When it comes to understanding how new technologies are changing the balance of power between companies and their customers, Tom Wentworth is way ahead of most. He is Chief Marketing Officer of Ektron, a firm that helps firms interact with customers, wherever and however they prefer. I recently spoke with Tom about the pace of change in his space.
Q. You sell Web Content Management tools. How do you feel when you see major brands shut down their website and just use Facebook?
In the past, the website was the only digital channel where consumers could interact with companies and brands, but social networks changed everything. Consumers are active in networks like Twitter and Facebook, where they engage with brands through tweets, likes, status updates and checkins. Digital marketers no longer measure success through page views and clicks, instead they measure deeper engagement metrics like comments, retweets and recommendations. Although Ektron does sell web content management tools, web isn’t necessarily the right word when consumers expect brands to be everywhere they are.
Some brands, like Vitamin Water, have migrated from their traditional corporate website completely to Facebook. The Wall Street Journal recently published A Web Presence Without a Website, which explored the concept of abandoning the traditional website in favor of a social network. That’s the wrong idea, too. The key is to have a multi-channel engagement strategy to get the right content to each user, regardless of channel.
Q. It sounds like Ektron is not only ready to follow its clients, but also where their customers go. Is that right?
Customer expectations have changed. No one “surfs the web” anymore. Instead, consumers expect websites to help them accomplish a goal or achieve a task, quickly. Brands need to start thinking about putting the customer experience first. This has become more difficult as consumers are increasingly interacting with brands via mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Delivering on the promise of customer experience requires the ability to process context, something humans do well but websites don’t. Understanding the context of a consumer allows brands to match the right experience to each visitor.
Take mobile devices, for example. Consumers use smartphones and tablets differently. Smartphones are more of a “standing up” device. Users are trying to accomplish a task quickly because they’re on the go. Whereas tablets are more “sitting down” devices where users are more likely to engage with video, browse through photos and read comments. Organizations are realizing that they have to go where their customers are going or they’ll get left behind. They need to understand the context of their site visitors and provide them with the best experience that matches the intent of why they came to the website in the first place.
Q. I heard you talking about the importance of context, especially given all the disruptive forces impacting media, advertising and commerce. Can you explain?
Companies need to start being context-aware in order to drive successful business outcomes. The web has become the most strategic channel for them especially with regards to sales, marketing, and customer support. Websites are no longer brochures, they are experiences. And website visitor expectations have changed. They now expect sites to engage them, with both content and context. The missing ingredient in providing a web experience that meets corporate business goals, while meeting site visitor expectations, is context.
Context helps humans make decisions in the everyday real world (we’re able to tell someone’s age, gender, read their body language, etc). However, context is often ignored online. For example, if you go to Google and search for brown dress shoes, you’ll be amazed at the number of marketers trying to sell you black dress shoes, running sneakers or even sandals. Just like we use context to shape our everyday experiences, context humanizes websites. By looking at context, companies will understand who came to their website, what that individual came to accomplish, how they came and then provide those site visitors with the right experience that’s now personalized and meaningful to them. So let’s start humanizing websites through context. Context deepens engagement, grows revenue and builds loyalty.
Q. A year from now, what do you see as the highest and best use of the type of tools Ektron offers?
There’s been an evolution of Web Content Management (WCM). In the past, companies started with content first – they would use WCM tools to increase time to web and productivity by giving business users the ability to publish content without relying on IT. Improving time-to-web was the metric companies would use to measure the success of their WCM system, but getting content up on the web faster doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of brands, especially if that content provides no relevance to their customers.
Successful brands start with the customer first, understanding who they are and what they came to the site to accomplish. They match the right content to the site visitor based on each visitor’s unique goals. Today I would say that the “c” in web content management is “customer.” Before, we always started with content, but content just becomes a tool to engage customers. Web content management should actually become web customer management. Ektron customers succeed and achieve business results when they focus on delivering the best web experience to each of their customers.
Q. What do you think some companies just don’t get, but that is critically important to their future?
Mobile. The number of websites you go to on your smartphone today and see that it’s not mobile-optimized is still unbelievable. Starting with mobile-friendly is an important first step, but you also have to think about how consumers are using mobile. Mobile is one of the most significant computing technologies since the invention of the mouse where you click and find information. Touching and swiping on your mobile device has become the new point+click. Mobile brings new ways to interact and engage with consumers.
Today, companies should not only think about mobile-friendly, but they also need to think about how mobile devices and mobile apps present new ways to interact with their customers. I propose that companies start with mobile first because users often prefer the kind of experience that they get on their smartphone and tablet. By starting with that mobile user experience, we can then enhance these experiences on a tablet, and then on a desktop web browser. Mobile will then become the baseline for companies to build out their multi-channel customer experiences.