Content Marketing: Editorializing Your E-Commerce Site
Publishing content is a unique breed of marketing and promotion. Unlike traditional means such as banner ads, live events, offers, etc., content marketing isn't directly promotional. Rather, it's about coming up with content that informs, entertains or inspires your audience.
And while its end goal is to ultimately drive sales, the strategies and best practices surrounding content marketing are mainly focused on giving consumers valuable knowledge for free (usually) so that when it's time for them to make a purchase decision, your website is where they head to. More and more merchants are seeing results from their content marketing efforts. MarketLive CEO Ken Burke recently said that "while just 20 percent to 30 percent of retailers were focusing on content a few years ago, now more than 50 percent" are embracing the strategy.
So how exactly can you use content marketing to your advantage? Below are a few best practices and examples of what you can do to take your e-commerce content marketing to the next level:
Different Content Types You Can Look Into
First things first, let's discuss the types of content you can deliver to your audience. Below is a list of the most common types of content that brands leverage, together with some examples of what they look like:
1. Blog posts: You can use a blog to drive traffic, generate engagement, spread the word about your company or products, and position yourself as a thought leader in your field. That said, steer clear of publishing content that's overly promotional. While you can certainly use your blog as an avenue to share company updates and showcase your products, it's important that you editorialize your content and provide real value for readers.
A great example of a retailer doing this right is Home Depot. Its blog, The Apron, is jam-packed with tips and tricks about home improvement, DIY projects, decorating ideas and more. Yes, there are times when Home Depot subtly plugs its own products, but for the most part, the blog is focused on helping readers improve their homes.
2. Long-form content: Longer content pieces such as guides, whitepapers and e-books can be used as lead-generation tools. Most companies give them away in exchange for a visitor's email address or some other form of information. In addition to adding more names to your email list, long-form content can help build authority and thought leadership. Since these content types are long, meaty and chock-full of research, they do a great job in positing your company as an expert or authority in its category. In some cases, you can even sell your content.
That's what Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams did. The online ice cream shop released an e-book that teaches people how to make their own ice cream at home. Now, at first glance, you'd assume that a company giving away its secrets and showing people how to recreate its products is a bad move, but it actually turned out really well for the business.
The book received plenty of press coverage and rave reviews from both users and the press. As a result, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams got tons of publicity, sold more books and even sold more ice cream.
3. Video: It's important to remember that "content" doesn't always equate to text. Video can also play an essential role in your content marketing strategy. So what types of video content should you publish? That depends on your business and your audience.
In most cases, e-commerce sites have succeeded in publishing "how-to videos" that demonstrate how their products are used. "Behind-the-scenes videos" can also work well and give you a chance to further connect with your audience.
Case in point: Bed Bath & Beyond has an excellent YouTube channel that offers a healthy mix of informative, promotional and behind-the-scenes videos. For instance, it has videos that teach people different recipes as well as how-to videos for operating different kitchen appliances and equipment. As for behind-the-scenes content, Bed Bath & Beyond offers an inside look at its staff with videos like "Meet Bed Bath & Beyond's Pinterest Team." And when it comes to promotional content, the retailer has videos showcasing new products in action.
4. Images: You can spice up your content marketing with images. The great thing about images is that they're easy to digest and highly sharable. Examples of images that you can publish include infographics, memes, interesting product images and more.
Lowe's is one brand that's leveraging images effectively. The home improvement retailer has a huge presence on Pinterest and successfully made use of images to generate buzz and even gain insights about what its customers want. How does Lowe's do it? The following comes from a case study Pinterest published on the retailer:
"A big part of Lowe's marketing strategy is helping people feel like they can take on home improvement projects on their own. To share project possibilities, it added a Creative Ideas section to its website. Because Lowe's has the Pin It button installed on its site, people who browse Creative Ideas can pin projects they want to take on later. Once these projects are on Pinterest, other pinners can discover and pin them too! Lowe's also created a few Pinterest boards dedicated to smaller home design and decor projects. Its most repinned pin — a create-your-own colorful doormat project — has gotten more than 200,000 repins so far, and has helped Lowe's understand that its strategy of helping people DIY is a sound one."
Knowing What Types of Content to Put Out There
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to which types of content online retailers should publish. The best thing you can do is conduct research on the kinds of content (as well as subject matter) that resonate most with your audience. Publish content based on the data you gather, then measure and monitor its performance in terms of traffic, interaction or even conversions.
Obviously, it's smart to put out more of the content that gets the best results. For instance, are articles bringing the most traffic to your site or are videos doing a better job? Should you publish more infographics or just stick to regular blog posts? These are some of the questions you should ask when evaluating your content marketing strategy.
Jerry Jao is the CEO and co-founder of Retention Science, a company that leverages big data algorithms and statistical models to generate customer loyalty. Jerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.