You’ve chosen the best products for your customers, you’re spending top dollar for advertising and your customer service works great. Yet something seems to be missing. Your online store does not yet stand out. Let see how you can use content marketing for ecommerce to leverage your audience and earn sales.
Content marketing for ecommerce is a really vast area and means a lot of things for many people. For me, content marketing is educating your potential buyers on topics you are passionate about. For example – I am passionate about ecommerce. I love how it helps small businesses connect with their potential customers and how it’s made the world better. What are YOU passionate about?
Content marketing is about your shop’s personality. It’s about standing out and standing up for something. It’s your story to the world. It’s how you guide your community toward a better future by selling the products you care about.
So let’s have a look at five ways to build great content for your online store:
1. Your story is a great content marketing for ecommerce strategy
What do you do when you meet someone? You try to look as interesting, smart and great looking as possible. You wouldn’t just go ahead and show them your ID card and recite a bunch of boring facts about you.
You tell a story. Your content marketing starts with your story.
Ecommerce sites all have a story. At some point someone thought – hey, I can do better than my competitors or hey – I can make some money selling the products I like. They decided to stand for something. Yet most of the times they miss the opportunity to show this. They get lost in boring and useless “About us” statements that fail to transmit anything else then the fact that someone bothered to fill in some words on that page.
Other companies make it personal, no matter their size. They tell everyone what they stand for and why should you choose them. Meet WarbyParker:
Warby Parker decided they would have none of that boring “About us” corporate double talk. No sir. They went on and shared everything the company stands for. The history, their social responsibility program, even why they’re named Warby Parker (Turns out they’ve named the company from two characters in a Jack Kerouac book).
The point: tell a story, not just a few facts about the company. After all, your customers are people, not robots. The best content marketing for people starts with stories.
2. Help your customers connect and share “How To” do it
You’re selling lots and lots of products. That means you should be some kind of expert on how they could be used. Some of your customers might be as well. Here’s another content marketing strategy for ecommerce:
Tell people how to use your products. or ask them how they use it.
Take Sephora for example: As their online sales grew intensively, they’ve built a special community gallery page. They engage their community and allow them to show case how they use their products.
Even the products have their own how to’s and user submitted gallery
The point: make your customers understand how to use the product and engage them through content. Otherwise – ask them how they use it.
3. Earn your media. Own your media. Have a voice.
You know who’s the best at saying great things about you? That’s right. You.
Don’t rely on others to say great things about your products. You know they’re great. Otherwise – why would you sell them?
Build a magazine for your niche and stick to it. Explain what your customer should do to look better, feel better, spend better. After all, you have already picked those “whats”. The times where media was owned by large corporations and they alone could make or break your business – those times are gone.
Go ahead and build a blog that is interesting and informative for your community. It doesn’t have to be just about your products. Great content marketing for ecommerce enriches your customers’ lives with great ideas.
Here’s an example on how to be a better you by BetterSelf, an ecommerce business that sells physical tools for productivity:
The point: start writing and earn media instead of paying for it. It’s a great way to share insights with your customers and build relationships.
4. Enage your audience with (live) video
One of the fastest trends in video, in the past year, is live shopping. This trend combines entertainment and shopping to create a shopping experience that is previously unheard of.
In this scenario a live shopping assistant can engage and sell to their audience in real time. It creates a feeling of fun and generates loads of sales.
But it doesn’t have to be live video. BirchBox uses YouTube to generate awareness and keep its community together with its makeup and beauty channel.
Here’s how they use video in their content marketing for ecommerce practice:
Are you looking for the most important components of an Ecommerce Business? When it comes to ecommerce most of the information you’ll be able to find online is marketing related. Because marketing is the easy part. That’s why almost everybody assumes that all it takes to build an ecommerce operation is good marketing, a technological sound shopping catalogue solution and a lot of luck.
Listen to this post below or continue reading
Marketing and frontend ecommerce solutions are just the tip of the iceberg and in this post I’ll walk you through the most important areas you need to focus on (and you probably don’t) when building an online commerce business. Not site, not catalogue, business.
