If your business has an advertising and marketing plan, then a content strategy should form part of it. There are many benefits to investing in a content strategy, and the returns far outweigh the costs. In fact, research has shown that content creates approximately three times as many leads as traditional marketing, but costs 62% less to generate.
A strong content marketing strategy allows you to reach potential customers that may have otherwise passed you by. The same study mentioned above found that 70% of people prefer to learn about a brand through articles rather than adverts. By producing content, you can show off your brand in more detail, and draw in customers that would ignore a simple banner ad.
If nothing else, publishing written content will greatly boost your SEO. Subtly including keywords throughout your content will mean your brand appears in more searches, and will therefore cast a wider net to pull in more consumers and increase your eCommerce conversion rate.
In addition to this, a strong content strategy will help build customer loyalty. 72% of people believe reading custom content creates a relationship with a brand, leading to return custom.
By providing meaningful and relevant content, you offer your customers a more personalized and knowledgeable experience, which makes them more likely to return to you the next time they are considering a purchase.
Types of content marketing
When developing your eCommerce content strategy, it’s important to carefully consider what kind of content you want to generate, and where it should appear. We’re going to take a look at a few different types of content, and investigate who they appeal to, and how they can help build your brand.
We’ll use the example of a mobile phone retailer so we can see how each type of content can help a specific business, but these types of content marketing can be used for almost any business.
Buying guides are an excellent way to help potential customers discover the right products for them, whether there are looking for custom cat paintings or other eCommerce products, and at the same time, show them why you are the best place to buy them. They help draw in uneducated customers who are at the very start of their buying journey and are still doing research into what they need.
In an example of a mobile phone retailer, a buying guide would explain the different features of modern phones in a simplistic way. It would examine features such as cameras, processing power, screen resolution, and battery life in order to educate customers about the options on offer, and which might be right for them.
Links to different phones could be included at various points throughout the article, showing off, for example, smartphones with 5G capabilities which would be perfect for running VoIP telephone apps for those working from home.
Product comparisons and reviews
Educated customers who know roughly what they’re looking for are likely to try and hone in on a single product by comparing the various options available to them. Product comparison guides are a great way to target these consumers and show off what you have to offer.
A customer looking to purchase a new mobile phone may have decided that the iPhone offers everything they need and have decided to purchase one. But they are still deciding which model to choose. A comparison guide that quickly and easily highlights the different features of the different generations of iPhone will help steer the customer towards the choice which is right for them and therefore guide them towards a sale.
Reviews are another excellent way to go in-depth on some of your more high-end products to really show them off. A positive review may persuade a customer to consider a model they had not considered before, that they may have assumed was not worth the investment.
They also make your brand appear more knowledgeable, meaning customers are more likely to trust you when making a purchase. These could even take the form of video reviews on YouTube, expanding your social media profile at the same time.
Couple this with a strong inbound customer service experience, so you have well-informed staff on hand to answer any queries that customers may have.
Contests and sweepstakes
Running contests and sweepstakes is a different way to generate publicity for your brand. Requiring users to fill in a contact form in order to enter a competition is a superb method to acquire email addresses for later marketing pushes, which a sales engagement platform can help with. Incorporating elements such as asking users to vote for their favorite product can have the added benefit of providing valuable market research data.
“Share to win” competitions on social media sites are a brilliant way to generate publicity at minimum cost, as your consumers are doing the legwork for you. This generates great word of mouth to drive people to your business.
Finally, you can also follow up on purchases by existing customers by inviting them to leave a review for a chance to win a prize or discount voucher. Positive reviews will make your brand appear reputable and trustworthy to other potential buyers, and the chance to win after making a purchase will drive brand engagement and increase customer loyalty, encouraging subsequent purchases.
Embracing user-generated content to promote your brand is an extremely cost-effective way to increase traffic to your store, and social media retail has never been more widespread. Set up and encourage the use of social media hashtags, and then mine social feeds in order to find instances of positive reviews and feedback for your brand and products.
Reposting any high-performing content is a great way to spread word of mouth and increase trust in your brand.
Partnerships with influencers are becoming more and more common and can be another great way to drum up interest in your business. Many customers are more likely to consider making a purchase from a brand that is trusted by someone they wish to emulate.
Having special discount codes which are distributed by these influencers can really help seal the deal and will bring new customers to your store from areas that may have been previously out of your reach.
Top tips for building your content strategy
Now you have a good understanding of some of the vastly different types of content that can be used to promote your brand. But it’s not enough to simply churn out content and sow it throughout the internet. Your ecommerce content strategy needs to be more refined than that in order to really reap the benefits. Here are some top tips for making sure your content strategy is the bee’s knees.
Understand your customer
The first step in building your content strategy should be to identify and understand exactly who you’re trying to promote your brand to. Different types of content resonate with different consumers in different ways, so marketing the right content to the right people is essential.
Creating customer personas is a good place to start when trying to understand your customers. These paint a general picture of the main types of consumers you are trying to appeal to. You can then generate content specifically tailored to a consumer profile, and distribute it to outlets where they’re most likely to see it.
Broadly speaking, there will be three main types of customers which you should consider when developing content:
- “Uneducated” shoppers looking at a wide range of options.
