a sidebar or even in the search results box. That means you need to deliver many variants of the same image – in different sizes and formats – to accommodate their placement on your site as well as on the devices that shoppers use to access your site. On top of that, you probably show multiple views of a product (front, side, rear, zoom for example) using both rich graphics and video. You may also need localized versions of your rich media for certain regions, adding even more complexity to your rich media management.

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If you were using a traditional DAM, eCommerce or Content Management system to manage this scenario, you would have to worry about handling the complexity associated with the thousands of variants. And if you decided to add another element to your eCommerce site requiring an additional image size, you would have to go through the trouble of generating thousands of additional image renditions with the new dimensions.

Now consider a system that could easily access all your images based on the SKU number of the product, the desired view (e.g., front, side, rear), channel and locale. The system could pull and deliver the required variant for each placement on the site to the site visitor at high speed ensuring a fast performing site, crucial in eCommerce environments. It would also make it possible to generate a new variant for thousands of products automatically when needed. As a result, you could deliver a contextually relevant experience, tailored to the region of the visitor and optimized for the device being used to visit your site.

Enabling self service

Imagine if your company was a printer manufacturer and provided product documentation as PDF manuals via an online customer portal. Trying to troubleshoot a specific problem, like fixing a paper jam, would be frustrating for a customer who has to wade through a hefty manual.

A better approach would be to take a customer from a Google search result to the relevant page on your site featuring a step-bystep troubleshooting guide supplemented with an instructional video explaining how to fix a paper jam. And you can do just that – and deliver a more satisfying customer experience – by tapping into an advanced rich media solution.

You could further contextualize the experience by associating different printer models with the troubleshooting procedure so customers would see the appropriate printer in the video. Moreover, you could identify the site visitor’s geographic location to serve up the right subtitles or voiceover. In the end, your customers would have the best possible troubleshooting experience: tailored to the product they own, the exact issue they are experiencing, and their language and geographic location.

From a management perspective, you only have to maintain a simple set of rich media assets. The intelligence to select the right rich media snippet lies in the interaction between the structured content on the web page and the rich media system.

But the benefits don’t end there. By using analytics built into the solution, you can understand which images or video snippets are watched most often. This allows you to identify trends, such as a significant number of customers experiencing paper jams with a certain printer model. With this insight, your company could improve its online help and its product, thereby further improving the overall customer experience.

Improving email campaigns

You can also apply contextual rich media to improve the experience enabled through your email campaigns. Say you want to embed video in your email; the challenge is that some devices and email clients aren’t capable of video playback.

A clever rich media system can solve this issue. With it, you can automatically deliver the right rich media assets in an email based on the end user’s email client and operating system. Someone on an Apple iOS device would be shown a video that plays directly in the email. On the other hand, someone using Microsoft Outlook on Windows would instead be shown an image that links to a landing page featuring the video. In other words, you can deliver a relevant rich media experience tailored to the person’s technology context.

Conclusion: Optimize customer interactions with contextualized rich media

Today’s customer expects to be served with consistently engaging, personalized and contextually accurate experiences, and rich media plays a big role in that process. To satisfy this growing requirement and enable engaging encounters, digital marketers like you need the creative and operational agility to manage large numbers of variants of the same assets and share them across a myriad of digital channels. The key to success is using a solution that removes the inherent complexity and management overhead so you can focus on driving relevant and rich digital customer experiences, easily and consistently.

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