What does it take to build a great online store?
No successful store was ever built on luck and marketing alone. Top online retailers got where they are selling great products at great prices, delivering fast and making sure that customers are well rewarded for their choice. That takes a lot of work in areas most of us never notice, areas such as:
1. Suppliers and supply chain management
You are or plan to be a retailer in an increasingly competitive market. It means a lot to come up with a great idea, drive good traffic and convert it to sales but you can’t do that without the right products, delivered at the right time, with a price the market is willing to pay.
Suppliers meant a whole lot when ecommerce was not around. Now – even more so. When it comes to ecommerce, suppliers can provide you with the right merchandise but they can also take the stocks burden off your shoulders. Amazon, for example, relies heavily on its marketplace partners to increase listed products number, without buying stocks for those products.
Key take away: before starting an ecommerce operation make sure:
you have enough and the right merchandise suppliers
they are financially and operational safe
they are able to provide real-time stock inventory
Post brick-and-mortar retail relies on electronic communication and product display. But when a product is bought it has to come from somewhere, right? Seal the deal with the suppliers and it’s off to the Warehouse, that magical place where online retailers pick products from the shelf, pack them neatly and prepare those products to be delivered.
Sounds simple? Well, usually, it is not. A decent store with its own warehouse operations has thousands of products at any time on its inventory, employs at least a couple of dozens of people to store products, pick and pack, and prepare for delivery. That’s why so many large companies choose to outsource their fulfillment operations to “third party logistics” suppliers such as ShipBob (cool brand, right?) or the ever-growing Fulfillment by Amazon so they can focus on what they do best (usually purchase the best assortment of merchandise, service customers and marketing).
Key Take Aways: A much larger post regarding 3PL/YPL (third party logistics) will soon be available on Netonomy.NET but until then, let’s have a look at things to consider when developing your own warehouse operations:
technology is the key – all 3PL service providers use technology (warehouse management systems) to know at all times where the products are, what’s the most efficient way to pick those products, who should be the person in charge for each package and others
think about the season – some seasons (such as the Holidays) are more operationally intensive then others. Be ready to employ temporary workforce to fulfill your orders
everything needs to be tracked and monitored – security and accountability are the key to handling large numbers of orders and workforce
3. Shipping and returns
Just as mentioned above your merchandise may be displayed and marketed online but it has to be packed and reach its destination in the real world. That’s why you need a good warehouse management and that’s why you need a great shipping service.
Shipping is usually an outsourced service. The best thing to do, unless you’re swimming in cash and you want to start competing the likes of FedEx and DHL, is employ one of the shipping providers and negotiate your way to a marketable shipping cost. Such a cost is likely to be, in the future, one you will be paying yourself – so pay attention.
Once you’ve contracted these shipping providers integrate their system with yours so you can streamline packaging and delivery.
Once in a while customers do not like what they’ve bought. You will need to handle the returns and reimburse customers for their purchase. Here you can team up with the shipping provider but your store has to handle all the communication.
Key take aways:
hire a shipping provider – It’s probably not worth it to have a shipping service of your own
pay attention to systems integrations when it comes to online store – warehouse – shipping flow
handle your returns as gracefully as possible – it may mean the difference between an unsatisfied customer and a lifetime brand ambassador
Before we skip to the next component I just wanted to make sure you’ve noticed I haven’t yet mentioned anything you would expect would be ecommerce related or innovative. So far – it’s just plain ol’ supply chain management and logistics. Got it? Great. Let’s move on to …
4. Client Relationship Management (CRM) – software and policies
Before even considering selling – you need to think about how are you going to treat your customer and keep him coming back. That’s where CRM comes in. While the term is usually used to describe a type of software, it is actually the term describing the whole policy on how are you going to handle interactions between you and your customer.
CRM needs to be “customer-centric”. Big words – but what do they mean? It just means that everything you do needs to be done “for the customer, by the retailer”. You need to understand the customer purchase patterns so you can recommend the most suited products. You need to record purchases, interests, preferred channels and basically all there is to it when it comes to understanding your customer.
