Content Marketing for eCommerce Companies: The Why and the How?

Content marketing, a staple of B2B marketers, is taking off in the B2C world: according to Forbes, “77% of B2C marketers say they will produce more content in 2016. Only 2% will produce less.” Forbes also reported that 50% of B2C companies plan to increase their content marketing budgets this year.

eCommerce companies in particular have much to gain from content marketing. When you’re operating in a crowded, cutthroat market, you have to differentiate yourself on the basis of more than just your products (otherwise, Amazon wouldn’t be #1). You have to stand out by creating an engaging, memorable customer experience.

CX is a complex beast, so the component we’ll focus on in this post is content marketing.

Will a few half-hearted blog posts directly lead to more sales? No. But steady effort pays off: HubSpot found a clear positive correlation between B2C companies’ number of posts and traffic; on top of that, B2C companies that blogged 11 or more times per month got more than four times as many leads as those that blogged only 4-5 times per month.

If you’re running an eCommerce company, it’s likely that three of your biggest priorities are boosting sales, followed by retaining customers and increasing customer lifetime value. The latter two are more important than most eCommerce marketers realize: in retail, 5% of customers often generate a third of revenue. There are some people who will literally never buy from you, either because you’re not selling something that’s relevant to them or because they just don’t shop online (yes, those people still exist); it’s smarter to focus on people who’ve engaged and never bought, or customers who’ve bought only once. It’s easier to get people to take an action they’ve taken before.

Below, we’ll explain why content marketing should be part of your long-term strategy and outline tactics you can apply to your business, regardless of what you sell.

Working Backward to Build an Army of Loyal Customers

According to this great infographic from ReferralCandy, 60% of consumers feel better about a company after reading original content on its site.

Why might that be? One word: affinity.

Think about the most successful commercials: they make people think, “Wow, I need that in my life.” Think about some of the best-selling sneakers out there—the most popular athletes on the planet wear them. Think about cars—who doesn’t want to cruise on the open road with their family? In both instances, companies are creating an experience that they know their target audiences want as well—wearing the same shoes as their favorite athletes, or taking their own families out for a relaxing road trip.

At the end of the day, the things that propel eCommerce companies forward aren’t that different from the things that have made brick-and-mortar stores successful for decades. Ultimately, you’re trying to build brand affinity. The point of purchase should be a place where the buyer and seller align—where the buyer feels a connection to the brand and aligns herself with the brand’s message.

Online, content often takes the place of the sales or customer service representative. Reps have the luxury of talking directly with consumers to educate them, determine what they need, and help them find the products that fit their lifestyles; on the internet, content is what answers people’s questions and gets them excited to shop.

Ready to become a content marketing machine? Here’s some inspiration:

Killer Content Marketing Tactics for Your eCommerce Company

Get shoppers to envision themselves using your products
How To posts are key here. Selling clothes? Go for style guides and outfit ideas. Selling TVs? Talk about how to turn your living room into the hub of home entertainment for all your friends. Lowe’s, for example, dedicates an entire section of its website to How To posts: it covers everything from planting your first veggie garden to creating an awesome backyard playground.

Make it easy to jump from consuming content to purchasing products
Go ahead and visit Crate & Barrel, rated as the top eCommerce site in terms of checkout usability. If you take a look at the blog, you’ll see that the pictures of products link to their respective pages, where customers can easily buy the stuff they just read about. For example, if you read a chocolate pie recipe and feel the urge to recreate it perfectly, you can buy all the supplies with just a few clicks. (Ingredients come separately.)

Hop on the video bandwagon
Video’s a relatively big investment, but it definitely catches people’s attention—it’s played a big part in BuzzFeed’s success, for one (and if anyone knows how to make shareable content, it’s BuzzFeed). When you’re making videos, remember that they should be simultaneously on-brand and substantive: they should make viewers feel like they can see themselves in the video while educating them. For example, Cabela’s—which sells hunting, fishing, and outdoor gear—has videos that show viewers how to purify water and keep your camp critter-free.

Get inspiration from your shoppers’ lifestyles
No matter what kind of eCommerce company you are, you’re not just selling products: you’re selling a lifestyle. Nasty Gal sells a lifestyle well: this retailer, which was born online, sells clothing, shoes, and accessories to “fashion-forward, free-thinking girls.” Its blog doesn’t have much in the way of practical content, but it connects with customers excellently by creating content that resonates with them: a profile of Best Coast’s popular front-woman, a “Singles Awareness Day” post for Feb. 14, and a guide to “Fucking Havana!” It’s bold—but hey, trying to appeal to everyone is a recipe for failure.

Make most of your content evergreen
As the name implies, evergreen content is content that stays fresh and relevant for extended periods of time. You want the majority of your content to be evergreen for two reasons: first, it’ll maximize social shares. Second, it’ll allow you to re-share it in a newsletter, which is the most effective form of content marketing for B2C companies. (If you want to make sure each subscriber only sees content that’s relevant to them, check out our platform.)

Yesterday, we opened the promotions tabs of our respective inboxes and clicked through all the deals. Half an hour, sixty pages, and six websites later, neither of us even put an item in a shopping cart. It’s not that we didn’t want anything—it’s that there wasn’t anything compelling either of us to purchase, or even spend much time on any of the sites.

We said it above, and we’ll say it again: selling cool products doesn’t cut it anymore. Think about the next purchase your customer is going to make. Are they more likely to buy from a company that bombards their inboxes with products, or a company that mixes in relevant How To articles, DIY guides, and entertaining videos?

In short, every touchpoint with a customer should provide value. We’re not talking about value in terms of money saved; what we’re saying is, you should give shoppers something that’ll make them look forward to their next interaction with you.

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