Adaptive content describes an advanced content marketing strategy that every company should learn more about. This allows you to create ‘personalized’ and thus more meaningful experiences and interactions for your visitors across multiple channels, which in turn can increase engagement and help you to increase the number of your visitors and moreover the quality of your visitors in terms of their engagement and their loyalty to your brand.
You’ve likely heard of responsive design. This is a separate concept and is not to be confused with adaptive content! Responsive design in short means that a website is designed in such a way that it will change shape, shrink and rearrange itself in order to adapt to the size of the display that it’s being viewed on (not the mention the resolution).
Adaptive content on the other hand means that the content is going to adapt as well in terms of its very substance. That might mean that your content adapts in terms of whether the device is mobile or desktop. But it goes further than this to include a number of other ‘contexts’.
These can mean:
Charles Cooper is author of The Language of Content Strategy and he explained it like this:
“[Adaptive] content is designed to adapt to the needs of the customer, not just cosmetically, but also in substance and in capability. Adaptive content automatically responds to the screen size and orientation of any device, but goes further by displaying relevant content that takes full advantage of the specific capabilities of the device being used.”
So perhaps the most straightforward example of adaptive content to imagine would be a site that can change language depending on the user. You may have visited websites in the past where you visit the page and are presented with an opportunity to choose a UK or US version. This is a very basic example of adaptive content. This has changed the way that you interact with the content and it has made that content more personal to you.
Responsive design is an example of adaptive content because it normally means taking your current layout and then changing the shape not just so that it will fit and look more appropriate for the device but also so that it will be more useful and more convenient for reading on the go. In another glossary entry, we discuss the value of getting the most important content on your page above the fold. We also mentioned that the fold could change place depending on the size and the orientation of the device.
So, if you have a ‘sign up’ button and that is the most important element on your page, then you need to make sure that this remains front and center, no matter the layout of your page. Likewise, it needs to turn that button into one that is finger friendly if the user is on a mobile.
Therefore, it becomes more important who the user is and how much of a rush they’re in and how they’re going to interact with your site. The size and orientation of the display is actually just one relatively minor factor here. And how about this? Instead of saying ‘Click Here to Sign Up’ it becomes ‘Tap Here to Sign Up’. That’s a subtle difference but it can psychologically have a big difference.
We start to see even more advanced uses of adaptive content once we introduce cookies. Cookies are small files that are stored on a visitor’s computer and which can help websites to subsequently identify them.
Cookies allow for remarketing and targeted ads which is in itself a form of adaptive content. Here, ads are shown to users based on their shopping history and the sites they have visited. Thus they are more likely to want to click on those ads. But what if the user were to see different links to articles on your site based on their history browsing your pages? That might make them more likely to click and continue reading the next post.
Multichannel content is content that follows us from one channel to the next. In other words, this is what happens when we see a link on a blog to something that a friend has shared on Facebook. It is what happens when we can post comments through Facebook, or when we see ads on Twitter for items we were shopping for elsewhere.
This is multichannel because it follows the user from one channel to another. The term omnichannel takes this concept one further and tries to consider the ‘entire journey’ the whole experience between those channels as well.
This has useful implications for businesses with real brick and mortar presences. It means for instance that they might integrate their digital experience with the physical one. Imagine an app that prompts the user to find the items they were interested in when they enter a store, based on their shopping history on the site. Imagine if they were to receive an email following up and offering them a discount on their next visit.
There is a fine line to walk here. Adaptive content needs to work hard to avoid being ‘creepy’. When done right it can really enhance the experience however and it’s certainly worth considering. Note that multichannel adaptive content is not a single ‘technology’ though, as much as it is an approach and a way of thinking.