The latest marketing tool for ecommerce success, integrating content and commerce

The media is the message

The Internet may be 20 years young but already the rules of engagement are changing for online retailers and brands. Consumers can forge their own unique discovery path through innumerable digital sites and social media platforms to discover an infinite number of reviews, product specification and price comparisons. And unlike their predecessors of 20 years ago, today’s consumers are canny; they know what to expect from an e-commerce experience. Put simply, to satisfy demand brands today have to supply content that engages and unifies while keeping pace with the ever changing web experience. 

The old legacy sites are like the quaint high street hardware store with the grandson of the owner fronting the operation. The e-equivalent, the ‘shop button’ era with its clumsy technology is confusing and unsatisfying for today’s e-buyer. The big brand sound was made up of the information on the product and a website which was effectively a marketing brochure. The e-retailer was lord of the cloud manor, from owning the product, to customer relations. But there was something very important that until now was ignored. Brands did not understand how customers made decisions to buy and couldn’t engage consumers directly to obtain feedback.

These days brands have an obligation to entice and engage directly with consumers every step of the entire lifecycle; from finding a product, to deliberating on its validity and consideration of purchase to the real end game, brand evangelism. To harness the benefits of the changing world of ecommerce brands need to literally set out their stalls differently. Historically there were lines of delineation between the person managing the website, the brand marketers who were trying to fill the top of the funnel, and the merchandisers who were tasked with conversion and relationship management. The customer journey to purchase is no long a linear funnel its now a lifecycle.

The consumer is the driver behind much of today’s change; they are time poor, attention poor and ever discerning. They pick and choose when, where and how to engage with your products and services. Brands now need to know, not just where their customers are, but predict where they will be and what they will want, not just now but in the future. So the key to e-commerce success is to support your customer through the selection process, so that they feel informed and empowered before they make a decision is paramount, and you can do this with content. This does require a much tighter alignment and the addition of new support. If you don’t have a digital experience manager yet or work with a digital agency, you need too. This experience can drive consistency across web, brand, and merchandising teams. The customer experience needs to be seamless. But if you can achieve all this then you will win loyalty and advocacy, for this to be a reality you need content that allows them to discover, investigate, learn, interact and engage.

There are many marketing decision makers who think that having a blog and a social media presence, is having a content marketing strategy. It is a start, but a long way from what is needed in today's noisy content marketing landscape. It has been suggested that less than 10% of business have a well-coordinated content strategy, suitable for the contemporary ‘age of the customer’. 

The consumer is dictating the way business needs to make contact through push and pull tactics, making engagement the principle. Engagement is key here, there is no such thing as conversion without engagement.

The use of content as an ecommerce driver does require etailers and brands to think and operate like publishers. Brands need to think about designing their own content, but also syndicating content from other sources their target customer loves. There is also the opportunity for brands to syndicate their content out through their retail channel partners – own the store within the store for their brand.

A brand’s site must be able to forecast the questions and concerns of the consumer, providing access to great content, and create opportunities to make a purchase at any moment in the buyer’s journey. Any one-way route off the site before the sale has been made, may mean the consumer will never return. And today, it’s not only about the sale – it’s about the ongoing consumer experience, building social engagement, and converting the consumer into a brand advocate.

While digital technology has disrupted the old, safe, and comfortable path for the consumer shopping experience, it’s also provided powerful tools to create a great digital commerce experience. By employing the right content strategy at the heart of your digital marketing, brands can deliver a unified content, ecommerce, and social experience to once again regain control of the brand discovery experience. So transform how you communicate with your target audience, by generating effective content of integrity in the age of the customer and gain a significant competitive advantage.

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