What is dynamic content?

Dynamic content is information that can change! It’s a line of code written into a webpage or digital marketing message that automatically varies the copy or image displayed depending on who the recipient is.

What exactly is shown, and when, is based on a wide range of factors and conditions. Predominantly, these include the recipient’s content preferences, geographic location, online behaviour or purchase history. 

All of these things are termed as “values” in the code. Remember that for later!

Theoretically, you could have any number of potential values in your system. 

The content might also vary due to live updates to the information itself. This includes things like changes in price, match scores, or even the weather.

This live information can come from your own internal data system or third-parties via APIs. (APIs, or application programming interfaces, are basically what allow one system to interact with another)

Are you with me so far? 

In practical terms, we’re talking about web pages, emails, push notifications and in-app messages built around smart templates that populate in real time when viewed, pulling in the relevant content from the right source. It’s personalisation turned up a couple of notches!

Don’t worry if you’re still struggling to get your head around all of this; later on we will look at a variety of use cases that demonstrate how dynamic content is applied in a practical marketing sense!

Why is dynamic content important?

Because consumers demand it. They may not understand how it’s done, but they do expect the brands they love to share relevant content and offers with them. The days of generic blasts are over!

Marketers are using dynamic content in their messaging to ensure the recipients have contextually relevant experiences. It’s an integral part of one to one marketing.

Dynamic web pages are a common sight, to the point where we’re not always even aware of them, and their effectiveness is well-documented. There’s been plenty written on this subject so we won’t go into it here.

What’s of greater interest to me, and most forward-thinking digital marketers, is the use of dynamic content in ad-hoc and recurring engagement campaigns. That’s what we’re going to focus on in this article.

Whilst brands are incorporating new channels like push notifications into their engagement strategies, they aren’t necessarily exploiting their full potential. Likewise, their email campaigns have become stagnant. Dynamic content is the key to taking these channels to the next level (excuse the cliche).

The emergence of sophisticated mobile marketing platforms has made it possible to deliver dynamic experiences that drive conversions and offer an immediate ROI. 

It’s also saving marketing teams a lot of tedious, manual work!

Understanding the building blocks of dynamic content

At the heart of all dynamic content are lines of code. Intricate rulesets and instructions must be written to determine how the content is collected and used.

There are three core rule types that underpin and facilitate dynamic content in marketing messages; conditional checks, loops and fallbacks. 

Don’t worry, we won’t be going too deep into the nitty-gritty of coding language! A basic grasp is very useful, however.

Conditional checks

This is the most common rule type. Conditional checks allow your content to change based on any number of potential variables. Fundamentally, it enables you to build a template that says “if the value is x, then say A. If the value is y, then say B”.

For example, if you were sending a welcome message that could potentially be delivered at any time of the day (depending on when the customer signs up), then you might want to set some conditional checks to take that into account.

What you’re telling the personalisation system is if the time is before 10am, then say “Have a great morning!”. If it’s after 10am, but before 7pm, say “Have a lovely day!”. And if it’s after 7pm, then say “Have a good night!”.

Written using the Twig engine, these instructions look like this (using the 24 hour clock as the value):

Example of the coding language used to build dynamic contentThis basic concept has a limitless range of practical applications!

Loops

Loops are used to build lists of dynamic content, e.g. in a purchase confirmation email detailing all of the items that a customer has just bought. Or it could be an abandoned cart recovery campaign.

An email built with dynamic content

The beauty of using a loop as part of the code for this email is that you only need to create a single basic template and the loop will automatically generate as many rows as needed in the table, whether it’s one item or ten!

Obviously, this is incredibly useful and saves the sender a lot of unnecessary, manual work.

Fallbacks

When you are sending a campaign, there will occasionally be one value (or piece of information) that you don’t have for every user. In this instance, there needs to be a fallback value. 

Essentially, this is the generic message that will be shown when dynamic content isn’t available.

The most basic example of this, and one which I’m sure most of you will be familiar with, is a recipient’s name. Ideally, you will want to include that where possible. In the instances where you don’t have that information, then a fallback value of “Hi there!”, or whatever you like, is written into the code.

Again, the use of fallbacks means that a single templated message can be sent to everyone on the list rather than creating several to account for any gaps in the information you have.

 

So, do marketers in 2019 need to be coders?!

Not at all! 

As I said, there’s no need to be hung up about becoming an expert in the stuff “under the bonnet”. Ultimately, when you work with a leading service provider the actual coding will be done by a developer.

