Online shopping has grown by almost 50% in the last five years, and in 2019, more than 1.9 billion people worldwide will turn to the web to make purchases. By 2021, that number is expected to climb to 2.14 billion. With a growing number of potential customers, it’s not surprising that competition in the eCommerce market continues to heat up.
And that’s why online retailers must continue to drive traffic with the right content marketing for ecommerce.
Defining the eCommerce Content Marketing Mix
Most eCommerce sites need a good mix of content to increase awareness of products and help interested customers make choices throughout the sales funnel.
Here are some of the most common types of eCommerce content that can help your products or services show up in search engines and persuade consumers to take the next step in the buying journey.
Product descriptions or product pages
A product descriptions market a single item or service. Often between 50 and 300 words (with longer formats reserved for specialty or complex goods and for brands who opt to focus on storytelling), product descriptions educate consumers about the item and encourage readers to visualize themselves using the product or service.
This is accomplished through feature/benefit writing that answers the questions: what is this, what does it do and why does the user need it? You should have a product description or page for every product or service you offer.
Product descriptions tend to be bottom of funnel content, so you can focus on converting already interested visitors and ranking for very transactionally focused search terms with your SEO.
Category pages or descriptions
Category pages are ideal for creating content that boosts your performance in the search engines while providing useful information to the reader. Category descriptions provide some overall information about the types of items in a category, such as why they’re necessary, how to choose one or what types of subsections consumers might find.
For example, a category about women’s purses might explain different types of bags, what to look for in a bag, what materials are used, etc. Here’s a category page for women’s purses from Simon’s that helps shoppers narrow down their purchase decision:
Aim to have a category page for at least your highest level categories. Make sure they link off to related products, and you’ll be on your way to moving customers along their buying journey.
Category pages tend to serve customers who are mid-funnel, knowing they’re interested in a certain type of product, but not sure which ones just yet. Your category pages can be a great tool to help consumers find suitable products and can also help you rank for keywords that show an intent of learning more about a certain category of products.
Etailers that carry products from other companies can capture brand-specific SEO traffic and help customers early in their buying journey learn more about specific brand options by adding brand pages.
These are similar to category pages in that the content discusses the specific brand and what types of products it offers or is known for. You might consider adding such a page for every brand you carry or limiting it to special partnerships, highest performers or brands for which you carry many items.
For example, Best Buy has a brand page for Samsung TVs:
This page ranks for search terms related to Samsung televisions, and it also helps shoppers learn more about what their brand options are.
These are typically long-form article or blog pieces targeted to the early parts of the buying journey. While you can mention your goods and services, buying guides are usually meant to be educational pieces that help the consumer decide what type of product they need and how to purchase it. For example, a buying guide for a student laptop computer might cover topics such as how much RAM is preferred, how to choose the best screen type and what peripherals a student most commonly uses.
Let’s look at Best Buy again for a good example. Here’s their buying guide for purchasing laptops:
This page is full of great info that will help shoppers learn about what to look for in a laptop, which will then help them start reviewing your specific products. It also links off to different categories of laptops to help shoppers move along their buyer’s journey even easier.
You might consider publishing buying guides on some of your top-selling products types or aligning them with seasonal sales growth (such as holiday or back-to-school buying guides).
Buying guides are typically long-form content. This gives you a good opportunity to create “complete content,” which will rank well and best serve your visitors.
An on-site blog is a powerful way to expand your content marketing strategy outside of the more marketing-heavy content types above. Blog posts let you educate and entertain your audience, create content that encourages links and shares and engage in building a brand that’s bigger (and longer lasting) than any single product you might sell.
Test how various blog formats and publishing schedules perform with your target audience to drive performance for this type of eCommerce marketing. You may find your audience enjoys seeing blog posts twice a week or that guest posts perform the best.
Blog posts are another great tool to reach those top-of-funnel shoppers. They may not even know they’re interested in a type of product yet, but your blog posts could capture their attention and start them on their buyer’s journey.
Often included on an eCommerce company’s blog, product reviews are a great way to spotlight specific products you’d like to move, new technologies and newsworthy items (think new video game releases). They also let you establish your company’s authority in a certain niche by exploring in depth the pros and cons of a product.
