The Content Imperative
The latest on content marketing strategy, insights and trends

Laura Jennings
Head of Strategy & Client Service

Laura has 10+ years experience working in social and content marketing. Fascinated with tackling business challenges through smart, effective marketing, Laura ensures all our clients are receiving superb quality work that makes a commercial difference and brings a smile to the client’s face.

Working with start-ups and FTSE100 companies and everything in between, Laura has enjoyed defining influential strategies, delivering creative work and bringing customers and brands closer together.

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Content marketing and ecommerce

| 22 February 2017

The role of content in ecommerce requires considerable thought. For online retailers, the challenge is finding the right balance between encouraging shoppers to consume content and/or selling.  

In this article we’ll take a look at how online retail brands use content along the customer journey to assist with conversion rates with the goal of increasing revenue. The examples we use highlight how retailers have found a way for content and commerce to work hand-in-hand.  

But before we jump head first into looking at some of the great content, we first need to mention that the success of retailers’ content efforts are by design.  The majority have considered a formal content strategy. This strategy comprises of a content proposition, buyer personas, buyer journeys, content plans, distribution and optimisation. You can learn more about our approach to developing a successful content strategy here.

Once a formal content strategy is in place, developing content for commerce can be used to increase traffic, establish authority, boost conversions and build deeper relationships with shoppers. The stages of the buyer journey coupled with delivering a good content experience can be broken down into three simple content stages: transitional, transactional and relationship.

1.Transitional content -

This is content that moves customers along the sales funnel; more specifically from the consideration to interest stage.  

  • Sales focused editorial content

An example of this type of content is product page copy or more sales focused editorial content that provides the right information along the journey, creating desire along the way.  

One retailer that uses product copy considerably well is Apple. The brand’s use of copy is highly creative, builds rapport instantly with the shopper, and reinforces the brand’s values and positioning.

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  • Video content based on customer insights

Retailers can look to mine customer insights in the form of enquiries about certain products, and then produce video content that will assist in nudging the shopper along their journey.

Online retailer Appliances Online uses video content that expertly demonstrates products on their site. To measure the impact that video content has on sales, the retailer simply split tests the page to include or not include the video.

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  • Evergreen content  

This is detailed, comprehensive content that answers frequently asked questions and is relevant for a long period of time eg, a suit or belts.  
For example guides on the most important basic items for a man’s wardrobe that does not change from year-to-year, or how to select the right jeans based on your body shape.

When revisiting evergreen content periodically you can introduce new tactics such as interactive content in the form of quizzes. This is what Bonobos did for their Chinos fit guide. The quiz was a subtle way of providing some entertainment with the ability to introduce a sales message, at the same time providing an opportunity to recycle a piece of utility content, getting more return from the original investment.

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2. Transactional content -

This is content that persuades and/or helps shoppers to complete a transaction.

  • Sign up forms

One example that is in widespread use by retailers is sign up forms. They simply capture important customer data by prompting shoppers to sign up to newsletter and get 10% off their first order.

Levis is one brand that uses sign up forms. If you are a new customer that hasn’t visited the site before, simply sees that your IP address is new with no previous pixels or cookies.  You are then served a pop up data capture form and a discount message to encourage sign up, with the sole aim to achieve a sale from that shopper as soon as possible.

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  • Email

Once a retailer has your email they can then follow up with other discounts and offers as part of an email marketing strategy. This content can be personalised to each shopper if the retailer uses personalised email software.  
In addition to product information, personalised emails can serve up other related content based on the interests of that shopper, on characteristics exhibited by other shoppers with similar site journeys, or simply based on their site browsing history.

Clothing retailer Huckberry offers an example of great email marketing from welcome emails, to cart abandonment, nurturing, welcome back, purchase receipts and re-engagement emails.

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  • Product recommendations

When arriving at the all important basket page, this is where featuring complimentary or similar products purchased can be displayed to help increase basket size.  

The most obvious example of this type of tactic is from online retailer Amazon who  practically created the recommendation engine for ecommerce. However many other brands are providing a similar experience, notably JD sports and Blacks.

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  • Social proof

Integrating user generated content alongside product pages provides an opportunity not only to promote the products purchased, but, also offers social proof that enables potential customers to see delighted customers. This demonstrates to them how the product is used or paired with other items.

Watch brand Daniel Wellington integrates Instagram content alongside their product pages to show customers who have used their products.

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3. Relationship building content -

This is content that helps builds trust and loyalty between shopper and brand.

  • Editorial content

Regular editorial content can be used to discuss the brand values and audience interests, as opposed to just focusing on the brand’s products. Successful retailer Net-a-Porter have an editorial content strategy where there is investment into high quality regular content that is focussed on the target audiences behaviours and interests linked to the retail brand’s business objectives.  

Patagonia also has blogs that cover interests of its customers such as climbing, skiing and surfing. There articles do not adopt the approach of a hard sell, but instead use products in context of the articles.

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  • Storytelling content

We have discussed storytelling content used by retail brands at great lengths over the past few years here on this site. We’ve even carried out some formal research on the subject too. You can check out our most popular article on the subject for retail here:

But if you want the skinny; storytelling content can take many forms (text, video and audio).  In short it provides retail brands an opportunity to build closer relationships with buyers simply by telling stories of real people and their experiences. Masters of storytelling within the online retail space are Patagonia and Nasty Gal.

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  • Influencers

Getting a product directly in the hands of influencers is a key strategy for many online retail brands, this allows them to tap into the influencers’ large ‘ready-made’ audiences. Not only can influencers review your product they can also be featured on your site to add credibility and create a halo effect for the brand amongst potential customers.

One retailer that uses influencers to great effect is Very. Here they use the celebrity influence of Fearne Cotton and Holly Willoughby to promote its products and services and they even have their own range of products too.
Another use of lesser known influencers is by ASDA where they commissioned a bevvy of YouTube’s rising stars via talent agency Gleam as part of its YouTube channel strategy ‘Mum’s Eye View.’

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The importance of SEO for all content

One key consideration for all content described above is SEO. Organic search for most retailers is the channel with the highest conversion rate, revenue and average order value. Therefore paying particular attention to owned media content performance is key, as simple tweaks to content can increase sales performance and reduce an over-reliance on paid media.

In conclusion

Many leading online retailers have now moved toward a more content focussed approach without taking their eye off the all important product sell. This is because content provides retailers with the opportunity to create a compelling consumer experience that distinguishes itself from competitors.  

If you’d like to learn more about how a content can work for your retail brand don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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We have a wealth of experience in the Retail sector.


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