With less than 50 days remaining in 2012's online shopping season, Internet retailers will need to dig deep into their virtual bag of tricks to make a positive impact on sales. While you could increase your advertising budget, accelerate your email sends, and ramp up your social media participation, another way is to start blogging. I know what you're thinking - isn't it a little late to start blogging now? No way, in fact, now may be the perfect time to put that keyboard to use in creative retail ways.
The reason? Well, you'll have something to advertise, you'll have something relevant to include in those emails you're about to send (anyway) and you'll have something to share on the social networks (more on that in part two). But what do you actually blog about and when? That, fortunatel,y is our focus in Website Magazine's two-part Guide to Blogging for Ecommerce.
First, Segment/Expand your Niche
Most retailers we encounter either don't really think about their buyer at all, or think of them in a very "restrictive" fashion. For example, you don't just sell roller skates. Rather, you sell equipment for sports enthusiasts, you sell modes of transportation for the environmentally conscious and you sell toys for kids.
OK, you sell roller skates, but the point is that merchants often think of their product as serving only one need or purpose, when in reality, it can serve many (and many at once) - particularly when it comes to blogging. By segmenting and expanding the definition of the product's potential audience, you'll not only find new opportunities to sell a product, but also reach out to a far larger audience in the process with content - an audience that in the next few weeks is going to be looking for some creative gifts to give.
It might seem silly at the time, but you'll be amazed at all of the possibilities to promote a product that emerge when you brainstorm. To brainstorm effectively, you must first know the two rules of the process - all ideas get written down (good or bad) and no discussion takes place. Once you have a starter list, a discussion will be imminent. But spend that time choosing those suggestions you are confident will produce results or are worth exploring more fully in the future.
Second, Prioritize Ideas Based on Value
There will be instances, once the initial research is concluded, of course, that you'll need and want to know just which of those ideas have legs enough to warrant putting the digital ink to virtual paper at your ecommerce weblog (you can't do all the ideas, but you do want to create those which will resonate most and drive the most attention/conversions). There are a few ways to do this - and one way not to do it.
Your instincts are important to lots of things - like survival - but never (or rarely) are they accurate when it comes to understanding the mysteries of human behavior (past, present or future). That's the beauty of the Web. You can understand without question the degree of the Web's interest in the brainstormed ideas you came up with, the products you are selling and the degree of interest in them (as a category), and finally, how your content ideas and your available products can be used in a content marketing campaign together. Only by accumulating and combining this information can you make this (or any) research matter.
This may seem elementary to most, but you would be surprised to learn just how few merchants actually do the research about their audience, their previous year's sales winners, and the content marketing that is being employed by their competitors, that is required in today's competitive Web retail landscape. But why not start with proven winners? Using numerous sources of available data isn't cheating - it's just good blogging (er, business). There are some terrific ways to do this and you are likely familiar with them (if not all, then at least some). First, fire up the keyword research machine and determine if there is any related search volume. If there is not, there is little incentive to keep the brainstormed idea or to invest resources in marketing content that will inevitably generate little in the way of sales. If there is a respectable level of search volume, prioritize the idea (and all ideas) based on how much attention might be generated (e.g. number of local queries per month).
There will be content ideas that receive lots in the way of search volume but may not be a great fit for your weblog and content marketing efforts. That's OK though, because with a little organizational muscle we can start taking these creative ideas to the bank.
Third, Work Smart not Just Hard
There's no replacement for creativity (and lots of it), and no replacement for taking the time to understand what is going to resonate most with your audience and lead to the most sales. Once you know what ideas (and products) will be promoted and which are most important to the blogging campaigns' success, you can finally start executing - but not without a plan. Before you start clicking that keyboard to create the next epic blog post about those roller skates of yours, it's necessary to execute - but not the post itself. The next phase/step is to craft an editorial plan for your ecommerce blog. Lame? Not really. You have a very limited amount of time (and likely limited resources to make it happen), which is why prioritizing content ideas is so crucial.
Working "smart" in your ecommerce blogging campaign starts with developing an editorial calendar. Say for example that you have 50 days remaining in the holiday shopping season (as we do). Your editorial calendar would contain a few of your "heavy-hitting" content ideas in the first few weeks (to make sure that enough product will be in the inventory), and trailing off to include items/products that are cheaper and faster to ship for those last-minute shoppers.
There are literally dozens of ways to create an editorial calendar but working smart by at least considering how interest levels, available products and remaining time play into your strategy, is truly working smarter than harder.
There's More to Come
Keep in mind that expanding your niche, prioritizing content ideas for your blogging campaign and developing blogging calendars for your editorial team, will serve your business well, but executing the campaign is where a lot of the work comes into play. Website Magazine will publish part two of this article in an upcoming edition of Ecommerce Express. It will focus on actually creating blog posts for Internet retailers and promotional methods for merchant content marketing through blogging.
Digital marketing executive with proven experience in all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), performance-based advertising, consumer-generated/social media, email marketing, lead generation, Web design, usability, and analytics. - 20-year Internet marketing veteran, currently serving as the Digital Marketing Campaign Manager at Antenna Group (formerly Chicago Digital). - Former Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine, and a regular speaker on Web technology digital marketing strategy - Author of several books on digital marketing Including Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success; Affiliate 360: The Fundamentals of Performance Marketing; Domains 360: The Fundamentals of Buying & Selling Domain Names, and SEO 360: The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.