Content marketing and ecommerce might seem like two completely different universes of marketing. But more and more, B2C and B2B marketers each are using content strategically to drive ecommerce sales. I’ve seen multiple headlines in the past few months calling content and ecommerce “marketing’s new power couple.”
Forrester research shows that content is important to ecommerce sales, even on third-party sales sites like Amazon. Manufacturers and sellers are vying to build the most robust possible content on Amazon product pages in what Forrester calls “a new space race.” Forrester senior analyst Ryan Skinner describes 3M’s push to make “the richest content page for their products as possible” on Amazon, with big results. He also points to Procter & Gamble, whose marketers tout the value of product-focused content for selling household products like laundry detergent on Amazon.
No matter where you’re selling your products, content can give your ecommerce efforts a major boost. I asked three marketing pros what they think is the secret to a happy marriage of content and ecommerce.
Start slow and be patient
E-commerce consultant Patrick Rauland says patience is a virtue in content marketing, but that many marketers don’t give content marketing enough time. “Content marketing will take at least three to six months to start working. You might write a post tomorrow that brings in 100 visits a month. That’s a start, but you’ll need thousands of visits before you start to see serious gains in revenue. So don’t give up before you’ve given it a good chance,” he says.
Smart marketers also know to start slow, says Story Block Media CEO Dennis Lomonaco. If you have 100 products, he suggests starting with content for your top five. “Don’t try to write content around all your products,” he says. “Build some thoughtful content around a few, watch the metrics and analytics, and test in small batches.”
Solve customer problems
The best content is focused on the customer’s experience, not the company selling the product. Rauland says that when he worked in marketing for the e-commerce platform WooCommerce, his team initially published a lot of product release posts. But, he says, “after awhile we realized those aren’t really that helpful to our audience. Instead of writing about the technical details in the products, we started addressing problems our audience had.” His team published articles that zeroed in on the questions their customers were asking, like how to design a logo and how to customize a website theme, and saw a marked improvement in how the audience responded.
In e-commerce, every marketing message has to be 1:1. If you’re not personalizing your content for a specific buyer, Lomonaco says, “you’re just doing advertising, shooting out lots of blanket messages.”
A 2016 Accenture Interactive study found that consumers want to be recognized, remembered and offered relevant recommendations.
Lomonaco says he has seen that the most personalized messages result in the highest conversion rates. For example, let’s say you’ve shared videos about your products and you know someone has viewed three videos but hasn’t made a purchase. You could send them an offer — maybe 10 percent off or free shipping. Or, if a customer has purchased a specific product, you could highlight similar, matching or coordinating products they might also like.
Young consumers especially appreciate personalized content. A 2016 Rapt Media study found that 60 percent of millennials would be more likely to make a purchase after spending time engaging with content (versus 44 percent of those over age 30). And 42 percent of millennials said they’d spend more time reading or viewing content if they could tailor it to their interests (versus 28 percent of those over age 45).
The bottom line: Buyers don’t like ads, but they are open to personalized, relevant content that improves their experience.
Study your customer
Because personalization is the difference between general advertising and driving sales, Lomonaco advocates using any tool you can to understand your buyer’s behavior. His agency uses Hotjar to see exactly how buyers navigate a site. “It’s a great tool because you can see click maps, scrolling information and mouse movement. For e-commerce, it’s insanely important to see how people navigate your website.”
Get creative to source content
Feeling overwhelmed by how much content you need? Pamela Hazelton, an ecommerce consultant, suggests looking to your customers. When done right, user-generated content is the most powerful marketing strategy on the web, she says.
“Until UGC, most small business struggled financially in SEO and online advertising. Now customers are doing the heavy lifting for them.”
Hazelton looks to open-source tools to cull the web for potential user-generated content. She prefers open source to first-party platforms because “there is so much third parties are doing right, simply because they tend to listen to their target audiences.”