It seems like everyone is trying to get into the content game these days. It’s no wonder; Content is king and great content differentiates all-star brands from the rest of the pack. However, actually doing it right can be tricky. And applying the concepts of content marketing to ecommerce can feel daunting at best and a waste of time at worst.
As a content marketer and experienced inbound marketing consultant, I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses on content strategy, and I can tell you that in ecommerce, content marketing is extremely important. In the wild west world of Shopify, where anyone and everyone is your competitor, being able to differentiate yourself, keep customer acquisition costs low, and retain repeat business is the only way to stay afloat. Ecommerce content marketing is how you can achieve these goals.
Many ecommerce marketers already know this and have jumped on the content bandwagon. However, there are some common mistakes that folks make that completely undermine their efforts - and in some instances, render them rather pointless.
In this article, I’ve boiled it down to 3 simple mistakes that are the main offenders - where I see most people go wrong.
Mistake #1: Trying to Appeal to Everyone and Effectively Selling to No One
One of the biggest mistakes I see marketers make is thinking everyone on planet Earth needs and wants their product(s). It’s because of this mindset that many marketers refuse to narrow down and focus on a certain target audience. They think, "More is better in sales, right?" Wrong.
I am here to tell you that not everyone needs or wants what you have to sell. Refusing to focus makes effective content marketing impossible and very much a waste of time.
So, what should you do? Narrow down your audience, focus on your target, and create detailed buyer personas that will help you get to know exactly to whom you are selling.
Do you think you've already done this? Most marketers do. Here's a quick test for you:
- Can you provide the proper first names of your buyer personas?
- How many personas do you have? (Hint, you shouldn't have more than 2 primary personas.)
- How old are they?
- What do they do for a living?
- What do they do for fun?
- What's their home life like?
- Where do they shop for clothes?
- What blogs/magazines do they read?
- Do they use an iPhone or a Samsung?
- What is their need/pain point that makes them interested in your product?
If you aren't able to answer ALL of these questions in detail, then you haven't done it right yet.
Again, you want to focus. You can add additional personas later - you can always expand your reach when you’ve become massively successful. But to start, keep it narrow and keep it specific. This will help you create awesome content that is relevant, meaningful, and resonates with your audience.
Successful ecommerce brands like Dollar Shave Club, Honest Diapers, Warby Parker, Birchbox, and Gilt Group know exactly to whom they are selling and it’s partly why they have such strong brands and loyal customer following. It’s 100% why they have awesome content.
For example, when Honest Diapers started out, they weren’t even trying to compete with the discount diaper world to win mass-market share. If they did, they would have lost because the mom who buys discount diapers is never going to consider Honest. Rather, Honest Diapers knew what their niche audience valued and created content directly related to those needs and pain points. Instead of trying to win more of the discount diaper market, they focused on creating customer loyalty and expanding product adoption with current customers.
This is not to say that your brand can never expand. Honest Diapers now sells their products on the shelves in Target and Costco, but they remain focused on their niche, not losing sight of their core audience.
Mistake #2: Over-reliance on Paid Campaigns for Customer Acquisition
Perhaps one of the most self-defeating tactics I’ve ever seen is over-reliance on paid campaigns at the detriment of content development. Many ecommerce brands believe throwing money at paid campaigns is the magic recipe for success.
So, what’s the problem with paying for customers with PPC campaigns? If you grow from 100 to 10,000 customers per month, that's awesome. But you'll stay on that treadmill and will continue paying $40 to acquire each new customer. What's worse... you end up paying to re-acquire the same customers over and over, so that $40 customer can become a $120 customer by their third purchase. Ouch.
And this is not the only problem with PPC - increased competition in your space drives up the cost of your keywords and clicks, so the more competitors who enter the arena, the more expensive your campaigns become.
Creating high-quality content, however, will drive up your SEO value and help you get found in organic search results, create a great user experience for new visitors, and provide value to customers. Also, having great content to share can make your paid campaigns better and more effective.
Ecommerce brands that set themselves apart invest in content and take it very seriously.