Not to beat a dead horse, but let’s look to Best Buy for another example. Here’s their review of Final Fantasy X for Nintendo Switch:
They review a lot of video games on Best Buy’s blog. This lets them build authority as a go-to source for video game news and sales, a following of people who will check out new reviews, organic search rankings and even traffic from social sharing.
The up-side here is that if people are interested in a product enough to read the review, there’s a good chance they’re going to click on a link to buy the product in your review.
Reviews are great for buyers near the end of the buying journey as they’re a great source of product information and may nudge them to checkout. That said, a well placed review might capture a buyer early in their journey and get them interested in the product.
Going Beyond Basics: Digital Marketing Tips from the Experts
Stepping outside of the basic eCommerce business content types above helps you increase your brand authority, capture consumers at different stages of the sales funnel and drive more traffic and conversions. Check out the advice below from three experts on how to go beyond basics with content marketing for eCommerce.
1. Customize content formats for each stage of the buyer journey
Product descriptions and blog posts are proven methods for driving eCommerce sales, but companies must remember that the digital marketing landscape is evolving rapidly. Today, individuals are shopping online via desktop, mobile and even voice-search devices, and they’re likely to use different tools for each stage of the buying journey. Your content marketing has to play the same game.
“The best success we’ve had in driving potential or in marketing customers down the funnel toward eCommerce conversion is to build content themes against our content pillars, leveraging formats for each stage.” says Robb Hecht, an adjunct professor of marketing with Baruch College. “For example, for mobile audiences who need to be made aware of your company (top of the funnel) we target them with large imagery-focused creative with either disruption or value-focused messaging.”
Hecht also provides examples for other parts of the marketing funnel. “For middle of the funnel, where eCommerce consumers are in a consideration stage, we try to obtain their opt-in email messages by leveraging social platform lead gen units and communicating informative messages, educating them about the product. Finally, for bottom of the funnel customers who just need a push, we develop content with offers, coupons and discounts, which drive them to a conversion landing page or physical store.”
2. Don’t just sell: Educate and build brand culture
You’ve probably heard the 80/20 rule of social media marketing: only 20% of your posts should be specifically about selling you and your products. The other 80% should be about building brand culture, educating your target audience and even sharing content from others in the industry. This concept can be applied to other content formats, too. By integrating more organically into the community you’re trying to build, you’ll create lasting relationships that support more sales over the long-term. And you’ll find that all that relationship building can segue easily into sales funnels if you’re authentic and transparent.
Taylor Gilliam, the Director of Social Media at ReadyCloud.com, says, “We’ve used content marketing to great impact for our company. By using education-based content, we have greater appeal to our client base and to industry leaders who influence prospective clients. It has been the most effective way to develop credit and establish our brand as an authoritative resource.”
“Content marketing has also helped us build a cohesive brand imagine that extends into infographics, videos and social media outreach,” says Gilliam. “Currently, branded content drives at least 200k unique web visits per year, and it serves as a gateway to our sales funnel. It has helped us improve our reach massively, especially when combined with retargeting and native ads.”
3. Write a lead magnet book
Vince Massara from We Make Lead Magnets takes the educate and inform premise even further, tying it into lead generation.
“We have seen great success with eCommerce owners using some new content marketing strategies,” says Massara. “Many are using a book, which would typically be a trip-wire lead magnet in eCommerce, as the core of their content marketing. By writing the right book to the right audience, you can put a few advertising dollars behind it to quickly grow a list of interested leads. From there, you create your content with an audience in mind, rather than starting out at zero and waiting months or years for the content to start to pay you back.”
Successful Content Marketing for eCommerce Isn’t Formulaic
Always remember that successful digital marketing doesn’t adhere 100% to a single formula. There’s simply too much going on online for a one-size-fits-all approach to work for anyone; take a look at WordStream’s eCommerce statistics to get an idea of how many approaches you can take to online marketing and why they’re all important for different types of brands.
The key is to figure out what works (and is important) to your brand.
A successful content marketing mix is one that performs for you, so start with the basics and expert tips above to build out your content. Then, test, tweak and test again. Because if there is one truth for all eCommerce businesses it’s that the online marketing job is never finished.