Creating brilliant content is becoming evermore important for online retailers wanting to connect with customers and potential customers online. In this guest post, Hannah Smith from Distilled discusses how fashion retailers should go about it.
“In Europe and the US, consumers would not care if 92% of brands disappeared.”
If your brand ceased to exist tomorrow, it’s likely that no one would care.
That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?
Consumers’ expectations are evolving and they are far more savvy today than they once were. If they actively dislike your brand, or what your brand stands for, then they easily able to find alternatives.
In an attempt to combat consumer apathy and engender brand advocacy, many companies are rethinking the way they approach customers both on and offline. There are of course a huge variety of tactics being used, but today I’ll be looking specifically at how fashion brands are leveraging online content to engage with their audiences and drive traffic and sales.
Uh oh. Is this another post about ‘content marketing’?
Yes and no. Content marketing is a buzzword, and, as such has its fair share of detractors. But what does content marketing actually mean? It’s defined by the Content Marketing Institute as follows:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Contrast this with a definition of good old-fashioned marketing and to be honest, you probably won’t see much of a difference. It’s *all* marketing. It’s the same thing. As such, I don’t much care for the distinction between the two, but won’t hold it against you, if you do :)
In short, this is a post about either content marketing, or content, or marketing.
“A rose by any other name…” etc.
Content which resonates? Sounds like a tall order...
Indeed it is. Content which resonates might also sound a little pretentious, but the challenge for brands is to matter to whomever they’re trying to reach. To resonate means to evoke a feeling of shared emotion and belief - and if your content delivers on that front, then your brand will be inextricably linked to it.
Consumers struggle to differentiate between their feelings for the content a brand produces and the brand itself. In a sense, your brand is your content. If you love a particular piece of content (whether that’s an advert, an article, an interactive piece, a video, a social campaign etc) - chances are, you also feel favourably towards the brand that created it.
Conversely, if you hate a particular piece of content, chances are, you feel unfavourably about the brand that created it.
Where do you begin?
Start with your objective(s).
Before you decide what to create you need to think about what it is you’re looking to achieve. if your objective is to increase brand awareness, the sort of content you’ll create will look very different to content with the objective of increasing sales. It’s very unlikely that a single type of content, nevermind a single piece of content, will deliver on multiple objectives
Once you’ve determined your objective(s) you’ll need a strategy. Content creation without strategy often leads to disparate content with no core themes or purpose. This is confusing to your target audience and can negatively impact your brand’s credibility.
A content strategy begins with research. At Distilled we split this into 3 key areas:
Company research (i.e. What are the company’s values? What do they stand for?)
Customer research (i.e. What do your customers care about? How and when do they consume content?)
Competitor research (two flavours)
Commercial competitors (i.e. What are their values? What do they stand for? What are they doing in terms of content?)
Content competitors (If you sell clothing, chances are, your customers aren’t just getting their fashion content fix from you and your competitors - they’ll also be reading fashion and lifestyle content on and offline)
You can read more about this topic here.
With all of this research in hand you can begin to find a place to play. Your aim is to find a gap which your competitors aren’t occupying, which is aligned with your brand and your audience. Don’t be tempted to simply replicate the competition - it’s unlikely to be well-received by anyone.
Right, enough of the theory - let’s take a look at some examples in the wild.
Brands as publishers - Net a Porter
Some brands have elected to take the approach of becoming a publisher (i.e. creating their own editorial content) as opposed to creating content for brand awareness with the aim of getting coverage elsewhere. This idea long pre-dates the web - Michelin have been producing their guides for more than one hundred years.
Net a Porter have gone big on this with both the Edit and Porter magazine. Whilst this approach certainly has its merits it’s certainly not for those with shoestring budgets as significant investment is required to make this approach work.
Content to drive brand awareness - Wren’s First Kiss
Touching? Awkward? You decide :)
Wren’s founder Melissa Coker commissioned this video to promote the brand -
“We set out to make something shareable… Emotion was our premise.”
At the time the video was launched she was quoted as saying -
“My desire [was] to have something that was interesting to people beyond a fashion angle… [it’s] an interesting film that exists on it’s own rather than something that feels like a commercial, and it seems to be touching people…”
Whilst the piece wasn’t without detractors, to date the video has received more than 89.5 million views on YouTube in addition to receiving countless pieces of coverage from news, fashion and lifestyle sites and publications. It’s also received more than 1.45 million Facebook interactions and 202k tweets. But did this translate into sales? According to Coker sales rose by 14,000% after the video went viral.
Lessons from Wren
Overt advertising is rarely shared - but an interesting or compelling story attached to a brand, when executed well, clearly is shareable.
If you want coverage from news, fashion and lifestyle sites and publications create content that supports their editorial - don’t try to create your own editorial and expect them to cover it.
Other examples of content to drive brand awareness
Other artistic or entertaining video content that doesn’t feel like an ad or catwalk show:
Research relating to fashion:
Content which supports the editorial calendar, but that the publication themselves would not have the time or budget to create:
TheTrainline’s festival finder
Art poster style infographics:
But what if your objectives don’t centre on brand awareness? What if you’re primarily interested in increasing sales from existing site visitors?
Telling stories with Product Descriptions - ModCloth
When it comes to ecommerce, product descriptions are all too often little more than an afterthought. This is a shame because your product descriptions are your chance to show your customers what you’re about (in addition to driving sales), take a look at ModCloth for inspiration:
Of course, sometimes despite a brand’s best intentions, things go awry. Not sure what’s going on here.
‘A fun yet quiet surprise’ indeed:
Ultimately, the content on your product pages needs to resonate with your audience - if it doesn’t you’re unlikely to see a benefit.
Brands leveraging user-generated content - BlackMilk & ModCloth
Want richer product pages? Of course you do. Australian site BlackMilk encourage their customers to upload pictures of themselves wearing their clothing and tag them on Facebook and Instagram:
These images act as a style guide for would be purchasers, plus visitors get a clearer idea of how the clothing might look and fit.
I also want to highlight the good work of ModCloth (again!). When it comes to reviews few sites do such a great job. In addition to actively soliciting reviews from their customers and responding to any issues, ModCloth also encourage reviewers to complete their height and measurements so shoppers can find a review from a person who’s a similar size to them, helping them to buy with confidence.
Content certainly isn’t just useful for driving brand awareness and sales; don’t neglect the content on your ‘About’ pages; ‘FAQs’; and so on, I’ve written a post on the topic, which you can find here.
But that’s enough from me, over to you dear reader. Let me know your thoughts on this post, the approaches and tactics I’ve explored, and I’d also love to hear about other companies who you think are doing great things. See you on the other side :)
Hannah is a Content Strategist for Distilled, an online marketing agency. She’s spoken at various conferences, including MozCon, SMX, SearchLove, & The Content Marketing Show, is a Moz Associate and writes for Moz, Distilled, State of Digital & SEO Chicks. She can also be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.