The Content Imperative
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Tom Chapman
Business Development Director

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Retail

Should retailers become publishers?

| 27 September 2016

Today brands across all sectors are beginning to adopt a publishing mindset.  This comes as businesses begin to reduce their reliance on advertising and invest more in content marketing which is less disruptive, more engaging and can improve relationships with shoppers.  

Brands leading the publishing charge in the retail space e.g. Net-a-porter, L’Oreal (Makeup.com) and Birchbox, have all committed both culturally and financially to producing regular and valuable content.  

There are several advantages for a retail brand to become a publisher of content; SEO, increased site traffic, improved conversions - but the primary benefit is to deliver a better customer experience over competitors.  For retailers to deliver a great experience with content, it starts with placing the shopper at the heart of all activity.

Shoppers in the digital space are looking for inspiration, they want to indulge in content that reflects the ideas they have, or to further reinforce the tribe that they belong to.  Adopting a publishing mindset begins with a deep understanding of your target customers.  This is achieved via detailed personas that includes psychographics and demographics.  Having a solid understanding of your audience will help ensure that each and every piece of content produced will delight both potential and existing customers.

Taking each individual shopper persona, retailers can then begin to map out the content they need to meet Google’s key ‘micro-moments’ across the shopper journey.  Those micro-moments specific to retail are; I-need-some-ideas, which-one’s-best and I-want-to-buy-it moments.

Typically in e commerce, shoppers begin their journey with a question, essentially a request for information. The retailer that has made the effort to anticipate the question – and been generous enough with its expertise to try and answer it – will have the best chance of being found in search, and may well predispose towards a sale too.   This is where mapping shopper journeys allows marketers to anticipate what those questions, needs and indeed attitudes are that can be met with relevant content.

One of the primary triggers for shoppers is peer opinion.  As countless research into word of mouth and peer influence has shown us, shoppers are likely to be pulled toward what ‘people like me’ or friends and family have purchased or recommended.  To complement the content used across the shopper journey retailers also need to create advocacy content.  This can be in the form of storytelling content based on the personal experiences of customers, used to drive product recommendations.

When it comes to the content itself, this is where the publishing mindset separates itself from an advertising mindset.  The focus of content should be on entertaining, personal experiences, storytelling and advocacy with no commercial push.  Each and every piece of content should meet the content proposition which needs to be defined before content is even produced.  This proposition governs the quality and relevance of content in relation to the brand’s purpose and shopper needs.  Unlike traditional publishing, content doesn’t just have to be in written form, it could be a series of videos that meet consumer needs at each stage of the journey.

From our personal experience the primary challenge facing retail brands looking to adopt a publishing mindset is the lack of internal resource, experience and investment, not to mention limited content publishing knowledge from existing agency partners.  

With no dedicated resource, many turn to their social media team who are already developing always on content for social channels.  But these teams are already under pressure to learn new skills such as paid social, let alone learning what a great publishing strategy, proposition, processes and governance of content looks like.  So this either means that brands need to upskill their existing internal teams, or look toward a partner that can help them deliver not just content but more importantly the strategy.

For retail brands, adopting a publishing mindset today by creating valuable and relevant editorial content that supports the entire customer journey will not only help distinguish them from the competition, but as previously mentioned, it will assist in boosting website visits, increasing engagement rates, acquisition and ultimately having a positive effect on the bottom line.

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