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CONTENT AS A SERVICE IS TRANSFORMING PRODUCTS AND BRAND EXPERIENCES ALL OVER THE WORLD
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Voice of the market 2021
Content as a Service
“It is not only about adding new features of the hardware appliances but about extending the cooking experience in general. The era of the smart kitchen has just started.”
“Content is a fundamental element as it allows us to inform, provide a service and entertain.”
“As the technology becomes more accessible, user-friendly and integrated, you no longer need to be technically proficient to get started with digital signage.”
The experience of FlixBus passengers, or their ‘customer journey’, can be assessed in scenarios before / during / after the time of the journey. ‘Before’ the journey – the challenge here is to offer a seamless transition from finding out the information to the act of purchasing the transport service. (...)
FRANÇOIS HOEHLINGER, HEAD OF FRANCE, BELGIUM & LUXEMBURg FLIXCHARTER
Eurostar has been producing content for a long time whether it’s information about destinations (to drive inspiration) or details about the Eurostar experience.
What has changed in recent years is that we now have more of a focus around better understanding the customers (...)
Matt Lovell, Director of Data,
Insight & Analytics
In order to communicate successfully, an organization needs different channels to share its message with one channel that reinforces the other. Organizations are constantly looking for the silver bullet that will enable them to communicate effectively with all levels of the organization (...)
Samuel Mekonen, CEO and Co-founder
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AFP is a long-standing partner in the Content as a Service market and offers adapted and tailor-made solutions to the challenges faced by its partners on every continent.
From transport to Edu Tech, from corporate digital signage to B2C connected objects, we have interviewed the players who innovate and integrate content into the heart of their products and brand experience.
Learn in the interviews :
- How Content as a Service brings new opportunities for product innovation?
- Why this content is shaking up the business models?
- What are the challenges for brands engaged in Content as a Service projects?
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Matt Lovell, Director of Data, Insight & Analytics
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What are the challenges for organizations that leverage public displays as a part of their communication strategy?
How does content enhance the viewers’ experience (VX) for public displays within organizations?
In order to communicate successfully, an organization needs different channels to share its message with one channel that reinforces the other. Organizations are constantly looking for the silver bullet that will enable them to communicate effectively with all levels of the organization.
The relevance and quality of content will be the determining factor for any channel to attract the attention of their audience, no matter how sophisticated the technology behind the channel. Today’s fast-paced business environment dictates a continuous content creation which is a universal challenge for effective digital signage.
However, continuous content creation takes time and resources. To solve this problem, organizations of all sizes, from small retail to large corporate offices, need to understand how they can maximize the impact of their digital signage channel.
As mentioned above, content is the driving force behind what makes a communication channel effective. Your audience will only acknowledge a public display when it offers the same diverse and dynamic content as they are used to from their home TV experience.
The difference is that public displays are always-on yet non-intrusive, which makes them a popular communication channel. However, the organization will need to consider around 2000 hours of airtime per year with traditional opening hours from 9 to 5.
Who are typically the stakeholders involved to make the digital signage communication channel successful?
IT will usually take up the role to set up the network of screens, and when done involve other stakeholders like, social media managers, marketing & communications managers, leadership (HR, CEO) who have a message worth sharing and amplifying it through the use of public displays.
Within all layers of the organization there are different levels of engagement and also different types of content that are required to attract the attention of the viewer.
How promising is the digital signage market?
Everyone is constantly trying to draw the attention of their audience to their message. However, many messages are delivered through a channel that is overloaded with content from various sources, making these channels overcrowded information highways. These channels are mobile phones and desktop computers. Furthermore, it is the audience that controls how they navigate these channels, not the messenger.
Content is driving the adoption of the medium digital signage. Why?
As with many new technologies, Corporate America was also the first to adopt and introduce digital signage to the rest of the world.
However, for a long time, the lack of access to “digital signage first” content, was holding back further adoption and left operators with videos and images, repurposed PowerPoint slides and unreliable RSS feeds. This didn’t lead to the success needed for further adoption of digital signage across the whole organization.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as content is always the driver of adoption. Whether it's music, movies, or TV shows, giving users unlimited access to content has been critical to the adoption of many streaming services.
This disruptive shift in the consumer market, also led to Seenspire's model of a content streaming service for digital signage, enabling end-users to solve their biggest challenge by giving access to unlimited content.
The main difference between the US, the UK, Australia and mainland Europe is, of course, the different languages we had to take into account in Europe. In the course of sourcing and licensing more regional and multilingual content, we have seen that this leads to a further adoption of Seenspire in the European Market.
