Planning omnichannel experiences using a headless CMS

Your customers are ready to be on the move, but is your content ready for them? Plan your content for omnichannel delivery using a headless CMS.

Michael AndrewsPublished on Mar 17, 2022

Get your content ready for where your customers are

The pandemic forced many companies to change how they provide content to customers. In the absence of face-to-face meetings, firms shifted to virtual events and activities. They needed to deliver content to online channels that their customers could easily access and use.

As enterprises prepare for the post-pandemic times, they will want to plan for how customer behavior will shift again. People long to return to in-person events and experiences. At the same time, they don’t want to return to the old order where the offline world often seemed disconnected. They expect online convenience, meaning online channels should facilitate their journey in physical locations. These priorities are certain to drive more development around omnichannel content. 

More than ever, enterprises need to provide customers with relevant content wherever they are, especially when they are outside their homes and offices.

Headless CMSs are ideal for developing and delivering omnichannel content. They allow enterprises to create once and publish everywhere. Yet making content omnichannel-ready involves more than providing it to various devices. It requires considering the context where the content will be used. 

Omnichannel content is still new for many content teams who may not be sure where to start. The example of schedules illustrates the characteristics of omnichannel content. Schedules provide an approachable opportunity to take advantage of omnichannel capabilities.

Help orient customers through schedules

Many of our customers use to provide schedules to their customers. They are critical in many sectors such as:

  • Hospitality and entertainment
  • Travel and transportation
  • Education

While the specific use cases vary, schedules of all kinds help customers make the right decisions. People view a schedule to decide where to go or what to do. Though they may seem basic and perhaps boring, customers rely on the information in schedules. The better the schedule experience, the happier customers will be with the event or service that the schedule describes.

One reason the experience of schedules is important is their role in giving customers a sense of control. This is especially true when customers are on the move: they feel they have less control over how they spend their time and are dependent on external circumstances. It’s essential to provide the right information to the right devices so that customers feel they are in charge.

Don’t waste your customers’ time. Time is valuable. Customers want confidence their time will be well spent. Every day they plan events and services by consulting schedules for:

  • Academic classes, fitness classes, and professional seminars
  • Social, entertainment, and conference events
  • Transportation shuttles and public transit
  • Group appointments
  • Slotted reservations defined by time blocks

The experience that your schedule offers will be judged against others that customers have when they choose events or destinations. A good schedule will be informative and convenient to use. It provides a clear and accurate preview of what the customer can expect.

Establish what the schedule needs to convey

Although all schedules are similar, they are not all the same. 

A schedule generally includes three items of information:

  1. A time
  2. A location or destination
  3. An event or opportunity to join 

Customers may simply want to confirm these details, or they may not have decided their preference regarding one or more of them. 

Apart from the three core variables, other considerations may matter. People want to know if they will make the right choice and have confidence the event will occur as planned. The schedule could include:

  • Descriptions about the offering
  • Frequency of the event or service that is offered
  • Service tiers, eligibility of bundles or passes
  • Available capacity and slots still available
  • Updates or changes
  • Reliability track record, delays, postponements, cancellations, or on-time reliability

People can use this supplemental information to help them make the best choice. They want to know which option will be right for them. What is the likelihood the offering won’t happen as advertised? Is there a fallback option that’s easy to take advantage of?

Sometimes customers need to juggle more than one activity and coordinate different schedules. Separate activities may be dependent on each other but be following different timelines. For example, meetings need to be coordinated with transportation or dining options, and each of these services follows a separate schedule. Customers need to coordinate these activities with a minimum of downtime but with a sufficient buffer that they are confident they can join at the expected time.

Which channels are best for schedules?

Selecting the right channels requires thinking about where and when customers will need to access scheduling information.

Schedules can be provided on many platforms, including websites and kiosks. Two of the most useful are digital signage and mobile apps. Each provides customers with different conveniences and showcases distinct strengths.

The contrast between digital signage and mobile app capabilities suggests how each can be used to provide content. Think about when and where customers will need the information. 

Digital signageMobile app
Public information of interest to allCan present personal info or personalized messages
Location-specificLocation-independent or location-specific
What’s nextWhat’s coming up in the future
Access on-siteCan access off-site
Helps people decide on the spotHelps people decide ahead of time
Useful when transiting or waitingUseful when prompted by a notification
Not geared to supporting reservations/bookingsCan be used to make reservations/bookings
Dedicated to specific information such as schedules and wayfindingCan include a range of content and other functionality supporting the customer relationship

Digital signage and mobile apps have complementary capabilities. Digital signage is most likely to display information about events and services that are close by and soon. Mobile apps are more flexible but rely on customers opening the app to view the information. Mobile apps assume that customers have downloaded a specific app and will have their phone with them when information is needed. 

Determine the unique value of each channel

Customers expect to access content in more than one channel. They want the option to choose the channel most convenient for them in various circumstances.

While headless CMSs allow the same content to be delivered everywhere, customers may not always need the same content in all places. They may want less content, or additional content, depending on when and where they are. 

