Why is content operations so important to omnichannel?

How do content operations, content strategy, and omnichannel all fit together? What does the combination give us? In this speaker-contributed post, Rahel Anne Bailie explains.

To understand the connection between content operations and omnichannel delivery, we first need to look at both concepts. Once we do that, we can then look at the connection points and interdependencies between the two disciplines.



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Omnichannel delivery

To quote Noz Urbina, omnichannel is the “unification of engagement and communication strategies so that they complement each other – rather than run in parallel – to give the audience what they really need.” This is a far cry from the early definitions that focused on the management of retail delivery across different channels of shopping. Industry has expanded omnichannel to many other contexts. Omnichannel now means delivering relevant content to content consumers (customers or otherwise) no matter where they are in the user journey.

In other words, we need to know which stage of the user journey a person is at, what content they’ll likely need at that stage, and how to make the content relevant to a particular user segment or even down to an individual. The user journeys can vary wildly. In a B2C environment, this could be a handful of stages; in a B2B environment, there could be many more.

Whether you subscribe to the sales funnel or the purchase pretzel models, it is a worthwhile endeavour to understand the user personas, how many stages they will move through, and what content they are likely to want at each stage. The idea is to match the needs of each user as they move through the journey towards some form of engagement or conversion.

When you have one user journey and 20 pieces of content, you don’t really worry much about how to keep up with omnichannel delivery. However, when you reach 2,000 or 20,000 pieces of content, you may find that your options to keep the content current, connected to the right stages, and personalised for your range of audiences becomes painful. Your options, at that point, are either to hire an army of content professionals to work on delivery, or to operationalise your content.

Content operations

Over the course of the last decade, I’ve refined the definition of content operations to be “a method of optimising content production to allow organisations to use content as a business asset to meet intended goals”. A common theme when operationalising business processes (including content processes) is to automate continuous delivery pipelines.

This means developing repeatable processes, reducing inefficiencies, automating where possible, scaling up outputs, and monitoring to create insights that can then work towards improving the outcomes. In simple terms, content operations means adopting a system so that you can work smarter instead of harder.

In simple terms, content operations means adopting a system so that you can work smarter instead of harder. #ContentOps via @RahelAB Share on X

Content operations means that content can be categorised and tagged with metadata so that computer systems – a Web CMS is but one example of such a system – can understand how to parse and deliver content in an automated way. This is only one aspect of operationalising content, but it is perhaps the most relevant one that contributes to omnichannel delivery.

#ContentOps means content can be categorised & tagged so that computer systems can parse and deliver content in an automated way. - via @RahelAB Share on X

Connecting omnichannel delivery to content operations

Omnichannel delivery can get very complicated, very quickly. Let’s say we’ve figured out the major personas for each of our products, and the stages of their user journeys. Let’s also assume that we’ve written content for each of the personas and stages. We now have to figure out when and where users may come to our sites, mobile devices, kiosks – whatever the complement of channels may be – and at which entry point, and then deliver the content to them on the fly. There are very few organisations willing to manually execute an omnichannel strategy. So how do we do that?

This is where content operations comes to the rescue. A strong component of delivering targeted content to an array of audiences in multiple channels at multiple stages is the use of intelligent content (as originally defined by Ann Rockley). The principles behind intelligent content are that content needs to be structurally rich and semantically categorised.

Breaking content into smaller topics and giving it the intelligent content treatment means that content is tagged up and ready to go from the beginning, allowing an intermediary system to hold onto that publication-ready content until it’s needed. At that point, the content is delivered, at the right time and place, to the right users, in the right channel, in the right format, and so on.

Delivery as a logical outcome of operations

If content operations is about working efficiently, much of it about automating the process as well as the outcome, then a logical outcome is about enabling omnichannel delivery. It stands to reason that a key way to keep pace with the demands of an omnichannel strategy is to pair it with a content strategy. An omnichannel strategy plans for the details of delivery; a content strategy plans for the production of content to fill those needs.

An omnichannel strategy plans for the details of delivery; a content strategy plans for the production of content to fill those needs.- via @RahelAB Share on X

The outcome is a system that allows for a repeatable process with reliable, replicable outputs that can be understood by downstream systems, such as an Experience Management System or Web CMS. Pairing the two disciplines creates a high-functioning, efficient way of operationalising content for omnichannel delivery.

About Rahel Anne Bailie, Founding CEO and Principal Consultant

Rahel will be presenting a new session at this year’s OmnichannelX Conference. Keep an eye on the 2021 Programme for more.

Rahel has spent over 20 years as a content consultant, with a deep understanding of both the technical and editorial sides, developing solutions to solve complex information problems at Fortune 100 and FTSE 250 corporations. She is an accredited Cognitive Edge consultant, a certified UX, and usability professional.