It’s no secret that Web Content Management solutions are positioning themselves around the ideas of “experience” and “engagement.” Look at most WCM vendors’ Websites -- you can’t miss how they promise to help organizations be more “engaging” or create better “customer experiences.” But to put it simply, what is engaging? What are these experiences?

If we dig beneath the marketing, what we find is that the true value of Web content management is delivering to the consumer the most relevant content in the most personalized way, at the most appropriate time. In a word: context.

Industry analyst Gartner has been releasing research about Context Aware Computing for a few years now. They estimate that by 2015 “context will be as influential in mobile consumer services and relationships as Search engines are to the Web.”

That’s a bold statement to be sure -- but the growth of mobile shouldn’t be underestimated. Forrester has recently said that by 2015, “smartphones and tables will put power in the pockets of more than a billion global consumers.” As they say: “mobile is the manifestation of a much broader shift to new systems of engagement”. That includes empowering consumers, employees, partners and even vendors.

From a web content management perspective that means that context -- and especially being able to drive “real-time context” of Web content -- will be extraordinarily powerful and the only manageable way that marketers will be able to really optimize consumer experiences.

If context and content used together is as big a shift as search engines were to the online consumer experience, then it offers enterprise WCM providers with an unprecedented opportunity to be the ones to deliver these types of experiences.

Of course this goes well beyond simply managing Web experiences and traditional “personalization,” but rather digs deep into how marketers open up their content so that things like device, location, environmental data, history, social attributes, online behavior and other information can be utilized to deliver a more relevant and contextual experience in real time.

So how should enterprises be looking to prepare for the explosive growth of real-time contextualization and web content? Here are three suggestions that marketers can address:

1. Build the Business Case for Real-Time Content Contextualization

In the marketer’s overloaded world today, there is more competition for budget than ever before. Businesses have to draw more and more value from their existing efforts, while they experiment with new and, as yet, untested channels.

Delivering on a contextually-aware delivery of Web content solves both problems. It delivers MORE value for LESS effort. Use Responsive Design as an example. It has been valued as an approach for how easy it is to make mobile Websites comply with content strategies. But, as has also been noted by Dan Lewis on this blog, and by my colleague Arje Cahn on his blog -- there are challenges with the Responsive Design approach. In short, responsive design optimizes content for the device, not the user.

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When organizations can develop content that displays contextually within the real-time context of device, personalization and behavioral rules it will take responsive design to a much higher level. The business case is then to have a system that has the capability to learn before application.

In other words, if a marketer can deploy a system that can target and contextualize content based on unknown user behavior, they can then watch that behavior and determine if there’s enough of a pattern in that usage to develop a full blown persona to work a creative message. If not, perhaps a simple responsive design to optimize standard content to a device will suffice. If there is, then the marketer can make adjustments as required.

2. The Time to Think About This is Now

Real-time content contextualization will be a fundamental shift in the way that most organizations approach web content management -- both from a tools and process point of view. There will be infrastructure, software and process changes. Also, certainly, privacy issues and security issues will need to be addressed.

In any sizeable business these challenges will take some time and experimentation and a phased (or hybrid) approach will be prudent. For example, it may be that an enterprise can start with only the persuasive marketing websites for this kind of content.

3. Find the Right Place to Start

With the above point in mind, marketing will almost assuredly be the most popular place to start. Using real-time contextualization to deliver better persuasion and conversion results will be the easiest to measure. And with the explosion of social platforms, Websites and mobile devices, employing real-time content contextualization can provide enormous benefits.

For example, providing personalized and/or targeted content on a Facebook page could enable tremendous brand loyalty -- as well as solve a brand “voice” challenge across multiple social channels. Experimenting here first can provide the business with some early insight into the overall value.

Really, whether it is addressing the mobile challenge, the social challenge or just giving marketing groups the ability to do more, contextualization of content will be at the heart of rising above the noise.

When a business offers contextualized content to an audience it not only makes the consumer of that content feel like the organization cares more deeply, but it also is the key to convincing that consumer that the action they are about to take is a “good one.”

In the end, that consumer might be a more engaged intranet user -- looking for information on his/her retirement plan -- or a prospective lead looking to buy a product from the brand, or an existing customer looking for better information on how to use the product they just bought. No matter what the use case, the enterprise that understands the context of how their content is consumed will be much closer in the heart of that consumer. 

Image courtesy of SVLuma (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Interested in reading a different viewpoint on delivering great Web experiences? Try @bee_cmsNo Winners in the Battle of Forking vs Responsive Design