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Content Marketing Survival Guide for E-Commerce

E-commerce digital marketing

The world of e-commerce has become so fierce that marketers are now forced to employ a much larger range of tactics than ever before. Content marketing is one of those tools which has been readily embraced by some of the largest internet retailers (think Amazon and Ebay). Yet while content marketing is a viable asset when done correctly, most mid- and low-tier online shops are ignoring it almost completely. But they shouldn’t.

Are My Sales Going to Be Hurt if I Ignore Content Marketing?

In short YES, and there are 2 main reasons why your revenue will suffer:

  • Your competition is already doing content marketing. (Check out 2 E-commerce Content Marketing case studies here.) Provided they are efficient in their execution, they already have a huge competitive advantage over you. Eventually, they’ll rank better online, drive more traffic, convert faster, close more consistently, improve ROI, have more returning customers and expand their business successfully. The bigger your competition grows, the more ground you lose and that means you might eventually get kicked out of business.

 

Google Analytics shows how the revenue declined after the leave of the editorial team of the company

In the image above you can see how the revenue of an e-commerce page started declining in December, when some of their editorial staff started leaving and how they lost a lot of traffic (along with sales) when they were forced to stop content production altogether.

 

  • Offline shopping is still not dead. You indirectly compete with offline retailers for a customer’s dollar. Traditional face-to-face sales tactics can be more effective on some people, since they help create a more genuine and real experience. Quality content on your website is what replaces this face-to-face contact. It allows you to communicate with your customers, predisposing them to feel more comfortable and more ready to purchase from you. If you fail to provide good customer experience, your offline competition will eventually steal your market share.

 

GNC using content marketing to educate and interact with their online customers

GNC using content marketing to educate and interact with their online customers

For the most part, you may find that producing content is not as expensive as you may think and can bring you a high return on investment.

What Is Content Marketing Exactly?

To put it simply, content marketing is the process of creating and distributing high-quality, relevant, and valuable content to your prospects which encourages profitable action on their part. This may come in the form of:

  • Video: product reviews, how-to videos, educational material
  • Audio: podcasts
  • Visuals: pictures, infographics
  • Text: blog posts, product reviews, e-books

Or, of course, a well-considered mix of 2-3 different types of content. To see this in action, check out how PhoneArena combines video, images and text in their reviews:

First, you might come across their Youtube video:

Then you can then follow the link from the description to land on their product page. Here’s what you see:

A combination of text and images in a product review

A combination of text and images in a product review

It doesn’t stop here! There’s plenty of other engaging content for the visitor to interact with in addition to checking out some other related items. Overall, browsing their page is very pleasant, plus it’s full of useful material.

Addional useful and interactive content

Additional useful and interactive content

Remember: People love to buy, but hate to be sold things. That’s why most of the traditional marketing tools may not work very effectively for online products (especially true for purchases larger than $100, where people tend to be far less impulsive). You have to really affect their emotions to make them notice you.

Nordstrom's blog is a mix of quality posts and marvelous collection of images

Nordstrom’s blog is a mix of quality posts and a marvelous collection of images

Let’s say someone has already decided to buy a certain item, but still has some final doubts. Then let’s say that person comes across your great product review and you help them make up their mind by providing a top-notch product comparison e-booklet… You can easily leverage the situation, by adding a big “Buy Now” button to your content and that person will be more likely to buy from you (a trusted friend who offers valuable advice), than a random retailer.

Is It Possible Content Marketing Won’t Work for Me?

First and foremost, sales ultimately boil down to the quality of your products and services.  Even if your marketing strategy is amazing, if your delivery doesn’t match people’s expectations they’ll flee the moment they realize it. Needless to say, this can only spell disaster for your business.

Google Shopping helps users find the best deals

Shoppers are always looking for the best deal from the most reliable seller

People are smarter than most sellers would like them to be. Don’t use marketing to trick and deceive, since most customers can see through that. If you have problems such as delayed shipping time, insecure transactions or faulty products, no marketer can perform miracles for you.

Who Is Going to Buy from Me?

This is a big one! Create a realistic profile of your customer. Simply gather as much relevant information as you can and then use it to analyze your target audience. If you’re running a huge e-commerce website with various products, you need to define buyer personas for each group of products. Sometimes, you find out that there are multiple personas that are interested in the same group of products.

Check out Greg Ciotti’s guide to creating customer profiles, which can help you gain a deeper look into your prospects once you identify them.

Make sure you understand your prospect better than they do. Plunge into their world and learn their fears and frustrations along with their wants and aspirations. When you’re creating content, make sure it relates to a specific person (never be too general or try to appeal to a very large audience).

How Can I Build a Custom Approach for Each User?

