Using content to convert in e-commerce

Published on March 21, 2016 by Samuel Schmitt

E-commerce doesn’t work unless it goes side by side with great content.



You may have heard about “content-driven commerce websites”, “e-commerce content marketing” and “the fusion of content and commerce”.

Well, it all comes down to the same thing. If you want to be successful, your e-commerce website has to create appealing experiences and build a story around your products. You have to go far beyond the traditional catalog view and work hard at building brand loyalty to generate more sales.

Your number one task is to engage your consumers. I’m certainly not the only one to think so.


“[Online] Retailers that go beyond selling a product and tell a story to establish a firm brand identity and to build a one-to-one relationship with their customers are more likely to thrive.” - Jack Lowinger, CEO of Cartonomy (appseconnect)


Back in 2014, we built the first integration with Magnolia 5 and an e-commerce system (thank you Greg). One of the first questions we tried to answer was “Why does e-commerce need content?"


In essence we concluded that too many e-commerce sites behave like supermarkets. They create shelves to put your products on display and just leave them there, hoping that customers will pass by and pick them up.


But in the digital age, that doesn’t work. To build customer loyalty, to improve retention rates and turn micro-moments into a sale, what do you need?


You need a great customer experience. You need content. You need great content.


Don’t confuse core content with marketing content

Firstly, let’s get one thing clear. You may have a lot of technical information, but that’s not marketing content.


So what is core e-commerce content?


  • Default descriptions, labels, media assets, assets variations
  • Measures, composition, identifiers
  • Prices, quantities
  • Other logistic data


Core content is vital to e-commerce, but it doesn’t really influence the user's shopping journey. It just provides her with basic information about the product.


So what is e-commerce content marketing?

Today, I want to look at five main categories of content marketing.  

1. Content for Search


If you want to rank high in Google’s organic search listings, you need to add new and relevant content constantly. You have to contrast the static, core e-commerce content with news and articles about your products where you create a story around them.

Find good stories about your product, how they are used by other customers or about the evolution of this product over the year. Look for guest bloggers or influencers to write about your product, and keep up to date on best SEO practices.


2. Social Content


This is the content that comes directly from your social community. It is a great way to showcase what your customers are doing with your products in a fun and engaging way.

Make the most of users’ social streams. It’s essentially free marketing for your product and users trust other user reviews more than the brand, so make the most of it. Show a picture gallery of your instagram on your site rather than your own image gallery.

But don’t forget: as social media channels get more saturated, it’s important to choose the right content for your audience. And don’t think you can get away with using exactly the same content across all channels!


3. Storytelling content


OK, so they tell us that storytelling content has to be educational, helpful, and hopefully even entertaining. After all, it gives your core e-commerce content more strength and emotional pull.

But what is this content exactly?

Let’s start with the basics. Make sure you have a good headline that will entice your customer. Instead of adding a 1000 words description, use high quality images. A picture is worth a thousand words.

The holy grail of storytelling content is the one that combines images, that even move, with sound… Yeah, I’m speaking about video. Videos are really great because they can provide a lot of information and if they are well done, they are likely to be shared. giving you the chance to increase your conversation rates.

92.6% of people have said that the visuals, product imagery and videos are the top influential factor affecting a purchase decision.


4. Personalized content


Personalized content is content that corresponds to your profile, to your shopping history. If done correctly, it is content that you want to see. In the context of e-commerce, the most popular example of personalized content is product recommendations.


Thanks to different parameters like location, navigation history and recent purchases,  we can deliver live personalized shopping experiences based on the customer journey.


The ASOS instagram account shows a simple example: when you click on the link in the bio, you’ll start your shopping journey with a list of products seen on instagram. Advanced personalization journeys involve complex segmentation of your audience (or even predictive-based micro-segments).

Companies like Netflix, Airbnb and Amazon have perfected the art of personalized content because they know that when you serve up content that customers are interested in, visitors stay on your website longer and are more likely to convert.


5. Content for Conversion


You are right if you’re thinking that all marketing content is supposed to convert. Your global marketing strategy is in place to generate more sales, right?


Right. But here I want to speak about specific kinds of content. Do you know the feeling when you’re hesitating about buying a product? You want it, but you still have some unanswered questions. Well, this is the kind of content that will turn that hesitation into a click on the shopping cart icon.


Content for conversion is proof to your customers that they are in safe hands.


To prove this, you have many different options and all of them define a client opinion. This could include user generated content or customer generated content such as; frequently asked questions, comments and product reviews.


Talking personally, this is the content that influences me the most. How about you?


What about content lifecycle?


As well as thinking about types of content, you need to consider its lifecycle, or basically “how often is the content updated?”  While core e-commerce content is only updated in a matter of weeks and, more often, months, marketing content needs to be kept fresh and is often updated on a daily basis.


Just to give you some examples:


  • A blog can be updated every week with a new post

  • new pictures from Instagram or any other social platform can come every few minutes

  • product landing pages or campaigns can be edited on a daily basis

  • comments from users can pop up at anytime


What you need to remember is that the lifecycle of content marketing for e-commerce doesn’t necessarily align with the lifecycle of the product in the catalog.

As a marketer, you need to have the flexibility to create and update different types of content quickly, use it across your channels, and publish it across devices.


Mix and match content for a multipoint shopping experience


To avoid any confusion, I want to make it clear that I don’t think all these types of content are living in silos (as the different diagrams might imply). For successful content marketing across e-commerce, the customer needs to see a combination of this content through his journey.


Mixing and matching can be tough, especially when you consider the different dimensions of the content: type, lifecycle, contributors and sources.


And to make things even more complex, we also have to consider that the customer navigates through many touchpoints during her shopping journey. She could start browsing from her mobile, maybe from a social network in the train on her way home from work. A few hours, or even days later, she might complete the journey on the e-commerce website from her laptop on the sofa.

This is simply the challenge: All the pieces of content have to be seamlessly integrated together to make an enjoyable shopping experience across all the points of the journey.


The next challenge is, how do we deal with all of this content? How can core e-commerce content get along with e-commerce marketing content? Well, I’m going to save that for my next article..


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About the author Samuel Schmitt

Samuel is a Senior Sales and Partner Manager at Magnolia with over eight years experience in the IT industry. Samuel's technical background and sales know-how make him an enthusiast in both business and technical topics. He'll be sharing some of that knowledge in his blogs. Follow him on twitter @samuelschmitt.

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