- Educated shoppers that need to settle on one option out of a few.
- Shoppers who know exactly what they want but need a final push to buy from you over a competitor.
Many customers will start out as the first type of consumer and move through each category in sequence. Ensuring you have content to appeal to them at every stage of their buyer’s journey will greatly increase your chances of passing them through your sales funnel and securing a sale.
Identify which content to use, and what your goals are for it
Once you’ve determined who your customers are, you can begin to plan the best kinds of content to appeal to them and drive them towards purchasing from you. We have already analyzed several different types of content and how they can be best utilized, but it’s also important to have a clear idea of where this content should appear and what its purpose is.
Make sure that everybody developing the content strategy is working from the same page. Miscommunication about what content needs producing could lead to unnecessary delays and missteps. Watch out for communication silos, and ensure that the content marketing team is working well with the advertising and customer service departments to everyone’s benefit.
The purpose of the content you are generating should fall into one of four categories, broadly speaking.
Content geared towards raising awareness will serve you well when posted to social media channels, where it has the greatest chance of generating buzz and reaching customers who may have been previously unaware of your brand.
Content designed to increase interest in your brand should be geared more towards customers who will already be aware of what you offer but may not yet be considering you as an option for their custom.
Buying guides and reviews fall neatly into this category and will do best when posted to blogs and third-party websites. This will drive traffic to your store and increase email sign-ups.
Content designed to spur customers into action and purchase from you over your competitors will be marketed at customers near the end of their buying journey. Final incentives such as discount codes and special offers work well here and are best marketed directly to the relevant consumers. Emails, texts, and push notifications are good options to consider.
Content concerned with advocacy is for customers who have already purchased from you and may need an incentive to become a return customer and to recommend you to others. Casually requesting consumer reviews and social media referrals work well, and often require little content creation, as your customers will generate it for you and post it where it will be most relevant.
Use customer journey maps to create content
Customer journey maps can be a helpful tool when determining what content to create and where to post it. They can be tailored to your customer personas and will help you better understand your customers’ needs.
Plan out the processes your different personas will go through when making a purchase from you, right from the first discovery of your brand to recommending you to their friends after making a successful purchase. For example, a customer wishing to purchase a mobile phone may go through the following journey. Let’s take a quick look at this sequence of events:
- The customer decides they want a new phone as the battery in their old one isn’t holding a charge for as long as usual
- They start searching the internet for phones with good battery life
- They stumble upon a comparison of different phones linked to your store
- They narrow down their options and read a positive review of a phone on a tech blog linked to the phone’s landing page on your store
- They decide they want to purchase this particular model, but are hesitant because of the price
- After some searching, they find a discount code for your store for 5% off, not a great dent in your profit margins but enough to encourage them into making the purchase
- Having received their item and being delighted with the service they have received, they review your website on their blog
Now that you have a rough idea about what the customer’s journey looks like, you can plan content to reach them at every stage of it.
Mistakes to avoid when planning your content strategy
When creating your content marketing strategy, it’s just as important to be mindful about what not to do. Simple mistakes can mean that your brand image takes a blow, so be wary of making these mistakes when it comes time to generate your content.
Creating content that is too involved and jargon-rich can have a similar effect. You don’t want to scare away first-time buyers who are looking to learn more about the products they’re thinking of purchasing. An elderly customer who just wants to text their grandchildren at the weekend doesn’t need to know the benefits of a PBX phone system.
Don’t talk down to your audience, but at the same time don’t assume they know as much as you know and alienate them entirely. Try to make content that appeals to the masses. Short, snappy articles are often well received by consumers.
When it comes to photography, make sure your products are presented in the most flattering way possible. Poor visual representation can be a major red flag to consumers. Product images that reflect your brand and are not just stock photographs are a good way to grab attention and make you stand out from your competitors. Investing in some video marketing can really show off the unique selling points of your products.
Although it is important, remember that content is not the only way to communicate with your customers. Don’t focus so much on your content strategy that you rely solely on it. Ensure you have a great customer service experience waiting for consumers who have questions or queries. Consider building strong communication channels by investing in UCaaS meaning that customers can contact you in a variety of ways. This will further build trust in your brand.
Finally, when thinking about potential influencers, be careful who you approach and how you do so. It’s worth putting some time and effort into considering how to get brand ambassadors who will work well for your business and generate the desired image.
Time to build your content strategy
There we have it. You should now be ready to start working on your ecommerce content strategy. Remember to plan meticulously, so that you know exactly who you are making content for, where you are placing it, and what service it will provide for you.
Be mindful of your customers and their needs, not just the type of content they will respond most to, but also what they will require from you when they consider purchasing from you. Have a great communications network in place, with experienced and knowledgeable operatives who are able to answer any queries. You could even consider investing in technology such as IVR software to make the customer service experience even easier.
Put out relevant content which will guide your customers right through their buying journey, and you’ll have them coming back to you time and time again.
Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8×8, a leading communication platform with integrated voice over internet phone, contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. Richard is an analytical & results-driven digital marketing leader with a track record of achieving major ROI improvements in fast-paced, competitive B2B environments.