Most B2B and B2C eCommerce companies recognise that content and commerce must intertwine to drive business results online and help deliver a friction-free customer experience.
What’s surprising is that whilst companies appreciate that content capabilities (within the marketing team) are essential for eCommerce success – many companies feel constrained by the lack of resources to create quality content across multiple channels, and struggle with other challenges such as integration (data attribution) and a clear, technology roadmap.
I have taken a look at major brands including MR PORTER, Marks & Spencer & The Wine Society to see how they are combining content and commerce within their overall marketing strategy. Rather than dwell on “what not to do”, I thought it would be best to investigate what we can learn from some of the most successful brands and how to create effective content marketing to drive eCommerce growth.
And for more information on this topic, checkout eConsultancy & EPiServer’s report, “Where Content & Commerce Collide”.
1. Use Content Driven Commerce to Educate & Inspire
Pure-play e-tailer, MR PORTER has reimagined the luxury eCommerce experience for men in the form of their weekly online magazine, The Journal which focuses solely on editorial and content features that integrate content and commerce to inspire, educate and entertain.
The idea for MR PORTER was conceived 3 years ago: Understanding the customer and the sort of content that would engage different personas was an integral part of their marketing strategy. Mario Muttenthaler, Director of Sales & Marketing at MR PORTER highlights that men are particularly interested in the craftsmanship and heritage of their products – they want a lot more information than other eCommerce sites (presumably because their products are high value, high-consideration purchases). The Journal allowed MR PORTER’s to gain an editorial focus, providing content features and articles that relate to their customer lifestyles.
Take this example, “The Secrets to Working a Flea Market” – you may be thinking this is a little off course?
However, scouring antique stalls and flea markets is becoming an increasingly popular pastime – in some cases a fully-fledged, competitive sport... This article works around a popular topic that will appeal to a wider audience and ties in nicely with MR PORTER’s strategy to focus on their audience’s interest in craftsmanship and heritage.
The article itself credits Alan Bedwell, producer of crafted goods and buyer of fine antiques, and Paul Smith’s, Jack Bergamino. These seasoned professionals give their tips on what to look out for in terms of good workmanship and buying tactics to employ when going head-to-head in an antiques emporium. These well-known contributors not only bring gravitas but help MR PORTER achieve their objective to become a trusted destination for men’s style online. Unique, interesting articles that are ‘on trend’ and on message, help brands like MR PORTER build trust, and encourage sales.
At the end of the article, readers are pointed to Foundwell collection of MR PORTER products. These are relevant, unique (one-of-a-kind) pieces that have lasted and that will indeed stand the test of time…MR PORTER have managed to create a friction free customer experience that links their content with commerce seamlessly.
2. Curated Content & Commerce to Ensure Brand Engagement & Satisfaction
A common challenge for many companies is that they struggle to ensure a consistent message and experience. It’s clear that your eCommerce team must work closely with your editorial team to help deliver the overarching content strategy.
Marks & Spencer’s launched their new site earlier this year and use curated content with a magazine-editorial style to give the impression of a high-end online store.
One of the more fundamental changes to the homepage is the long scrollable panel for the daily ‘Editor’s Pick’. It’s optimised for mobile, allowing visitors to casually browse their lifestyle-led content.
The ‘Trend Spotlight’ and individual ‘Editor Picks’ have a wonderful curated feel with large lifestyle images and text that mirrors the tone of voice you’d find in any high-end interior or lifestyle magazine.
Personally, I think the “new-look” website and consistent “tone of voice” will help shift the perception of a retail ‘out-of-touch’ with the younger audience, to one that is very much “on trend” and a brand that still stands for quality.
Rather than a traditional, “click left to read and right to buy”, Marks & Spencer wanted to avoid the distinct separation of content and commerce. Marks & Spencer have understood that content is an integral part of the user’s shopping experience. They don’t just browse products online, but rather content is a driver for sales and is also an enabler of other KPIs such as brand engagement and customer satisfaction.
Whilst the site has become a lot more editorial, the content is contextual and relevant. Wherever products are shown, a “shop now” button is always nearby - making a seamless connect for users who are browsing and buying.
3. Search Visibility isn’t a Driver but a Result of a Good Content Marketing Strategy
Online search is still the starting place for many shopper’s buying journeys. It’s understandable then that some eCommerce teams consider content marketing an SEO tactic purely to drive traffic rather than one element within their wider marketing strategy.
For other companies such as Schuh, Lovehoney and Key Music Group the focus isn’t solely on keyword targeting or ranking but SEO that permeates through the overall business roadmap, including editorial and product content. There’s a strategy which closely aligns content marketing and SEO. So, search visibility is one of many targeted outcomes which help lead to sales.
The Wine Society is an interesting example, whereby they have many drivers for content marketing however their primary motivation is their member engagement, not sales.
“Sales are an added bi-product of engagement and a useful way of monitoring levels of engagement”, comments Paul Trelford, Head of Copy at The Wine Society.
“We have been providing content on and offline for many years but in rather an ad-hoc fashion. Part of our wider digital transformation project is recognising the need to pull this together in a more coherent strategic way. We’re currently at the research stage of defining a content strategy. Our aim is that by summer 2014 we will have defined the outline plan and created a detailed content calendar.”
It’s clear that there are many ways to include content marketing within your overall marketing mix. Whether you choose to "content-first" or "commerce-first" – it’s clear the there’s a growing need for agility. eCommerce businesses need to be agile enough to respond quickly to short-term content marketing opportunities and still carry out long-term plans. Tools and technology need to be able to support this flexibility and provide digital marketing tools to help you measure your success.
Maginus has over 10 years' experience delivering eCommerce projects to multichannel retail wholesale distribution and pure-play eCommerce businesses.
Our eCommerce solution uniquely combines content and commerce, built with a world-class CMS and commerce combined with a full suite of digital marketing tools to help you deliver a friction-free customer experience online. Click here to find out more about our eCommerce solutions.