While quantum physics may seem like fodder for science fiction stories and academic papers, some of its core concepts are apt metaphors for what is emerging in the world of B2B content. Increasing B2C-like expectations from audiences and advances in AI, automation, and analytics will fundamentally change the way we think about what content is and how it is used to support the customer experience in the coming years.
Schrödinger’s Cat: The State Of Content As A Potentiality
In Erwin Schrödinger’s famed experiment, a cat in a box is used to represent the quixotic nature of subatomic particles, the location of which can’t be known until observed. The cat, accompanied by a few life-ending accoutrements, is thought to be both alive and dead at the same time, until the box is opened and the cat is seen. The point of the experiment is that nothing about matter is certain until observed.
We can apply this thinking to content: Consider that the content experience lives as a potentiality; engagement with the content occurs or does not occur only when there is interaction with an observer — in this case, the intended audience. Today, content experiences are too often formulaic when our audiences aren’t. In the future, content experiences must be dynamic, not predefined, to meet audiences’ needs in the moment. B2B content will need to achieve a quantum state in which it exists in potentiality as a “wave” and only becomes a “particle” (i.e., content experience) under the conditions defined by an observer (i.e., audience). Modular content, AI, automation, and advanced analytics will work together in real time to provide an infinite number of highly contextualized content experiences that are created and delivered in real time based on digital signals (i.e., observable actions) from audiences.
Information Is The Foundation Of Reality: The Paradox Of Content And Data
Scientists in recent decades have suggested that information provides the building blocks for the cosmos — for reality itself. The late physicist John Archibald Wheeler referred to this notion as “it from bit” — with “it” referring to the universe and “bit” meaning the information that is its foundation. Metaphorically speaking, this theory serves us well in our look at the future of B2B content.
In the digital experience, content is also the foundation of reality. It is both a sensor and a signal — i.e., it provides a mechanism for capturing interaction data. Once engaged with, content creates a signal — i.e., measurable data — that can be interpreted to decide next-best interaction. When we boil that down, content both creates data and is data. What’s more, it’s largely the metadata within content that we need to be able to build sophisticated customer experience (CX) data models — to learn what customers do, need, and want across all customer lifecycle touchpoints. Because content fuels so much of the buyer journey and post-sale customer lifecycle, organizations cannot optimize the customer experience until they dramatically improve their content data and analytics capabilities.
There is a long way to go to be future-ready. According to Forrester’s 2022 State Of B2B Content Survey, only 18% of B2B marketers have a universal taxonomy within marketing; only 4.5% have a universal taxonomy across sales, marketing, and product functions; and only 1.5% report having an enterprisewide universal taxonomy. Twenty-nine percent also report that they still do not have any method of tracking content attribution at all. To prepare for the future, organizations must increase their metadata and taxonomy mastery to enable effective personalization, provide nuanced data and insights to fuel CX optimization, and train AI engines for accurate, autonomous decision-making.
The Future Of B2B Content Is TBD, But It’s Closer Than You Think
The “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests that there are many parallel worlds existing in the same space and time as our own. Thus, a world defined at a particular moment of time corresponds to a unique world at a time in the past but also to a multitude of worlds at a time in the future. It provides an interesting analogy for a discussion on the future of B2B content activation.
To achieve “right content; right place; right time,” B2B content must follow a path based on the needs of and interactions with the audience it serves. So while marketers may map out a buyer journey sequentially based on audience insights, the journey itself is not linear. There are myriad paths to the end goal of optimized engagement, and marketers need to approach content activation as a system of progressive interactions across delivery mechanisms and interaction types. Content in this system must be supported by technology, skills, and processes that ensure that it’s discoverable, interconnected, adaptive, and actionable to enable unique, “many worlds” journeys.
In order to create content experiences that are dynamic — not predecided and preprogrammed — B2B organizations will have to advance their content engine maturity significantly. For example, 74% of B2B marketing organizations recognize that buyers expect personalized interactions, yet fewer than 30% plan to focus on real-time, contextualized interaction capabilities in the next 12 months. Organizations that want to deliver on the promise of real-time personalization will need to increase the sophistication of their content operations and technology ecosystems to effectively capture digital signals, parse them at scale, and deliver the right content in the moment based on the signals’ insights.
B2B organizations need to elevate the role of content far beyond where it is today and make it a top priority in their digital transformation efforts. The goal: Build a future-ready content engine that can deliver measurable, connected content experiences across all CX touchpoints and technologies now and adapt to the coming content realities rapidly emerging.
To find out more about the coming content realities and learn how to prepare, please join us at Forrester’s B2B Summit events in APAC and EMEA, September 20 and 21 and October 11 and 12, respectively, or via digital experience. We’ll share more predictions and recommendations in our keynote, “Time Travel And Transformation: The Future Of B2B Content.” We hope to see you there!