Gilbane Conference 2015: Understand Customer Reactions, and Deliver Content Accordingly

BOSTON — On day one of the 2015 Gilbane Conference, speakers urged marketers to create engaging content that enhances customer experiences  during every step of their journeys and to continually leverage the most effective methods for reaching customers in whichever digital environment they choose.

"Content is the water of your organization," said Donna Tuths, managing director and global head of digital content at Accenture Interactive, to the audience of hundreds. It spills into all areas of an organization and "fuels absolutely everything" customers interact with, whether it's a commerce site, marketing or sales materials, or any number of other channels. It's crucial, then, that leadership embraces an effective content strategy and promotes a similar mindset throughout firms. "Content is an enterprise issue," Tuths continued. "It's not something that's owned by part of an organization but will take the entire organization to conquer.”

For organizations to conquer content, though, they need a rigorous understanding of how human beings are experiencing it. In a panel on marketing and brain science, speakers shed light on marketing to consumers whose attitudes and preferences have been shaped largely by digital advancements. "Every person in this room has some form of ADD," said Jesse Kalfel, senior director of creative services and consulting at SAP Global Marketing.

In a world where Internet addiction is the norm and people are uncomfortable when their smartphones are out of reach, content is perceived and digested rapidly. "We have become scanners, scrollers, and skimmers," Kalfel said. Marketers must begin to understand how people respond to content and frequently test various approaches to see what works and what doesn't. If customers prefer to snack on content, large chunks of text are sure to lose their attention, for instance.

This notion of continual experimentation was seconded by Kevin Lindsay, director of conversion product marketing at Adobe, who noted that brands should never stop competing for customers' attention and "trying to stay memorable." Lindsay said marketers should constantly test content and its presentation to gauge audience response, adjusting layout, color combinations, images and illustrations, pricing numbers, and wording as needed.

Some brands are even trying out reverse psychology, Lindsay noted. For instance, in the lead-up to Black Friday this year, as many companies relied on traditional ads to lure customers, REI announced that it would close stores on Thanksgiving this year to promote the idea of spending the day outdoors; the North Face in 2011 similarly told customers "Don't buy this jacket," which was bound to have the opposite effect.

To a great extent, companies grasp the importance of ensuring their content resonates, but they must also realize that people are often indifferent to the medium through which it's delivered—whether it's an app or a browser—so long as the delivery method is convenient for them. In other words, people don't care how they get content, but they want it be comfortable to digest.

Jon Marks, cofounder and chief technology officer at Kaldor Product Development Group, outlined some of the pros and cons of developing mobile apps versus Web applications, noting that consumers are likely to make heavier use of their mobile apps yet only use a few. He pointed out that the technology is evolving so quickly that it will be hard to anticipate what the boundaries between browser-based Web sites and apps will begin to look like. For instance, developments in streaming will make it easier for people to open apps without having to commit to installations, thus eliminating the issue of memory and storage. "This time next year, no one will be thinking to install apps," Marks promised. They're just going to appear on our devices.  

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