Content marketing is a remedy to “advertising deafness.” Sellers use it to form loyal audiences, in addition to engaging customers to interact and arrange deals and to be seem by the search engine crawlers that can determine your long term traffic numbers. How does it work in practice?
Why Content Marketing is More Effective Than Advertising
Your customers have had enough of advertising. They have learned to overlook banners. Even more, they subconsciously avoid content blocks that could look like an advertisement. This fact was observed in the study from the Nielsen Norman Group in which the scientists were using eye-tracking.
Your customers also dislike native ads. They notice the attempts to sell goods masked as a neutral description. They want to make buying decisions themselves and do not want to be subjects to aggressive marketing techniques. What does this mean for the owners of online shops?
You have to care about the needs of your clients. They want to get useful information that helps to consciously purchase goods or services and don't need an ad to decide what to buy.
According to research of the Pardot marketing platform, the more expensive the product, the more information the customer needs for the decision on the deal.
Marketing experts from the company CEB have found that people consciously pay attention to ads only after they have made up their mind about the product or service. They investigate commercial ads in order to select the best price and terms of the deal. If you engage your audience only with advertising be prepared to compete on price. In other words, you have to become the low price leader and sell products much cheaper than your competitors.
Are you okay with that? Then you’re going to have to acquire your customers at the stage of choosing a product or a service. If you want to charge a higher price with the margin you need to keep running your business offer some useful information that will lead your visitors to your website and turn many of them into customers. Below are some practical recommendations below on how to promote an online shop with content marketing.
1. Let the buyer decide
People want to choose products by themselves. Because of this they study information and reviews before buying more or less expensive product. The seller must meet two requirements in order to make use of this.
First of all, it is necessary to create conditions in which any choice your customer makes benefits the shop. So the seller must provide the options on the store – whether that is price points, size, color, make sure the buyer doesn’t have to search elsewhere. Hopefully it is not going to be a problem: most merchants don’t care what smartphone the client buys: Samsung or LG.
Secondly, the seller has to provide access to valuable information for their audience. With its help, the seller can teach the clients to choose the right products. Let’s see how vendors solve this problem.
Overstock.com teaches customers to choose
Overstock.com is an intermediary that helps customers to choose the right product and find the best price. The platform charges a fee on every transaction which allows them to publish truly objective recommendations.
Reading the blog of Overstock, customers can choose almost any product: from winter tires and toilet bowls to Christmas decorations and clothes in the style of some of their favorite actors and actresses.
Overstock.com also has a wide variety of products and a ton of options to search for similar products so that once a customer has started looking on their site they are very likely to find something matching their needs.
Content marketing worked even before the internet
Roger Parker is a living legend in content marketing and one of the most popular business bloggers in the English-speaking Internet. He started his career when no one knew about the Internet.
The young marketing specialist got a job in the Magnolia Hi-Fi company selling audio and video equipment, TVs, and related products. He quickly learned that traditional advertising was ineffective. The company could not compete with large retailers who would simply lower the price. Then Roger Parker played the right card –content marketing.
The team at Magnolia Hi-Fi created a series of educational guides that taught users to choose the best audio system and other equipment. Parker was distributing those black-and-white guides as free inserts in the newspaper. By the way, he noticed that after reading, the subscribers threw away the newspaper itself, but kept that simple manual.
The guides of Magnolia Hi-Fi are classic educational content. Here are some topics of the publications in those inserts:
- What to look for when choosing a radio
- How to install a stereo system
- How to improve the quality of sound reproduction
Within 18 months of applying its content strategy, Magnolia Hi-Fi, a tiny store in an average neighborhood of Seattle, had turned into a small chain operating in the main cities of Washington, Oregon and California. In the early 21st century the owner sold the Magnolia Hi-Fi stores for $87 million.
Today, most of sellers have a better starting point than Roger Parker and Magnolia Hi-Fi had in the 1970s. Shop owners don't need to pay for printing services and negotiate with publications about the distribution of the inserts. All they have to do is to publish valuable content on their blog.
2. Engage customers with objective reviews
Product reviews are among the most effective tools of content marketing. Sellers need to remember that this type of content works only when respecting the principle of objectivity. In other words, the owners of online shops need to offer their customers unbiased views on products by experts or real users, not ads focused only on the advantages of a product.