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Imagine a screen in any public space where people work, wait or buy. For example, if the audience at HQ is comprised of visitors and employees, it is important that your content is different than the day-to-day operational communication you would communicate in factories and warehouses.
As a marketing & communications professional, digital signage enables you to leverage content that reaches the right audience at the right time through a mix of company announcement, social media, employee generated content and editorial content from trusted sources.
Firstly, Stakeholders involved in the use of digital signage have learned to appreciate public displays as an alternative communication channel over an overcrowded email inbox and other channels used to deliver information through Mobile Phones and Computers.
Secondly, hardware and software now fit into every organization’s budget, regardless of its size and industry, from small retail to large corporate offices and educational facilities.
Lastly, as the technology becomes more accessible, user-friendly and integrated, you no longer need to be technically proficient to get started with digital signage. The only requirement is having access to a variety of content that is cost-effective and designed to bring awareness to your screens and attention to your message.
“Seenspire’s content feeds on our office TV screens are a great way to showcase employee-led content and inform visitors and employees with the latest news most relevant to them.”
Internal Communications Manager - Pladis
For many brands - companies, institutions, NGOs - content is no longer used just to communicate about a product or a company's values but has become an integral part of the product, the service and the mission achieved.
This refocusing profoundly alters the way brands position content in their value chain. The role of editorial content in digital communication and marketing strategies is limited to that of a promotional tool which is sometimes strategic and sometimes secondary, and in a growing number of sectors of activity it is considered a necessary part of the product and brand promise.
Certain sectors have been and remain forerunners in the advent of a new relationship between content and brand, so much so that the value provided by content has rapidly become a central element in the success of the business and in its innovation. The business becomes distinct from the competition through its ability to establish a relationship of trust with its audience based on its reliable and high-quality editorial content. This is the case in the world of transport in general and air transport in particular. The provision by airlines of a choice of content to passengers through, firstly, a few collective screens in the cabin and then through groundbreaking individual screens inserted in seats, is certainly one of the most significant demonstrations of the transformation of the service provided to the customer using content.
In this venture, the screen manufacturer, the developer of the software interface, the content producer and, most recently, the third party analysing the data about content consumption by end customers, all have a critical and complementary part to play in the quality of the service offered to the passenger. As a result, the content producer must also provide guarantees of reliability and trust in the integrity of the editorial material provided - all the more so as content which spreads rumours and false information circulates everywhere and at very high speed, creating a new type of operational risk for brands using this type of content.
This new concept of Content as a Service (CaaS) continues to spread in a wide variety of sectors, from retail operators to edutech and the world of connected devices, where each player is looking for the right content for its market and for its audience. The right content is the one which best integrates with its screen, its product or service, its brand and brings the most value to its customers.
Like any supplier and partner, producers of information or entertainment content evolve with these new markets and must think about finding a balance between respect for the integrity of editorial work and the ability to reach new audiences. As Content as a Service becomes an industry-wide reality, dialogue must be strengthened between brands and content producers in order to build a relationship of trust which will ultimately benefit the customer, the consumer and individual members of the public.
We felt it was important to play our part in this dialogue by giving a voice in this white paper to those involved in Content as a Service in order to better understand the trends which will shape the relationship between brands and content producers in the months to come.
AFP Sales and
We are very pleased to be able to offer this first white paper to read which is entirely dedicated to the new forms and new uses of Content as a Service.
The following pages reflect first and foremost a strong empirical approach. Those expressing their views use integrated content experiences on a daily basis in their market area and create value for their customers. It is also for this reason that we have chosen an interview format, so that the dialogue can be as meaningful and open as possible, and so that the discussion initiated here can continue beyond this first publication.
The other choice made in terms of the structure of this white paper is to depict a variety of markets. We wanted to give an overview of examples of use drawn from very different and sometimes surprising markets. Naturally, the pioneering transport market is well represented with interviews with Eurostar and Flixbus, but we have also touched on the subject of Chinese edutech with LingoChamp, public screens in companies with Seenspire, conflict prevention with Union Africaine and smart household appliances for the general public with Vorwerk.
We want to openly share the following regret at the time of publishing this collection of experts' views. In spite of numerous requests, we have not been able to achieve an equal balance between male and female experts. We hope to continue to document developments and trends in this market and would like to be able to interview more women in the future. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to invite female managers to contact us to share their experiences on the challenges of Content as a Service.
As feedback from professionals in the sector is not so common, we hope that the experiences and the projects which experts report on will be useful to all stakeholders, whatever their position in the community, their area of business or their nationality.
