News just in: your customers couldn't really care less about you or the products you're trying to sell them (ouch). What they do care about is, well, themselves: buying things that fulfil their needs and desires and that give them a sense of identity.
Content marketing is a powerful means of bridging this gap. How? It focuses on creating assets (websites, editorial, video, social media posts, images, etc. etc.) that appeal to customer interests and passions, making them more likely to pay attention to you (and buy your stuff).
While content marketing has been a big deal in B2B circles for some time, consumer-orientated brands are fast realising the potential that good online content has for differentiating themselves from the competition, improving customer relationships and encouraging sales.
'Blogging' might be the first word that springs to mind when you hear the phrase 'content marketing', but you'd be mistaken if you think that the blog is the be-all and end-all of content marketing opportunities in ecommerce.
Here are six on-site content marketing opportunities that online retailers should be making the most of:
1) Product descriptions
The opportunity: don't turn visitors away with bland, uninviting product descriptions - make them on-brand and personable.
Product descriptions are a commonly-overlooked piece of content real estate, with all too many brands defaulting to the original manufacturer copy, or opting for a minimum-effort, basic rundown of what’s on offer (yawn).
You've doubtless spent huge amounts of time and marketing budget on crafting a brand image and tone of voice - why drop the ball with uninspiring product descriptions?
The Natural History Museum’s online store uses brilliantly thoughtful product descriptions that seamlessly fit in with the overall brand image and tone of voice (and put a grin on your chops too).
‘This wily fox is the perfect breakfast and tea-time companion. With finely detailed features, this milk jug makes a wonderful Christmas gift’.
Likewise, as we argued in this post on ecommerce brands with great website copy, you don’t have to have a super exciting or trendy product offering to produce brilliantly compelling website copy.
AO.com provides a fantastic example of this - giving even the most mundane of kitchen appliances a certain je ne sais quoi (the copy for a super-slim dishwasher below is an excellent case in point).
2) Storytelling content
The opportunity: help customers connect with products on a more meaningful level with content that tells a story.
Product backstories are becoming increasingly important, not just for ethically-minded consumers, but also as part of a wider move towards storytelling in marketing.
Why? Stories capture our attention and imaginations, helping us connect emotionally with an object, brand or person - an important relationship to make in ecommerce if we are to become a customer.
High-end furniture retailer Hem (formerly Fab.com) features information about (and photos of) the designers behind individual pieces on its product pages.
Likewise, in an arguably pretty bold move, fashion retailer Everlane incorporates this nice pricing infographic into each product page that tells browsers exactly where their dosh is going. It also features the factory that the garment was produced in.
3) Product video
The opportunity: bring items to life with high quality video content
Not being able to touch and try on a product is a key drawback to shopping online. One antidote to this is product video, which enables potential customers to inspect and experience item online in ways that images alone does not offer.
There are a great number of tests and studies that demonstrate video having a significant effect on conversion rates: Ariat, for example, reporting a 160% increase in conversion rates on items with video on the product page.
We love Shopbop's product videos (below) that give the impression the model is walking around on the page.
4) Buying guides & explainer videos
The opportunity: encourage repeat custom by offering memorable customer service and aftercare
Providing superior customer service is a great way of differentiating yourself from the competition and encouraging repeat custom. A number of online retailers are creating really great content pieces focused on this.
The Charlotte Tilbury blog features some really slick tutorials that are not only incredibly helpful (like the video on 'How to Choose the Pefect Foundation' below), but are a great means of showcasing products without the hard-sell.
Bold and Noble has created what is essentially a pimped-up FAQ page in the form of an interactive 'buying guide' that's both very informative and very nice to look at.
Home improvement store Lowe’s creates super helpful YouTube video content covering all sorts of DIY topics, from prepping your walls for painting (below) to choosing kitchen furniture on a budget.
Reiss appeals to wannabe dapper gents who want to get down with the tailoring lingo with its online glossary guide - featuring everything from Alfred Brown to zips.
5) Lifestyle content
The opportunity: get visitors hooked on your brand by creating content that appeals to their interests and lifestyle.
Content that attempts to appeal to customer lifestyle choices and pastimes without trying to sell products poses perhaps the biggest risk in terms of distracting visitors from purchasing. Poorly planned, this type of content can draw the attention of potential customers away from what you really want them to do (buy stuff). Done well, however, it can enhance customer relationships and make them feel like you really 'get' them.
Warby Parker regularly posts fun infographics like the one below aimed at book lovers, advising them which books to choose to suit their mood.
Likewise, outdoor wear brand The North Face creates seriously cool (if you'll pardon the pun) content about outdoor pursuits packed with artistic photographery, videos and first-person accounts from climbers and extreme sports enthusiasts.
6) Soft-sell editorial
Others are bringing the glossy fashion mag format into the digital world. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is Net-A-Porter's 'The Edit', an online publication that seamlessly blends (shoppable) products from the store with quality editorial.
Like The Edit, Matches Fashion creates stunning pieces of editorial content, interviewing prominent fashion industry peeps and recommending products based on their look.