11 Pros Spill Their Guts About Ecommerce Content Marketing

ecommerce content marketingSpray and pray. Reaching in the dark. Shooting blanks.

These might be the first phrases that come time mind when you think about content marketing.

But why? Is it because your goals aren’t defined? You don’t know your customer? Or you just don’t have the patience?

You know publishing great content is important, but how do you turn that content into sales? Well, hold on there, Tex. You might be missing a couple steps.

In a recent slideshare titled Why Content Marketing Fails, Rand Fishkin of Moz, described the #1 myth in content marketing which is that a lot of people, myself included at times, think that producing great content will instantly yield sales, opt-ins and subscribers.

This is not that case.

A great content marketing campaign takes time, dedication and perseverance, but it will have the most amazing and serendipitous long-lasting effects if done correctly.

With this post, I want you to hear advice from real online marketers who have worked in the ecommerce space. Each one of them offers up invaluable insight that will help you achieve your goals for your own online shop.

Although each tidbit is slightly different, there is a general theme running through all of this – create something that solves problems, build value and be patient.

The Pros

Joanna Wiebe | copyhackers.com I teach startups how to convert like mofos using li’l ol’ words, old-skool copywriting and new-skool smartz.

What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

I’d suggest that they start by guest posting – not by writing their own blog. Put your best free content on the blogs your prospects are already reading. Don’t try to beat those influential blogs; partner with them. They’re looking for epic content, and you’re looking for prospects; so be uber-businessy about it and ‘synergize’. ;)

Everyone thinks they should start building up their own blog right out of the gate, but you have to think about your business goal: what do you want to get out of publishing content online?

Usually the goals of ecommerce owners who are considering publishing content online are to:

  • build authority on a subject and
  • sell their shizzle.

But the main reasons to write your own blog are to

  • get ranked with long-tail keyword posts and
  • build your list so you can sell to that list via email.

Unless you’re focused on organic search and selling via email, guest blog in the early years. Get great backlinks from powerful blogs, and borrow an influencer’s authority to build up your own authority.

Guest blog posting is starting to sound hard to do – but it’s only hard if your guest blog posts are crap. Make them incredible. Make them so good that people would pay for them.

If you sell t-shirts, don’t pitch a guest post on “3 t-shirt trends” to a fashion blog; instead, email-interview 9 past contestants of Project Runway, ask them about the future of t-shirts in fashion, and weave together an incredibly informative post that any t-shirt or fashion enthusiast would love and share. Pitch that to an influential blog and see how quickly they take you up on it.

That’s how you’ll get big bloggers to happily await emails from you. That’s how you’ll get other bloggers to reach out to you for more great content that they can post and share. That’s how you’ll get your name out there. And that’s how you’ll get readers to become your fans, follow you online, talk about you, await your next post, buy your stuff, refer their friends to you, turn your blog post into amazing infographics, and quote you — all of which gives you better backlinks, better authority, and better opportunities.

What is one ecommerce shop you think is killing it with content marketing?

Oh my gosh, TOMS. TOMS does everything right, and their content marketing is no exception. Last I checked, they had 2M likes on Facebook – which is pretty incredible for a shoe company. I think that one of the key reasons they’re able to produce such great, share-worthy content is because their passion is baked into their company, their product, their culture, their employees, and their customers. They care so much, it shines through in everything they do. This is why we should all do what we care about! Because when you care, it shows – and when you don’t, it shows.

Mark Macdonald | Shopify Growth Team & Content Manager at Shopify. Tweeting about ecommerce and content marketing.

What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

Create content that sells the lifestyle around your products, not just the products themselves.

For example, if you sell outdoor gear, that could mean a guide on survival tips, camping equipment video tutorials or a podcast featuring outdoor / survival experts. In other words, content that is closely related to what you sell, but that has independent value and educates people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.

What is one ecommerce shop you think is killing it with content marketing?

I love what Luxy Hair is doing with their tutorial-style approach to video content. They sell hair extensions for women and create really high-quality hair and make-up video tutorials on Youtube. Their channel has 1.7 million subscribers and over 200 million total views.  They are the perfect example of someone who is giving something away for free and selling something related. And that’s what content marketing is all about :)

Andy Crestodina | Orbit Media Web strategist and co-founder of Orbit Media (@orbiteers). Speaker, content marketer, environmentalist and author of Content Chemistry.
What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

First, think about the broad set of topics that may be helpful (or entertaining) to your potential shoppers. Don’t be salesy. Just share stuff that relates to them.

If you can publish original content (and share interesting things created by others) you can attract a bit of attention and gradually build some relevance. Once you’re getting that attention, you’re hoping to squeeze the social, search and email benefits from it, making all of your marketing gradually more effective.

  • If people re-share the fun stuff in your social stream, you’ll gradually do better in social media. 
  • If bloggers like what you publish and link to you, you’ll gradually do better in search rankings. 
  • If visitors really found your content useful and entertaining, they may subscribe to your newsletter and you’ll gradually do better in email marketing.