What do I mean by investing in content? Here are the quick points:
- Every ecommerce website should have a keyword-optimized blog and should make that blog a priority. You should aim to blog 2x per week. End of story.
- Every page of your website is an opportunity to create an awesome user experience with content. Think of how Zappos uses product reviews, videos and original copy to help users decide on sizing and styles. The more intuitive, helpful, and user-friendly your product pages can be, the better.
- Create content that helps overcome barriers to your sale. Remember that you don’t have a helpful sales person interacting directly with your user, answering his or her individual questions. FAQ sections, customer testimonials, links to other reviews, and strategically placed microcopy can really help. These pages can be awesome for SEO as well, since users will often type full questions into a search query.
- Be awesome on social media, not annoying. Don’t just rely on ads and hard selling - be helpful, on-brand, and diversify your posts. Share things you think your audience will like, feature your customers, and be someone your users want in to see their feed. Warby Parker does a great job of this on Instagram (see below).
- Email remains the most effective channel for marketers. Try to keep your target buyer persona in mind when creating your email content - put yourself in their shoes. What do THEY want to receive from you and when? Keep your email content short, helpful, relevant, and delightful - and remember that most people read email on mobile devices these days.
Note I said “cut back” on paid campaigns. I’m not a purist and I never advocate that any company abandon paid campaigns completely. It’s easy enough to analyze your paid campaigns to see which are driving results and which are not. Simply cut back on the money spent on what’s not working and use paid campaigns as a tactic in conjunction with content creation - not as your entire strategy.
I personally like to think of a digital marketing strategy like a financial portfolio: you want to diversify your assets and not over-invest in one place. At any given time, one digital marketing asset may outperform another. So you never want to put all your eggs in one basket; it's not smart and you can lose a lot of money that way. Ecommerce content marketing is a long term strategy that adds security to your digital marketing portfolio. Paid campaigns are a great short term strategy that fuels short term gains.
Mistake #3: Lack of Nurture
The concept of lead nurturing may originate in the B2B world, but it’s no less relevant for ecommerce businesses. In fact, it could be considered even more important given the economics of ecommerce and how, by nature, you can wind up paying to re-acquire the same customers over and over again. However, you can put an end to this vicious cycle by effectively deploying some basic content marketing tactics, like lead nurturing.
Nurturing leads beyond email blasts should be a cornerstone of any ecommerce marketers’ content strategy. Here are some ways to do it:
Pre-sale lead nurturing
Don’t discount collecting pre-sale leads and nurturing them to a sale. This is NOT just a B2B strategy. Whether or not they are buying sneakers, a diamond, or a book series, first time visitors to your site may not be ready to buy yet. I’ve seen clients create informative eBooks on How to Buy a Diamond for Dummies or a Sneaker Junkies Look Book, or simply try to capture their info for future alerts and deals. What you create to capture your lead is highly contingent on your buyer personas. Any way you do it, getting a pre-sale lead database going is a great way to grow your contact database and create a more personalized experience for users.
Abandoned cart nurturing
If a user makes it all the way to your shopping cart and abandons it, creating a short abandoned cart nurturing campaign is a great way to try and re-engage them. Especially if you’re doing a good job of collecting pre-sale leads, there’s a lot of opportunity to get cart abandoners back with targeted, personalized emails and discounts.
Personalized customer nurturing
By nature, buying stuff online isn’t very personal. But once you have a customer, you know all sorts of great stuff about them. Use this great information to build loyalty and trust. Set up segmented lists based on what your customers bought to alert them of new products. Send birthday and anniversary discounts. All of these tactics are easy enough to set up with basic marketing automation software and can go a long way to help you retain customers.
You already know there’s a fierce amount of competition in every product category imaginable; given the rise of easy-to-use ecommmece platforms, it's never been easier for budding entrepreneurs to set up a store. I don't need to tell you that.
However, the cool part is you don't need to come to the table with deep pockets to be a breakout success. Ecommerce content marketing, when done right, is a great way for brands to differentiate themselves in the market, develop a loyal customer following, and create the staying power needed to survive.