Four ways to ensure e-commerce content engagement
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Four ways to ensure e-commerce content engagement

What makes for impactful e-commerce marketing in 2017? People-led content that’s targeted but not vacuous.

Selling online means catering to a complex set of social groups and online communities. Not ‘getting’ community rules and hierarchies can result in marketing disasters.

So, how we do influence in today’s digital utopia? First of all, marketers need to connect with their ‘why’ more. Rather than spending a tonne of money on flashy, but ultimately empty, campaigns, marketers need to get granular with their targeting and spend less to have more impact.

Here are some key ways that e-commerce brands in 2017 should be spending their content marketing budget to stay ahead of the curve.

What’s your ‘why’?

Content marketing has grown up. Marketers in 2017 are saturated with content marketing tools, products, podcasts, webinars, hackathons, blogs, books, whitepapers, and so on, all claiming to hold the secret recipe to marketing success. What does all this ‘content noise’ really mean? Who’s benefitting from this self-perpetuating cycle of content?

Perhaps...not the marketers themselves?

It’s time to down tools, turn off push notifications, and get real. Digital marketers need to slice through the noise and focus on why the brand came to market in the first place. Why are you here?

  1. What basic needs, desires and instincts drive product sales? Connect with core value propositions in order to appeal to your audience’s emotional drivers (to avoid any faux pas – take an emotional temperature from your audience first).
  2. Content creators are going to have to be brave and face their own futility. Weed out content complacency and customer experience mediocrity. If your content doesn’t deserve to be shared and linked to, why bother creating it in the first place?
  3. Even big brands should market themselves like hungry start-ups who’ve got little to lose and everything to play for. Content needs to be innovative and reactive in order to make waves in today’s world.

Some content budgets have become so incomprehensible that they dehumanise the process of marketing – a process that should be intrinsically people-led. Focusing on ‘why’ will stop e-commerce marketers blindly throwing money at their next programmatic campaign. Asking better questions will bring things back to what matters – people, not demographics.

Invest in visual UGC

Stop wasting marketing budget on stuff that looks like marketing. Invest in content that looks like it has come straight from your customers – by investing in content that really has.

A recent Olapic study found that 53% of Europeans (and 70% of Americans) are more likely to buy a product after seeing a “positive or relatable consumer-generated image” (it’s one of the most important marketing trends of our modern millennial culture).

How can you make user-generated content (UGC) part of your core content strategy?

  1. Hashtags, competitions, seasonal campaigns, microsites, giveaways, influencer outreach, sponsored content – the method of collecting user-generated content varies by niche. Mix things up and see what method works best for your brand. Don’t always go after the obvious consumer groups – working with a smaller, tightly-knit group is better than targeting a huge subsection of the general population.
  2. Allow consumers to insert their own sense of identity into the product story and try to relinquish control. Encourage customers to use colourful language by sharing their posts, and ensure you make it clear to people that you want their honest experiences. If you’re working with influencers, try and get them to emphasise how the product fits in with their overall day (running to meetings, childcare, etc.). This is not an excuse to conduct a PR campaign on steroids. These images should not sound or look like marketing – emulate journals and snapshots of real people’s lives.
  3. The line between ads, native, sponsored and organic content is ever thinner and harder to spot. Make sure you’re engaging, not misleading.

Innocent regularly share funny pictures, as well as this adorable Christmas card from a young fan. The real and transient nature of these images is what makes them compelling, so don’t be tempted to ‘airbrush’ your content either.

Product stories sell

Everybody loves a good story. The best brands bring products to market that carry an invaluable marketing germ inside them already: a great story. But even an established brand can easily find interesting stories hidden in its history and heritage.

Whether the product story is something about provenance, people, features, or production, makes no difference – what matters is that by buying from you, people buy into something bigger than themselves. In e-commerce, we’re seeing a rise in companies taking CSR seriously, intertwining their charitable efforts with their content strategy.

In order to succeed, content must be focused around a central product narrative – the more unique, the better.

  1. Stories that inspire people right now are all about connecting people with the environment, and some of the best stories focus on giving. From products that offer like-for-like charity, to brands who are generous with their social projects, it pays to be charitable (think of the LUSH Charity Pot and Kenco’s com campaign). Be careful of token greenwashing, though – consumers can smell this a mile off. Make sure that any CSR initiatives are supported across the brand, with plenty of investment and content. Keep sharing your CS successes as they develop to create a positive narrative – try to become part of social and development narratives that are already out there.
  2. Provenance is a great product differentiator. Brands can easily build a whole story around where their products come from and this can easily be woven into a discourse about nature, nation, family, etc. Different angles like heritage or organicity appeal to different target markets so angle your provenance story right.
  3. Charismatic founders with great stories can provide a brand with instant content credibility uplift. People are often willing to buy into someone else’s journey.
Embrace community content

We need to embrace the power of community – abandon a channel-led approach in favour of a more holistic community one. By linking content creation intimately with the space and community around the business, marketers will see a more localised and permanent brand lift. This means opening your eyes to local community groups, as well as exploring the marketing potentials of the spaces around you. A warehouse can become a backdrop for a fashion shoot, and a local café can host a small retail pop up. Think about online communities too: spend time on customer forums and interact with the online micro-community around your brand.

  1. Brands need to get involved with local spaces by hosting events, seminars, industry shows, podcasts, shows and meetups (and not just as ‘sponsors’ either). A space for knowledge sharing gives brands the chance to truly become influencers – it’s a strategy that big brands have capitalised on, but it works across the board. Co-hosting events with other brands is a great way to share the burden. Capitalise on ephemeral events by creating both journalistic and evergreen content, including plenty of live video. Get the community involved and encourage them to share their ideas and reactions. Host small-scale pop up shops and retail events around you to help raise local awareness.
  2. Local marketing pays off. Seeding content with local influencers pays more than trying to take over the world. It’s impossible to be anything to everyone, but it’s possible to be everything for someone. It’s time for content creators to spend money on micro-influencers and micro-communities, rather than throwing it at huge celebrity accounts. A more localised approach to influencer marketing pays off with deeper brand engagement (and is often more cost-effective, too).
  3. Focus on building an active community around your core social channels. Getting people involved with social media takeovers is a great way to change the conversation when things start to feel ‘stale’. Giving customers more ownership over your online brand can feel risky, but it pays off.

For modern content marketers, the challenge is to not be swamped by technology and data to the extent that we lose touch with the human connection that drives commerce. What significant content trend do you think people will be talking about next?

Patrick Foster Ecommerce Consultant
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