Benefits are incremental, but they all drive traffic and support each other.

What is one ecommerce shop you think is killing it with content marketing?

Tom’s Shoes does a good job with storytelling in a way that supports the mission and the merchandising. Everything you read on their site aligns with the “why” they are in business. They publish content in various formats (images, text and even Spotify audio playlists) and the tone is personal. Smart content integrates seamlessly with the business model.

Rebecca Lieb | rebeccalieb.com Rebecca is the Altimeter Group Analyst and writes about the state of the contnet marketing industry. She recently published a report for Altimeter on content marketing software solutions.

What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

Most sell around a vertical. If you’re REI, it’s outdoor and sporting gear. Petco is about pets. What content will help solve your customers’ problems, answer their questions, inspire them to try new things, tell stories around their interests? Start reading consumer magazines in your sector, whether it’s gourmet food or menswear or biking. Experiment, learn what resonates, and develop a content strategy from there.

Daniel Burstein | Marketing Sherpa Director of Editorial Content at MECLABS (MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments & B2B Lead Roundtable publishing brands).


What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

Every customer wants only 2 things from your content. When you step back from the medium and focus on the message, it actually gets quite simple. Every customer really only wants two things from your content:

  • Help overcoming something negative
  • Help achieving something positive

And, really, that’s what all products do as well. The only thing you’re doing with content marketing is determining where to put the paywall, so to speak. With information products, it can get complicated. With physical products, it becomes a little easier.

What is one ecommerce shop you think is killing it with content marketing?

Here’s a good case study that shows how Calendars.com went beyond just sending promo emails to adding content to the mix. That can be the real paradigm shift that is necessary for many e-commerce companies just starting out with content marketing… how to move beyond promotions.

Ryan Deiss | Digital Marketer Husband to Emily. Father to Jonathan, Joyce, Ruth and Timothy. I also talk about online marketing stuff at digitalmarketer.com.

What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

The web doesn’t need another Walmart or even Amazon for that matter. If you can’t offer a true buying EXPERIENCE then you will ultimately lose.

So what does offering an experience look like? It’s simple: Look at offline retailers like Bass Pro Shop, and compare that buying experience with Walmart. Look at gift shops at theme parks (i.e. Disney) and even museums. Experience is never divorced from commerce, so as long as your ecommerce site feels more like a gift shop and less like Walmart…you’re on the right track.

What is one ecommerce shop you think is killing it with content marketing?

LiveWell360.com is media-centric despite the fact that the primary monetization on the site comes from the sale of gym bags. I also think we do a pretty good job at SurvivalLife.com. While it doesn’t look like a traditional ecommerce “store,” we sell a lot of physical products to our subscribers by following the exact strategy I laid out in my answer above.

DJ Francis | djfrancis.com Content strategy, social media and online marketing – that’s me. I work at Imagination Publishing, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

I would urge them to consider the user journey as they structure their content and site experience. In my experience with clients, we are usually called on to accommodate many different buying stages.

For instance, if someone knows what they want, don’t let content clutter up their path to conversion. However, if someone isn’t sure what they want, needs inspiration or needs product comparison, content is perfect to do these things and should be served up in key parts of the experience.

What is one ecommerce shop you think is killing it with content marketing?

I don’t claim to be an ecommerce expert per se and there are a lot of blog posts about who is doing it well.

Hubspot is one of my favorites, though not really an ecommerce site exactly.

I’ll give you a non-traditional example. Things from Another World is a comic book shop in Portland. So, small market, niche audience, difficult business sector – a lot of things stacked against them. But they do a fabulous job of marketing and staying top of mind. Their emails are great – succinct and targeted. They do a great job of pulling together collections of comics by providing context, thus (I’m guessing) increasing basket size (example: Guardians of the Galaxy in preparation for this summer’s movie event – they tie in books, statues, etc. plus offer more books based on previous iterations of the team, all with a small piece of content up top to explain).

As if the email wasn’t enough to keep me engaged, their Deal of the Day features pretty steep discounts with pithy, fun writing (usually) making it a daily “over coffee” designation. These are all pieces of content working in concert to produce a consistent and pleasing experience while still selling product. There’s a reason that they’ve found success in such a difficult market.

Carmella Lanni | The Vegan Ecommerce Girl The Vegan E-Commerce Girl – I’m a blogger, a baker and an e-commerce wave maker. Cruelty-free, compassionate, creative curating of e-commerce tips & tricks.

What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

Get to know your shoppers through data, social listening and engagement via real conversations. The data will let you know how well types of content are performing. Social listening will give you an idea of what your customers are looking to see from you. Engagement opens dialog and actually empowers consumers to feel they are a part of your business. All three will help to bring forth brand loyalty, turning shoppers into brand ambassadors!