Then act on that – after you’ve analyzed data make sure customer care, warehouse operations, shipping providers and even your purchase operations – all know who the customer is and what it wants.
Key Take Aways:
CRM is not just software – it’s a company policy on how to treat clients
Profiling is a must – understand as much as possible about your customer so you can serve better
“Customer-centric” is not a buzz-word – it’s common sense
There is no “client service department” – everybody working in an ecommerce store needs to know who the client is, record interactions and treat customers accordingly
5. Ecommerce catalogue and product display
Here’s one you surely expected, maybe not so down the list: your online store catalogue. Of course – this one is important. Without one we would be back to mail orders and inventing the wheel. However, as you’ve probably seen so far – it is just a small part of the whole ecommerce store business.
When it comes to it some things you really should be taking into account:
make sure you don’t over-design your store – your products are the most important items. Make them shine.
analyze and predict: predictive analytics is the practice of analyzing users behavior and predicting what would they rather buy at any given time. Read more about it here.
search, search and let’s not forget search: most of your customers will be using a search engine to navigate to your store (1) . Make sure your store is optimized. Once there, when in doubt, they will want to search for products (2) – make sure your site search works. Finally – when their order was shipped they will want to search for its location (3). Show them.
2020 update – Live Stream Shopping
As the world got more connected and customers began experiencing rich media on other platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat, they started expecting better shopping experience. Live Streaming became easier to do and the hottest trend for 2021 in online and offline retail is Live Stream Shopping. With brick and mortar retailers closing stores and online retailers trying to improve the shopping experience it seems Live Video Shopping is here to stay.
6. Marketing and loyalty programs
I know, i know – one includes the other. But for the sake of the argument let’s just assume that maybe loyalty programs online are so important that they should be a separate item to marketing. Because they are.
Loyalty is really hard to acquire these days. Especially when it comes to ecommerce. Most users will be searching for the lowest price and buy from whomever the seller is. But you can fight the trend with loyalty programs such as:
rewarding purchases – reward your users with points they can spend on your store. It’s really effective in keeping your customers tied to your brand, as well as making them feel great about it
social shopping – make your customer feel like a king when he can give out discounts and freebies to its peers and friends
reward social media – most online users have some kind of influence in their micro community of friends. Encourage them to take part in your story, share your products and reward them with freebies, discounts and … well …sometimes “Thank you” is enough
As for marketing at large – there is an increasing number of marketing solutions you an use to market your products and store but not all are alike. Not all are as efficient. Focus on:
Search engine optimization and paid search results
They may not look like much but together the “incredible four of ecommerce” can mean the difference between a failed startup and the next Amazon.
Last but not least …
7. Showroom and offline purchases
What – you thought that brick and mortar is all gone? Of course not. Online retail is still at just 7% of total retail but growing fast. One of the things that’s helping it grow is showrooming. That is the practice of checking a product in-store and buying it (usually cheaper) – online.
Don’t think about ecommerce as online-vs-offline. Think in terms of customer. The customer wants to feel the product before it makes the purchase. So you’ll need to show it to him. Even a small offline showroom can work miracles for your online store.
So now you have it – online retail is a rather big iceberg. Most of it unseen. Check where others don’t look because that’s where you’ll find success in ecommerce.
For a very long time publishers have been struggling to face a new, harsh reality: their business models becoming obsolete. As traditional customers were switching to the internet, publishers found themselves in a very tough spot. Their product, the information – became a commodity. Anyone with an internet connection and a blog became a potential competitor. News and content became freeware. It wasn’t quality content but people were reading it. For free.
Publishers lost ad and subscription revenue
Soon advertising money started to flow another way. More and more ad revenue got directed to internet companies by media buyers and marketing VP’s. Subscriptions kept dropping. People were now subscribing to these new thingies – RSS feeds and email newsletters and a bunch of other stuff. But they were all free.
