To have a chance in the battle against Amazon.com and other megastores, retailers are arming their e-commerce sites with the most powerful online tools — and creative content is proving to be a valuable weapon of choice. Your online presence needs to be about much more than the products you sell. A website or mobile site should be an educational resource for consumers, offering unique photos, videos, tools, blog posts, reviews and more, which amplify your brand and convince shoppers to buy.
After all, marketing with content pays off. The Content Marketing Institute found that companies that adopt content marketing see conversion rates that are nearly six times higher than their competitors. In fact, content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than nonleaders.
While content marketing requires an investment of time, money and skill, here are four practical ways any online business can provide shoppers with useful content that drives commerce:
1. Get seriously social. Be sure to align your social media strategy with the way your customers use it, applying resources where they matter most. Find out which channels your customers use most with tools like BuzzSumo and others that do the in-depth research for you. If you have more fans on Pinterest than Twitter, then cater to those users with high-quality photo content that’s perfect for pinning.
You can also integrate content from your social media networks into your website to deliver more information to shoppers and get them excited about buying your products. For example, with more than 26,000 Facebook likes and nearly 5,000 Twitter followers, Adore Beauty knows that it makes sense to bring its social conversations into its product search. When you use the search box on the adorebeauty.com site, you’ll see related product results along with social media posts, discussions and articles related to the same search term.
2. Bust out your blog. A blog is an excellent way to incorporate non-product content while showcasing your brand’s individual voice. It can also generate some great organic traffic to your site and naturally improve your search engine optimization.
The e.l.f. Cosmetics beauty blog offers a prime example. Posts share a wide range of beauty topics, from tips and how-tos to the most up-to-date seasonal beauty trends. Many of these posts don’t actually promote e.l.f. products, but provide fun insight or helpful information. The celebrity-inspired looks, with links to the products needed, are powerful for driving conversion.
To make finding valuable content seamless, include blog content in search results — somewhere below best-selling products but above the fold. Keep in mind that while a blog can be an impactful tool for posting information about new products, it should first be an educational resource. Balance promotions with content that’s purely meant to educate and help solve readers’ problems.
3. Serve up tips, tutorials and recipes. Whether selling fishing rods or casserole dishes, specialty retailers can offer great educational value and a sense of community to their customers online. Step-by-step articles with photos or video instructions build excitement about the products needed for a task.
For instance, for every product search, Andersen Windows’ site serves up results with support information and technical documents, including spec sheets, installation guides and how-to videos. As a one-stop shop for the products and instructional information its customers need, Andersen has become an invaluable resource.
Catering to food fans? King Arthur Flour, a popular site for bakers of all levels to purchase baking products, has made it easy for customers to share recipes, read reviews, shop for ingredients, and link to related videos or blogs. By connecting users with ingredients and products that can be bought right on-site, King Arthur Flour increased its conversion rates from 3.7 percent to almost 6 percent, and search-based revenue from 17 percent to nearly 50 percent.
4. Get real with FAQs. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page doesn’t have to be dull — it can be a great tool for content marketing. By answering customer questions in a creative way, the FAQ page can help engage your customers, demonstrate knowledge and show your brand’s personality. Customer questions can also fuel ideas for other content, such as a new blog post or a helpful how-to video. Then, when people search for answers, they’ll find even more of your content to help.
REI is one retailer that makes great use of FAQs. The outdoor retailer fields actual questions from its customers and turns them into how-to and advice videos on its “REI Find Out” YouTube channel. The effort positions REI as an authority. When people look online for answers to questions like how to fix a bike flat, REI’s content will pop up in their search.
These four strategies, among others, increase customer engagement, loyalty and, ultimately, sales. To be effective, content-rich sites must ensure shoppers can quickly find relevant content. Be sure that you provide site search that exceeds expectations with an advanced autocomplete function (i.e., makes suggestions as you type) and intuitive navigation. A search box drop-down with thumbnail images, mini descriptions and prices are eye-catching features. After all, your customers may not even know you offer a particular product until you show them.
This article first appeared in Total Retail on January 7, 2017.