Different customers require different approaches, depending on where in the buyer funnel they are at the moment. Also keep in mind that holiday and seasonal demands shift rapidly, and along with them, your target customers’ interests.

 

  • Someone at the bottom of the funnel would benefit from a product review to help them complete a purchase.
  • Some people have to be educated and nurtured through articles and videos to help them reach the “thank you page”.

Then again, once Christmas comes, credit cards start pouring money into your account and shopping carts are overflowing… and all it takes is little push on your side.

Listen to what your customers are talking about and create content that relates to their current needs. Initiate a conversation and build a bridge from your service to their reality, that understands their struggle and offers a solution.

Forums, social media, blogs and industry influencers are all great sources for an endless stream of ideas and inspiration for your content creators. Your prospect has a problem? Help them solve it!

Reddit threads provide insight on current customer demands

Reddit threads provide insight on current customer demands

 

What Is My Competition Doing?

Make your competitors work for you. Study their strategy and see what works for them. Chances are it may be applicable to your online store, as well. Don’t just straight up copy ideas, but improve and experiment with everything you can get your hands on (as long as it has been proven to work).

Semrush is a research tool for organic and paid traffic

Semrush can tell you for which keywords your competitors are ranking high.

A thorough guide on competitor research and spy tools has just been released by ShopifyNation. Their list contains 40 free and premium tools you can choose from.

What Are the Best Mediums/Channels to Promote My Content?

General rule of thumb here is variety. Some of your prospects are on Facebook, others on Youtube, some may read your blog, some may download your e-book. Have a wide reach and don’t limit yourself to a single channel, or you’ll lose a huge percentage of people that are interested in your products, but don’t use that platform.

GameSpot offers top notch game reviews on their page

GameSpot offers top notch game reviews on their page

You may not be a gamer, but there’s a lesson to be learned from the guys at GameSpot. Apart from their successful domain, their Youtube channel has more than 860 million views. It is also easy to hop from their main page to their social media channels and news page (and vice versa), as the level of integration between them is very high.

How Do I Choose the Right Content That Converts?

It’s well known that different content converts in different ways. For example, your blog posts may create engagement and turn visitors into customers and your how-to Youtube videos can be shared across social media channels to give you exposure, while your e-book opt-in page may collect e-mails with a 10% success rate.

In his book, Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker talks about the different ways people learn and soak in information. For example, some people are readers and some listeners. So if you write a high quality article, a listener would simple ignore it or just skim through it at best.

So try combining visual, audio, video and text in your content to reach every segment of your audience. Even if people share the same interests, they differ in the way they digest information. Appeal to more people by addressing each of their unique ways of perceiving information.

NatureBox has great recipes with lots of images

NatureBox has great recipes with lots of images

 

4 Tips on How to Make Your E-Commerce Content Super Attractive:

  • Text-rich content (articles, news items, blog posts, whitepapers and e-books): Don’t forget to spice it up with related images and, when available, videos. You can also throw in an audio version of the text, as well, which lets your customers listen to it while driving or doing chores.
  • Motion pictures (video): Add annotations and bullet points/lists below the video, and don’t forget to add links back to your site in the description (especially if you’re talking about a specific product). Text descriptions help Google understand what the video is about, and value it accordingly.
  • Visual content (images): Text is usually the most appropriate synergy for this format. Apart from infographics, pictures are rarely a core component and have a more supplementary role, which is drawing in and keeping the reader’s attention.
  • Audio (podcasts): Add a transcript or a summary/key takeaways. Always add description and if you can, include an image to draw attention.

Not everything is going to work, and not everything will be worth the time and cost in terms of ROI. So mix and match content types and then track the results. Note that things like blog posts may need several months before they start affecting your revenue, while a viral video can achieve instant (albeit short-lived) success. Analyze the data and collect feedback to then refine your strategy.

Close & Close

Customer satisfaction is key for successful sales, but at the end of the day your bank account doesn’t feed on good intentions. Your customers should be well-aware of the awesome goods you have in store for them, without you having to resort to annoying or spammy strategies. Simply put your product out there in a way that’s useful to customers. Always link back to your website, include your latest discounts and promotions, and make it easy to navigate to the products page.

Call to action buttons can leverage your visual content's design

Boost your sales by integrating call to action buttons into your visual content

Here is one last piece of advice: if someone comes across your content and decides they’re interested in purchasing a product from you, it shouldn’t take them more than 2 clicks to do so… What’s even better is if the purchase is “just a single click away.”

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Nikolay Linkov

Project Manager
Nikolay Linkov is a marketer and an editor with experience in managing content campaigns and video production. Currently he is exploring the areas of SEO, SEM, PPC campaigns, display advertising and social media marketing.

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