Editorial Meets Commerce

Retailers are increasingly using content marketing to help sell their products

Content Marketing Tips for Retailers

Photo courtesy of Lowes.com

Having attended the National Retail Federation's annual Shop.org Summit earlier this month in Chicago, I can tell you that one of the most buzzed about topics was content marketing, the practice of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage customers and prospects with an end goal of driving profitable action (i.e., purchases).

Leveraging content in an effort to be viewed as a thought leader is no longer the strategy of B-to-B marketers alone. Established B-to-C merchants are devoting valuable space in their catalogs and on their websites to promoting content, not selling their products -- well, at least not directly. In fact, during her keynote presentation at Shop.org, Miki Berardelli, chief marketing officer at fashion apparel and accessories retailer Tory Burch, noted that the brand's e-commerce site is split evenly between content and product pages.

Other retailers that have successfully incorporated content marketing into their overall strategy include Lowe's, whose "Creative Ideas"; microsite offers consumers advice on do-it-yourself projects, home makeover ideas, decorating tips, etc.; Lands' End, which recently launched a quarterly online magazine, Apostrophe, which offers style tips for mixing and matching outfits, behind-the-scenes profiles of company employees, and travel tips for the site of its latest catalog shoot; and REI, which features expert advice videos and articles on outdoor activities such as backpacking, cycling, paddleboarding and more.

The biggest reason why retailers are increasingly adopting content marketing is because it works. Consider the following:

  • Blogs generate 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links (Content+)
  • Content creation ranked as the most effective SEO tactic by 53% of marketers (Marketing Sherpa)
  • Clicks from shared content are five times more likely to result in a purchase (Voltier Digital, 2012)

Tips to Get Your Content Marketing Program Started

With this in mind, here are a handful of tips to implement as you develop your brand's content marketing strategy:

Create a blog.

Identify topics that align with your brand and speak to the needs and/or pain points of your customers. After pinpointing what you want to achieve with your blog, start posting content periodically. Get others (e.g., employees, customers and industry experts) involved in content creation to ease the workload. Add social-sharing buttons to posts so people can easily share the content via Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

Tell stories.

People like to tie ideas to real stories and real people. This type of content is much more likely to go viral than mere information. Add stories and examples into your blog posts to justify what you're saying. People will instantly take you more seriously and are more likely to engage in a relationship. Avoid "sales speak"; it turns customers off.

Make people look good so they'll share your content.

Your goal isn't to reach out and help one person; it's to convince that person to share your content with their friends and family. They'll only share something if they feel like it's going to make them look better.

For example, if you give your reader practical advice that solves a nagging problem, they'll feel compelled to share it with other people because it makes them feel helpful and smart.

Identify the metrics that will enable you to measure success.

Content marketing can't be measured with a single metric. Four areas to focus on include consumption metrics (e.g., number of page views and/or downloads); sharing metrics (e.g., tweets, Likes, LinkedIn shares, repins, etc.); lead-generation metrics, particularly for B-to-B marketers (e.g., lead forms filled out); and sales metrics (conversion rate on site visitors that viewed your content, which is trackable via cookies on your content pages).

With consumers becoming less and less tolerant to traditional marketing tactics that employ a hard sell approach -- think of a local car dealership's TV commercials -- a content marketing strategy that communicates useful and relevant information becomes more valuable by the day.

Joe Keenan is the managing editor of Retail Online Integration and eM+C, two B-to-B trade publications.