The importance of content marketing for eCommerce brands has been significantly growing. Content marketing is one of the most effective ways for retail brands to market themselves, namely because the customer chooses only to interact with the content that interests them, as opposed to traditional marketing. To illustrate: if you’ve never heard of LemonStand before reading this post, well, you have now because of our content strategy.
In fact, statistically speaking, content marketing can increase your conversion rate to almost 6 times. The average conversion rate of sites with content marketing is 2.9%, compared to the average of sites without a content strategy, 0.5%.
That reason alone is enough to adopt (and perfect) a content strategy, but it’s not the only reason. Every day, content marketing becomes more and more crucial to a brand’s success, especially in the eCommerce sector. Tech and digital marketing guru Marsha Collier summed up why the strategy works:
Content-based marketing gets repeated in social media and increases word-of-mouth mentions; it’s the best way to gather buzz about a product.
That’s why we recently enhanced the LemonStand eCommerce platform with integrated content marketing capabilities and unique features for bringing merchandise and content together that will help retailers grow faster. After all, the amount of time adults spend on digital media is steadily rising, and has almost doubled from 2.7 hours in 2008 to 5.6 hours in 2015. It’s easy to leverage some of that time into content from eCommerce stores.
This post is the first in a series of articles we’ll be publishing on how to build and execute the best content marketing strategy for repeatable growth — geared specifically for online retailers. To start things off, we’ll explain exactly why serious eCommerce brands should invest in content marketing.
Why Every Brand Needs a Content Strategy
The research keeps piling in to prove the effectiveness of content marketing. Just look at the findings from Demand Metric:
- Content marketing generates approximately 3 times as many leads than traditional marketing.
- Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing.
- 82% of consumers have a more positive opinion about a company after reading custom content.
- 70% of consumers feel a closer connection as a result of content marketing.
- 60% of consumers enjoy reading related content from their brands.
- 70% of all people prefer to learn about a brand through articles than advertisements.
- 72% of customers believe they form a relationship with a brand as a result of custom content.
The beauty of content marketing is that it enhances every aspect of your brand. There’s more to it than just increasing the bottom line; because the content speaks directly to your customers, there’s a direct connection that appeals to them on a deeper level than traditional avenues. This greatly improves communication between brands and clients, both in what you say and how strongly it impacts them.
As Demand Metric documented, customers feel a closer and more positive connection with brands that produce custom content, making content strategy an invaluable tool for strengthening customer relations.
The more successful your content, the more people will remember your brand and create positive associations to it. If you go the extra mile to publish authoritative content (which we explain in a later article) such as how-to guides, you can even be seen as the go-to expert in your niche, which means repeat business every time the customer has a relevant question.
Search Engine Optimization
Publishing textual content will, at the very least, boost your SEO. A subtle and cleverly conceived keyword plan threaded throughout your content will cast out more nets to catch browsers and potential clients. Remember the operative word is “subtle” — overloading your posts with keywords won’t go unnoticed, and may have an adverse effect on your reputation.
Expand Your Customer Base
Social media is, after all, a great way to make new friends and meet people. Reaching out to customers on social media, having your articles reposted, and guest posting on friendly sites are all excellent strategies for attracting new business and getting your name out there.
Even great content alone will achieve this. If your post shows value, it will be reposted and shared. An introduction to your brand through a meaningful article makes a strong first impression.
Relationships with Other Brands
Content marketing can yield better networking, among companies in your industry and others. Opening up content exchanges and guest posting on other sites can benefit both brands, improve SEO results, and establish social proof in the eyes of your customers.
If people enjoy your content, they will feel a closer bond with the brand, trust them more, and therefore be more open to conversions. A thoughtfully placed call-to-action or product link can the be keystone to your entire content strategy by directing users where you need them to go.
As we explain below, this is especially useful for eCommerce brands as you can guide the customer through the buying process with the right content at each stage. Using content marketing like this is so effective, we’ve even built features into LemonStand that allow retailers to publish, link, and embed relevant content, such as adding a product widget with a “Buy Now” button into a buying guide or blog post.
Great content brings customers back after a purchase and makes your brand useful beyond just having products to buy. This helps you generate repeat purchases and increase the lifetime value of your customers.
The deeper you get into understanding content marketing, the more you realize it’s a strategy of compounding returns. Content you publish yourself never goes away (unless you delete it), so if you continue to publish regular, your content strategy will just get stronger and stronger.
This is doubly true to evergreen content, or content that is always popular. For example, a fashion boutique might post an article about how to dress for your body shape. This topic will always be relevant to shoppers, as opposed to a piece like “the best trends for summer 2016,” which will fizzle out fast.
How a Content Strategy Can Help eCommerce Specifically
- 60% of people want to seek out a product after reading about it.
- 90% of people find custom and related content useful.
- 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
Every salesperson worth their paycheque knows that sales is about establishing an emotional connection. This makes content marketing even more effective, given its personal nature with the customer.
Content marketings personal link influences quite a few different aspects of the sales process, providing multiple benefits:
Product research aids. Did you know that 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying? Even more interesting is that 60% of consumers start product research on a search engine. That means companies with an effective content marketing strategy have a better chance at attracting these shoppers to their site early on in their process.
Content like buying guides or product reviews is just helpful to shoppers in general. As mentioned above, if you show how useful you are in product research, you can establish yourself as an authority and generate repeat visits and business.
