CONTENT MARKETING: 2018 Trends for Online Retail

Natalie Henley
by Natalie Henley 02 Jan, 2018
Even as marketers receive approval to proceed with a content strategy and businesses hire dedicated content marketers, they may already be behind.

Eighty-six percent of business-to-consumer (B2C) brands, in fact, already employ a content marketing strategy, according to a 2018 Content Marketing Institute (CMI) report, and 42 percent claim their organizations are "very" committed to the practice with 38 percent using a documented strategy.

Content marketing usage numbers look even better on the business-to-business side; according to CMI's 2018 report, as 91 percent of respondents use content marketing. Let this be retail marketers' warning: by the end of this year, merchants without clear content strategies will get lost and those not up to date on content trends will get buried under the massive amounts of gift guides, infographics, and videos being produced and published today.

Let's back up and remind retail marketers, specifically, what it is they are really after when they develop and distribute "content."

Importance in Ecommerce
The average conversion rate of a website with a content marketing strategy in place is 2.9 percent according to Kapost. In comparison, businesses that forego a content strategy average a conversion rate of just 0.5 percent. Regardless of industry, that is a significant (negative) difference.

Since most ecommerce companies have already invested in the products they provide, the social media they publish and the optimization they conduct to appear on the search engines or other discovery engines, the step toward a content marketing strategy is that much easier because all of these existing efforts can align.

It is hard to deny the importance of content in the ecommerce realm, but how can marketers take advantage of the trend?

Amazon Optimization
Eighty-five percent of respondents surveyed by Kenshoo in 2017 indicated they are most likely to use Google to help find product ideas and information before making a purchase and 72 percent indicated using Amazon (they could select more than one option), followed by eBay (38 percent). As marketers, this data reveals that Amazon, in its own right, is a major ecommerce search and discovery engine and should not be ignored.

Marketers can take advantage of the Amazon search trend by creating a strategy that includes linking to their Amazon product pages within YouTube demo videos, blog posts or other content marketing pieces. Doing so will help to increase exposure in this vital and dominant digital marketplace and help showcase their company as a product expert for potential clients.

The Mobile Play
Today, a shopper's mobile experience takes place everywhere, including in brick-and-mortar store locations. Impulse purchases are transitioning to "informed buys" as 82 percent of shoppers consult their phones before they purchase something in a store according to Adage. To top it off, nearly one in four shoppers changed their minds about a purchase while in a checkout line after researching a product on their phone.

The takeaway? Marketers should develop content that is easy to consume on a mobile device, featuring sub headings, bite-sized pieces of content and interactive elements native to smartphones like swiping.

Power to Peer Reviews
More and more, shoppers are looking to their peers, not brands, to inform their shopping decisions. For instance, 71 percent of consumers today are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference rather than a traditional advertisement according to HubSpot.

Fashion and beauty ecommerce sites exemplify just how dramatically influencers can affect sales. Research shows that 57 percent of beauty and fashion companies use influencers as part of their marketing strategies because influencers make up 86 percent of the most-viewed beauty videos on YouTube (source: Ion). In other words, of the most-viewed beauty videos, only 14 percent were created by actual beauty brands.

Customers place a high value on the reviews and information provided by influencers. Ecommerce companies should create supporting content that their influencers can use when talking about the brand. This should be creative content that influencers can link to, share and reference. The most successful companies take the focus off of direct selling and instead work on educating and entertaining their audience.

Be a Cause
It's not enough to have a great product at a competitive price. Businesses need to stand for something, too. When choosing between two products of equal quality and price, Edelman has reported that social good is an influential factor for shoppers around the world.

Consumers, especially millennials, are willing to pay more for products that resonate emotionally. A great way to develop these emotional ties to a brand is with a story via content marketing. Consider millennial favorite TOMS, "With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need." The resulting emotional connection that will be forged with customers is invaluable.

Fast Forward on Video

With video consumption on the rise and the barriers to video production dropping, video marketing is becoming an increasingly attractive option for all industries. Marketers who use video have been shown to increase revenue 49 percent faster than those who choose not to utilize video strategies according to WordStream - and retain more information too.

Ecommerce companies hesitate to make videos because of potential cost concerns, but there is no need to be anxious when it comes to video production. Ecommerce brand BlendTec spent $50 on a video demo of their product that now has over 7 million views. The video was not flashy or over-produced, but it still generated awareness and engagement on a massive scale.

A New Year, a New Approach
If marketers did not plan for more strategic content management last year, it is time to catch up. Use a combination of some or all of these strategies in order to attain tangible results, so get creative and start expanding content marketing efforts to be visible and viable in the new year.

About the Author
Natalie Henley is the CEO of Volume Nine, which provides digital marketing services that increase organic traffic for their B2C and B2B clients.

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