Last updated: 5 ways e-commerce companies create content that sells

5 ways e-commerce companies create content that sells


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Most e-commerce companies unfortunately can’t simply rely on products being good enough to sell themselves. It takes a highly targeted and refined content and messaging strategy to drive customers to purchase. In the world of e-commerce, your content marketing strategy is only as effective as the narrative you craft for your target audience.

Naturally, that narrative is built on far more than just written text on a landing page. In fact, there are several ‘content media’ types that many leading e-commerce companies have mastered that play a significant role in delivering their narratives.

Although there are a wide-range of media to consider, this article explores five of the most effective:

  1. Imagery
  2. Email campaigns
  3. Product pages
  4. Buying guides
  5. Customer stories

Creating content that sells: The top 5 keys to success

1. Creating content that sells: Product imagery

Visuals have become the primary medium for storytelling. Beautiful product photos and videos have become an essential element to telling a brand’s story.

At a minimum, you’ll need well-lit, ‘static’ product photos but you should also include ‘dynamic’ photos showing the product in use. These ‘dynamic’ photos might include both professionally-staged photos as well as user-contributed pictures, like Johnny Cupcakes does. Platforms like Olapic make it easy for e-commerce companies to source images directly from users who post on social media channels like Instagram using a designated hashtag. An added benefit of incorporating customer-contributed imagery can be the ‘trust’ gained by seeing a product in action.

2. Email campaigns

What might seem like something that consumers have become numb to, email still proves to be an engaging marketing channel for e-commerce companies; Mailchimp cites an average of over 17% in open rates. The question is how to use email in a unique way that will engage your audience and not just filter into their trash. Many big-box retailers focus the majority of their efforts on highly-personalized and segmented promotional emails.

For smaller startup e-commerce firms, that level of personalized targeting might not be within their reach. Instead, emerging brands such as Everlane, have shifted their email marketing strategy from ‘promotions’ to ‘stories’. Honing in on their message of ‘radical transparency’ and their direct-to-consumer operations, they focus their email campaigns on sharing the backgrounds of their manufacturing partners, processes and emerging products. The ‘insight’ given to customers through this sort of email strategy stays true to their mission of transparency and provides a different means to connect with customers who value this level of exposure. Naturally, all of their emails provide a clear means and reason for customers to take action, simply in the context of a larger story.

3. Product pages

Building on the concept of ‘narrative’, successful e-commerce companies, such as Casper, have started building a richer product ‘story’ than simply listing features, specs and price-points. Companies that embrace transparency as part of their core values have begun opening up on the partners and processes they use to create their products. This theme is particularly popular among ‘direct-to-consumer’ and ‘made-in-America’ brands, where the product’s ‘background’ is almost as important as the product itself. The additional insights into your product, especially when supported by imagery and video, help provide a richer context and a means of engaging that support your customers during their buying process.

4. Buying guides

One form of content often used by major e-commerce players, such as Wayfair, is publishing buying guides, which provide three primary benefits. The first is that they can serve as an aid in the customer’s buying process in the form of educational materials. Buying guides can be constructed to help walk consumers through more technical products, such as electronics, where a minimum level of education and familiarity with product terminology is required. The second benefit is that buying guides often serve as SEO-rich assets. Search engines are constantly looking for new, well-written content in niche subject areas. Finally, buying guides can help create clear differentiation against competition when set up as ‘comparison shoppers’.

They can provide your brand a platform to highlight the uniqueness of your products against the larger market.

5. Customer stories

Building on the first point of incorporating customer-contributed photos of products in use, is the notion of sharing customer stories around their experience with a product. Reviews and one-paragraph testimonials are a fine start, but companies, such as Poler, have built entire sections of their website around sharing beautifully crafted stories of customer interactions with their products. These stories not only demonstrate the product in a real-world environment, but also help support the larger association between your brand and the lifestyle your brand supports. If you sell a product for snowboarders, it would only make sense to support that lifestyle with interesting content in a space such as: mountain reviews, competition coverage, etc. In general, the most successful stories seek to highlight how a product is being used, not just the product itself.

There are many contributing facets that determine how customers will engage with a brand and whether that will ultimately lead to purchase. With the five content media above, your brand can set itself up with multiple channels to connect with customers. Even with a well-defined target audience, it’s likely that your customers will be driven by a variety of purchase influences. By expanding the number of channels, a brand increases the range of influence over its’ customers.

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