More effective style of sales pitches. Customized content makes better sales pitches because you’re teaching instead of selling. Your customers will appreciate an informative and engaging piece of content much more than a direct sales pitch. That’s the advantage of content marketing in a nutshell: it promotes your brand in a more user-friendly way.
Enhances shopping experience. When it comes to shopping, many people — especially women — enjoy the experience along with the end result. Worthwhile content enhances the experience all across the customer journey with insights and entertainment. Even just the availability of relevant content gives users the option to scale up or down the amount of time they spend shopping.
Show products in context. Personal and casual content has the ability to show your products in context and demonstrate their value in more meaningful ways. The stronger emotional tie lets the shopper imagine more clearly what owning the product would be like for them specifically, usually increasing the urge to buy.
Another advantage is that the content can inform the shoppers of how to use the product, or features they may not have been aware of.
Product videos. One type of eCommerce content, the product video, has well-documented benefits on sales:
- 73% more shoppers will buy after watching a video.
- Videos appear in 14% of search results.
- Almost 46% of shoppers will buy a product in-store if a product video is unavailable.
- 71% of shoppers believe videos explain products better.
- 57% of buyers are less surprised by products with videos.
- 58% of shoppers view companies with product videos as more trustworthy.
If you think product videos are effective on their own, imagine how much stronger they are when incorporated into a greater product strategy.
The Will It Blend? video series from Blendtec is a praiseworthy campaign. Each instalment features the company’s founder putting strange objects into his blender. The appeal of watching a blender destroy fun objects made the show a smash success, but the series also shows off the durability and strength of the product. The “Justin Bieber” episode above earned more than 3.6 million views.
Timely boost at each stage of the sales funnel. Perhaps the greatest advantage of content marketing in eCommerce is ushering shoppers along the sales funnel. This is a complex topic, and we will discuss it more thoroughly in its own piece in the future. For now, though, he’s an abbreviated explanation of what content marketing can do for the sales process:
- Awareness — Getting your content out to new channels: posts shared on social media, guest posting on friendly sites, or even just a potent SEO strategy.
- Interest — Informative posts: how-to guides, buying guides, quizzes, helpful widgets. Social proof: user reviews, critic reviews, testimonials, case studies, or simply base popularity with social media followers. Product information: product videos, clever product descriptions, engaging product photos.
- Action — Campaigning: announcements for sales or everyday low prices. Facilitating buying process: more accessible CTAs, single-click buying, streamlined checkout process.
- Customer Service, Loyalty, and Advocacy — Customer satisfaction: social media referrals, social proof on social media, faster and more efficient customer service.
Because this topic warrants more explanation, we’ll give it its own individual article in the near future.
Content Marketing vs. Paid Advertising
Really, the title of this unfair. It shouldn’t be content marketing versus paid advertising because the two aren’t competing. They work best together; they complement each other. We’re just going to compare them so you understand the true effectiveness of content marketing.
As you can tell from the statistics above, content marketing seems to resonate more with consumers than other forms of advertising. A late 2015 Nielsen Norman Group study confirmed this assessment: recommendations from friends, editorial content, and online consumer reviews — along with branded websites themselves — all scored higher in levels of trust than all other forms of advertising.
Furthermore, Neil Patel praises the return on investment (ROI) of content marketing, though he admits that your content strategy must be sound. He points out that paid advertising will generate great but short-lived spikes in leads, whereas content marketing produces a slower but more reliable climb.
Then there’s the matter of banner blindness, where 86% of consumers have been trained to ignore online ads. And this doesn’t even account for ad-blocking software. It’s true that there are ways to get around banner blindness, but the point is, customers don’t ignore content — in fact, they seek it out themselves.
Finally, customers spend far more time interacting with custom content than ads — about 345 times longer. This equates to more time engaging directly with the brand, and if the content is on your own blog, more time-on-site.
In defence of paid advertising, content marketing doesn’t usually yield the direct results of paid advertising, and conversions tend to take longer. As Dan Norris, co-founder of WPCurve, explains:
“Some of our customers had been following my content for five years before they signed up. Your ideal customers will hear about you over a long period of time, through multiple sources, and that is how trust is built.”
Content marketing often requires multiple touchpoints over a longer period of time, whereas paid advertisements like Facebook ads or Google Adwords produce leads almost instantly. That’s why we recommend doing both types simultaneously rather than relying only on one.
In the grand scheme of things, you’ll need to do both and balance the investment for what works best for your business. You can allot the necessary funds for a working content strategy and reap the benefits that traditional advertising can’t offer: long-term results, better customer relations, better branding, more time-on-site, SEO, etc. But you can also work a content strategy into your existing advertising framework.
We’ll talk more about striking that perfect balance in a later article.
If you weren’t before you started reading, we hope you’re now convinced of just how important content marketing strategy is for online retailers who are serious about growth. Designing and executing on a solid eCommerce content strategy will result in:
- Better branding
- Better customer relationships
- Less cost and more ROI than traditional advertising
- Better SEO
- Better access to product information
- More trustworthy than traditional advertising
- Boosts each stage of the sales funnel and ultimately helps you grow sales faster
For a quick boot camp guide to improving your eCommerce content marketing strategy, read our previous article, 6 Steps to Improving Your eCommerce Content Strategy .