I have been noticing in the last few years that many ecommerce and retail based sites are embracing robust content platforms. I wondered at one stage if the content engagement is a distraction from the path to purchase, but have since realised that content is absolutely an asset. Based on various research sources, approximately 80% of consumers perform some form of online research before making a purchase. So, including content relevant to your product or service on your site may help to capture users who are down funnel and create early awareness of your offering. Also, ensuring ongoing content creation and social distribution, you will begin to create a community of potential customers and partners who will share and advocate for your brand, provide real time feedback, and potentially become your growing customer advocate base.
In the following, I have explored some key reasons to consider incorporating a content platform into your ecommerce site. We have also looked at a few case studies of brands who are already doing this successfully, and some of the top content strategies that complement a retail environment.
Why use Content to motivate Commerce
There are many very good reasons to develop a content platform if you are looking to optimise your ecommerce platform. And, to turn that around, there is a good case to add an ecommerce element if you have a successful and high traffic content platform. The top reasons to merge this two are as follows:
- Target qualified traffic: The user who visits your page to view content on a certain subject will likely be the same user who will buy a like product. For example, if a user is searching for “how to build a garden” is the same user who would be interested in buying garden supplies.
- Ensure repeat visits: On the flip side of that, a user who is looking to purchase a designer print for their wall is likely the same user who would like to read about how to upgrade the interior design of their home. By offering inspirational design content, you can keep that user coming back for all design needs.
- Build your brand: As far as I am concerned, content is the new branding, or at least the one that counts. By creating engaging and shareable content and ensuring proactive distribution across social channels, you can create a meaningful brand presence that resonates with your target. And you will know first hand that it resonates through comments, shares and likes.
- Create a customer network: Through social media, you can create a following of brand advocates who will inevitably help you build awareness of your business and brand. This following is also a customer database if you like who you can communicate directly to through posts and tweets on new product announcements and new content offerings.
- Increase dwell time (and potential repeat purchase): With ecommerce alone, the best case scenario is that users will purchase your product and leave the site directly after, limiting time on site and exposure to your brand. Featuring relevant content will give a user a reason to stay and be exposed to other product offerings.
- Expand your SEO footprint: It almost goes without saying that quality content has an enormous impact on a site’s ability to rank with key terms. Search queries such as “how to’s” are growing in popularity. If you feature content that speak to this, you can capture potential customers at all ends of the purchase funnel
Who is Mastering Content Commerce
As a way of example, we have taken a look at top retailers adopting the ecommerce / content platform model to understand how they have been able to balance each within a single site platform and how the content can help to motivate purchase.
One of my personal favourite furniture retailers, Made.com, is a perfect example. Made.com features a blog page that speaks to design inspiration. The articles feature high quality imagery and provide insight into how to upgrade different areas in your home. Some of my favourite articles include “how to turn your bathroom into a self-care sanctuary” and “5 tips to keep your living room tidy.” While the ecommerce platform features clean product imagery on bare backgrounds, some of the editorial type content shows these same products in the context of a well decorated room. The content also may inspire additional purchase through home upgrade and design ideas.
REI is another good example. As an add on to the shopping experience, REI offers article content that gives insight into the quality of their products, but in an editorial feature. REI features blog entries such as “how to choose insulated outerwear” and “Understanding recycled clothing in outdoor clothing and gear’ as a way of explaining the quality of their offerings. Content such as this will help inform a purchase, especially when a user may be hesitant about the how price of the item. They also feature lifestyle content such as “backpacking tips for women.” This type of lifestyle content is essential for a female beginner backpacker making hiking gear purchases for the first time. It not only will help motivate purchase, but make users feel good about a potential purchase and what could become a new hiking lifestyle
In terms of content marketing in an online retail setting, fashion is a category that has fully embraced this idea. The mix of fashion editorial and shopping go hand in hand. It is hard enough to shop without trying something on, and a flat visual of a disembodied shirt gives little in the way of product visualisation. Users need to see what it looks like on a model at the very least. But that is the very least. Like furniture, users like to see what the shirt could be worn with and in different contexts. Which is where ecommerce fashion editorials step in. Big online retailers such as ASOS are already mastering this craft. The site features a stylefeed with current trending topics such as “how to do prom from home” and “Asosers do staycation style” They also have a YouTube Channel that features high quality video content perfectly geared to their young fashionista target audience. It is clear based on video views alone that, through highly targeted content marketing, ASOS has created a brand that resonates with their target audience, ultimately motivating return purchases and an online advocate consumer base..
Effective Content Marketing Strategies
Start with a Community
Many successful marketers grew their product and services from an existing online community. Copyblogger is one of the world’s most popular marketing blogs. Its founder, Brian Clark, suggests companies build an audience first. According to him, not until you have an audience in place should you consider creating products and services for them. There is something to that. You already know what your community likes and responds to, it is simply a matter of figuring out a product or service to complement these interests. Another great blog that combines a vibrant content platform with an eCommerce platform is Vinebox. VineBox is an ecommerce site that sells subscriptions that allow you to taste different wines every month. Their blog teaches you about the world of wine. Makes sense, you have an engaged community thinking, talking, and getting excited about wine, make sense to offer a subscription that allows them to taste some.
Film and Video
Whether it be a short film or web series, films and video see the highest traffic online and therefore have a massive impact eCommerce and buying decisions. According to recent studies, by 2020 online videos will make up more than 82% of internet traffic. Also, when done well, films and video do not appear as promotion to your users, they are entertainment and shareable content. But, like promotional materials, they do help to build awareness and demand for your product and service. Marriott Hotels released a short film called “French Kiss” on YouTube 5 years ago. French Kiss raked in 600,000 USD in hotel bookings alone. The Lego Movie is another great example of this trend, though on a much bigger investment scale. The Lego Movie was able to reinforce consumer demand without the use of traditional advertising.The movie promotion alone would have put Lego as top of mind. Purina created a video series called “puppyhood” featuring an adorable King Charles Cavalier. The video has almost 30 million views to date and was hugely successful for Purina at the time.
Visual content such as instagram feeds and infographics, have always garnered a lot of engagement from users. Many big brands have created very successful UGC (user generated content) campaigns as well. UGC has been massively effective as Consumers have made it clear they want authentic, original content from real people. In fact, 85% of consumers find UGC more influential than any form of brand content. Airbnb is one brand doing UGC really well. They post user-generated photos from hosts and guests which embrace their brand essence ‘Don’t just go there, Live there.’ These photography posts receive high engagement, between 3,000 and 14,000 Instagram likes.
National Geographic has been creating engaging and shareable visual content since the beginning. They aim to educate and promote conservation efforts by combining high quality imagery and key conversation facts and figures. Many of these social images will provide a link through to a landing page where they can pledge money to the applicable cause.
Bottom line, if you have an ecommerce platform and are not creating any content or maintaining a social presence, you need to start your content strategy today. And, if you have a good social following based on a shared interest, you should be thinking about a relevant product or service that you can offer.