What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

ModCloth! They’ve nailed it on so many levels! I think what’s been really great at the core is how well they engage with consumers

  • They are big on user-generated content between their product reviews, Be the Stylist, Pinterest boards, etc.
  • High engagement in social media, especially on Facebook and Pinterest
  • Story by Modcloth is their blog that go beyond just the fashion.
  • ModStylists help customers find the right outfit – sharing style inspirations through Pinterest.
  • The Style Book – ModCloth’s new magazine
  • Be the Buyer – Gives shoppers are voice on what new items they’d potentially purchase. Fans can vote on what they “love”

Other shops that are killing it include ASOS, Birchbox and VeganCuts (small niche vegan e-commerce site with subscription box service).

Kieran Taylor | Blucarat CMO @ bllucaratnyc; marketing social commerce, web performance, APM, WCM, CDN, CEM and other TLAs.

What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

According to Google, 88% of online shoppers conduct research prior to purchase to gain affirmation for their decision.   The typical product information supplied is not sufficient and as such, most consumers will leave the site to consult social networks, blogs and user forums for more knowledge. This is especially true for products with endless use cases and variations (make up, sporting gear, apparel, etc.).

Content marketing delivered by the brand must be complemented by content generated by brand or product advocates.  Today this is best exemplified by product reviews which are quite limited in function. Brands that emulate, if not duplicate, the best aspects of social networks like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter not only activate a self-sustaining model of content marketing, but they can become more trusted in the process.

It’s important to call out that content marketing is not just text-based UGC (user-generated content).  Photos and videos that are tied to a brand and its products can communicate as much or more than traditional UGC.

What is one ecommerce shop you think is killing it with content marketing?

If we reduce the scope to socially-generated content marketing I would say it is eBay followed by Amazon.   Late last year both brands invested in a number of social collaboration tools that give shoppers the ability to shop socially.

Products (and collections of products) are the center of vibrant discourse that by itself becomes content marketing.   This UGC is more credible than what the brand could create and by introducing “long-tail” use cases for their products they inspire new paths to purchase that would otherwise have not been considered.

David Meerman Scott | webinknow.com Marketing & Sales Strategist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of 9 books including The New Rules of Marketing & PR and Newsjacking.


What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

Nobody cares about your products. You won’t be successful if you only talk about your company’s products and services. The best content is not about products but rather is a focus on the problems that buyers face.

Mark Schaefer | businessgrow.com Mark Schaefer is a college educator, blogger, speaker and consultant who specializes in corporate social media marketing workshops.


What advice would you give ecommerce shop owners who want to start publishing content?

You need to commit to quality, consistency and actively building your audience over time. Content marketing does not normally work like advertising where you can get a quick bump through a coupon or promotion. It’s about building awareness that leads to engagements and eventually loyalty. It works, but it does take time.

The Take-Aways

Everyone has their own opinions but a lot of what these experts are saying is exactly the approach you should take with your own content marketing. If you do anything to change your marketing plans after reading this make sure you at least do these 3 things:

  • Establish your goals and align your content with them
  • Don’t sell products – solve problems and communicate to people (more importantly, your customers)
  • Be patient. Build content that adds to your site’s authority. Don’t compromise the quality.

Do you have your own ecommerce content marketing advice? What has worked for you? Do you have specific questions for any of these experts? Post in the comments below and let’s get a good discussion going. :)

Thanks for reading.


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About the author: Scott Taft
Scott loves good writing, good coffee and good music. He currently works at SEER Interactive in Philadelphia but in his spare time he loves blogging about content right here on OG Content.
3 Comments
  1. Kevin Duncan July 15, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Scott,

    What an awesome roundup of wisdom you’ve got here. Well done!

    It’s so true… We’ve been sold the “content is king” mantra we mistakenly believe producing great content will lead us to success. It takes a bit more. Great content no one knows about is no different than mediocre content no one knows about!

    Thanks for stopping by Be A Better Blogger last weekend and commenting. It’s always fun when a new reader comments!

    You mentioned my “writer’s block” tips were helping you with a writing project. Do you have a new post being published soon? :-)

    • Scott Taft July 15, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      Kevin,

      Thanks for breaking the ice on this post! Yea I’m working on a post now about user-generated content. Should be up this week. It’s been too long since I published so your post definitely helped me wipe away the cobwebs :)

      Here’s a link for anyone else interested in beating writer’s block: http://beabetterblogger.com/beating-writers-block/

      • Kevin Duncan July 15, 2014 at 9:06 pm

        Hey Scott,

        This is such an awesome post, and I see it’s gotten some love on social media. Maybe everyone else was too intimidated by the post’s greatness to leave a comment? Of course, what does that say about me? :-D

        Awesome. I look forward to reading it.

        Thanks for sharing the link! That’s very cool of you.

        Hope you’re having a great Tuesday…

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