In a digital marketing environment, experiences are becoming increasingly personalized. Consumer actions and interactions are constantly monitored, and the information gleaned from these interactions can be used to deliver content in different ways across multiple channels through various marketing automation and content tools. Using granular customer data, marketers can deliver micro-experiences to consumers. Technology is allowing marketers to provide the right content, to the right audience, at the right time. These experiences can include “shoppable images and interactive media that keep the consumer in the digital experience throughout the purchase process,” according to Doug Heise, VP of global marketing at CoreMedia, an adaptable content and digital asset management (DAM) solutions firm.
Jenna Erickson is marketing manager of Codal, an app development and user experience (UX) design firm. Micro-experiences (aka intelligent experiences), she says, “are the next major evolution in UX, and they’re being designed and implemented as we speak.” These experiences are being driven by a combination of the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), allowing marketers to deliver integrated messaging across a range of connected devices. “The goal is to reduce friction, reduce the need for user navigation, and increase engagement—or sales,” Erickson says.
Micro-experiences, she says, “are small, confined experiences generated within a larger system of experiences.” They are part of a cohesive whole that can be delivered alone or in myriad combinations based on audience demographics, psychographics, purchase behavior, and other criteria that can be used to make content increasingly personalized and immediate.
Heise says that micro-experiences are “pre-configured, channel agnostic, experience modules that can be delivered, on demand, to any visitor on any channel or device. These experience modules can be hybrid objects combining content and data from multiple repositories—CRM [customer relationship management], DAM, WCM [web content management], products, social, support—delivered as a consistent experience across all channels (webpages, mobile apps, ecommerce shops, employee portals, in-store digital kiosks, etc.).” And, he adds, because they are both responsive and adaptive, marketers can be assured that they will look good and perform optimally on any device.
With an experience-as-a-service model, in which the CMS acts as a central content hub, marketers are able to access content from a diverse range of pre-integrated repositories. The system then provides them with tools and pre-configured templates for combining these diverse assets into shareable, omnichannel experiences.
“Imagine that you can create an interactive shopping teaser that includes a shoppable image map,” says Heise. “Then imagine inserting that experience into your marketing emails, texts, mobile apps, [and] social channels—all without significant modification or replication of content. Then imagine that your customers can share these modular assets via their own emails, texts, and social posts.” These, he says, “are modular, shareable, channel-agnostic micro-experiences.”
There are, says Heise, two sides to this process. “The front end is making it possible for content marketers and marketing organizations to easily repurpose bites—the micro part—of content and distribute it across various channels alone, or in combination with other pieces of content,” he says. This is related to—or an evolution of—multichannel or omnichannel marketing, Heise says. At the other end is using AI and machine learning to deliver content to the right individual, at the right time. There are different terms used to define this process—micro-services, micro-experiences, and experiences-as-a-service have been floating around, says Heise. So, for example, a consumer could upload an image of himself or herself in a favorite outfit to a retail site and find accessories, tailored to that outfit, and try them on in a virtual setting.
Companies moving in the direction of using micro-content will obviously need technology to help them create, manage, massage, and deliver messaging to various audiences—individual audiences. Initially, says Heise, it’s likely to be the very large companies that are able to take advantage of these technologies. The big question for companies will be, he says, “Do I want to go with a vendor that basically provides all of the pieces, out of the box,” in which case they may end up with some tools they already have or don’t really need. Or it will be, “Do I want to use a plug-and-play approach,” just selecting the specific components they will actually use based on their—and their audiences’—needs.
If it seems as if the content landscape is shifting exponentially, it is—and that shift is likely to continue, fueled by the potential of already existing technologies such as AI and machine learning. These technologies will make it possible not only to deliver personalized content based on past behaviors or actions, but also to deliver content based on predictions that come from the analysis of past actions to predict future behavior. If it sounds a little Orwellian, it is.
CoreMedia has already partnered with IBM to find ways that IBM’s tools—such as Watson—could be used in the delivery of micro-experiences. “The more that you can tie in a machine learning system like Watson that can access a rich population of data from multiple customers that can make those decisions for you, the better off you’ll be,” says Heise. For instance, “One of the things we’re working on is the ability to have a customer upload a photo of an outfit they really love and say, ‘Show me anything you guys have in your product catalog that looks like this,’” he says. The system would then use image analysis data to find things that might be the same color, have the same lapels, etc., and display those items. That, he says, “is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“Marketers around the world are using these new developments in UX and technology to drive the most advanced era of contextual marketing integration within larger experiences ever known,” says Erickson.
Heise agrees. “If you’re just managing a website and maybe you have a mobile app, then you’re not thinking about this so much,” he says. “But if you’re a global brand whose brand image is the essence of your business, then you have to have this kind of flexibility.”