The main thing here for us would be around further improvements to WIFI signals within the tunnels our trains travel through and 4G and 5G signals across the countries we travel through to enable customers to be able to enjoy the content that has been made available. This is something we continue to work closely with our WIFI solution and signal provider on and we should see significant improvements to the connection as you pass through the tunnels south of London across the next year.
We’re also looking at how we can harness continued developments in terms of onboard tech to store and download / upload content both in our stations and as the trains travel, meaning content can be stored on servers onboard the train or on a customer’s device (if they choose the content they want to enjoy pre departure) limiting the strain on our WIFI connection across the journey. This is particularly pertinent when you talk about ‘live’ content such as news, sport or say the likes of recent election results - far better we facilitate a connection to content that many customers can use than we try to facilitate hundreds of people connecting to different sources (and the delays and problems this results in their experience)
Then, it’s not about technology but next step of content development is to build a platform where both our staff and customers will be able to help us to produce content as a service themselves. This could include rating places they visit, saying for who it is suitable for and uploading photos or videos. We want to enable wider sharing of content and experiences to help our customers uncover unforgettable experiences. This is also strategic because it allows our travellers to become ambassadors of the Eurostar brand and it will allow us to offer the latest (curated) content for each destination in close to real-time through the Eurostar App.
At Eurostar, for how long are you proposing content as a service now? What kind of content is it?
As head of data analytics and insights, what makes content increasingly strategic for transportation companies to succeed?
Eurostar has been producing content for a long time whether it’s information about destinations (to drive inspiration) or details about the Eurostar experience.
What has changed in recent years is that we now have more of a focus around better understanding the customers who travel with us so that this content can then be tailored to things they would like to know. This has resulted in the creation of more bespoke pieces of content and an increased focus on things that are more immediately relevant, whether that content around seasonal events or immediately relevant content around the launch / opening of new events, restaurants etc.
For us there are two key components when it comes to content.
The first is around utilising content to both bring customers to our website and then using this content to encourage them to want to visit our destinations and travel with Eurostar as part of their trip in order to drive our conversion rate and ultimately deliver incremental revenue to the business.
The second is around providing content as part of their experience so that from the moment they’ve booked until the point they return from their journey; their needs are met. This could be anything from information about the weather in their destination through to map content to help facilitate them once they arrive in destination not to mention any details of offers or vouchers for anything from hotels and transfers to attractions or experiences during their stay.
More generally, I think content already exists across most industries, however the focus obviously varies from one industry to another. In some industries, it’s also more difficult to create content a customer is going to actively want to engage with. As an example, in the finance industry while most companies offer information about their products, doing anything more inspirational or producing content that a customer wants to engage with is more challenging (the best efforts I've seen in that space is Barclays with their barclayslifeskills.com website where they have tried to position themselves as an advice service to support their product offering).
Within travel and leisure however, it has become almost inevitable that companies need to offer content as a service to the customers. Most brands have been doing this for a long time now at the most basic level (with pages with generic information about their destinations) however it feels like this progress has slowed in recent years with no one brand standing out in terms of providing a true customer experience through this content so this is an area where we’re really keen to lead the way.
Can you tell us about the Eurostar App's content, how does it work, who uses it?
Eurostar’s App is designed as a travel companion with the focus of the App varying depending on the stage of your Eurostar journey. This stretches from offering inspiration and a simple booking journey pre booking (with easy functions to facilitate repeat booking for regular customers) through to connectivity to our onboard entertainment solution (digital magazines, movies, TV and audio series’) while travelling alongside content to support a customer’s arrival in destination for when they arrive. It’s also used to house their tickets and we’ve talked about future developments including loading in virtual passports / ID cards so that everything is in one place to make things as simple as possible.
All the content we offer through Eurostar App is free for now but there is an ongoing discussion whether we should or not charge for some content such as Amazon Prime or Netflix, with the view of being able to offer the latest shows (and potentially enabling customers with their own accounts to these services to simply log in and not pay).
What does the app's data tell you about the passenger's experience and what do you do with that knowledge, how do you action it?
The data received from each of the App, Website and Onboard Entertainment system is becoming increasingly important to us for understanding each individual’s customers’ needs and being able to offer them the best experience possible with us.
We’ve recently untaken a massive project to segment our customer base and really understand what the motivations and needs are of each customer type. As a result, we’re looking to pull this content engagement data together alongside information about their previous purchases, email behaviours and any other customer attributes we have to give us as rich a view of as possible of them so that we can personalise their interactions with the brand as much as possible.
