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How to Grow Your Online Business with Content Marketing

With online retail giants like Amazon and ASOS, continually looking for new and innovative ways to increase their customer base, small businesses and e-commerce start-ups have the ongoing challenge of trying to remain competitive in a saturated market. If like many entrepreneurs you struggle to drive more conversions to your website, your answer may well be in content marketing. Combining commerce with content is one of the most popular and proven tactics for increasing traffic to product pages, so the implementation of a water-tight content marketing strategy should be a priority for any e-commerce businesses hoping for growth. So whether you’re in the B2B sector selling software or the B2C sector selling fashion, follow these tips and expert advice to learn how content can improve your bottom line.

Content Marketing Basics

Content mapping is a key part of building a content marketing strategy for your online retail business. By creating buyer personas for different types of customers, you will be able to define the type of content they require to help them make a buying decision. Amy Jordan from Pop Content stresses the necessity of building out a range of content types for customers who are at different stages of the buying cycle. “Most of us fall between two extremes of buyer types. On one extreme, you have the “super researcher,” who will actively seek out advice online before making a purchase. The second extreme is the “impulse shopper,” who is much more likely to search on Google and click the first listing they find. Your goal is to create helpful content for both extremes; this can include product reviews, tutorials, comparison tables, audio visual guides and testimonials. Ultimately you want to create content that answers any question a buyer may have about your products, ensuring they needn’t look to your competitors to find those answers.”

When developing your content strategy, ask yourself if all the content created has the goal of helping the customer make a more informed buying decision whilst avoiding a hard sell. Brands that often excel at this are supermarkets, which are well adept at understanding their customers buying decisions and habits. Many like Tesco or Wholefoods have gone beyond an ecommerce website and have dedicated content communities offering expert advice and recipes; further adding value to a customer’s shopping experience. Gavin Bell from Blue Cliff Media says effective content marketing is the best way to add value. “Customers don’t like being sold to anymore and they like to make educated buying decisions. As an e-commerce owner, you need to actively help them create buying decisions through regular and rich content. By helping them with a problem or solving a pain point such as Sainsbury’s with their #LittleTwists campaign, you are offering valuable advice whilst subtly suggesting products needed for a quick and easy recipe.”

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Conversion Driving Content

Creating content that converts is often a pain point for online retail entrepreneurs. How do you know what type of content will drive conversions and turn website visitors into loyal customers? Trial and error will certainly help no end, says Bobby Biring a fashion wholesale expert from Fashion Book. “It is absolutely vital when launching your online store; you think beyond the products and consider external content strategies that will drive prospective customers to your website. By producing a variety of different content and publishing it on several external sites, you can monitor the performance of the content via Google Analytics and check where your referrals are coming from. If you are a women’s fashion retailer for example, you should publish trend reports and new season guides on popular fashion and lifestyle blogs with a unique discount code to encourage more conversions.”

Once customers land on your site, there are numerous ways to increase loyalty and conversion through content. One of the most obvious onsite conversion tactics is a simple newsletter subscription. Carl Hendy from Arena Flowers uses email marketing to build loyalty with customers. “Not only has it allowed us to promote new offers, it has also allowed us to engage with our customers, attract new ones and raise a few smiles along the way.” Ecommerce marketer Lucy Clarke agrees. “Tactics such as gathering email addresses in return for ‘valuable’ content say a ‘free’ white paper, online course or e-book, are very effective for B2B lead generation tactics and in turn, conversions. Once you’ve captured a lead’s email address, there are many ways to keep the prospect warm, as long as you are seen to be helping and interesting them, and definitely not spamming them or giving them the hard sell.”

Create Shoppable Content

With the advancements in the ecommerce industry, there is no shortage of platforms available designed to help you acquire and retain more customers. Although not an unfamiliar concept, the importance of creating commerce driven content cannot be stressed enough. Tools from companies like Styla and Zmags, allow online retailers to develop shoppable magazines similar to offerings from Net A Porter and ASOS, so your customers can make a purchase directly from the page. Both have excelled as ecommerce brands who have become publishers in their own right, and any size business can replicate their success with tools like Issuu that allow brands to create their own digital magazines with shoppable links and social sharing capabilities. Already popular with the likes of Tatler and Asda, it’s never been easier to combine content with commerce for a much more subtle sell. Aurora Starbuck from premium fashion website Stylight, champions the importance of creating shoppable content in her content marketing strategy.  “We have honed in the idea of content marketing in the form of our editorial which combines shoppable inspiration with the advice and guidance consumers are looking for when purchasing products. We have made Stylight both a content and commerce destination, ensuring conversions and return traffic.”

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Content Promotion & Outreach

If you create a fantastic in depth shopping guide but no one sees it does it mean the piece wasn’t any good? It’s highly important, if not more so, to develop a content promotion and outreach strategy for all the content created for your ecommerce store. Considering the blood sweat and tears that goes into each piece of content created, you want to ensure at least that as a new online retailer, your content is getting vital exposure elsewhere thus driving qualified traffic to your website. Mark Hughes from Tutora has integrated outreach into his content marketing strategy, ensuring that content is promoted far beyond the company blog. “Most people who view our content aren’t in a position to link to it, and of those that are, most won’t do so unprompted. That’s why it is so important to reach out to potential influencers in your industry and request a link. This may sound pushy, but a surprising number of people are happy to do this. To make a content marketing strategy work, this part is essential, and we spend at least as much time promoting our content this way as we do actually writing it!”

By creating a strategy that puts content promotion first, you are in a better position to create content that external publishers and prospective customers will engage with and subsequently link to. Cemanthe McKenzie from New Media Angels says “SEO is primarily driven by high value links from authoritative sites with a strong domain authority. By having links on these sites, you will see a rise in referral traffic as well as social media referrals as your content gains more eyeballs.”

As well as reaching out to publishers like blogs and news sites in your sector to promote your content, it’s well worth reaching out to key insiders who often have significant social media followings therefore significant influence. Encourage influencers from your sector to engage with your brand by asking them to collaborate on a content marketing campaign. Beauty brands like Avon, reward top beauty bloggers with complimentary products in exchange for social promotion, reviews and video tutorials. These influencers can then become brand ambassadors; much like celebrity endorsements but without the large price tag. Brand ambassadors will evangelise to their followers about your product and are much more likely to become loyal customers themselves.

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So it appears the trend for content marketing in ecommerce is going nowhere, meaning implementation of a strategy has never been more important for the success of your online store. Use these expert tips when approaching your content plan to ensure you stay one step ahead of your competitors and you are providing more than just products to customers but also a destination for expertise and guidance when they need it the most.

image source: tailored.hk

Letitiah Obiri is an experienced content marketer and founder of Polkadot Digital, an online marketing agency providing affordable content, social and PR packages to startups and small businesses. Letitiah has worked with some of the UK’s biggest brands including Tesco, Hiscox, Hilarys Three Mobile, TK Maxx and Littlewoods. As a qualified journalist Letitiah has also been featured in The Guardian, Business Zone and Supercharged Startups writing frequently about small businesses and practical marketing techniques.

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