Each channel will have distinct capabilities and limitations. Digital teams should plan content delivery with the characteristics of each channel in mind.

Plan for omnichannel delivery. Keep in mind the difference between multichannel and omnichannel delivery:

  • Multichannel publishing provides the same content to many touchpoints. 
  • Omnichannel publishing will tailor what content is delivered to each touchpoint depending on the touchpoint’s characteristics. 

For example, the schedules presented on digital signage can be tailored to the location where the signage is installed. It should show schedules in faraway locations only if many people need to know about them.

Multichannel publishing assumes that all customers need the same information at the same time. Omnichannel content, by contrast, recognizes that customers have different needs. They will perform diverse tasks in various channels. 

When choosing what content to deliver to which channel, consider the customer use cases. First, define the customer’s contextual goals:

  • What might customers want to do in each channel? 
  • Where will they be? 
  • When would they be likely to consult the channel, and how will that influence their priorities?

Next, evaluate the strengths of each channel in terms of how much detail can be provided and how useful it would be. Consider how accessible the details will be to customers: Is it convenient to get the information, and will they notice it? Note the commonalities and differences among the various channels you support. Rate whether channels offer:

  • Parity – What can all channels do equally well?
  • Advantage – What does one channel do better than another?
  • Unique value – What can one channel do that the other channels can’t?

For example, digital signage is not ideal for letting customers make reservations, but signage can be used to show where a reserved event will be happening.

This background will help clarify the breadth and depth of content for each channel. Three factors are important when deciding the right details:

  1. Consideration set: Do customers need to see basic information about many options, or do they want more details about fewer options? 
  2. Selection criteria: Are they making a definitive decision or simply comparing possibilities? 
  3. Changes: If they have made a choice but need to change it, what information would they need?

The value of omnichannel is different for publishers than for customers. Remember—the benefit of omnichannel publishing is to tailor the content to the contextual needs of the customer. Your job is to curate the right details for customers. To do this, you need to have all the right details available.

A key difference between the customer and service provider perspectives relates to how they think about locations. For the customer, all information will be linked to specific locations. For the service provider, some will relate to many locations, while other information will be location-specific.

Service providers commonly offer events or services in multiple locations. Some of these events and services will be happening simultaneously, while others will occur on a rotating basis. When the same event or service is offered regularly or in many places, the core information can be reused. 

Service provider perspectiveCustomer perspective
Manage information for multiple locationsAccess information for a single location
Manage recurring informationManage schedules that aren’t part of routine
Planning for a long time horizonPlanning for a short time horizon
Communicating changesResponding to or making changes

The best experiences don’t just offer the global information that is relevant to multiple locations or is supposed to be valid all the time. It will inform customers about the status of events influencing the schedule. Reused information that describes what is supposed to be happening may not be accurate compared to realities on the ground. Lesson: reuse your information but think about when and how it needs updating.

Good schedules will provide operational updates reflecting changes to:

  • Venue
  • Event programming
  • Mode of service
  • Starting or ending time

How to best communicate these updates will depend on how early they are known. If the changes are sudden, they should be delivered to digital signage near the location of the event or service. If they are known ahead of time, they should be communicated through other channels that customers will access. When the service provider knows the change will directly affect specific individuals, they can send them alert notifications. 

Integrate your content with other information and functionality

A headless CMS allows providers of services to combine schedule-related content with other kinds of information. The composable architecture of a headless CMS, which enables easy integration with other IT services, supports a more relevant experience for customers.

Providers of services can augment their content in several ways:

  1. Supplementing sponsor content with related third-party content
  2. Adding real-time data
  3. Providing decision recommendations

The API capabilities of headless CMSs support the combination of content from multiple sources. For example, the sponsoring organization of an event or service can combine their schedule information with content developed by the hosting venue or a local tourism bureau. This approach allows events that are held in multiple locations to include more geographically specific information.

Both digital signage and mobile apps can include real-time data relating to events and services. This data would not be created in the CMS but could come from streaming data sources or transactional data stores. 

For first-come, first-served events and services, customers might appreciate data about how full the next scheduled offering is. Live video feeds could supply a real-time picture of the current attendance while IoT sensors could be used to estimate the number of slots still available.

Content about schedules can also be enhanced with transactional data. Data about registrations sourced from reservation systems or CRM applications can provide status information about ticket or waitlist availability. 

Omnichannel experiences can involve cross-channel interactions. For example, when an e-ticket QR code on a mobile phone is scanned, the digital signage at the entry could be updated to show the number of spaces available for walk-ins.

When scheduling information is combined with status and trend data, it can form the basis to provide recommendations to customers about alternative options if their first choice doesn’t pan out.

Enable content mobility

The combination of digital signage and mobile apps can support customers in mobility-driven experiences. Although this post has explored possibilities relating to schedules, many of the concepts can be applied to other use cases where customers are on the go.

Written by

Michael Andrews

I’m Content Strategy Evangelist at I appreciate the value of great content. My mission is to help others produce the best content they can.

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