What other sources of data do you have to get closer to your customers?
Across the business we have a wide range of data sets from ticketing information through to any interaction’s customers have with our contact centre (be those via email, live chat, phone or social media) not to mention responses to a wide range of surveys we conduct throughout the year plus all of the areas we’ve mentioned above.
What kind of technologies could help you in your job?
Matt Lovell, Directeur Data,
Insight & Analytics
Since its creation in 2013, FlixBus has built Europe’s largest long-distance bus network and is helping to change the way millions of Europeans travel. What is the significance of the ‘passenger experience’ at FlixBus and what role does content play in this experience?
Are you aiming to offer a content service to your passengers in your B2B buses? Why are you focusing part of your long-term strategy on content distribution?
The experience of FlixBus passengers, or their ‘customer journey’, can be assessed in scenarios before / during / after the time of the journey. ‘Before’ the journey – the challenge here is to offer a seamless transition from finding out the information to the act of purchasing the transport service.
The FlixBus experience ‘during’ the journey – our commitment is to provide our customers with a minimum amount of stress for optimum transport quality. Anything that helps to reduce one and increase the other contributes to this and, of course, the content is a fundamental element here as it allows us to inform, provide a service and entertain.
We endeavour to provide all the information relating to the journey itself and to present it to the customer in the best possible circumstances in order to limit the stress and uncertainty inherent in any travel. The service aspect is reassuring because it allows the traveller to play an active role in his or her journey (insurance, cancellations, onboard services, etc.). Finally, entertainment is, of course, an essential requirement in order to offer our customers an immersive experience supported by quality content (videos, music, etc.).
‘After’ the journey – our commitment continues throughout the after-sales service and through our professional retention system to make FlixBus a leading brand recognised by our users. After-sales service is the cornerstone of a successful service company. It needs to be constantly improved through the use of technology in particular.
In our B2B markets, customers travelling on our network are generally groups with a common goal and a common reason to travel. Our approach in this case is to adapt the content to this end. We are working with the Dutch application developer, Close, to design a login platform where our clients can easily access specific content. This promising development is currently under review with some of our key customers.
For example, we transport a lot of people to sporting events, such as football and rugby matches, and these groups expect sports content. We have entered into partnerships which will enable us in the future to provide club audiences with a travel experience which matches this moment of fellowship and passion engendered by sport. What we are looking for as a result of this commitment and investment is, first and foremost, the satisfaction of our customers, which we measure at FlixBus and FlixBus Charter via Net Promoter Score (NPS). Of course, our primary focus is on the core of our business – transport – but we are convinced that improving the experience, particularly in terms of content, increases customer satisfaction.
What challenges did you face when creating this portal and its interface?
From the outset, we have focused our attention on two points in particular. The first is certainly technical, but is at the heart of value proposition. This is the ability to connect our real-time information flow (geolocation and bus tracking, real-time prices, etc.) to our application’s infrastructure and interface.
The other major challenge is obviously the ability to update both the portal and the content, i.e. the functionality and interface of the portal on the one hand, and the information, service and entertainment offer on the other. It is an ongoing job!
Does this digital portal also allow you to get to know your customers better?
The ‘profiling’ of users, made possible in particular by login access, is indeed a major advantage, as we know who we are communicating with and we can offer content which is better adapted to customer expectations.
In our B2B activities, thanks to the use of the portal by passengers, we will have a more detailed customer segmentation, while getting to know each member of a group, whether they are rugby fans, a scout group or an association.
The granularity of this data also proves very useful for our B2B customers and the organisers of these trips.They gain a better understanding of the profiles and uses of the members of their group – always with the objective that we can reduce the blind spots in our data as much as possible.
What drivers can be used to further enhance the on-board passenger experience on the FlixBus network in the future - technology with the advent of 5G for example, or content? Or both?
Both, for sure. Our customers will be more satisfied with FlixBus and FlixBus Charter every time we can offer them a more personalised, tailored experience which is even better suited to the content they want to consume at any given time, such as videos, music and information, as well as suggestions for restaurants, activities, etc.
However, the technical challenges for our products are also numerous to be able to successfully deliver this level of experience: 5G (faster, better coverage), messaging in the bus, geo-tracking, or connectivity between journeys.
FRANÇOIS HOEHLINGER, HEAD OF FRANCE, BELGIUM & LUXEMBURG FLIXCHARTER
HEAD OF FRANCE, BELGIUM & LUXEMBURG FLIXCHARTER