The Content King Is Dead – Now We Must Live for the Moment


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Three Ways for Retailers to Deliver Instant Digital Gratification


The phrase “content is king” has long been the established wisdom for marketers seeking every opportunity to engage with customers. It’s an approach that has massively escalated competition for attention, particularly in the retail sector. But for consumers, the result is often a noisy content barrage that detracts from the original intent — to engage consumers with positive brand experiences.

For brands, this means they only have tiny windows of opportunity to grab attention: They have moments. And they have to make the moments matter and focus on delivering ‘instant digital gratification’ — engagement in the moment. That means delivering the best possible customer experience, instantly.

A 2014 study by MIT found that people can identify images in just 13 milliseconds of exposure, and an often-quoted 3M report suggests that humans process visual data 60,000 times faster than text. In other words, marketers need to put emphasis on delivering visual inspiration right in the moment that they have a consumer’s attention.

They need to deliver richness.

Richness is the balance between visual impact and easy consumption and is a new way to look at your website, especially for brands whose consumers are filling their moments on a variety of different devices at any given time.

Richness is about powerful images, intuitive design and helping to take the user where they want to go but don’t know it yet — delivering them to the ‘buy now’ button imbued with delight and love for your brand.


Three Steps to Richness

1. Balance visual impact with ease of consumption

Alongside the judicious use of text, richness is all about images — images account for about 56 percent of website content these days and, as research shows, are a much more immediate hook than text. According to Web metrics specialists, Chartbeat, 55 percent of all page views on the Web get less than 15 seconds of attention, so placing rich graphical elements and videos that engage the audience and encourage them to stay and consume more content is incredibly valuable.

However, rich images and punchy text need to be kept in balance to avoid a slow and clunky user experience — page bloat. reports that the average top 1,000 Web page is 1,795kb in size, marking a growth in weight of 20 percent in just six months. And with an ever-growing number of consumers coming to a retail experience on mobile, providing a rich experience must be tempered with the ability to allow the page to load quickly, especially on notoriously slow mobile networks, if you are to attract and engage in the moment.

2. Keep the experience familiar

While beauty and speed are key, you also face the issue of standing out from the crowd with your site’s design, while at the same time, providing an intuitive user experience — that is, balancing familiarity of user experience with being unique. A lot of today’s omni-channel-friendly sites rely on templates. Templates do not work in the rich world. Shopping the grid is a poor experience — and doesn’t translate well to mobile.

Instead, shoot for a rich and engaging design that effortlessly takes the user where you want them to go. Delivering an experience that is both familiar and in context to the user’s actions and expectations, while unique enough to be memorable.

And experience is everything. According to an SDL survey of U.S. retailers, 90 percent believe that user experience is the top priority for marketers in 2015. This is backed up by research by Adobe and eConsultancy that finds 22 percent of digital marketers, in general, see user experience as the most exciting trend of the year.

This is obvious really. In a world where consumers are time poor and spoiled by choice, user experience is everything — and it has to be rich and reflect the brand.

3. Start with the end

Start the design process by outlining what you want people to do. Do you want to get people to buy? Are you looking for social sharing? Likes? Sign-ups? Data? Reviews?

Whatever it is, you have to design around the idea of where you are taking your customers from the critical moment when they first get hooked by your site.

Moreover, being able to deliver omni-channel has long been touted as the next frontier for the retail sector. It’s a requirement for any retail business. Yet while in some senses retail is about channels, it’s also about people. Looking beyond omni-channel, this means being able to deliver rich and immersive, even playful, experiences across every digital touchpoint.

And the best content experiences are aspirational, easy for the consumer to use and commerce enabled, allowing consumers to shop the look, not just see the hero banner and then shop the grid. Moreover, a cursory look at the top U.S. and UK retail sites reveals that the majority invite you in with a hero banner, then quickly move you on to experiencing that product amongst a templated grid of images of similar products.

While the grid may suit certain types of shoppers, in general, the longer the exposure to beautiful, inspiring creative, the more positive the brand experience and the more likely the consumer is to convert to a sale. Why invest in rich assets as the hook when they can be hook, line and sinker?

Brian Rigney
As Zmags' CEO, Brian has over twenty years' experience leading high performing, entrepreneurial teams in launching new businesses and bringing innovative new products to market. Prior to Zmags, Brian was vice president sales and business development for CashStar, where he led the sales and business development strategy. He also is the founder and CEO of BlueTarp Financial, Inc., a breakthrough information and payments company for the construction industry. Brian has a bachelor's degree from Colby College and a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh.


  1. Brian

    Your post reminds me of all that is wonderful about marketers and all that is awful about them at the same time. Quite some feat!

    It reminds me that marketers are currently the masters of the digital universe as they build omni-channel solutions covering owned, bought and earned digital media. It reminds me that marketers are also masters of the data universe, as they use real-time data to personalise dynamic content. And it reminds me that marketers are master tacticians as they optimise different elements of their digital estate for maximum sales uplift.

    But it also reminds me that marketers are obsessed with themselves rather than the customers who buy their products and pay their expensive salaries. It reminds me that marketers are short-termists as they optimise for their own instant sales gratification at the expense of longer-term relationships with customers. And perhaps worse of all, it reminds me why marketers’ lack of strategic orientation means they increasingly do not and should not have a seat at the long table in the C-suite.

    Like Michael, I fail to see any evidence that content, or even content marketing is dead. Quite the contrary in fact. Context will eventually sweep content from its throne, but that may take some time.

    Content is alive. Long live content!

    Graham Hill

  2. Good points, Michael and Graham. Admittedly, perhaps we got a little “too cute” in the article’s title. We all know that content isn’t really “dead.” Without a solid foundation of great content, no campaign or marketing will have a chance of connecting. My point, however, was that increasingly delivering that great content “in context” at the moments where they can make maximum impact is critical to that content’s success. With the abundance of campaigns hitting consumers every day, if a marketer’s timing, message and visual appeal fail to resonate, then the content is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

    I agree with you, Graham, that customers should be the centerpiece of any marketer’s program. And when I spoke of instant digital gratification, I was taking the perspective that marketers have a responsibility to deliver that to the time-starved consumers they serve. I disagree, however, with the perspective that marketers don’t belong at the C-suite table. As companies move from the brand-centric approach of yesterday to a more strategic customer-centric approach, I can think of no one more prepared to lead that transition to activating around the customer than today’s modern marketer.


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