Some publishers moved with the trend. Although a little late to the party, they moved online. They’ve opened web outlets and although it was a harsh decision – most had to give away content. They’ve tried to charge readers for reading the content they would otherwise find free. It was a failure.
Then came the freemium model and some had a bit of success with it. These were mostly financial-related publishers that addressed a information-hungry public ready to pay for quality content. The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg built sustainable not-for-free online business. Others had to find new ways to get paid.
Classifieds and job boards helped online publishers diversify revenue streams
The classified ad model and the job board came first. The solution was right there for anyone willing to see it. The classifieds were a model that worked great online, combining the need for C2C advertising and micro-payments. Jobs – everyone looks for one at some point. So why not charge people to post their openings. And guess who could target those willing to pay for these models. That’s right. The publishers.
Large newspapers and magazines alike were popular. By going online their readership increased. Using classifieds software they used the otherwise unprofitable traffic to increase revenue streams. It worked great. In 2013 UK publishers registered almost 30% increase in revenue with recruitment and classifieds.
A new revenue model for publishers – the online store
But there was still room. The publishing industry noticed that a lot of those ads shown to their readers were ran by online retailers. With online retail you didn’t have to have the whole retail logistics to be able to sell stuff. You needed media and a partner to provide the right services.
As publishers saw their revenue switching hands, they too got ready to switch to new models. Below you’ll find a list of 4 models that now help publishers to sell merchandise to their customers. Some more than others.
1. The brand-endorsed, curated store
The Atlanticdecided to try selling merchandise online but was unwilling to build a whole logistics chain to handle sales, customer support and fulfillment. They did partner with Zazzle, a platform allowing on demand ecommerce fulfillment. The Atlantic forwards the traffic and endorses the store. Zazzle provides merchandise sourcing and fulfilment.
Among the products available on the store you’ll find clothing items, cards and postage, office products and even electronics.
2. The “Post a Logo on it and Sell it” store
CNN decided to go “big” with this whole ecommerce thing everyone’s talking about. Although it’s clear they’ve put a lot of effort in manufacturing a lot of stuff with the CNN logo on it – it really doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s the 90’s web design or the CNN Store 9 to 6 open hours for the *online* store. These things really don’t cut it.
While it might not seem like a lot right now I bet the store was the bomb when people used to access it via dial-up.
While the New York Post seems to try harder than CNN, it’s still not proper. Although I am sure people just love to walk around in a $24 “New York Post” T-shirt , I doubt this is the right formula.
The merchandise listing is targeted at really die-hard fans of the New York Post… which I figure is not much of a market.
3. The Online Store Built for the Audience
Cracked.com is one of the most popular humor websites in the world and provider of fun to american readers for over 50 years. Their store is built around the audience. It features witty copy t-shirts that appeal to readers.
The store is clearly a very important revenue driver (at least is expected to become) for cracked.com as the publisher promotes it heavily.
The New Yorker knows what readers love about it. It is The New Yorker’s style, elegance and wittiness that make it so successful. The store features products that people would love, just like they love the brand: elegant diaries, printed comics, beautiful covers and … well … umbrellas (?!).
Just like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair is a part of Conde Nast media holding. Its store is packed with beautiful premium photographic prints, illustrations and covers, items fans would love to own.
4. The Multichannel All – Rounder
The National Geographic is in a league of its own. Not only has the brand built a strong online store but it also features its own collections, it sells merchandise that appeal to children as well as adults. Its gifts are wonderfully presented and really in tune with the brand identity.
Moreover NG runs a network of retail brick and mortar stores in the UK and US. As a multichannel retailer The National Geographic shows it can build a great retail experience, as well as provide the world with astonishing information on wildlife.
And that’s not all. Customer purchases enable The National Geographic to walk on a noble path. Its mission – to inspire people to care about our planet. It does that by helping cultural preservation, exploration and research and others you can find out about here.
Talk about a great selling proposition – buy stuff and save the planet. The National Geographic shows you can be a great information outlet AND build a great business model. It also shows the online store is a viable option for publishers trying to improve their revenue streams. If they try a little harder.