Imagine having an online shopping experience that rivals one with a personal stylist. A skilled salesperson would notice details about your physique and colors, ask questions to help get a complete persona, and then start to suggest styles that are spot-on for your needs.

The online version of a style adviser would be similar. A customer would be offered a series of easy choices, filling in the details that a salesperson would have observed, such as hair, eye color, and skin color, with a simple click next to a color sample. Customers would answer some questions that help to understand physique, personality and preferences. A personal profile is built from this information, and the customer would be shown specific apparel combinations with advice on how each choice is suited to their style profile and needs.

The experience I've described is possible, and it can be driven by our friend metadata.

Each question and answer is a metadata field with a set of possible values. The key is to have corresponding fields and values in the metadata associated with each product. The online adviser can then match these values in the form and the product. By offering the shopper the chance to indicate likes and dislikes, the adviser can learn more about the shopper's preferences.

Though metadata is incredibly powerful, it sometimes makes us cringe. No one looks forward to creating and managing asset metadata, even when it can help us and others in our extended teams easily find and use those assets. However, if you think about metadata as a key to unlocking better customer experiences, you'll begin to view it not as a chore but rather a catalyst to better business results.

The Hidden Power of Metadata

Check out how Verizon has used asset metadata to help customers filter and search through a large collection of videos in the Verizon wireless support center. Customers can check a box to select the brand, operating system, device type, or other features they want to explore and instantly drill down to find relevant videos. The center is powered by metadata. The videos are tagged with relevant keywords, and customers easily can filter and get to the information they need.

Metadata also helps influence SEO page rankings so customers entering terms on a search engine will be more likely to arrive on Verizon's page for helpful results.

The addition of metadata can start right at the creation of assets. Creative professionals add metadata about the asset itself as it is created, and it is automatically included when the asset is uploaded.

Moreover, marketers can define metadata profiles for a folder of assets that include fields such as campaign name and product or feature description so that when any asset is uploaded to that folder the metadata is automatically applied.

Another way to incorporate metadata is to select tags from a drop-down list. The use of tags for a particular metadata category can be enforced with a reminder if a value is not set. Modern marketing platforms can provide this level of integration between creative and marketing applications teams. In this way, marketers can guide and specify the addition of metadata without having to do all the work.

Metadata Boosts Your Bottom Line

Another example of how metadata can impact customer experience and drive results is through personalization.

For example, SuccessFactors has harnessed metadata to increase the quality and quantity of leads generated by downloads of information resources from its website. Because these assets have been tagged with granular detail, prospects can search for specific terms and find what they need. The company provides personalized, optimized experiences to each website visitor. SuccessFactors also gains information about each visitor's specific interests by keeping track of the tags associated with downloads.

After implementing this strategy, SuccessFactors secured 60% of its leads from the company's website; saw 80,000 assets downloaded; and experienced a 175% increase year-over-year in leads generated.

Retailers also can benefit from these strategies. By using a well-thought-out metadata taxonomy, marketers can focus on what they want end users to associate with a given asset. This can affect grouping and recommendation of products, making it easier to do personalized marketing or to provide a personalized user experience on their site.

Considered this way, metadata may, in fact, become the most fun (or at least most important) part of your next project and help you create new ways to boost customer experience and, ultimately, revenue.

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Metadata Helps You Create Better Customer Experiences

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image of Vebeka Guess

Vebeka Guess is a product marketing manager for Adobe Experience Manager, part of Adobe Marketing Cloud.

LinkedIn: Vebeka Guess