Don't confuse product reviews with product profiles. Usually profiles are only focused on the positive sides of the product.
Guitar reviews by the Skifmusic Shop expert
Marketing specialists of the Skifmusic music store found a simple and genius move. They asked the eccentric guitar virtuoso Sergey Tabachnikov to record video reviews of their instruments. His charisma makes many of those videos viral. But that's not all.
Tabachnikov behaves like an unbiased expert and doesn’t look like a commercial actor. He openly talks about the design flaw fixed with mounting tape. Most likely not every professional musician could hear the sound distortions found by Sergei.
Consumer product reviews
However, people would rather trust reviews and responses of other consumers, not professionals. This fact has been confirmed by various studies. For example, according to eMarketer, before purchasing something, Internet users look at other customers’ reviews and recommendations 12 times more than the product descriptions from the seller or the manufacturer. iPerceptions researchers found that publishing trusted users’ reviews increased conversion by 63%.
Here are some examples of the implementation of user reviews on the sellers’ sites:
- E-book buyers can leave their reviews on the website of the online bookshop Litres. The first three reviewers get bonus points that can be spent on an item.
- Amazon.com uses a system of customer ratings and reviews. Because of this, every visitor can check if the product matches its description provided by the manufacturer.
Keep in mind that you don't need to be afraid of negative information about your products – you help people make the right choice and your customers have to be aware of the advantages and the flaws of the goods.
3. Learn to speak simply about complex features
Often, the buyer must have a certain amount of special knowledge in order to be able to estimate some consuming properties. For instance, not every user can judge if they need to buy a PC with a dual core processor with a clock speed of 2400 MHz. This is a content marketing specialist’s job: to explain complicated and boring stuff clearly and interestingly.
Clear explanations generate traffic
Do you know much about house construction, for examples? Content can teach non-experts to choose proper construction materials and related products. Applying the content marketing strategy resulted in an almost exponential growth in search traffic.
The secret of success is in simply explaining the principles of choice and the methods of working with professional materials for an ordinary buyer.
Thanks to clarity, everyone can be a repair master
The Lowe's store chain (selling goods for renovation) uses content marketing to explain to potential clients how to work with tools, put up wallpaper, and hang shelves. Even if you've never held a hammer, the Lowe's video channel will make you a jack of all trades.
What kind of glue should you use? What hammer do you need at home? How to connect two wires? How to drill a hole in ceramic tile? The Lowe's videos answer these and many other questions.
4. Offer different types of content
Content marketing is not limited to text and YouTube videos. Here are some examples of different kinds of content marketing online shops use.
Lowe's offers more than just in-depth videos
The shop manages to give helpful advice in six second Vine videos. By the way, aren't you tired of unraveling the garlands on the Christmas tree every year? See how to get rid of this problem.
Likes and reposts convert to sales
The Louboutin fashion brand marketers know a lot about content marketing. They post photos and videos about their products in Instagram. Why does this simple tactic work? According to the marketing agency Annalect, almost two-thirds of likes on social networks like Instagram and Pinterest are associated with the user's desire to purchase the item shown in the photo. Agency experts found that every fifth person who made the repost of the product photo subsequently buys it.
Gift selections for holidays
Offering a wish list to your visitors is a great idea. Not sure what to get the wife for Valentine's Day? Need some Christmas gift ideas for the husband? A wish list will give you additional purchases and increase visitor activity. See how major online retailers use it:
- Amazon has created a benchmark wish list. You can find out what your family member or friend wants from Amazon. Just enter their name or email address in the search field.
- Many e-commerce solutions like Ecwid.com have built in wish list functionality and also have the ability to “Ask Friends” via Facebook or other social media platforms.
Are you asking yourself what do wish lists have to do with content marketing? Consider the “I want” button as a tool that lets your visitors generate and supervise content.
When planning your online shop content strategy, think about the interests of your current and potential customers. Teach them; share exclusive information about your products and ways of using them. Do not manipulate the audience by masking ads as useful content.
Remember that you should help your client to choose and use the product. Writing good content consistently is hard work, but in the long term you will have a solid base of information that is good for your customers and good for Google to find you amongst your competitors.
Can you think of other stores that do this well? Let us know in the comments!