Digital disruption, content marketing and social media in particular are having a profound and growing impact on what we read, when we read it and what is referred to as the ‘customer journey’. Whereas once upon a time a consumer would read an article or see an advertisement in a magazine or on TV, now those traditional channels are jostling for attention with disclosed and undisclosed commercial messages across multiple devices and channels.

 More interestingly, we are seeing a shortening of that customer journey and a growing impatience from the consumer. Traditionally there was always a clear separation of desire creation (media) and desire fulfilment (retail) but that separation is being challenged by online and offline retailers creating their own content. Retailers such as Net-a-Porter and David Jones create their own magazines, Porter and Jones respectively. Online, we and many other retailers are investing in content and storytelling to engage, educate and entertain readers (and also to sell product!).

Customers now expect to be able to fulfil their desires immediately, so it makes sense to close the loop and have content and retail linked together. Many brands and retailers are investing in developing the capability to create digital content in-house, and the quality of that content in some cases outstrips that of traditional consumer media.

What kind of content do online customers respond to? We see two main types working well:

Top-of-funnel content needs to be built to attract consumers who aren’t necessarily planning a purchase. Think of this like a honeypot: it needs to draw people in. Clickbait titles like “This Liquid Lipstick Literally Looks Good On Everyone” will entice new users to visit – though it’s also important that the content is immediately engaging once they arrive, otherwise expect a high “bounce rate” (users who immediately leave without clicking on anything else).

Content in the purchase path is created to help customers make their final purchase decision. For example: “Which cleanser is right for my skin?” or “Selecting your Dermalogica skincare routine” assist customers in product selection and offer the opportunity to upsell. Purchase path content can also come in the form of diagnostic tools, such as digital skincare selectors. These tools also present an opportunity for the retailer to collect customer data, which can be used for additional personalisation to improve the customer’s experience and thereby lift sales. Once content is created, it then needs to be pushed out to readers. We’ve had great success replacing traditional email advertising with blog-style content; Facebook and other social channels can also work well with this approach.

The key to successful content marketing for both brands and retailers is authenticity. It’s long been known that editorial is more influential than advertising, and this principle extends to content marketing too. If you want your content to convert to sales, it’s best that it doesn’t read like a media release or sales pitch; instead, best results come from content that genuinely attempts to inform and help the reader.  

By Kate Morris, founder

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