As a marketer, however, it is valuable to understand the concepts. This gives you a sense of what’s possible when thinking of your own use cases.

Examples of dynamic content in action

Even if some of these don’t directly apply to your business, there’s always something to be learned from what brands in other verticals are doing.

Recurring daily and weekly email campaigns

We work with a number of well-known publishers who use their daily and weekly emails to drive a significant volume of traffic to their websites.

Dynamic content makes running these campaigns easy and improves their effectiveness.

Once a template has been built the marketing team can “set it and forget it”. Elements like the date and time, which would be tedious things to have to change manually, are automatically updated every time the email goes out.

How a user's profile is dynamically used to personalise an email

The same email goes out to a broad list of subscribers, across segments of users with very different interests. 

The actual stories that appear for someone only interested in football and politics, for example, will vary from what is shown to readers who prefer culture and technology.

The content is pulled from the live RSS feed on the website, ensuring that the content is never repeated and is always fresh.

Perpetually relevant content

Oddschecker, the world’s number one odds comparison website, are sending rich, engaging emails built around dynamic content that is always up-to-date. 

It’s crucial that they ensure the odds they send out are accurate at all times, not just when the campaign is launched. 

For example, let’s say a campaign goes out at 11am, when the odds on one team winning are 5/1. The actual delivery of the message to each customer on the list is staggered. This is because the marketing team is using Xtremepush’s intelligent delivery system to ensure that each recipient only gets the message when they are most likely to engage with it.

However, now let’s imagine that at 1pm the star player on that team is suddenly ruled out of the game through injury. The odds change to 8/1.

If the marketing team had sent the campaign using the old-fashioned method, typing out the offer manually, then all of the remaining recipients would get the incorrect odds.

However, because the odds are being pulled from a live source, the message arrives to these customers with the most recent odds.

Time-sensitive coupons and offers

One of our clients sends a high volume of push notifications containing daily deals that expire within a given time-frame. The pushes are dynamically populated to give each recipient the live expiration time. 

This is especially important for when the recipient checks their notification centre, which may be several hours after the initial send time.

A time-sensitive offer sent through a web push notification (dynamic content used to maintain its accuracy)

Abandoned cart and “recently viewed” campaigns

We touched on email campaigns to recover lost sales earlier, but it’s also possible to trigger push notifications which serve a similar purpose.

A cart recovery web push populated with dynamic content

Getting started with dynamic content

Walk before you run!

It’s important to have ambitious goals for your dynamic content but trying to do everything all at once is going to delay you. It’s better to start with the low-hanging fruit and get some quick wins under your belt. 

Include their first name and bundle together all of the latest pieces written about their favourite topics in an email for example. Or send a push notification letting them know that a product they recently viewed is now 10% off.

From here, you can gradually layer in additional elements over time. The more data you have, and the more content you have to share, the better each subsequent campaign becomes.

Avoid the “creepiness” factor!

What I’m referring to here is the inclusion of information that a customer might deem too personal, or even inappropriate, for you to have. There’s been plenty written about the dangers of it.

It’s the wrong kind of relevant engagement!

There really isn’t anything to worry about so long as your intentions are honest and you are adhering to GDPR and other data-privacy laws and best practices. 

So long as you only acquire information that a customer has been happy to share, then your content will be fine.

We work alongside our clients to ensure all of their campaigns are fully compliant with the relevant legislation and best practice.

Constantly test and optimise your ideas

Like everything in digital marketing, dynamic content campaigns are only as good as the ideas that drive them. 

It does, however, present you with an exciting opportunity to be creative with your messaging and explore your brand’s tone of voice.

Ideally, you should also be measuring the impact of your dynamic content by testing its performance against generic copy and images.

Explore dynamic content with Xtremepush

We use a dynamic content builder and personalisation engine called Twig to create engaging, practical templates that drive business goals for our clients. 

Whatever they want to do, we find a way to make it happen.

We work closely with each new client to develop use cases that are tailored to their business goals.

If you’d like to learn more about the positive impact that working with Xtremepush can have on your brand, then get in touch and schedule a demo of our platform today.

About Xtremepush

Xtremepush is the complete digital engagement platform, purpose-built for multichannel marketing. It empowers brands to deliver personalised, relevant and real-time messages across email, web browser, mobile app, sms and social messengers.

The platform is completely modular and combines enterprise-grade analytics with a full suite of campaign and automation tools. This provides brands with accessible and actionable data, enabling them to unify the silos, create dynamic customer experiences and execute core business goals at speed and scale.