Content Marketing for Retail Engages Consumers with Brands: Industry Report 2017
Retailers rely on engaged, inspired customers for business, which puts a lot of pressure on content marketers. According to Zmags Corp’s 2016 Shoppable Content Report, 50 percent of brands surveyed were looking for content to entice shoppers, but only 9 percent of e-commerce retailers had it. A high percentage of them also noted the technical challenges to reaching their content goals.
Content marketing is big business in 2017. The year before, marketers in the U.S. spent over $10 billion on content alone, according to Forrester Research. It is not expected to end there. If Marketingmag’s predictions hold up, it will be worth in the hundreds of billions of dollars within a couple of years. It predicted a $300 billion value by the year 2019. Effective content marketing for retail is important because the majority of shoppers look to the Internet to find what they want and need.
Types of Content that Work
Online consumers are best engaged by certain types of information. Those that work well for retailers include:
Reviews: There are countless review websites. A company can also feature reviews on its site or social media profile. Wherever a consumer finds one, they’re going to take the information seriously. Star ratings and written feedback matter. The format works on both sides; consumers look to feel confident before they buy. On the other hand, retailers have an opportunity to respond to negative feedback and make improvements accordingly.
Recommendations: Online stores keep track of customers’ purchase histories for a reason. It enables them to provide personalized recommendations per the company’s best information on their shopping habits and preferences.
Product descriptions: Write-ups with product features and benefits are essential. The more information you can provide, the more useful it is in helping someone decide on a purchase. Descriptions also give you a chance to take advantage of keywords and search engine optimization, so customers can find you online.
Comparisons and guides: In many retail sectors, product choices are very similar. A product comparison or buying guide can let a person compare and contrast all the features of items in specific categories. Making advantages and disadvantages of each clear is authoritative and conducive to simplifying the buying decision process.
How-to’s: Articles and videos in this category enable retailers to offer invaluable information to customers on their websites. These can focus on any aspect of any product, from preparing for a purchasing decision to how to use it most effectively.
Customer loyalty: A loyalty program helps drive repeat business. Establishing a points system is just one way to get started on the content side. Your content can link back to this page, or the loyalty section of the site can feature a whole range of content that engages visitors.
Remarketing: Retailers work hard to reach out to customers who have already browsed their stores. Display ads help advertise to them. Content marketers also use email to reconnect with shoppers after visiting a store. This provides an opportunity for people to opt-in for such communications and for companies to display content representing items like those they saw.
Help/FAQ pages: The content you include here helps retain customers who have easily resolvable issues. The simple fact you’re concerned with their experience can boost reputation. Plus, people don’t look for or call about common problems, which reduces the workload on support staff.
How to Make Retail Content Work
As in most industries, blogging is very effective at targeting an audience. Context is extremely important, as shoppers can quickly find the best prices and order a product that’s delivered to their homes fast. Therefore, the goal is to provide a path of least resistance – one in which customers can locate, compare, and order an item from anywhere, anytime. Location-based marketing is in this circle; it helps draw customers based on where they are, at the right moment.
Timing is everything when it comes to content in retail. There’s a fine line between brand interactions and intrusion. Advertisements that bombard people with information they’re not interested in is most likely not going to help sales. That’s why behavior and conversation tracking is important for measuring performance, before attempting to engage a consumer.
Examples of Effective Content Usage
Several major retailers have created innovative content experiences. Using virtual dressing rooms, stores have enabled people to try on clothing or apply new makeup. The Sephora Virtual Artist Tool is an interactive system that uses augmented reality and facial recognition technology. Consumers can add lipstick, eye shadow, and other products to their uploaded selfie. Results are seen before they even think of a purchase.
Lowe’s implemented a content campaign, At Home with Copper, to supplement its print magazine with online video tutorials, how-to tips, and assembly instructions. This content was added to the retailer’s mobile and e-newsletters as well, encouraging customers to make purchases related to their home improvement projects at its stores. Forever 21’s “Blogger Crushes” campaign reached out to the fashion blogger community. The result was a stream of product photos uploaded by the bloggers for an entire audience to see. Keen created a similar marketing campaign, letting customers submit guest posts wearing their shoes while traveling.
The Power of User-Generated Content
Retailers therefore can rely on influencers, but they don’t have to be celebrities like the Kardashians. Consumer-based content is useful in competitive industries. In fact, research has shown consumers prefer influencers over celebrity endorsements and traditional advertisements. Thanks to social media, harnessing the power of this trend is less complicated than it used to be.
Content marketing for retail can incorporate many content types, technologies, and channels. Somehow, it must all be tied together. A strong digital marketing strategy helps to determine how each piece of content fits into the big picture, which builds identity through style, tone, and personality. Regardless of the type, it must reach shoppers at the right place, at the right time, and be relevant to why one should consider an item and its advantages over a different one, or a competitor’s.
If you are interested in trends in content marketing and what your specific industry should publish to stay relevant and improve ROI, come back for more professional reports from our team of expert writers.
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Chief Content Officer
Annie has 20 years of experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.
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