The shift to structured content: what it means for your customer journey
How does structured content impact the way you create and maintain your digital customer journey?
An increasing number of digital experience vendors are shifting to headless CMS to meet the demands of omnichannel delivery. This means an increased use of so-called structured content. But what do we mean by “structured content,” and how will this shift affect the digital customer journey?
What is structured content?
“Structured content” is information or content that is organised in a predictable way and is usually classified with metadata.
In practice, structured content means that if you have different content types in your CMS, like “product,” “article,” “employee,” “case study,” and so on, each content type will feature data that is structured in the same way, making way for the reuse of said content in different contexts.
E.g., an “article” has some standard fields for title, image, teaser text, rich text, tags, etc. for every content item of that particular type. This structured information can then be reused in different channels, for instance presenting the title, image, and teaser text in an app via an API, and showing all the fields on a website. This is an efficient way to manage and distribute content, saving both time and resources.
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Structured content can be maintained in several ways, but the most common method by far is to edit content through forms. Each field has its attached form element, and editing them will make the changes available for each relevant channel. Another example is to use a block editor like the WordPress plugin Gutenberg, where each block is structured. The main benefit of this latter approach is to solve the problem of a lack of presentation (especially in a headless context) without working with actual presentation.
While most types of digital experiences can benefit immensely from using structured content, examples of sites and services with a special advantage can be a headless movie database, catalogues, products, and other types of databases.
Atomic content design
A sub topic in structured content is the idea of “atomic content design.” This content model takes structured content to its logical conclusion, by breaking it down to its smallest possible constituent parts. These parts, dubbed “atoms,” can then by the grace of their metadata be reused in larger contexts.
Each atom is a separate content item of a certain type, and can function alone as well as together with other atoms in a larger document. A prime example of atomic content design is the Norwegian Directorate of Health, which uses content atoms to smartly build compilation articles about diseases, while simultaneously allowing symptoms, diagnosis, and recommended treatments remain separate and searchable for physicians and patients alike.
And all the while, the atoms in this case are feeded from a central, medical repository—thus ensuring always updated medical information in all channels that use the content.
What structured content means for the customer journey
One obvious application of structured content in regard to the digital customer journey is the ability to reuse content. Produce once, distribute everywhere: from interactive QR codes or screens in physical shops and blog posts to nurturing emails and social media.
Reuse examples could be a help text appearing on several touchpoints, the same image in different channels, a service message released widely to address an issue, or products appearing in different stages of the customer journey.
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With a solid CMS for creating structured content, images can automatically be delivered in different sizes and qualities in different channels, and some systems even have a focal point feature, where a user decides the important part of an image, which will then always be displayed—even in widely different formats and aspect ratios.
Another advantage is to integrate your contents and offerings across the entire journey. Structured content allows for linking together content and relating content in different settings. For instance: a specific text box with exercising tips can accompany a customer from first touch on a blog post about sportswear, then to a product page about shoes, and then in a newsletter for existing customers.
Reuse of structured content also enables dynamic use and personalisation possibilities. The same content can be reused, through marketing automation, at different times to different persons based on their locations, interests, demography, and what applications they are currently using.
Availability and omnichannel
We have touched on this already, but structured content is an easy way to just get stuff out in wildly different channels. If you are a coffee producer, you can create a news bulletin about a new coffee flavour in your CMS, before delivering the structured content headlessly through an API to your blog as a news article, website product page, wearable as a push notification, and IoT coffee machine as a recipe. An excellent service to your customers, with little effort.
To achieve this, developers can work with an API to build clients that display the structured content results from the editorial management. The customer journey is in other words being managed across channels in the guise of both content and configuration—the former by your editors and the latter by your developers.
Summary: Create once, publish anywhere
Structured content, together with a headless CMS, makes it easier to maintain the entire customer journey. Instead of manually walking through every touchpoint, from ads to self-service, editors can edit fields in a central repository while developers can maintain the different clients for delivery.
Non-technical users can also decide the flow, sorting, and placement of content on different touch points like apps, without directly involving developers.
In other words, structured content allows you to present different parts of your content on different touch points. A valid point is that everything does not need to be shown everywhere at all times. Making the customer journey more personal and relevant is key to achieve success—and structured content can be used to make it a reality.